Choosing Hell vs Choosing One's Self

Of course many people have stated that those who are damned have chosen Hell and have chosen not to be with God. However, it would appear more that they have not directly with full knowledge and consent, chosen Hell, as in eternal separation from goodness. It would appear that many people who “choose Hell” have chosen sin, pleasure, and themselves instead.

Since sin is just a distortion of what is good, people choose sin because they see a perceived benefit or good in it for themselves, but how many people would choose Hell if they had full knowledge and consent of what exactly it is that they are choosing, i.e. eternal despair, suffering, a place of existence where absolutely no good exists etc.?

I don’t think many individuals would choose to be in agony for eternity. Does the fact that no one alive has seen Hell, and therefore unable to choose it directly, (but instead choose what they see as ‘good’) make us (possibly invincibly) ignorant?

St John the Wonderworker explains the Byzantine Catholic view quite well:
"‘The end of the world’ signifies not the annihilation of the world, but its transformation. Everything will be transformed suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye… And the Lord will appear in glory on the clouds. Trumpets will sound, and loud, with power! They will sound in the soul and conscience! All will become clear to the human conscience. The Prophet Daniel, speaking of the Last Judgment, relates how the Ancient of Days, the Judge, sits on His throne, and before Him is a fiery stream (Dan. 7:9-10). Fire is a purifying element; it burns sins. Woe to a man if sin has become a part of his nature: then the fire will burn the man himself. This fire will be kindled within a man; seeing the Cross, some will rejoice, but others will fall into confusion, terror, and despair. Thus will men be divided instantly. The very state of a man’s soul casts him to one side or the other, to right or to left.

"The more consciously and persistently a man strives toward God in his life, the greater will be his joy when he hears: ‘Come unto Me, ye blessed.’ And conversely: the same words will call the fire of horror and torture on those who did not desire Him, who fled and fought or blasphemed Him during their lifetime!

"The Last Judgment knows of no witnesses or written protocols! Everything is inscribed in the souls of men and these records, these ‘books’, are opened at the Judgment. Everything becomes clear to all and to oneself.

"And some will go to joy, while others — to horror.

"When ‘the books are opened,’ it will become clear that the roots of all vices lie in the human soul. Here is a drunkard or a lecher: when the body has died, some may think that sin is dead too. No! There was an inclination to sin in the soul, and that sin was sweet to the soul, and if the soul has not repented of the sin and has not freed itself from it, it will come to the Last Judgment also with the same desire for sin. It will never satisfy that desire and in that soul there will be the suffering of hatred. It will accuse everyone and everything in its tortured condition, it will hate everyone and everything. ‘There will be gnashing of teeth’ of powerless malice and the unquenchable fire of hatred.

“A ‘fiery gehenna’ — such is the inner fire. ‘Here there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.’ Such is the state of hell.”

That answers the how the soul is cast into hell, but not the why, which is what the poster - I think - was asking.

How exactly can sin become a part of our nature? If it is the property of an action then that concept makes no sense. And if a soul corrupt with sin to its very nature is purified through the fire, then either it is purified and worthy of heaven, or the soul is annihilated and that is that - no subject longer exists to suffer hell.

What soul would not be pre-disposed to repent at the fully comprehended prospect of eternal hell? We must be pre-disposed to salvation if there is to be any justice at all. And how can a soul in heaven, contemplating God and living in perfect communion with Him, have the feeling that its desires aren’t satisfied? Sin is never sweet to the soul; that is why it is never satisfying and so hard to defeat - it always pushes you for more. Heaven would be have to be a liberation from that, if not we would be accepting invincible concupiscence.

Basically sums up my question.

People who choose pleasure and sin aren’t doing so to be separated from God, hence why there are some people out there who attempt to justify their actions because they want to be with God yet they still want to fulfill their earthly desires. Now I understand “one cannot serve two masters”, however, a person can still desire to be with God and still desire pleasure, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they desire eternal despair.

I also understand the way we live our lives is the choice we are making between Heaven and Hell, but as wounded, weak creatures after the fall, who can really make a true decision of choosing either place without fully comprehending it? Perhaps the lack of comprehension falls back on trusting in God and taking the Gospels’ more seriously?

I disagree with the statement I highlighted. They have chosen to be separated from God by not even considering His will is in a particular circumstance. Many, it seems, act as if God does not exist. How is this not a choice to be separated from Him?

If a person knowingly chooses the secular world instead of God while alive and lives their lives without God in it, then Hell would basically just be an extension of their lives on earth. Thats the way I see it anyway.

On earth, they are living their life without God in it, and Hell is just that, a separation from God, so no difference, if they are content without God in their lives while alive, it makes sense they will also be content without God in the afterlife. If they are not suffering in anyway while alive due to their living life without God, why would their existence in the afterlife be any different?

I disagree with your objection. I believe that the idea one has of hell must correspond with what hell actually is (something impossible in practice) in order for it to be a real choice. Some people - who suffer from anger, for example - actually do think they desire to be separated from God for eternity. That desire, however, is not the desire for hell, but the relief from whatever is causing them pain - only it manifests itself in a self-destructive way. Since all men desire happiness - even the ones who mistakenly believe they don’t - all men desire God and heaven, regardless of what shape their emotions, actions or beliefs take. Regardless of our fallen nature, the desire for heaven is contained within us, even if it only becomes apparent to us when we are faced with the real outcomes of our decisions.

Basically, what I’m saying is that the way we conduct our earthly lives cannot be representative of our ultimate choice or innermost desires.

You raise an excellent point Mikekle. It reminds me of a quote from Fr George Aschenbrenner when talking about evangelising in the modern world:

“One of the major obstacles to this searching is human inertia, complacency. Why should I search? Things are going fine. I’m basically satisfied. To tell the truth the religious wisdom of our heritage can say little to the person who poses this sort of question. Religious teaching make their mature entry, and pilgrimage begins in earnest only when you sense that something has been lost, something is missing, and that there must be more to life than this. Without the sense of suffering or imperfection, all exhortations to the search will fall on deaf ears”

He seems to agree with what you are saying - that some people are quite happy to live their lives in a fully secular way and be content. He also appears to agree with me in that it is suffering that awakens the striving for something higher. I believe that those who turn to sin because of their suffering are on a path that leads to God. Or at least, that they are in fact seeking the same thing as people who turn to God. So why condemn them to hell?

Also, a quote from Fr Benedict Groeschel on St Augustine:

“Frequently Augustine would return to the themes of the vanity of his education and the false values that were imparted to him … These prayers set the stage for the journey upward to God. Years later Augustine would observe that you will never become what you ought to be unless you are dissatisfied with what you are now …”

Could this not relate to any person who seeks fulfilment in the wrong places, even though what he really wants can only be provided by God? Can it be said that this person desires hell, or deserves it?

Not so. Everything good, God is behind it. He’s the source of all good. If you’re forever removed from good, you are cut off from the source of good. Good: heat, sun, hope, nature, the ocean, children, love, friendship, sex, food, music, joy, harmony, happiness. In hell, the reprobates can expect: pitch darkness, bleak surroundings, hatred, despair, terror, gnashing of teeth, you’re forever with Satan and his legions, very perverse creatures. Hell is probably very much like this youtube.com/watch?v=RaOJYGUTKdQ God is so opposed to sin, so abhors it that when you die with mortal sins that you haven’t repented of, he has no choice but to let go of you. It’s both tragic, sad and mysterious. God is impassible so he’s neither sad nor does he rejoice over the loss of a soul, but his will is clear: he wants everyone with him and no one to perish. Therefore the loss of a soul frustrates God’s will.

Not believing in something doesn’t entail choosing to be separate.

I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been flat-out told by atheists, and to a lesser extent agnostics, that if God were real, and He is the God of the Bible that they want nothing to do with Him, and would gladly choose Hell over Him. To talk about Him as He truly is, that God is love, as well as justice… none of it matters. :frowning:

Many times people try to out-moral God, as though the human mind and humanism can trump Him, and they sit in judgment on the Creator of all. They do so based on emotion and/or faulty assumptions, misunderstandings, and a lack of knowledge.

I’m not sure the situation you present is necessarily represents invincible ignorance; further, it seems to be a very close layover to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. It seems that Jesus already answers this question.

We are all siting on a forum because we love our faith, we love God and we are thinking about God even now. The situation that you describe, it seems to me, is regarding those that live Their life in a manner of speaking. There is a distinction between those who consider themselves the owners of their life and those that consider themselves the stewards to the life they have been given, stewards that will have to give an account at particular judgement.

When people live a life of indulgence for pleasures, without thought of heaven or hell, it is just that. It’s not that they are necessarily actively functioning against God’s commands, they are just not necessarily thinking much about God at all. Especially here in the US, with the ample availability of Bibles, churches, and even TV preachers, it would be difficult to flatly make a case for invincible ignorance and is probably more a willful ignorance.

The topic in question is whether all that imagery has a solid logical basis. I totally agree that God is the source of all that is good, as you can see from my posts above. That is the very reason I give for saying that he can’t condemn anyone to hell regardless of what they believe or have done, or in what state they die; because we all desire God regardless of what we really believe. Whether we like it or not, He is our only possible choice.

That is an ad hominem argument.

You are judging people according to your Catholic beliefs. There is nothing wrong with that in most situations. But this is a discussion on a theological topic where we are trying to get past that and explain how something can be so.

Perhaps I have a different, completely reasonable and moral, set of beliefs; and rather that trying to out-moral God I am trying to gain a better understanding of the Catholic position.

So you see, I am not trying to out-trump God, I am disagreeing with a particular denomination’s theology. It isn’t fair to equate one with the other.

It most countries there is not only an ample variety of bibles, churches and TV preachers, but also of other faiths, denominations between them, and philosophical ideas of all shapes and sizes. It is your choice which ones you choose to investigate, and it is your choice whether you place your faith in them and begin to steward you life according to their teaching. Someone who takes themselves seriously is entitled to ask questions and consider the religious ideas by which they are to live their lives. If there was anything inherently wrong with doing so, then it would be wrong for Protestants, Muslims or Buddhists to question their faith and convert to Catholicism.

I’m not saying that it is impossible for people to act immorally. What I am saying is that despite their actions people do desire God, even if they don’t believe it themselves. I’m pretty sure that a lot of people who consciously live immoral lives crave justice more than anyone else; they are inviting it to happen, challenging it to manifest itself - perhaps because they feel like the victims of injustice themselves, in some way they try to hold the world at ransom. But underpinning all this is a craving for justice (the most heartfelt kind), which ultimately is a craving for God. The most intense form of love is that which is mixed with a false hate. Sure it is much better if they can overcome that misguided sense of hate, but even if they don’t their love and thirst for justice is still there, defining their lives. Why would they go to hell?********

Ad hominem is a to-the-man attack. That isn’t what I’m doing in the least; therefore, you just put forth a strawman. My examples are toward the topic of people willingly choosing to be absent from God even in a hypothetical. That willingly choosing to be separated from God is a reality that I see in scripture as well. That speaks directly to the OP.

You are judging people according to your Catholic beliefs.

I’m a protestant, not RC, but yes, I’m a member of the catholic church in the way I understand it. How am I judging anyone? That is their own words, literally, that is what they told me; they would rather go to Hell than to be where the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob resides.

If you are speaking of the morality issue, again, that is the reason they give: The God of the Bible is a tyrant they say. They call His very character into question in a moral sense, and then act as though their personal morals trump His.

Perhaps I have a different, completely reasonable and moral, set of beliefs; and rather that trying to out-moral God I am trying to gain a better understanding of the Catholic position.

Then you are not in the same position as those I am referring to. I’m speaking of atheists and/or agnostics intent on proselytizing Christians.

So you see, I am not trying to out-trump God, I am disagreeing with a particular denomination’s theology. It isn’t fair to equate one with the other.

:confused: I wasn’t referring to you, we’ve only just met. As to your motivation or what you are asking, or what your position on God’s love is, I haven’t a clue yet.

This may be accurate, but you are forgetting Hell was created for Satan and the other fallen, so it is a place of torment and punishment for them too…and in no way could they be doing any tormenting/harassing in Hell, as they would be in the same or worse state of suffering as much as any human soul there.

I apologise: I misused the term ad hominen and I made a mistake about your denomination.

The judgement I am referring to is implicit in your post. By that I mean that it suggests that they are failing morally when they hold the beliefs (or lack thereof) they do. Out- moraling and trumping deities is an imagery that implies a lack of modesty and emotional maturity. That would be true of a Christian going through a rough patch in his faith and who can’t get over himself, but not for someone who directly rejects God’s existence.

How can the atheists you mention really know that even if they did believe in God they would still want to go to hell? They are speaking as non-believers. Do you think they would still say the same thing on the day of their judgment? I don’t think they would, and that is why I don’t believe anyone can really will to go to hell, despite their words. I think that is what the original poster was saying. In any case, those atheists and agnostics are not rejecting God, but what they think God is. I know God is not a tyrant, and so I join them in their rejection of a tyrannical concept God, just like any other Christian.

I’m sorry if I interpreted some of your post as being directed towards me. Really, it is that I thought disagreeing with theological issues and not desiring heaven are not the same thing, and even if the post wasn’t directed at me, my answer still applied to their situation. I should have phrased it differently.

If by ‘my position on God’s love’ you mean whether I believe what those atheists who reject Him do, then no. I am a Christian who was a catholic until very recently, but who is now asking some questions. I firmly believe God loves us and is the source of all that is good. Including discipline and difficult truths.

Tis ok, we all make mistakes (me as well), no harm done.

The judgement I am referring to is implicit in your post. By that I mean that it suggests that they are failing morally when they hold the beliefs (or lack thereof) they do. Out- moraling and trumping deities is an imagery that implies a lack of modesty and emotional maturity. That would be true of a Christian going through a rough patch in his faith and who can’t get over himself, but not for someone who directly rejects God’s existence.

I think maybe I should have used the term out “moralizing” God. Not in what they are doing, but even in their “ideals.” I think that would be one of the areas an atheist and I would argue about; their morals. I believe completely that an atheist can be a moral individual and can even be a “good person” when looked at through the lens of humanism, but when we change the lens to utter flawless perfection, where any sin “leavens the whole lump,” then the view changes. Meaning, every human is failing morally, which is why we need God. :wink:

How can the atheists you mention really know that even if they did believe in God they would still want to go to hell? They are speaking as non-believers. Do you think they would still say the same thing on the day of their judgment? I don’t think they would, and that is why I don’t believe anyone can really will to go to hell, despite their words.

I agree. On the day they meet God face-to-face part of their pain will be in knowing they were wrong. But in my understanding of scripture the knowledge of God is here and now, available for us to see and accept. Every human will stand without excuse and if judged, will be judged in a way that is entirely fair. In other words, I do think it is their will because there has been a rejection of God out of their knowledge.

I think that is what the original poster was saying. In any case, those atheists and agnostics are not rejecting God, but what they think God is. I know God is not a tyrant, and so I join them in their rejection of a tyrannical concept God, just like any other Christian.

The sad thing is though, is that they refuse to entertain the idea that the Christian God is love, and is benevolent, though also Just. :frowning:

I’m sorry if I interpreted some of your post as being directed towards me. Really, it is that I thought disagreeing with theological issues and not desiring heaven are not the same thing, and even if the post wasn’t directed at me, my answer still applied to their situation. I should have phrased it differently.

Again, no worries.

I worry for people too who say they thing Heaven would be boring, or that there is “nothing to do.” It shows, as far as Heaven and Hell, they have no idea how it will truly be. Part of our job as Christians is to help them come to an understanding of Truth.

If by ‘my position on God’s love’ you mean whether I believe what those atheists who reject Him do, then no. I am a Christian who was a catholic until very recently, but who is now asking some questions. I firmly believe God loves us and is the source of all that is good. Including discipline and difficult truths.

:thumbsup: I was just saying in general that I didn’t mean to attack you personally as I don’t know you yet. I was instead just trying to give general insight into many of the atheists I’ve come to know and talk to. Sorry on my part if it appeared directed at you. Glad to hear you are Christian as well!

Grace and Peace

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