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I would be interested if anybody would like to devote this thread to discussing the topic of Hell itself, especially with regards to points of interpretation raised in this article - Jesus and Hell – a provocative re-interpretation - which was written almost idly. Hopefully it provides a starter frame of refernce for discussion.

Essentially, should Hell be regarded as as physical place of being, or a metaphorial reference...or perhaps another option, such as a self-imposed psychology of being (ie, you create your own Hell)?
I have never accepted the idea of a literal Hell of fire and burning. It sounds utterly alien for a forgiving God. Believing that the universe was created simply to bring form sentient life and then torture the majority of it for all eternity speaks to me of a sickness in the mind of the believer rather than of the awesome majesty of Ultimate Divinity.
On saying that I have not yet read your article either. I will give you my thoughts when I have read it.
I don;t believe in Hell either. I may not be sure about a lot of things that I can or cannot believe in but this is one thing that makes *no* sense to me. Condemning billions of people for torture sounds more like fundamentalist wish-fulfillment at work.
Re:Hell ala Seige

Here's my vision of hell, somewhat influenced by what I've heard from Christians I agree with, but mostly my own combination of prayer, thought, rationalization, and guesswork, heavy on the guesswork and rationalization.

If hell/a place of punishment must exist, I see it as being separation from God. It is not what God wishes for us, and it is not eternal; it is something which comes about by an act of the soul in question's own will.

My best guess at how a soul would wind up in hell leads to a few possible causes.
  • In the case of a hard-core Atheist, separation from God could come about very easily. After all, how could one be in the presence of something which doesn't exist? In this case, I'm not sure it would be a form of punishment. In fact, in the case of one Atheist I know who said he wished for oblivion after death, it could be an alternate form of heaven.
  • A person could have done something for which he cannot forgive himself, thus rendering himself unworthy of the Presence of God in his own mind (soul?).
  • Finally, a person could choose separation as a form of reaction, i.e. "If so-and-so's in there and she's a lesbian, and so-and-so's in there, and he's a Wiccan, then that cannot be heaven and I'm not going!"

I am a Christian, and I do believe that Evil exists. I also have a history of clinical depression, so I know what it's like for the soul to be in agony. I cannot accept the concept of a Deity who would take pleasure in other's suffering. On the other hand, I know full well humans are very good at being willfully blind. Heck, I'm almost an expert at it!:p I once told a Fundamentalist that, by her definition of who got into heaven, most of the people I love were out, and Pat Robertson was in. Given a choice between spending eternity with Pat Robertson and without WHKeith, among others, or spending eternity in a lake of fire (presumably with WHKeith, I told her the lake of fire was looking kind of good! (Ultimate hot tub party, anyone? ;D) I refuse to believe God would condemn the thousands of years of people who came before Christ, or that he would condemn the throngs of genuinely good people who don't happen to be Christians. If I'm wrong, I think technically I've got the Christian Get-Out-Of-Hell-Free Card, but I'm still prepared to suffer the consequences.

Sorry if I sound a bit defensive. For some reason, my position wasn't always all that well received when I posted it on an explicitly Christian message board. ???

how can a person who has never heard of God, be expected to choose God? how is it fair or reasonable for them to be sent to hell?
at the very least, hell is intended as metaphor... just as heaven is. Jesus commonly spoke in allegory... symbolism. he was not literal.
if there were to be an actual form of heaven or hell, i conceive it to be another dimension (probably temporary) of reality or bubble universe which is created by the expectations of the mind during the transition from this life to the next stage. we exist as pure thought.
eternal damnation is illogical because it does not allow one to make ammends or to act on lessons learned. it would be pointless and wasteful.
how can a physical element like fire and brimstone effect a non-physical element like spirit?
Hopefully the allegorical aspect is what I delved into - and attempted to address - in the article referred to in the original post. :)
Thank you, brian, for that original article. Nicely researched!

I highly recommend C.S. Lewis' classic "The Great Divorce," which presents that Christian apologist's allegorical view of Hell--a kind of country chosen deliberately by its inhabitants, souls who frequently take day trips up to heaven, but who always choose to return "home." The nature of their separation from God leads inevitably to separation from their fellow man; Hell is visualized as an infinite region inbaited by lonely souls spreading out more and more as they seek to isolate themselves from one another.

I reject utterly the notion of loving Deity calling forth beloved creations under a set of rules that condemning most to an eternity of torture.

At the same time, I am all too aware that many create private and personal hells for themselves.
My own take on it is quite a bit at skew with anything I've ever seen anywhere else, but fits with what Scripture has to say was said about it, particularly by Jesus.

Let me begin by telling you of two young men I knew, 25 years apart. Both were remarkable people who, being young and convinced of their own indestructibility, used drugs heavily. Will was slender with dirty blonde long hair, a philosopher and seeker after God and Truth, daily user of pot and irregular tripper on LDS. Tom, years later, was the "parfait knight" -- from being a little boy whom people picked on, he'd gone into body building and ended up a dead wringer for the late wrestler Owen Hart -- and he used his strength and his reputation as the toughest guy around in defense of the smaller and weaker. He was also, down underneath, a sensitve and thoughtful guy -- but to protect that reputation, could show that to only a few people, me and my son among them. But he needed escape, and he ended up on crack.

I've long since lost touch with both -- but the last I'd heard of either, they were burned out, their ability to think decimated and their will nearly absent -- shells or ashes of their former selves.

I believe in a merciful God who nonetheless, for whatever reasons He has, cherishes the idea of free will. He calls people to turn to Him in love, but, so that their free will to choose to love Him is intact, must allow them to choose not to as well. But He will not give up on them so long as there is a "them" left to choose Him.

Death is the natural end of things -- we are a unified entity of a mind or spirit within a body, dependent on the body as a computer program is on the hardware on which it runs. With death comes the end of volition, in the natural way of things.

A life lived without communion with God may be full of pleasure and lived quite ethically -- but it leads, inevitably, to the death of the body and the inability of the spirit that resided withn it to do a single thing.

The person who chooses to turn away from God, firmly and permanently, and never changes that choice, becomes a burned-out ash of what was a vibrant flame. His awareness lives on, in a hysteresis effect, suffused with longing and regret for lost choices.

God in His grace may rescue that burned-out case and, purging most of the painful memories, install it in a new body for another chance, another round of life choices.

But until and unless He does, that annihilation of the will combined with a lingering, fading longing and regret is Hell.

He doesn't send anyone there. We choose it ourselves.
I do believe in Hell and Satan, I believe if you go there I think it is a beutiful place that almost rivals Heaven, and since it does Satan can claim to be God so that people belive him and I think after Judgement it will literally be transformed into a lake of sulfur where Satan and his followers will burn in agony forever... just the thought of that makes me hurt for everyone that will go there, WOW im glad i'm not though!:p :cool:
i believe it to be a place. because it is in a different dimension, it is hard to say what it is exactly, because we do not have knowledge of anything outside our universe and its laws. surely fire that burns forever within a contained area makes it a place, but because they are souls in torment there it is a spiritual place. and because you are in fire yet do not burn up completely, but are tormented forever, the laws as we know it no longer exist therefore making it a supernatural place.
I think hell is a state of mind .... and we can change our minds if we put our minds to it .... we get to choose .... aloha nui, poh
stevemb88 said:
But why would you choose something like that?

great question .... if hell is a state-of-mind, we choose it when we refuse to let go of past grievances, we continue to judge others, we seek power over others, we destroy the earth, we war with each other .... we create our own hell .... but we do have a choice to learn to let go of this way of life, to return to the balance, to live in a world of peace and love when we remember what unconditional love really means .... one-by-one if we return to this place we can create a better world, the one that we aspire to evolve into .... what is sometimes referred to as the fifth world, or the new golden age .... this is suppose to be the world that will either be created or will have been created when the prophet(s) return .... the key is "I" will return .... each of us must return to wholeness .... that is why i said "hell is a state-of-mind" in which we have a choice .... aloha nui, pohaikawahine
Beautifully stated, Pohaikawahine.

I believe that we are three dimensional creatures, and that hell is another dimension in spirituality. You need not be dead for your spirit to be in/at hell. If you can visualize this place, or believe in the characteristics of those who are hellbound and possess these characteristics, then there is hell and there you are. It's hard sometimes to break those chains that binds us to beliefs. The mind is so powerful that it can create something from absolutely nothing. Our hands need a substance but our minds can create some incredible towers of understanding that become very real, especially when we use our hands to mold it or write it down for it to become real to others as well.
I believe in a hell, but I don't think it is eternal and only a few people go to hell in my opinion (only the most evil).