Rethinking My Beliefs about God Apart From Traditional Christianity

Do We Create Hell By Believing In Eternal Torture?

In Heaven, Hell, Love, Suffering on January 27, 2011 at 6:40 pm

If you know me by now, you know that I like to question the assumed major doctrinal beliefs that are supposedly required for salvation according to Christianity. And this questioning makes for some very hot topics such as, the errancy of the Bible, salvation for gays and the non-existence of hell. And about the subject of hell….

I actually believe in hell. I have already experienced quite a bit of hell myself as a slave to religion. And I still do, especially when people threaten me with being tormented for eternity. Any time I suffer and feel separated from all that is good, I experience hell. It’s horrible, and maybe that is what Christ felt while he was being tortured by the religious leaders.

Maybe our limited beliefs as ignorant humans determine just what we each experience here and now. If we believe that God is full of wrath and will punish some people forever but reward others who hold to a certain theological belief, are we not creating our own world of wrath and discrimination? If we believe that God loves us all equally and that his love is unconditional, are we then creating our own personal experience of loving kindness?

And what is the final end for those who believe in either a God of wrath or a God of love? While our beliefs might determine our experience here and now, what is the ultimate reality for us all that goes beyond our mere human understanding? What is God’s eternal truth that trumps all human belief , faith or lack of faith?

The Bible seems to contradict itself by saying that the disobedient (the unloving) will suffer eternal punishment away from presence of the Lord; but it also says that nothing – nothing – can separate us from the love of God.

If God is omnipresent, the source of all that exists, life itself, how is it even possible to be separated from God? If we were actually separated, wouldn’t we cease to even exist? And if there is “no partiality with God” why would God love some and damn others?

The only way I’ve been able to make sense of those biblical contradictions is to first of all understand that Christ and the spirit of Christ spoke in a symbolic code for “those who have ears to hear.”  There are so many metaphors in the Bible that they seem impossible to understand. Perhaps we resort to taking them literally because the parable is beyond our grasp – until we have lived that particular truth, bringing an enlightenment that goes far beyond any theological study.

I believe that there really is a destruction but it is for each and every one of us – not some. The lake of fire is symbolic for the suffering that destroys that ignorant part of each us that hates and creates a world of hate. Personally, I think the fire of suffering destroys that part of each of us that lacks faith in and understanding of love. It is that ugly side of all of us that would actually like to see some people tortured for eternity (but not us or our loved ones, of course.)

Anyone who has experienced pain knows how pain opens our eyes, and makes us a little more compassionate toward others, after that suffering has completed its work, that is. It was through suffering that the Christ entered into glory. The apostle Paul spoke a lot about shipwrecks and being led to the slaughter and whatnot. And it was through real life suffering that I personally discovered that the threat of eternal torment (which I once believed and propagated) is a misunderstood doctrine used as a manipulation tactic of the church system.

But just because there is suffering on earth doesn’t mean that God has ordained inescapable torture that lasts for eternity. I believe there is a REASON for suffering, and it is to grow us all. It tears us apart so that we have room for a greater depth of love. We each grow through different experiences that we directly and inadvertently cause for ourselves and others. Somehow we were created with an inclination to suffer and to cause suffering too. And the biology of this world certainly includes pain and death as well. Through the energy cycle of birth, life, death and birth, the world exists and continues to maintain itself. Death is a part of the life cycle.

But I think this suffering prepares us all for “heaven” whatever heaven is. (I think that heaven has been misaligned within Christianity just as much as hell but that is for another blog post.)

For people who insist that God will punish some people with eternal torture on top of all the suffering we must endure in this life, they (like me for 30 years) do not yet understand that love is unconditional and is actually manifested through suffering. The unbelievers are not yet willing to accept that they are unconditionally loved by God themselves. They are still functioning under a works-righteousness mentality – the grand ol’ religious old covenant of law. They are banking on the fact that their good works are going to give them a ticket to heaven, just because they believe it. And although it appears in different religions and forms, this old covenant mentality seems to have plagued us all, at least for a certain period of time.

But it is through that religious misery that we learn the fact that good works and righteousness do not make us acceptable for heaven. Only suffering and love can give us the capacity to truly know joy for our eternal spirit, and no human can escape this life of suffering, as well as the love of God.

That’s the only thing that makes any logical sense to me. Sure, there’s a heaven and hell, but they are not what the religious traditions teach us to believe, although the religious traditions serve their purpose of creating a world of suffering. That much is obvious to me.


  1. I agree.

    The legalistic background serves a purpose.
    “I wish you were Hot [Grace] or Cold [Law], but since you are Lukewarm…”

    Experiencing the cold realities of legalistic living will make it obvious something very important is missing: A relationship.

  2. How’s this–hell is the temporary creation of Satan put in place as part of his plan to destroy the human race. God will take care of hell and death right before the White Throne Judgment as He throws them both into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:13-14). In Matthew 10:28-31, watch the sequence that Jesus used: don’t fear man, fear the one who can destroy body and soul in hell, and don’t fear because God loves you. Then put John 10:10 into the mix. Many of us just account for God who we think is “sovereign” and controls everything. There is an active enemy at work in our world and God’s absolute love has made the way for us to overcome and defeat that enemy through Jesus Christ. What Christ accomplished on the cross goes much further than making a way for us to go to heaven when we die. He came that we might have the life more abundant that the loss, death, and destruction that the kingdom of evil is using against us.

  3. Patricia, I really like your perspective. I had always rejected the sovereignty of God concept because of the cold Calvinist presentation of it. But now I understand what attracts so many to it. It’s a relief to know that we don’t have to carry the whole world on our shoulders. But I think that relief can only be experienced when we trust that God’s sovereignty is unconditional grace, or love for all – not a hateful damnation for some that God hates.

    John, I think that is a splendid explanation of the hot and cold analogy. I have never witnessed (or experienced) anything so detrimental as legalism… except an attempt to mix legalism with grace… because it creates such a miserable blindness.

  4. I’m personally not a biblical inerrantist, but I still don’t believe that the Bible teaches everlasting torment in hell. Check out the section on my site on the topic if you’re curious:

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