Ramble. Focus. Ramble.

The Concept of Hell

The first thing to do would be to define the traditional Christian, view of hell in order to identify where the problem really lies. For those who deserve it because of their conduct on earth. This concept has three particular aspects;

  1. Punishment: the main purpose of hell is to punish people who warrant it.
  2. No escape: the concept of hell includes the concept that once you are in hell you are not getting out of it. There is no way of escaping.
  3. Anti-Universalism: another traditional concept holds that all the people of earth will not be saved. Some will be put into hell.
  4. Eternal Existence: This concept tells us that there is no escape from hell and you are going to be there, consciously, for eternity.

This is clearly a very scary concept of hell. Later, there was a modification in this concept of hell and that occurred after Jesus’ resurrection. The concept is such that Jesus preached the people of hell and therefore some of them managed to understand his message. They were given heaven instead then. This concept is called the harrowing of hell. This change in the concept has eradicated the concept of ‘no escape’ from the traditional Christian view.

There are some serious flaws with this concept of hell. Even though it has been modified and looks like that some people deserve less severe punishment than others or are able to learn their lesson and be brought to heaven from hell, the concept is still flawed. The first problem we encounter is that the concept of hell does not look compatible with the concept of God that Christians have. Christians have a concept, that bible builds too, of a God that is loving and caring in addition to being all-powerful, all-merciful, all-knowing. Why would a loving and caring God be so brutal to put his creation through an eternal, conscious suffering? He would not just punish the wrong-doer and make sure that he has learnt his lesson but the loving God puts him through infinite suffering that has almost no escape.

Furthermore, the bible clearly states that God desires to save everyone or at least many. And seeing that God has attributes according to the Christian religion; He is omnipotent. If He really is omnipotent than why is he unable to save the people he desires or at least find another way to punish them; a way that they actually learn from. Moreover, the salvation concept of Christianity is somewhat totally opposite to the concept of hell. If God loved his creation so much, he sent Jesus to live for them and die for them. Why would He punish them so severely to negate all that He did for them? Wouldn’t all the effort He put in the mankind go to zero if he lets them suffer for eternity.

Coming to the purposes of punishment, we know that they can be: remedial and retributive. The first purpose does not look like it can be accomplished if the hell is for eternal suffering and there is no escape. What remedial purpose would you accomplish if the person is to stay there forever? He will obviously never come out of hell, whether cured of wrongness or not. The retributive purpose of punishment tells us that a person needs only suffer till he has been punished for as much as he did wrong. Now, it is obvious that he did not do infinite wrong in this finite world. Why is the punishment for eternity then? Hence if the concept of hell is for the punishment then it does not at all fit in the punishment model. The ‘eternal existence’ concept of hell does not fit with punishment. Punishments, if they are for improvement or not, do not require eternal suffering.

There are people who believe in some concepts of hell and reject the others. Like some people, who are Universalists, believe that God loves everybody equally and finally everybody will be put in heaven. And there are Annihilationists that would rather believe in ceasing existence than believe in eternal suffering.

This traditional Christian hell is so unbecoming of the loving god that it is rejected everywhere; a part of the concept or the whole is refuted. There is, however, a concept other than the model of punishment. Hell may not necessarily be for punishment. It may be to honour the choice of people who want to live away from God. But then, how irrational would it be to finally find out that a God does exist and he wants you to either choose to live with him or away and you choose to live away from him.  Once His divine existence is proved, why would you want to live away from him? Now that the punishment theory is easily refutable and this alternative concept, Choice model, has no point; annihilation makes more sense. God could choose to end it all.

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2 comments on “The Concept of Hell

  1. Pingback: Infinite punishments for finite crimes? | Atheist Dave

  2. Pingback: What i don’t understand about God « Coffee Talk with Ingrid

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This entry was posted on June 3, 2011 by in Philosophy and tagged .
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