Hell: Mindless Brutality at its Worst
by Dave E. Matson

Whereas the god of the Old Testament is content to kill multitudes for the offenses of a few, and to send them to the shadowy underworld of sheol, the god of the New Testament is not satisfied with anything less than the eternal torture of his victims. Between the pages of the Old and New Testaments this god creates a torture chamber of magic fire that neither burns out nor consumes its victims, the place known as hell 5. He does this knowing that a large percentage of humanity will wind up there and suffer for an eternity. Is this not a description of a fiendish monster, a devil?

What beastly crime must one commit to roast in hell? Why, the infinite crime of disbelief, of course! One need only to lack belief in the doctrine that an immortal god died for our sins. Mark 16:16, Luke 12:46, John 3:36, and Revelation 21:8 make this point very clear.

After 4000 years God has suddenly decided that it is necessary for a demigod son to serve as the ultimate scapegoat or sacrifice for everyone's sins, to make possible the salvation of humanity. The old system won't work anymore for some unexplained reason. Souls must now contend with eternal paradise or eternal agony. Thus, God sees that Jesus (God) is crucified to pay the bill.

Those able to believe this bizarre story will be saved; those who don't will be damned. That one may live a good and kindly life is irrelevant to salvation. Indeed, for years the church held that innocent, newborn babies were damned if they died before getting a priest's attention! Church literature for children described little boys and girls banging their heads about in a red-hot oven, the oven of hell, for minor misdeeds during their lives. Any questions?

The working brain immediately rejects this gigantic, obscene lie, for it knows that infinite torture, whatever the crime, cannot be laid at the feet of an all-powerful god who is morally good. The two concepts are exact opposites of each other, and all the theological quibbling, juggling, and hoop dances done to dupe the public cannot change that one, basic fact. God cannot simultaneously be powerful, good, AND the torturer to end all torturers. Period.

Anyone with a lick of common sense must wonder how it is that an all-powerful and benign god cannot simply destroy the wicked and leave it at that--or even re-educate them. The enlightened mind will also wonder how God's people got by for thousands of years without either Jesus or hell. (Hell, as we get it from those fire-and-brimstone preachers, doesn't even show up in the Bible until we get very close to New Testament times. True, the King James Bible applies the word "hell" to both Old and New Testaments, but that is confusing because several different words are translated as "hell," and they have vastly different meanings. Jesus is never mentioned in the Old Testament by name, though much of the Old Testament has been ripped out of context by the gospel writers to support Jesus.)

Common sense also tells us that belief is not something that can be turned on and off like a light switch. Either the evidence appeals to our mind or it doesn't, and if it doesn't there is scarcely anything we can do about it. We cannot believe stupid things upon command. Try believing in Santa Claus right now. Only a terribly unfair god could punish people for failing to do the impossible.

Sheol, of course, was located somewhere down in the bowels of the earth. Gehenna mainly replaced Sheol in the New Testament, and it would also have been down there in the bowels of the earth, at least in most of its later forms. Today most people, even Bible-believers, know that the earth is round, with a metallic core surrounded by dense molten rock. Under the modern gaze of science, the unknown has retreated and the earth has become too small for hell. Accordingly, hell has gone the way of heaven, becoming a never-never land without a specific location.

What happened to the people in the old sheol, and to sheol itself? Was sheol destroyed, filled in? Was it remodeled? In the Old Testament good and bad alike went down to sheol when they died. It was the rare individual who was lifted up to heaven. If they were saved, they were saved without ever knowing Jesus during their lifetime, thus proving that the New Testament salvation scheme is unnecessary. If they were not saved, we have another example of God's injustice.

A little application of common sense reveals that the concept of hell, itself, is theologically absurd. Its logic dictates killing your children early while they still believe in Jesus, thus speeding them on their way to heaven! Better yet, abort them while they are still babies! Mandatory abortions would be required lest any young soul later stray into hell's grasp. Just be sure to ask Jesus for forgiveness before you die lest you go to hell for your trouble. If your best friends don't believe, it is your duty to torture them, however horribly, to get them to come around to the true faith. A little torture now is nothing compared to an eternity of God's torture. Consequently, the Spanish Inquisition should be resumed and expanded. Think of all the souls it might save! Scientists, philosophers, most teachers, and other wayward types who sow doubt about the true faith would be terminated before they could lead anyone astray. We can do even better. Painless execution of all true believers not needed for the Lord's work should be compulsory! It would be far less tragic to do that, and get those guys into heaven while they're hot, than to lose one of them to eternal agony.

The logic is flawless! If something seems wrong or immoral about these recommendations, the problem must be with the concept of hell, itself. Therefore, unless you advocate the above, you have another reason to reject the manmade concept of hell. Its fruit is corrupt.

Scholars have traced the biblical concept of hell, in large part, back to the ancient Iranians. Hell has evolved with time, as a careful study of the literature makes clear. An early Jewish view compares hell to a valley next to Jerusalem where trash was burned, where King Josiah had earlier burned and profaned the idols of pagan worship. That is where we got the image of worms turning (maggots in the garbage) and eternal flames (the endless burning of trash and garbage). Hell was little more than a cosmic trash dump at first. Unbelievers, of course, would play the role of the idols and garbage.

Thus, we have yet another reason to reject the obscene, manmade concept of hell. It is an evolved concept, not a divinely created institution. Heaven and hell continued to evolve even after the Bible was put into writing. One late view held that there were 7 layers of heaven matched by 7 layers of hell. Thus, the absurd idea that a vicious criminal received the same punishment as someone who just barely made it into hell could be checked. The former would go to one of the lowest hells (where punishment was severe) while the latter would go to one of the upper hells (where punishment was light). A trace of this old view still survives in the expression "seventh heaven," which referred to the top or best heaven.

The concept of hell has an obvious stink about it despite the fact that theologians have done triple back-flips through flaming hoops to make it seem logical, at least to their brainwashed flocks who are their chief support. The logic of hell is so twisted that even some Christian denominations cannot swallow it. Their Christianity is hell-less. Other theologians and writers, equally disturbed by the illogic of hell, have sought to tone it down. One merely becomes "separated from God" and no torture is involved! Another view holds that the wicked are simply burned up and that is the end of their torture.

A careful reading of the New Testament supports several views of hell, which may surprise you. Therefore, some of the alternative views of hell championed by various theologians actually have a few straws of support in the Bible! Thus, the Bible has likely contradicted itself on the nature of hell. Yes, that's another reason for rejecting hell. How many reasons do you need?

5. At least that is the traditional view of hell held by most Christians over the centuries. The actual passages in the New Testament are not always clear and may represent several views.

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