A Very Special Kind of Hell

A person stood amid complete chaos and asked the question: Without the wrath of god, what is to keep us from complete anarchy? Without the fear of hell and god’s judgment, people will just become crazy killers. People will steal, lie and slander each other. People will make other people into slaves and rape them, control them, mislead them and all manner of other terrible atrocities. The person didn’t see the irony of their statement. It’s like standing ankle-deep in shit and saying if it wasn’t for feces, you’d be ankle-deep in shit.

Perhaps you believe that. Perhaps you believe that the only thing standing between a complete unraveling of society and some sustainability are words in a book about how the god of hate will judge you after your death, and if he determines that you were a bad person, you will go straight to hell. You’re not alone if you do, and in fact you’re in very good company. If it’s in the Bible, and the Bible is perfect, it must be true, right?

But let me ask you something: How many times in a day do you think thoughts of hate and anger?

Maybe it’s just a little, under-the-breath curse at someone who cut you off in traffic, or took the last piece of pizza. Will your god overlook those thoughts? Or will your god condemn you for them? Jesus said that there is no difference between killing someone in your mind and killing a body. He said that thoughts are things – if you lust over a woman in your mind, it is the same as acting on that lust. So how will your last judgment go for you? You may point out that you never killed anyone, you never had sex outside your marriage and you never even had sex without the intention of making a baby. Maybe there are levels to hell. Maybe there are the depths of hell, seated next to the devil in his little red suit and pitchfork, with flames rising up, fear stirring, complete panic for all eternity with no relief. And then a level up from that where you’re hot and uncomfortable, but every so often you almost forget you’re in hell. And then there is another level where everyone is just irritatingly stupid and they do things that upset you, but no matter what you tell them, they just never seem to learn, which sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Will the god of hate overlook your sins? Maybe if you ask for forgiveness and really, really mean it, god will just point out your mistakes and then put you on secret probation or something.  The problem with this kind of thinking is that it gives you incredible power over god. What you do, what you think, how you act all influences god and can change his mind about you. If you swear or use his name in vain, you can get cast out into hell unless the god of hate believes you’re truly sorry.

I remember being just a little kid and wondering about that. How could God not know what I was going to do, or how I would turn out? He’s all knowing, so how is it possible that I can be anything other than he wanted me to be? And if he didn’t like how things were going for me, why not just wave his magic hand and make me be what he would like? Just make me like what he wants me to like, do what he wants me to do, act the way he wants me to act.

It all seemed insane to me, and when I would ask anyone those questions, I’d get back some crazy notion about free will, or that I just didn’t understand or that god works in mysterious ways. All of which was just frustrating. And all I could think was that god should have used the Japanese philosophy on building cars: Just stop making the bad ones. As an eight-year-old, I was thinking free will was ridiculous. The Bible doesn’t offer free will at all. It offers fascism, not freedom. Sure, you now have free will to be and do anything that makes you happy, except if you don’t do what the god of hate wants you to do. If you act in a way or talk in a way that makes god unhappy, it’s off to hell with you. That didn’t sound very free to me.

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