Faith Difficulty and Hell

Hi All:

Just looking for some insight from different folks. I’m greatly struggling with my faith at the present because I have been thinking heavily about hell. The more I think about it, the more absurd it gets, which only becomes worse when I hear apologies for the doctrine focusing on justice and free will. What it comes down to is this: if I were to make it to heave, the knowledge that even one “sinner” is being tormented for all eternity by God (and please save the objections that God isn’t tormenting the person because, from scripture, He obviously is) makes the thought of bliss in heaven unimaginable. Please, I’m looking for insight into this apparent lack of empathy in heaven which so vexes my soul.

Catechism 1035 “The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God”.

One will be separated from God when there is no love for God, because God is love: love is necessary to the Beatific Vision. Since love is not forced, it results from a personal choice, which is a logical necessity.


Sin is serious business.
There seems to be this modern notion that sin is just a little trespass, like breaking a little, silly rule.
But sin is poison. It’s directly the opposite of good and love. It destroys our soul. It causes suffering to others.

But here’s the thing—God is a God of second chances. People have the option to repent, and to turn away from their sin and be forgiven.

What do you think should happen to somebody who obstinately and persistently chooses sin over God who is Love?


They should have their wills healed like St. Maximus the Confessor wrote about.

Because our wills are distorted; we are, naturally, wired to will the good which is our true freedom. If we had clear wills, then we would have free will and could make that choice.

The Church teaches that the primary ‘torment’ of hell is separation from God… which, through act, word, or desire, the person in hell manifested as what he wanted. Why would that make “bliss in heaven unimaginable” to you?

Or, are you saying that you disagree with the Church’s teachings, and that disagreement leads you to be at odds with what the Church says is the truth?

I mean, any example would trivialize the situation (because, by its very nature, it would only be an analogy). But, at the risk of trivializing… why would I be bummed if my friends who aren’t Steelers fans aren’t present at my Steelers tailgate? Why would I appear to lack ‘empathy’ if they aren’t present somewhere they don’t want to be? Even if you and I both know that they really should want to be at my Steelers tailgate?

Umm… we do have free will. Is that the source of your misunderstanding – the idea that our sinful, broken nature implies a lack of free will?

1 Like

God gives the grace sufficient for us to choose good.

St. Maximum the Confessor wrote in Four Hundred Texts on Love 3.82: " The person who truly wishes to be healed is he who does not refuse treatment. This treatment consists of the pain and distress brought on by various misfortunes."


I invite you to watch the video above. It’s by one of the preeminent Catholic apologists of our day, Rev. Robert Barron. He does a good job of explaining the position of a preeminent 20th century Catholic theologian, Hans Urs Von Balthasar - it is a position of daring to hope (and to pray for) the salvation of all humans. It doesn’t discount the reality of Hell (or Purgatory). But it does deeply sympathize with your reservations about Hell.

Over and over again within these Forums you’ll hear freewill defenses regarding the justice of Hell. You’ll hear that the infinite God is infinitely offended by your sin and you are this deserving of Hell (St Augustine’s doctrine of massa damnata). None of it will satisfy. Why not? Because there are irreconcilable truths which seem quite evidently to preclude the liklihood that Hell is full of human souls who will persist there everlastingly. Here is the short list of items that mitigate against a Hell full of human souls.

  1. God is love.
  2. God desires all to be saved.
  3. There is no crime (or series of crimes) that a finite creature can commit which could possibly warrant an everlasting punishment. That is clearly a violation of of justice, which is to render to each person what is due to her.

Just know that I deeply share your reservations with this “embarrassing” (in the words of Von Balthasar) doctrine of Hell.

1 Like

Hell is nonetheless a choice for cold selfish pride over love. But either way we don’t know the beginning from the end as only God does. While it’s reassuring to know that evil won’t be allowed to coexist with good eternally, and that justice will ultimately prevail for the victims of atrocities down through the centuries, eternal punishment is nonetheless an awful thing to contemplate.

We must contemplate this: God is infinitely fair and just, kind and merciful beyond our ability to imagine. In the catechism the Church quotes Julian of Norwich, a 13th or 14th century British visionary who, being burdened about the fate of so many dying around her of the Black Plague plead with God to grant her understanding. He “shewed” her this truth, saying, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” Without going into details God had satisfied her heart, that He will do the “right thing”, and that in the end all will be satisfied this has been done.

1 Like

A damned soul is damned through their own selfish and prideful self-exclusion rather than any lack of desire or will by God for them to enjoy eternal happiness with Him and with their siblings. God desires for a soul to be saved and to enjoy eternal beatitude to an infinite degree more than the soul itself desires it or any other soul desires it for anybody else. God wants all souls to be saved more than you ever could. Whatever vexes you, vexed Jesus more. According to tradition, the torment of Jesus in the Garden that caused his pores to burst with blood was him contemplating the despondency of those who would reject him.


There is evil and horror in this world; what makes you think there isn’t evil and horror in the spiritual world? Right now there are people being tortured and sawed in pieces by wicked people somewhere in the world right now, how can you manage to be happy in this life knowing that? In the United States alone, there is a murder every 30 minutes, a rape every 4 minutes, , violent crime every 25 seconds; we need not get into the dark inhuman dungeon cruelty going on right now somewhere in the world. In this world, among the good there will always be the wicked; in the next world the great divide separates the evil, wicked, damned spirits from the sanctified and saved.

Heaven is a share in God’s eternal life; hell is the lot for those who refused God’s grace and rejected salvation spitting in God’s face. If you don’t believe in evil spirits, then that’s your first problem. Evil and hell is as real as the nose on your face.

There is hell, and there is purgatory. Purgatory is temporary. Hell is reserved for those who refuse to love and forgive, and who do not repent of their mortal sins. In this world we are either being sanctified or demonized through the way we live our life. The angels fell and became wicked spirits; likewise there are human beings that follow the lead of the diabolical through embracing sin and everything that rejects God. Man’s spiritual predators are wicked spirits of the dark, who want to drag you down into the abyss with them…

How would that work, and what would it look like?

1 Like

Now I’m bummed that I wasn’t invited to the Steelers tailgate. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


“tormented by God” as some newcomers to belief think, is of course as wrong as can be, as it’s impossibility in itself. God is love and justness. Love and justness never does anything wrong.
But love and justness can very well refuse people who refused God before. The the condemnation sounds as:
Heaven then is eternally closed for them and the gap between heaven and hell is eternally insurmountable!

„Hell“ is a place, far off God. That’s all. Except, that there are all the rebellious former Angels, who became daemons when the high honorable rank „Angel“ was taken off them in degradation.

As they as we ourselves are immortal, these rebellious Angels, as well as those humans who refused God, will be refused by God; but have to be and exist eternally somewhere. This place is called Hell. God is not there, hence of course doesn’t torment anyone there, as God in any case never torments or agonizes at all anyone anywhere.

When however God decides that any individual must not be with God, then the verdict is „Go away from Me - I have never known you“. To be read over in the Gospel of Matthew 7,23 - or Luke 13,27 and others.

How on earth the lie and impossibility of "tormented by God“ could ever get into anyones brain, is beyond any true Christian.

I was taught that once you get to heaven, you will be able to understand Gods perfect plan and will therefore be content with it as you will recognize the rightness and perfection.

God’s plan for us ON EARTH is a thing we are able to understand if we get deeper into belief, which is not a diffivult thing to do. Lots of hints, truths and teachings are given by Jesus Christ Himself in the Gospel, as well as Church’s teaching. For instance in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 1:4-6: “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before him in love. He did this by predestining us to adoption as his legal heirs through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will – to the praise of the glory of His grace that He has freely bestowed on us in his dearly loved Son”.

But you say to “see God’s plan when we are in Heaven”.
This sounds like knwowing God’splan in the way of understanding God Himself. His very being.

That’s however absolutely impossible, because God is greater, bigger, larger, mightier than all alive ever could comprehend and understand. Not even Angels do.

Satan tried in Genesis 3,55 to feign to us, that we even might understand God and such be like God:
"You will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Let’s never get any near such desire. It’s like desiring to eat the Rocky Mountains - if not the whole earth.

In Heaven, you would have perfect understanding of why the punishments of Hell are just and fitting with Divine Goodness (and so Goodness in general). I’m not saying it’s a complete mystery in this life, as I think intellectually there are ways to better understand this even in the here and now, but those who go to Heaven would be given that understanding freely. It would not be a detraction from the bliss of Heaven.


As others have already stated, it is not God who is torturing the individuals in hell: the chief pain of hell is the individual’s knowledge that they have willingly cut themselves off from God due to actions they committed in their life here on earth. The 3 necessary cases for something to be a sin is: 1. It is morally wrong 2. We know it is morally wrong 3. We willingly do it anyway. God desires all of us to be with Him in heaven, true. But the choice is given to us. Are we weakened beings due to concupiscence? Absolutely. Did you have to rob the bank, sleep with someone else’s wife, etc? No. Your will is weakened, not doomed to sin. Moreover, the afterlife is a state of being: it’s not a fiery pit of lava in a rock cave with a red devil figure poking you with a pitchfork for all eternity. Though I tread in dangerous territory now since nobody can be certain of what heaven and hell are truly like, I would like to believe these images we find in Scripture are alluding to something and are not literal images of what it is like. That is not to say hell is not horrible- what could be more terrible than being separated from the One True God who knew you before he formed you in the womb? But no matter how much He desires us, he cannot make us love him and want to be with him for eternity. I liken it to the loving parent who’s child goes off and becomes a drug addict or falls into a bad crowd- the parent is heartbroken at the loss and hopes the child will come back, but the child is their own person and the parent cannot force the child to return to them. The choice is theirs.


I… don’t mean to be unhelpful or disagreeable here. I consider myself a faithful Catholic. I proclaim faithfully that God is the perfect good, the measure of all goodness. So…

I think people too easily try to remove all responsibility for the punishments of Hell from God. It leads to inconsistencies, in my opinion. God is the one who establishes every order of things. Whether it is God’s absence or whether it’s God’s amazing love being painful to those who hate him, God has complete Providence over the world and all creation. If people suffer from the lack of his grace or from being in his presence, that is entirely intended as the (super)natural order of things by God. It is his will for it to be this way. God intends that those with evil in their hearts experience punishment for all eternity.

We too easily balk at the notion that the punishment of evil is a good thing, that it is justice, that it is consistent with God’s nature, his Divine Goodness and beatitude. Nowadays we only seem to think that punishment is evil in itself and so incompatible with God. But that can’t be true, at least not without creating numerous inconsistencies with other points of dogma. The punishment of evil, carried out in a perfect manner and with perfect justice by God, with no humanly failings or errors, is a good thing.

I am not trying to be scary or offputting. But, imo, people do quickly see the inconsistencies of trying to remove God of responsibility and attack or leave the faith over it. However we address it, we need to acknowledge God’s intentionality in the matter, and affirm his goodness, even if it means challenging some recent, popular, modern conceptions of justice and punishment.

Human free will and free rejection of God is necessarily involved, too. I’m not undermining that. But this order of supernatural reward and punishment is established by God. I simply object to answers that seem to remove God from the equation.

it’s not obvious to me that scripture says that God is the source of the torment of hell. Can you share some examples?

Do you feel that there is a lack of empathy in heaven if Hitler is in hell?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit