When I debated with classmates about religion, I often asked them about hell, saying things like, had you ever heard from anyone in hell? I mean, how can you really tell that such a place exists? Who is in it and what have they done? What purpose does hell serve and who created it?
To me the idea that some invisible being had the power to vanquish people to such a place where they would be tortured for all eternity seemed harsh. A person could be a faithful believer in Wicca or traditional African religion but according to the rules governing some other doctrine be considered a heretic and told he or she will burn in hell for not accepting the tenets of Christianity, Islam or something else. Does that sound just or logical? Why would there be one true faith?
Why would heaven be so exclusive? Is it just for the people who believe like the followers of my deity or can there be exceptions? Whoa, that’s a lot of questions, K Man.
In life we mix with Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, pantheists and more. Except for the few who wear signs proclaiming that someone or another is the savior of the world, we have no idea what someone truly believes.
I tell the consumers I assist that religion is one place I consider off-limits. when people try to say “god bless you’, most often I respond, “no thanks.” There was a so-called National day of Prayer so naturally we non-believers proclaimed a National Day of Reason. A day to reflect upon the things we say and do and take ownership of them. A day to understand what we need to change and what we wish to retain.
So, why shouldn’t heaven, if it truly existed, be like that, a mirror of every day society? Shouldn’t there be people of many different colors, shapes, sizes and beliefs in heaven or is the concept of heaven merely a waste of time?
There are general ideas of goodness that are accepted such as doing onto others as you would others do onto you. Committing crimes such as murder, rape and burglary is not only morally unacceptable, but punishable by law. Prisoners are kept in a living hell far away from society for their crimes.
But even prisoners can seek redemption. Even death sentences can be appealed and overturned. Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, for example, waged a long battle and was victorious in overcoming his wrongful conviction on a murder charge. If one can be found innocent of a crime, why isn’t there an appeal from being condemned to hell? I suspect that hell was simply created by religious zealots to enforce discipline and frighten the superstitious. In a moment of anger I might say that I hope certain people are in hell. But in reality I don’t believe it exists and I would not wish anyone would suffer such a fate.
I prefer the possibility of redemption and learning from one’s mistakes. It was very instructive that Rev. Carlton Pearson lost many people from his very large ministry after he developed the doctrine of the inclusive gospel and declared that he no longer believed in hell. Moreover he began reach out to gays and lesbians and others not included in his earlier spiritual vision. If you google his name you will undoubtedly find websites denouncing Rev. Pearson. His crime was the ultimate, taking away the fear of ultimate eternal judgment and substituting human love and decency. So it leads me to ask you to ponder the question I asked at the beginning of this blog, what is it you find comforting about hell?
- Carlton Pearson muses on no hell’s Bell… (thewearypilgrim.typepad.com)