For one thing, it doesn’t make sense for anyone loving God to be the final authority in the decision to have members of his own chosen kind be stuffed away to some desolate and most horrific place where they will suffer in torment and agony from here to eternity.
The deal is this. Your spirit is created by divine authority, an act at which you of course had no say in whatsoever. Then your newly created spirit is cast into a body of flesh on some strange and exceedingly brutal and hostile place in the physical realm. And as your body grows, you are expected to abide by the rules; mind you, two sets of rules.
One set of rules comprises the temporal laws and regulations that you are expected to learn at least partly by yourself as you attend the inescapable School of Life AKA the School of Hard Knocks. And then you have the spiritual set rules determining what constitutes sin (represented prominently but not exclusively by the 10 Commandments). If you live in a theistic region of the world, you are in principle in a reasonable position to pick up on what defines sin and what does not. Although chances are that you won’t be able to exhaustively learn in advance all the intricate details about sin in order to successfully circumvent it. Indeed, you basically are left to your own devices and so you again have to learn as you go, also through the hard way for the most part.
And if you grow up in communist region of the world, then you are basically screwed in so many words because you have no sure way of knowing when you commit sin. The plot thickens even more when the two sets of rules clash. For instance, when, as a young comrade you are forced to enlist in some red army and sent off to fight in some war and are forced to participate in the killing of people, then you then are forced to sin and there’s nothing you can do about it.
And if that’s not enough we have to deal with our inescapable unholy and fallible nature, which in practice means an almost constant temptation to engage in some kind of sin.
And, heaven forbid, if we, ignorant as we are, just so happen to succumb to our many frailties, our inherent fallibility, unless we have the wits and wherewithal to seek forgiveness, we supposedly are punished for our unholy sinful weaknesses by being cast into a place that knows only suffering and agony and no hope for escape.
If this is God’s idea for showing his love and grace to us then I simply rather have no part of it.
Two years ago I read two books describing the supposed existence of hell. They were authored by two different writers and interestingly published by the same publishing house. One was called “23 Minutes in Hell” by Bill Wiese and the other “A Divine Revelation of Hell” by Mary K Baxter. Both books document a personal visit of the respective author to hell under the alleged guidance of Jesus Christ. Both report their experiences in their books. At the time, I was pretty impressed by their fascinating stories, but they did leave me with an uneasy feeling that never quite went away.
After documenting the horrendous torment and suffering that supposedly goes in hell, the
last paragraph of Baxter’s book finishes as follows:
“If you are unsaved, please take the time right now to kneel before the Lord and ask Him to forgive you of your sins and make you His child. Whatever the cost, you should determine now to make heaven your eternal home. Hell is awful, and hell is real.” Baxter p. 212
So basically the authors imply that you better have yourself forgiven for your sins or else hell awaits for you! But this is scare tactics if there ever was any, plain and simple. It is proselytization on the basis of fear. Allowing Christ to become your savior by the threat of the fate of hell is no different from forcing conversion at the tip of the sword! And so if you do accept Christ for this reason, you enter into faith on the basis of fear for hell not necessarily for loving God. But this is counter to what God stands for. God is a god of love, not of fear (1 John 4:8). And if you fear you cannot love simultaneously. Therefore fear-mongering should have no place in Christian proselytization practices. In other words, I do cannot accept such testimonies to be genuine. Indeed, I suspect that they are precisely anti-Christian in nature; as they work to whip up fear in its Christian readership and the more fearful Christians are, the further they are driven away from the God and closer to the anti-Christ.
What do I believe in then? The Secret Book of John, a non-canonical Gnostic text fortified with a commentary (thank golly!), reports on Jesus addressing the phenomenon of reincarnation:
“When they come forth from the body, such a soul is given over to the powers created by the rulers, bound in chains, and cast into a prison again. Around and around it goes until it manages to become free from forgetfulness through knowledge. And so, eventually, it becomes perfect and is saved.” (comment.*)
(comment.*)The “prison” here is not a place, but the human body. People cycle around and around from life to life through reincarnation. But the ultimate vision is very positive. Eventually all will be saved and, in good Gnostic fashion, they will be saved by knowledge that overcomes forgetfulness.
The Secret Book of John (p 142, 143)
That Jesus is our *eternal* savior is also confirmed by scripture:
“Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” Hebrews 7:23-25
Out of the possible post-life alternatives, the reincarnation cycle interruptible when fitness for heaven has been reached, is the only alternative that makes sense to me. The atheistic viewpoint that life just ends with death, does not cut it for the simple reason that I believe in the existence of God and his spirit realm and cannot imagine this reality to have been brought into existence without a divine creator agent. Living a single life after which one then ends up either in heaven or hell, does not do it either. I cannot imagine that God would send a child, who befell the misfortune of being killed or met an early death through disease or starvation and, to hell when it fails to meet the requirements for entrance into heaven. Or, suppose one is born an atheist, for instance when born in communist China or Russia back in the day, and one dies while never knowing Jesus. Does one then deserve to be sent to hell for circumstances one could not help avoid?
I think that persons who never have had the possibility of being saved by Jesus are offered another try through reincarnation, a cycle that repeats itself until the person gets it right. There is no rush as Jesus is our *eternal* savior and so he works for our salvation until we all have gotten it right. To me, the cycle of interruptible reincarnation is therefore the only viable alternative.
I furthermore should add that the practice of threatening with hell and damnation is not only violating the 3rd Commandment (You shall not use the name of the Lord in vain), I find it tantamount to psychological abuse. Let me emphasize that, for anyone person to threaten another person with being cast into a place of eternal torment and agony is potentially engaging in sheer psychological abuse and its practice should therefore be decried at the very least.
That’s what I have to say about hell. I don’t believe in its existence but then again I will not go so far as to say that I won’t believe in it. If I am made aware of its existence in whatever lucid, unequivocal and convincing way, I might just change my mind but until then it is as the saying goes: seeing is believing.