Imagine for a few minutes that there is no such place as Hell. Imagine that the most saintly people and the most despicable members of society had no punishment after death, and that everyone had eternal life and was joined with God. Imagine that there was no place to be saved from, and the purpose of life was only to have experiences in the physical world. If there was no Hell, would you act any differently? How do your actions now reflect on yourself? Do you find yourself fueled to not sin because you are trying to gain an award or because you are trying to avoid punishment?
You have pinpointed the reason why belief in the existent Hell is so important. Without a chance of eternal suffering, what initiative is there to avoid spending our lives in shameful sin? None! The temptation to sin would be infinitely greater without a punishment for it.
But if there were no Hell and everyone ended up having eternal life with God anyway, would there even be a thing called sin?
**Then my friend, You have the logical conclusion of chaos. Why bother if nothing is there right? Then people would kill that boss that they’ve hated for so long, shoot that person, rape her, steal from him etc.
You would basically get a societal meltdown that no one would want to live in. **
No. If there was no Hell it would be because every intelligent creature chose not to sin.
If there is no hell, there is no justice - inasmuch as at least one person with enough resources can commit a heinous crime and go unpunished, or even worse, enter a state of eternal joy despite his wrongdoings.
If there is no justice, I can do what pleases me most, according to the maxim “might makes right”.
I have no reason to embrace sorrow and suffering on behalf of others, no reason to give up pleasant things in order to become a better man, no reason to sacrifice my life for someone in need.
I have no reason to fight or reduce criminality or injustice, no reason even to condemn injustice.
In fact, in the certainty of an afterlife with everyone in heaven no matter what, an eternity of bliss no matter what, I would put an end my life immediately.
Do you realize how flawed, in fact how dangerous this idea of yours is? I sure hope so.
The only difference between this and atheism is that an atheism doesn’t believe in heaven either, so he doesn’t take the last step in my reasoning, but could potentially adopt the previous ones, not caring about anything but himself, maximizing his gains and pleasures as long as he can breath. And many do so.
Christians, especially Catholics, are meant to be the opposite: to live for our brothers and to love God above all else and everyone, friend or enemy, family or stranger, just as God loves us. To embrace sacrifice and reject lust, vanity, and pride, not for a reward, but out of love…for the greater glory of God and for the salvation of souls of our brothers, many of whom don’t know Christ and His Church, or don’t even know God at all.
I didn’t say there would be no laws or judicial system, I said that there would be no eternal suffering after death. You’d still be held accountable for your actions in this life, just not the next one, because I don’t think God truly judges anyone.
And for the record… there are many non-religious people such as myself who believe in love and compassion and peace for everyone. When I was a Catholic, I feared Hell so much that it was my only focus, and I would do things out of fear instead of love. It was artificial. Now that I am no longer bound to the chains of religion, I do things because out of genuine care, concern, and the good of my fellow man. I’ve actually never felt so spiritual and close to God in my life. I do not believe in Hell anymore, and instead of wanting to commit so-called “sin”, it actually made me a more loving and non judgmental person.
A) In order to answer your question, I think you need to understand who God is. If we define God as “the absolute goodness” then evil actions or actions that** lack** good are actions that lack God.
B) The concept of hell, I would say, is the lack of good= lack of God. If hell is defined as a place with no God, then it would be a contradiction to have a place where God is and is not there.
C) To say that *everyone * ends up having eternal life with God even those who have performed absolutely evil things without repentance, is contradicting who God is. Light and darkness can not exist together since darkness is the absence of light. It is contradictory to have both absolute evil and absolute goodness in God.
To start, hell is not a punishment, but rather a consequence. God is life, love, being, beauty, truth, etc. etc. A willful separation from God is a slipping away into the infinitesimal void between being and non-being, horrific indeed. If there is no hell, I would have to concede there is no heaven, and either concede there is no God or there is no free will. I would have to believe there is not heaven because, if I cannot refuse to love God, I certainly cannot love him either (because to be forced to love is contradictory, and therefore automatically illogical), and heaven is essentially to enter into a union of love with God. On top of that, I would have to either believe I have no free will (and thus the reason I could not love or sin) or that there is no God (that there is no love or sin to begin with).
How would I react to this? I would probably resort to a secular ascetical life (such as Buddhism) or become a deist of some sort. And I would concede there is no objective purpose to life, nor could I make one or pretend that there is one, because there would be no truth, beauty, or goodness to participate in.
No…the fear of hell to me is like taking out a “fire insurance” policy. If the only reason a person lives a life of peace, kindness, love, mercy, patience is to escape hell…then the “reward” of living such a life is lost upon us already. It’s like the child who was physically punished for not sitting down…he said “I’m sitting down on the outside, but I’m still standing up on the inside.” Is that “true obedience” to his parents? Or just going thru the motions so he won’t get smacked again? Whay kind of adult would a child like this become…to only do good becasue he feared corporal punishment?
Actually this greatly reminded me of Kohlberg’s six moral stages of development. One of the first stages is the one you described in the beginning; performing actions solely due to the fear of punishment. As children, we begin to build our moral muscles as such. I would not say “when I was Catholic I feared hell”, rather I would say, “when I was a child, or a person who was in his early stages of moral development.” I was like that as a child too :rolleyes:
That is why Catholicism emphasises that we should focus on God (since God is love, compassion, peace, justice and mercy!), and live according to the guidelines Jesus provided us ( ps, Jesus did not give us exact guidelines solely because He never wanted to limit “love” and never wanted to limit our moral development)
You do not and should not focus on hell if you do not wish to go there
I don’t have to imagine. Judaism is not imbued with the notion of hell as other religions are. Perhaps for the truly evil there may be a separation from G-d or even an annihilation of the soul. However, this is not of so much concern in Judaism. Nor is the focus on rewards for the righteous by means of an afterlife in heaven, although many Jews do believe there is a World to Come based on the teachings of the Sages. The emphasis is on this life and loving and serving G-d and His creation by means of practicing righteous behavior according to the teachings of His Law. Ultimately, we can make the world a better place for all its inhabitants. The afterlife, rewards and punishment, is left to G-d and should not be our primary concern. The latter is our earthly life and making it a meaningful one.
If there were no Hell, then Heaven and Hell would be the same place.
God never sends anyone to Hell. People who die in a state of mortal sin are so opposed to God and His will that they would hate living with God in Heaven and doing His will–let alone for all eternity! So instead, they choose Hell. They suffer for all eternity, but now they can be free from God, just like they wanted to be when they were alive. This is how my priest explained Hell to me. He says some theologians think Heaven and Hell are actually the same place, that maybe the fires of Hell are actually God’s light burning the souls of the damned.
If there were no Hell, then things would be even worse for the damned than they are.
As a former atheist, I can affirm that when I didn’t believe in hell, I did indeed act differently. It’s much easier to say you’re a good person when you have no higher authority than yourself, because then you’re judging yourself by your own standards, not God’s. My estimation of myself has changed drastically and continually since my conversion. Growing in understanding of God and holiness tends to raise the bar several hundred feet, and the more you come to know Him, the more your own inadequacies and evils become apparent. This goes for just about everyone: none of us are “good people” (as Christ Himself said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.”)
However, the motivational dichotomy you propose (gaining reward vs. avoiding punishment) is a false one. While these are good stepping stones, they are only that: stepping stones on a spiritual path which should lead to a mature faith in which one seeks to avoid sin for the sole purpose of the love of God. To borrow an idea from one of your later posts in which you said you now do good things simply for the sake of your fellow man, likewise a mature Christian faith should do good and avoid sin simply for the love of God. A Christian should realize that God loves him or her unconditionally to a degree that no human being possibly could and that should move the individual to an ever greater love of and obedience to God. After all, when you love someone, you want to please them.
Easier said than done, of course, but no one said Christianity was easy. Lord knows I struggle probably more than most.
Besides all of that, I think you should also revisit your conception of Hell. While the idea of Hell as punishment is one that should not be discarded, insofar as it is appropriately descriptive and true enough, the Catholic understanding of Hell sees it as more of a natural spiritual consequence of sin. Just as putting your hand on a hot stove will result in a burned hand, so persisting in sin will result in separation from God. Just as it is in the nature of heat to burn, so it is the nature of sin to sever things from God. God cannot cooperate with evil; it’s a logical impossibility.
Love of God should our prime motivation for turning away from sin.
There is a hell. I may end up there, but I have hope in Him. I’m doing my best to do His will, to be with Him now.
It would be nice if it worked that way, but we both know that there are people that commit heinous sins and crimes and are never caught and brought to justice. If there is no justice in the afterlife, even “justice” in this life is an illusion.
because I don’t think God truly judges anyone.
You need to ask yourself some serious questions and answer them honestly: Upon what basis do you believe this about God-- aside from your own personal feelings? Is it possible you have created a God to match your feelings?
And for the record… there are many non-religious people such as myself who believe in love and compassion and peace for everyone.
I have no doubt of that.
When I was a Catholic, I feared Hell so much that it was my only focus, and I would do things out of fear instead of love. It was artificial.
That sounds like it was a personal problem (not inherent in religion itself), and it’s called scrupulosity. It consists in living in fear because one fears one can never be good enough to go to heaven. This has been the spiritual ruin of many intelligent people, including Martin Luther. The only cure for it is to trust in Jesus and in humility put yourself under the care of a wise spiritual director or confessor.
Now that I am no longer bound to the chains of religion,
Religion is only a chain to those who have a skewed view of it. With a healthy spiritual attitude, the Catholic Faith is the most freeing way of life there is.
I do things because out of genuine care, concern, and the good of my fellow man. I’ve actually never felt so spiritual and close to God in my life. I do not believe in Hell anymore,
Again, upon what basis do you believe that besides your feelings and your reliance on a God of your own design?
and instead of wanting to commit so-called “sin”, it actually made me a more loving and non judgmental person.
In your own estimation, I’m sure. But is a standard of ones own making a reliable or honest criteria for holiness?
Well, I think God the Father understands that there needs to be consequences for bad behavior. He is the ultimate perfect parent. No hell would be analogous with the type of children you get from parents that spoil their children with no consequences. “I want this.” “I want that.” “I don’t feel like doing that.”
If there is no judgment in the next life, then this one is devoid of purpose.
You highlight a spiritual problem that some Catholics encounter: attrition. Attrition, on the whole, is not healthy. It serves its purpose to move lukewarm persons out of such stagnation, but beyond that, a trust in God’s mercy must become the foundation for any sort of healthy faith life.
So I will bring this up: why do we have the doctrine of hell? I mean, why is it part of Christian theology? If our focus is God’s love, why should we care? Why did the holy fathers of the early Church care to include such a doctrine in their writings? Or better: why did Jesus include it in his teachings? Was it to scare us? Was it to make us hopeless? Certainly not! Rather, we include hell in theology to serve as a constant reminder that we are sinners, and that sin is terrible; that we must trust in God’s mercy, and stop relying on our own strength. It is unfortunate that such a doctrine caused you cognitive dissonance. I hope you will reconsider and look more deeply into the matter by talking to priests, deacons, informed laity, reading books, etc. There’s a book that a great and prominent theologian of the 20th century, Hans urs von Balthasar wrote called, “Dare We Hope That All Men Be Saved?”
I have not read it, but I have heard great things about it, and I think you will find it both illuminating and informing.
God bless, my brother!
OP, I do need to ask if you still believe in Jesus. If Jesus Christ was real and needed to die on the cross in order to save us from our sins, then there has to be a hell. Jesus even talks about those who will not be saved.