Does a person have to believe in literal burning hell to be Catholic

Ok so I’ve been thinking deeply😁.
I’m Catholic baptised but I’m quite “secular” and not much of a believer etc and there are a few points regarding the Catholic Churches beliefs that Im not personally on the same page as.
One thing that “concerns” me is regarding the belief of hell as a literal burning torture place as this to me seems to be in direct contradiction to everything that is taught about loving ones neighbor and being kind and loving.
If God is the “ultimate example” and he tortures people when they are bad/unrepentant people,but we humans are meant to be loving,lay down our lives for others,love and forgive our enemies etc… then doesn’t add up.
Also, and I know it’s not a great analogy,but a (loving) human parent would never harm their child by a literal fire no matter how disobedient their child was.
I understand that God is without sin unlike humans,but still.
The whole “be charitable,loving and forgiving or else you’ll physically burn for eternity” thing just doesn’t add up.

Explanations Christians give such as that physical hell was created for demons and people choose to go there,God doesn’t send them" doesn’t really make sense either because then it renders God to like a “powerless figure” when the reality is God is all knowing so would have known when creating this “burning literal hell” that humans would end up “choosing” to go there.

At the same time though,there are many stories from Catholic saints such as Don Bosco and nuns etc who detail seeing a literal burning hell.

just hit up the confessional booth; say the rosary; partake of the eucharist

you are not gonna happen to’ve’d’d happened to worry about the fires of hell;

simple plan ( in theory)

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I don’t understand this tbh. It doesn’t make him powerless.

Anyway, hell basically means us being separated from God. That itself is torture because we don’t receive consolation from him.

God gives us free will. If we basically say ‘Nah I’d rather burn’, God will let us burn. God won’t force us to be with Him if we don’t want too.

This is a very simplistic explanation so I’ll let the other posters elaborate, lol.


To the Catechism! :slight_smile: I added some emphasis.

IV. Hell

1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: “He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren. To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell."

1034 Jesus often speaks of “Gehenna” of “the unquenchable fire” reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost. Jesus solemnly proclaims that he “will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,” and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!"

1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.” The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where “men will weep and gnash their teeth.”

1037 God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance”:

Even as a Protestant we were taught about the fires of Hell and that going there is our choice. As it’s in the CCC, I’d say yes, it’s part of Church teaching. But we’re not condemned there - we condemn ourselves, as Lea101 said. We choose to be separated from God, and, well, it’s a do not pass go proposition.


As for God being merciful…well, as Catholics, we have the Sacraments, we have the Commandments, we have the ability to turn to God and best work to do his will.

Choose the narrow gate…we’re given the instructions on how to do that, and there are plenty of good priests to help us along the way. That’s what brian was saying above. We have the tools and the free will to NOT choose the wide gate.

At least, that’s how I see it. I’m sure others have another take.


Does the wide gate refer to worldliness or what does it refer to please?

Also what exactly “goes” to hell?
Jesus in the bible talks about it like as if the “whole person” goes to hell -ie:with perception etc but in reality there is no perception after death because this is from brain function and brain function ceases at death.
What exactly is a soul and how it differs from mind/brain?

The brain is a material object, the soul is not.

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Hell, whether by constant fire, but constant horrible turmoil, or by literal eternal separation from God is a horrible place/.state to be in.
You don’t WANT to know.
You want to AVOID the possibility of going there at all. Once there, you can never leave.

God is loving, But people, can be and are influenced by evil You know evil exists right?
Evil resides in hell.

As Brian said, worship the Lord, Love Him, frequent the Holy Sacraments, stay in a state of grace, and live a good and just life.
Some people find this hard.
I would say, being very “secular” makes being a dutiful and devout Christian pretty hard.

God doesn’t reward political correctness, in fact the Gospels describe a better way to be: loving, just, merciful.

It’s an analogy.

It’s easier to turn away from God and sin and not care about grace and salvation…hence the term “wide gate”. It’s the easy way out. It’s far harder to do the right thing and follow God and use the tools He’s provided and to be “good”…hence the term “narrow gate” and that fewer will choose that route.

One really doesn’t have to look too far in this day and age to see why the “gates” are narrow and wide.

The soul goes to hell just like it would go to purgatory or Heaven.

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I definitely don’t like political correctness!
“Secular” was probably a poor choice of words-Catholic but not really following probably more accurately describes my situation.

Thankfully, while it is necessary to believe in hell, one is not required to believe that God created an artificial physical place where those who disagreed with him are forced to burn alive forever. That might work as an analogy of eternal suffering, but as a literal event it doesn’t not make sense of God’s nature. I Don’t think i can believe in a God that would do that as it would imply that God has need or desire to cause suffering, and neither could i teach such a thing to someone else and comfortably proclaim that God is love without feeling irrational…

That God sounds like a tyrant to me.


If you’re interested in truth, it’s best to steer away from emotional arguments but instead look at the theology behind it to get your answer. Only believing in things that personally sound good to you won’t get you anywhere, if I’m going to be completely honest.


I am interested in truth and i am telling you that burning people alive in literal fire forever does not make logical sense of God’s nature. secondly, what i am saying does not conflict with the established dogmas of the Catholic church, so you really have no right to dictate to me about truth. That is your interpretation.

This would be a false assumption. If that’s true, Jesus would not have died for us. And also, let’s say Hitler dies and tells God that he hates Him and he loves evil. Would a loving God say ‘alright, but come on it and spend eternal life with me, the source of everything good and pure in this world’? He would let Hitler be separated from Him, even though it hurts Him that a soul chose a life against Him.

Literal fire or not, Hell is a place without an ounce of joy. Hot or cold, it’s a place of suffering and hate. Dogma was pretty clear on that tbh? So I’m kind of confused about what you’re trying to say

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It certainly would be true if God created a physical place of literal fire with the intention of burning people alive forever.

I didn’t reject the concept of hell. I rejected an unreasonable interpretation of it.

If you’re thinking that God designed a place for humans to be tortured…like he actually went ‘Let’s make it hot as hell (hehe), because they will suffer more’ then obviously I would agree with you, it doesn’t sound very Godly at all. It’s more to do with an eternal separation from God.

But that’s what I don’t get. Hell would be a place of unfathomable suffering (ie it cannot get worse). So fire or not, it doesn’t make a difference?

It does make a difference when it contradicts God’s nature. Hell as a natural consequence that necessarily follows our eternal rejection of God, makes sense to me, since we cannot enjoy what we have rejected.

But the idea that God has constructed a torture chamber, makes no sense at all.

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Think of hell as a place without God, essentially that is what it is. Chief punishment, like what you saw earlier in this thread, would be the complete separation you get. And it can’t get any worse.

As demons rejected God too, they end up the same place (hell). Now some people say that the demons basically torture you because they are happy that they basically dragged human souls down (because you know, we’re pretty special…being God’s children and all that). But I’m a bit unsure about it so maybe someone can clear that up.

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