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The Paradox Of Hell

Updated on July 18, 2016
Scary?  It shouldn't be.  It's just a photo-shopped image of Al Pacino from Godfather 3 (with a little chrome effect) over an image of magma from a volcano.  It's as fake as Hell is.
Scary? It shouldn't be. It's just a photo-shopped image of Al Pacino from Godfather 3 (with a little chrome effect) over an image of magma from a volcano. It's as fake as Hell is.

For reasonable, rational people, a notion like Hell is too horrifying and overwhelming to fully contemplate. Hence, one would presume it to pose an insurmountable moral and logical hurdle for those whose faith includes such a concept. Indeed, Christian apologists often try to soften or minimize the Bible's depiction of Hell, claiming it is merely a misunderstanding, a metaphor, a mistranslation or taken out of context.

But the Bible is unequivocal in its description of Hell, and there is significant scriptural support (even in the Old Testament) for the idea of Hell as a place of eternal, fiery torment and punishment -- entirely characteristic of the sadistic, malevolent god abundantly described throughout the Bible.

The first association of Hell with fire is in Deuteronomy 32:

"...For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains..."

In Psalm 140, the description of divine punishment for the living offers a hint of the hereafter:

"...Let burning coals fall upon them: let them be cast into the fire; into deep pits, that they rise not up again..."

Isaiah 66 addresses divine wrath against the dead:

"...And they [the living] shall go forth, and look upon the carcases (sic) of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched..."

In the New Testament, Jesus continues the theme, beginning in Matthew 5:

"...whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire..."

Matthew 7 is more analogous:

"...Ye shall know them by their fruits...Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire..."

In Matthew 13, Jesus declares what his angels will do to those who "offend" and "do iniquity":

"...they...shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth..."

Later in the same chapter:

"...So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth..."

Again, in Matthew 25:

"...And the King [Jesus] shall...say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels..."

More, in Mark 9:

"...And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."

This theme is duplicated in the following verses, replacing "hand" with "foot," then with "eye."

Most pointedly, in Luke 16, there is the parable regarding a rich man who dies and goes to Hell:

"...And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame..."

James 3 makes a more metaphorical reference:

"...And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell..."

There is a more oblique reference (though not specifically to Hell) in Jude 1:

"...Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire..."

Finally, in Revelation 20, another reminder of who is destined for Hell's torments:

"...And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire..."

The Quandary

Believers are CONSTANTLY told that God "loves" them. Yet, in any normal context, the idea of "love" would NEVER include hellish concepts like death, vindictive punishment and infinite torture. To any honest and rational person, the meaning of the word "love" is absolutely contrary to such notions. I've touched on this somewhat in another of my hubs, "You Can't Save An Atheist."

In the end, the ideas of "Hell" and God's supposed "love" are completely incompatible. Which begs the question -- how do believers reconcile the two ideas -- both fundamental elements of their faith?

They don't.

There are a number of cognitive devices they employ. The first, already mentioned, is outright denial of the nature of Hell -- which, as I've demonstrated, is clearly described in the Bible. Another is equivocation about exactly WHO is condemned to Hell which, almost without exception, tends to be the "other" -- anyone you don't personally know, and ESPECIALLY nobody you care about or love!

Another method sometimes employed is abstraction, in which notions like "Hell" and "love" are reduced from ideas with concrete, practical meaning and emotional resonance to words that are exclusively conceptual, almost hypothetical.

When such notions become mere text on a page, "Hell" no longer represents the very real and horrifying idea of a human being in endless, agonizing pain. The need for empathy (the ONLY true basis for genuine morality) is conveniently removed from the equation, and "Hell" becomes nothing more than a legalistic and bureaucratic application of God's "justice," mentioned as casually as one would discuss a baseball score.

Similarly, "love," reduced to such an abstraction, no longer represents a selfless sense of personal devotion and spiritual commitment. Instead, it becomes a meaningless sycophantic platitude, mindlessly and redundantly applied in sermons and apologetic arguments.

Without such obtuse abstractions and rationalizations, the intrinsic conflict between personal morality and Hell would make religious belief morally and mentally unsustainable.


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  • Joseph O Polanco profile image

    Joseph O Polanco 

    6 years ago

    Sure, they say what you think they do when taken in isolation. However, when understood in their context it's pretty simple to discern what's literal and what's tropological.

  • Paladin_ profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Michigan, USA

    No, Joseph, what I DO understand that there are many things in the Bible that don't make any sense -- and this is simply one more to add to the list.

    I actually AGREE with you that the dead can't feel pain! However, many of the verses I've quoted in this hub clearly state otherwise.

    In the end, if we're simply going to wave away anything we find disagreeable in the Bible by claiming that it's "tropological" and not "literal," then let's waive away the whole mythology! Let's stop picking and choosing and declare that the entire silly and ridiculous story -- the burning bushes, talking snakes, global floods, 900-year-old men, angels, demons and resurrections -- is "tropological" and dismiss it as easily as you dismiss the notion of Hell!

    THAT would settle a lot of debates...

  • Joseph O Polanco profile image

    Joseph O Polanco 

    6 years ago

    Did you see the part where I said, "the dead can't feel anything at all (Genesis 3:19; Ecclesiastes 3:20; 9:5,10)"?

    Adam and Eve, for instance, ceased to exist when they died. They're not alive suffering fiery torment anywhere.

    Do you really not understand the difference between what's literal and what's simply tropological?

  • Paladin_ profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Michigan, USA

    Joseph, you're correct -- an "all-loving" God would NOT subject anyone to a fiery torment. However, the God described in the Bible WOULD, as I've demonstrated with numerous biblical quotes.

    Your most frequent reply to this substantial and definitive evidence I've presented is to note that, in some of his references to Hell, Jesus used the word 'Gehenna." Yet those references constitute a tiny minority of the quotes I cited.

    So -- even if only for the sake of argument -- we disavow those quotes, there are still a number of quotes (cited in my most recent comments) that explicitly describe eternal, fiery punishment for those who are condemned by God -- with no mention of 'Gehenna' to confuse the issue.

    The most specific and descriptive of these references -- the story of Lazarus and the rich man -- you've tried to explain away as merely 'symbolic' because it's described in one of Jesus' parables.

    Yet, again, the existence of fiery punishment in Hell appears to be the ONLY detail of that particular parable you choose to challenge as merely 'symbolic.' Convenient for you, perhaps, but not convenient for the truth of what the Bible actually says about Hell.

  • Joseph O Polanco profile image

    Joseph O Polanco 

    6 years ago

    As I already explicated in great detail, verse 14 of Revelation 20 explains the meaning of the symbolic eternal fiery punishment as simply a symbol for "the second death"; death from which there is no resurrection, i.e. eternal annihilation.

    So you see, there is no literal Hell or lake of fire or Gehenna. Hell is Sheol or Hades, merely the grave which we all go to when we die. On the other hand, Gehenna and the lake of fire are simply symbolic representations of eternal annihilation. That's it.

    All-Loving God is not going to subject anyone to a fiery torment anywhere especially since the dead can't feel anything at all, they're dead! (Genesis 3:19; Ecclesiastes 3:20; 9:5,10)

  • Paladin_ profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Michigan, USA

    Joseph, let's examine your statements, one by one:

    First, with regard to Deuteronomy 32, whether God is using a "simile" or not, he still directly associates "Hell" with "fire." So your objection is overruled.

    With regard to Psalm 140, I never said Hell was mentioned, I only suggested that it offers a "hint" of what's to come. So your specific objection is irrelevant.

    As for Isaiah 66, again, I never said Hell was mentioned, though it DOES make mention of a fire that will never "be quenched" and a "worm that shall not die" -- both phrases that are used repeatedly in New Testament references to Hell. So your objection is not only irrelevant, it's somewhat lame.

    As for Matthew 5, whether or not Jesus is referring to a place by the name "Gehenna" or "Hades" doesn't make one whit of difference (despite your best efforts to make it seem so). Regardless of what he calls it, he is clearly threatening a fiery punishment (which he later also makes clear is eternal and agonizing). So your objection is a bit of a straw man.

    As for Matthew 7, again, I made clear that it was an analogous reference. So, again, your specific objection is irrelevant.

    As for Matthew 13, I like how you attempt to quickly brush this reference aside with a "Hell is not mentioned here" (perhaps hoping nobody will remember what it actually says). So I'll remind everyone what you've tried to gloss over:

    "...The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth..."

    I suppose you're going to try to tell us that this is merely "symbolic?" Or perhaps a "parable?" There's no mention of "Gehenna," so you can't use that little trick...

    A similar problem occurs for you with Matthew 25, which you also try to quickly brush aside (again, no mention of "Gehenna"):

    "...Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels..."

    As for Mark 9, you again trot out your "Gehenna" card, like a well-worn ace that you keep trying to play long after the game is lost. But, again, whether Jesus is referring by name to "Gehenna" or "Hades," he's STILL warning of eternal punishment:

    "...And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched..."

    (notice the striking similarities between Isaiah's reference to "Hell" and Jesus' reference to "Gehenna"). Just a coincidence, I suppose?

    As for Luke 16, you attempt to simply brush away the story of the rich man suffering in Hell as merely a "parable" and a "fictitious story" whose details we can simply ignore. How rich coming from someone who believes the Bible!

    The problem with apologists (including you) who trot out this rationalization to explain away the Lazarus story is that it leaves one to pick and choose which details are "true" and which are "fictional." So let me guess which aspects of this particular parable you accept as "true" and which you reject as "fictional"...

    Abraham -- True

    Jesus -- True

    Lazarus -- True

    Angels -- True

    Heaven -- True

    Hell -- False

    As for James 3, you claim I've made a "blunder" but then proceed to agree with me. You've forgotten (or perhaps ignored) that my original reference to the quote was "metaphorical." Yet you complain that the quote actually "represents" something else from what it specifically describes. Good golly, miss Molly!

    As for the Revelation quote, YOU'RE asking ME to explain one of the Bible's many contradictions? That's rich! If it actually made sense, fewer of us would be atheists!

    Joseph, throughout your critiques of my biblical references to Hell, you've tried to get a lot of mileage out of the supposed "mistranslations" of the words "Gehenna" and "Hell," trying to make this supposed discrepancy a one-size-fits-all reply to the many problems it poses for your own theology.

    Yet, as I previously stated and more clearly demonstrated with my most recent comments, this "mistranslation" issue doesn't even apply to the vast majority of the verses I quoted. The rest you quickly try to avoid by pointing out that the word "Hell" isn't specifically used -- ignoring the actual references (either literal or metaphorical) to eternal fiery punishment.

    You remind me of the old fable about the little Dutch boy who has his fingers in the holes of a dyke, trying to keep the water from breaking through. Unfortunately, when it comes to the ghastly depiction of Hell in the Bible, you simply don't have enough fingers and toes to keep your theological denial from being washed away.

  • Joseph O Polanco profile image

    Joseph O Polanco 

    6 years ago

    RE: Deuteronomy 32:22

    Carefully reread the passage. Jehovah God merely employs a simile. He's comparing his anger to an all-consuming fire, that's all.

    RE: Psalm 140:10

    Hell is not mentioned here ...

    RE: Isaiah 66:24

    Hell is not mentioned here ...

    RE: Matthew 5:22

    You're first misquote. Christ is specifically discussing of Gehenna, not Hades (Hell).

    RE: Matthew 7:16-20

    Hell is not mentioned here ...

    RE: Matthew 13:42, 50

    Hell is not mentioned here ...

    Re: Matthew 25:41

    Hell is not mentioned here ...

    RE: Mark 9:43

    Your second misquote. Christ is specifically discussing Gehenna not Hades (Hell).

    RE: Luke 16

    A parable is neither a literal event nor the retelling of a historical fact. It's simply a "short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle."

    RE: James 3:6

    Your third blunder. The passage actually states, "καὶ ἡ γλῶσσα πῦρ, ὁ κόσμος τῆς ἀδικίας, ἡ γλῶσσα καθίσταται ἐν τοῖς μέλεσιν ἡμῶν, ἡ σπιλοῦσα ὅλον τὸ σῶμα καὶ φλογίζουσα τὸν τροχὸν τῆς γενέσεως καὶ φλογιζομένη ὑπὸ τῆς γεέννης" that is to say, "The tongue is also a fire. The tongue represents a world of unrighteousness among our body members, for it defiles all the body and sets the whole course of life on fire, and it is set on fire by Gehenna."

    γεέννης means Gehenna not δην (Hades/Hell). If you want to be taken seriously you really ought to stop conflating the two.

    RE: Revelation 20:14

    If your interpretation is correct then Hell is being hurled into ... Hell. So if the lake of fire is not Hell, what is it? Verse 14 itself explains it as simply being a symbol for "the second death"; death from which there is no resurrection, i.e. eternal annihilation.

  • Paladin_ profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Michigan, USA

    Whether "Gehenna" is Hell or not isn't the issue -- despite your lame (and somewhat predictable) attempt to make it so.

    What IS the issue are the numerous quotes above -- both from the Old and New Testaments (including those from Jesus, with NO mention of "Gehenna") that CLEARLY depict Hell as a place of eternal, fiery torment.

    If you can demonstrate to me how I've "misquoted" their meaning, then we have a discussion. Until then, you're simply ignoring the facts and trying to distract with a bunch of nonsense about mistranslations of "Gehenna."

  • Joseph O Polanco profile image

    Joseph O Polanco 

    6 years ago

    Actually what you've done is misquote the Bible as I've already explicated in great detail. Gehenna is not Hell no matter how hard you try to shove that square peg into your round hole.

  • Paladin_ profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Michigan, USA

    Joseph, apparently, you haven't read the New Testament, for I've quoted the relevant passages in the hub above where Jesus DEFINITELY refers to Hell as a place of fiery torment (not to mention the OLD Testament, where there are ALSO references to the fires of Hell, as I've also noted in the hub)!

    You can choose to ignore them if you wish, with all the incumbent rationalizations, but you're not convincing anyone (at least anyone who can read the Bible -- or my hub -- for themselves).

  • Joseph O Polanco profile image

    Joseph O Polanco 

    6 years ago

    Actually Matthew 5:22 correctly reads, "ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι πᾶς ὁ ὀργιζόμενος τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ ἔνοχος ἔσται τῇ κρίσει· ὃς δ’ ἂν εἴπῃ τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ Ῥακά, ἔνοχος ἔσται τῷ συνεδρίῳ· ὃς δ’ ἂν εἴπῃ Μωρέ, ἔνοχος ἔσται εἰς τὴν γέενναν τοῦ πυρός." That is to say, "However, I say to you that everyone who continues wrathful with his brother will be accountable to the court of justice; and whoever addresses his brother with an unspeakable word of contempt will be accountable to the Supreme Court; whereas whoever says, ‘You despicable fool!’ will be liable to the fiery Gehenna."

    Likewise, Mark 9:43 actually says, "Καὶ ἐὰν σκανδαλίσῃ σε ἡ χείρ σου, ἀπόκοψον αὐτήν· καλόν ἐστίν σε κυλλὸν εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν ζωὴν, ἢ τὰς δύο χεῖρας ἔχοντα ἀπελθεῖν εἰς τὴν γέενναν, εἰς τὸ πῦρ τὸ ἄσβεστον" which is correctly rendered, "“If ever your hand makes you stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than to go off with two hands into Ge·hen′na, into the fire that cannot be put out."

    Now, "Gehenna occurs 12 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, and it refers to the valley of Hinnom, outside the walls of Jerusalem. When Jesus was on earth, this valley was used as a garbage dump, "where the dead bodies of criminals, and the carcasses of animals, and every other kind of filth was cast." (Smith's Dictionary of the Bible) The fires were kept burning by adding sulfur to burn up the refuse. Jesus used that valley as a proper symbol of everlasting destruction.

    As does Gehenna, the lake of fire symbolizes eternal destruction. Death and Hades are "hurled into" it in that they will be done away with when mankind is freed from sin and the condemnation of death. Willful, unrepentant sinners will also have their "portion" in that lake. (Revelation 21:8) They too will be annihilated forever. On the other hand, those in God's memory who are in hell—the common grave of mankind—have a marvelous future."

  • Joseph O Polanco profile image

    Joseph O Polanco 

    6 years ago

    It's interesting to note that The Jerusalem Bible, in a footnote, acknowledges that Luke 16:19-31 is a “parable in story form without reference to any historical personage.” If taken literally, it would mean that those enjoying divine favor could all fit at the bosom of one man, Abraham; that the water on one’s fingertip would not be evaporated by the fire of Hades; that a mere drop of water would bring relief to one suffering there. Does that sound reasonable to you?

    What does the parable mean? The “rich man” represented the Pharisees. (See verse 14.) The beggar Lazarus represented the common Jewish people who were despised by the Pharisees but who repented and became followers of Jesus. (See Luke 18:11; John 7:49; Matthew 21:31, 32.) Their deaths were also symbolic, representing a change in circumstances. Thus, the formerly despised ones came into a position of divine favor, and the formerly seemingly favored ones were rejected by God, while being tormented by the judgment messages delivered by the ones whom they had despised.—Acts 5:33; 7:54.

    Accordingly, Christ never taught anywhere that Hell - Sheol (in Hebrew) or Hades (in Koine) - was a physical location where immaterial souls would experience eternal fiery torment because that’s just not what he believed. His thoughts on what happened to man at death were in complete harmony with the teachings found in such passages as Genesis 3:19 and Ecclesiastes 9:5 & 10. (cf. John 11:1-14.)

  • Paladin_ profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Michigan, USA

    Jonalyn, if you're referring to my hub, thank you! :-)

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    Taking the ovivreew, this post is first class

  • Paladin_ profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Michigan, USA

    Tom, I fully recognize that even the oldest existing versions of the Bible (including the Aleppo and Leningrad Codices) are, at the very least, translations of the original material (with the possible exception of the remaining fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls) and are therefore subject to interpretation.

    Yet these remaining documents are all we have available to us. To surmise that these translations are different from what was written in the 'original' source material leads only to speculation and endless debate. The best we can do is rely upon the scholarly translation of these existing documents -- be they written in ancient Hebrew, biblical Aramaic or Greek.

    To that end, I routinely consult such translations before I write hubs like this. I'm ALSO aware of the apologetic inclination to presume 'mistranslation' of phrases or verses that reflect poorly on their religion or belief. So it behooves a writer like me to ensure my "ducks are in a row" before publishing.

    For instance, my Deuteronomy 32 reference from the hub translates from the original language, word-for-word as:

    "...that fire she-is-kindled in-anger-of-me and-she-shall-glow unto unseen nether and-she-shall-devour earth..."

    This reflects the essential elements of the translation I quoted in the hub:

    "...For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth..."

    The "unseen nether" certainly refers more to a world BEYOND the grave, rather than merely a "grave." And you'll note the reference to fire also remains in the original language.

    Similarly, the New Testament translations from the original Greek refer to Hell, and not merely the "grave" (or the Gehenna trash dump, as some like to claim). For example, my Matthew 5 reference, translated directly from the original Greek, reads:

    "...whosever shall say, Thou fool, shall be liable to be cast into hell fire."

    Likewise, the references to cutting off your hand, foot or eye to save yourself from Hell's fire match the translations I offered in my hub, as are others I quoted. So the issue of mistranslation is an absolute non-starter.

    As for people interpreting God in light of their own human characteristics, you're more correct than you realize, for I propose that ALL of God's characteristics (as detailed and described in the Bible) are reflective of human traits because he was created in our image!

    And, of course, I disagree wholeheartedly with your assertion that believing in God removes one's blinders. In truth, belief in God restricts one's ability to objectively interpret scripture and what is revealed within that scripture. And, with all due respect, you are a case in point.

    If you had no vested personal interest in seeing the God of the Bible in a more positive light, it would be impossible for you (as an ethical and moral person) to read the references I quoted above without seeing them as something cruel, unjust and horrific.

    As for 'stringing together bits and pieces' of scripture, it's my practice to try to keep my hubs to 1,000 words or less, which often tends to place more emphasis on specific references and quotes and less on exposition of context.

    So, if you wish to challenge the contextual meaning of any of my specific quotes above in more comprehensive detail, I'll be happy to engage you. After all, I'm an old dog, but I can still learn a few new tricks! :-)

  • twayneking profile image


    6 years ago from Puyallup, WA


    One of the difficulties with scripture is that we're reading translations and sometimes translations of translations and sometimes paraphrases of translations of translations and the original words get lost along the way. Most of the original words translated as hell come from Hebrew words meaning grave. The problem in the New Testament is that everything is written in Greek pretty much and words as in English often had different meanings - many that reflected Greek beliefs including words concerning death and an afterlife. Where the Bible writers speak planely about an afterlife, they talk about the death of the soul in hell (soul being a derivative of the Hebrew word for "breath" which gets translated into Greek and Latin as "spirit". It takes a lifetime of study to get the overall gist of what the Bible authors are trying to say. On one level there are some very basic principles such as:

    Treat others the way you want to be treated.

    Tell the truth

    Be faithful to your spouse

    Respect others property

    Don't be greedy

    Respect your parents

    Don't murder people

    People can engage God through Scripture at all sorts of levels. The beauty of the system is that no matter what, God will judge the honest seeker by what is in his heart, not by his outward trappings or appearance (Book of Samuel). It's just that at the deeper levels God's character becomes more apparent. There's a reason for the commandment about having no other gods before Him. The image and behavior of such "gods" obscure God's character.

    People are always trying to reduce God down to a manageable level by assigning characteristics to Him that they themselves possess - anger, vindictiveness, pettiness. God is called vindictive because he punishes the Israelites for building altars in "the groves". What the studend of Scripture, who is looking for a reason not to believe, doesn't take the trouble to discover is why God might be angry about that. Turns out the temples in "the groves" were part of a system that slaughtered an estimated 20 to 26,000 children and young girls annually to Molech, Baal and some other truly angry gods. (Interesting isn't it how the pagan pervs, uh, I mean priests, always want to ritually slaughter children and young girls isn't it?). If I were God, I'd be more than a little pissed off at that behavior. As it was, most of God's "punishment" consisted of God simply refusing to protect them from the consequences of their behavior.

    I'd be an angry God too if my children were slaughtering my children because they were trying to buy good crops from some fantasy deity.

    As to the snakes issue, much of Scripture is about creating useful metaphors for things we should know. The snake thing was a physical representation of a spiritual issue - basically, "Remember that evil people and evil things are your unrelenting enemy. Don't trust liars. Don't embrace wickedness." The animosity between the snake and the woman are symbolic. Read Joseph Campbell. He twigged to how that works, though I don't think he got it all correct (rather loved the sound of his own voice too much).

    As to taking off the blinders, I feel as if the life relationship with God does precisely that. The point is to allow God to remove those blinders, not to give you a little squirt of adrenalin because you've been freed from guilt over your sins, but to remake you as you were intended - to free you from the habituated rotten behaviors you've acquired so that you can make decisions without being controlled by your past experiences. In the mature Christian life, your rotten childhood, your traumatic experiences, the difficult circumstances in which you find yourself.

    My own life is a litany of tragedy. Brother killed, second brother died because I gave my mother measles when she was carrying him, Dad murdered by stepmother, backstabbed at work, homelessness, poverty, object of hatred for my work trying to help seniors, people with disabilities and low income families, cheated, lost a son tragically (spend a half hour in the middle of the night doing CPR on your kid and failing to revive him sometime). And that's not the half of it. When you get over the idea that God is some kind of Santa Claus and you do meet Him as He truly is, you realize that the world is not what you thought it was and that there is someone greater than yourself that does care about you after all and, conversely, that there is something evil out there that wants to destroy you if it can.

    Scripture can't be strung together in bits and pieces and make sense. You have to study the whole of it. Proof texts don't work any better than trying to flesh out physics by studying just Newtonian physics or quoting Einstein out of context. It's like the five blind men and the elephant. Each had a different idea of what was there before him and not one got it right. Despite that, always remember, "It was still an elephant whatever they thought it was."

  • Paladin_ profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Michigan, USA

    Believe me, Guru, once you've critically and objectively examined your belief, you'll realize that you've been in the dark all these years. It's actually an amazing feeling, once the blinders are removed and you begin to see the world with a new clarity. I sincerely hope that you experience that for yourself someday.

    As for the serpent and Satan, I won't go into a long dissertation here, but you should ask yourself why god punished all snakes with the animosity of women, crawling on their bellies and "eating dust" if it was truly Satan that committed the crime. Or is he in the habit of punishing innocent animals for the crimes of others (like in the flood)?

  • allpurposeguru profile image

    David Guion 

    6 years ago from North Carolina

    I stepped into the light long ago. God is light, and will not return to the darkness I knew before I started to know him. I'm praying for you. (And if you think that a reasonable argument can be made that the serpent wasn't Satan, you haven't looked at all the relevant scriptures.)

  • Paladin_ profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Michigan, USA

    With all due respect, Guru, you're conclusions are mistaken, for a number of reasons.

    First, you claim that Satan lied in the Garden of Eden story. Assuming that the "serpent" who spoke to Eve was actually Satan (and a reasonable argument could be made that it WASN'T), what he told her was the truth (at least in the context of the Genesis story, which is, itself, a fabrication).

    Most pointedly, what you've done is misrepresent what the serpent said, through the lie of omission (and I'm going to assume this is merely an innocent mistake). The serpent didn't just tell Eve that she and Adam would become "like God." He told her that, if they ate from the tree, that there eyes would be opened, and "BE AS GODS, KNOWING GOOD AND EVIL."

    In other words, he told her that they would be like gods in that ONE respect -- the knowledge of good and evil. Everything he claimed was true. They ate, their eyes were opened, and they suddenly knew good and evil. The ONLY lie told in that story was the whopper God told Adam -- that he would die ON THE DAY he ate from the tree. He lived another 930 years.

    I've heard your 'one of God's years = 1,000 human years' rationalization before, but if fails on two accounts. The first is that this supposed equivalency isn't mentioned until the New Testament, and then only once. It is nowhere to be found in the Old Testament, where the Genesis story takes place -- leaving people to contemplate this story for centuries before the magic 'decoder ring' suddenly appears in 2 Peter to supposedly clarify the confusion.

    The second is that the Genesis story CLEARLY uses conventional terminology, reflecting conventional understanding, to describe the passages of days and nights as normal cycles, from light to darkness and back again. There's NOTHING to suggest that "day" means anything else -- including one thousand years!

    You've suggested that the "lake of fire" reference in Revelation is merely "symbolic." Are you also suggesting that every other biblical association of Hell with fire -- cited in my hub -- is also "symbolic?" If so, this begs the question -- how much more of the Bible is merely "symbolic?" Or is that something we cherry-pick for ourselves, based upon our own ideological predilections and preferences?

    You claim I've "cherry-picked" passages from the Bible, which is absolutely ridiculous. What I've done is select EVERY passage describing Hell that I could find (excepting only those that were repetitive)! That's not "cherry-picking, my friend. That's presenting the whole kit-and-caboodle, warts and all! If you choose to ignore it, that's your prerogative, I suppose.

    Just as in Wayne's commentary, I did find ONE statement of yours with which I wholeheartedly agree, though I propose it applies to you much more than to me:

    "You have swallowed a pack of lies hook, line, and sinker. "

    I only hope that, through reading hubs like mine, you will someday begin to see through the deception and free yourself from its sinister grasp. It's never too late to step into the light!

  • allpurposeguru profile image

    David Guion 

    6 years ago from North Carolina

    With all due respect, Paladin, Wayne is quite right to characterize your hub as a sign of confusion. I have not read any of your other hubs, but when I have encountered arguments similar to yours here, they have come not from atheists but avowed satanists. And Satan is a liar. His lie in Eden was that by eating the forbidden fruit the people would become like God. They didn't. All they did was switch their allegiance from God to Satan, who thereby became the god of this world. And since Scripture says that a thousand years and a day are equivalent in God's sight, Adam did indeed die on the day he disobeyed.

    The lake of fire in Revelation is every bit as symbolic as a beast with ten horns and seven heads. As the early church became institutionalized and Satan enticed leaders to grab and hold on to power, its leaders seized on the symbol to maintain control. The lake of fire is not the primary image of hell in the New Testament. And it should certainly not be taken any more literally than any of the other weird symbols in Revelation.

    One primary image would be "gehenna of fire," a transliteration of the valley outside Jerusalem used for trash disposal. I don't know if spontaneous combustion broke out or if they regularly set fire to it for sanitary reasons. Another would be "outer darkness."

    Consider: heaven is a place of close fellowship and communion with God. What can logically be done with people who reject close fellowship and communion with God? They can either be forced into heaven, which they would be incapable of enjoying, or they can go somewhere else. That somewhere else, a place where God is not, a place on which God shuts the door and ignores, is hell. Everyone there is there by choice, and they won't like it.

    What you have done is cherry-pick passages from the Bible and, under the influence of Satan, twisted them to make them seem to mean the opposite of what they really say. You have swallowed a pack of lies hook, line, and sinker. Your exposition of them is very clear and logical, but logic arrives at truth only if the starting premises are true. Satan's are not.

    Notice: I am not saying that you will go to hell. That decision is ultimately above my pay grade. At judgment, God will reveal what you have chosen at some deeper level than conscious volition. In the meantime, what you write displays a very fundamental and profound confusion. I pray that you will come to understand the love of God, and God's love manifest through people who try to help you understand your confusion.

  • Paladin_ profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Michigan, USA

    Wayne, I appreciate your thoughtful and comprehensive reply to my hub, but I don't accept your conclusion that my analysis is a result of "confusion."

    As I demonstrated with numerous citations from biblical text, the notion of Hell described doesn't merely refer to the disposal of bodies at the end of all things. It clearly and repeatedly refers to the torments of hellfire those condemned will suffer -- most pointedly, "wailing and gnashing of teeth," and it repeatedly states that such torments are punishment for the wicked.

    The text also repeatedly states that the fire is "eternal," "everlasting" and "not quenched," which completely contradicts your rationalization that it will merely "go out on its own" when the "fuel" is consumed.

    And it's not just reserved for the final disposition of sinners referred to in Revelation -- the "second death." This is made clear in the parable of Lazarus (mentioned in the hub), where Abraham refuses to send someone to warn the rich man's family of the dangers of hell, because they won't listen any more than he did.

    If it were the tortures of Hell were meant only for the final, "second" death at the end of the world, it would be pointless to send back anyone to warn the rich man's family, wouldn't it? Life would not be going on as usual, and there would be nobody left living. Thus, there would be nobody to warn of the impending dangers of Hell.

    Incidentally, as for the Garden of Eden story, the serpent didn't lie AT ALL to Adam and Eve. God did. God told Adam that, if he ate from the tree, he would die ON THAT DAY. The serpent told him he wouldn't, which was true -- Adam lived another 930 years. I address this situation more fully in my hub, "Malfeasance In The Garden Of Eden":

    In the end, there is one particular line of your comments regarding the torments of Hell with which I wholeheartedly agree:

    "...a loving God will do no such thing."

    Indeed he wouldn't. But that's not the god described in the Bible.

    Thanks for visiting my hub and commenting! I just visited your profile, and it looks like you have some interesting stuff there. I look forward to reading more from you!

  • twayneking profile image


    6 years ago from Puyallup, WA

    Not all Christians buy into the Greek idea of hell as a place of eternal torment. C.S. Lewis addressed the quandary of the Dante version of hell by saying that whenever Scripture talks of hell, it is as an ending to evil, not a beginning of something new (i.e. eternal torment). One of the fastest growing Christian denominations, the Seventh day Adventists reject the idea of an ever-burning hell entirely. An unquenchable fire as the original text puts it, does not necessarily mean it won't go out. It only means you can't put it out by your own efforts. When its fuel is consumed, there's no reason it wouldn't go out on its own.

    Adventist believe, with a good deal of scriptural evidence that without the body; without the spark of life in it, the soul cannot exist independently as some nebulous floaty thing. That's why Paul and others speak of resurrection and of new bodies into which, apparently, what ever was in our minds at the point God chooses to record that information - usually at our death, gets transferred to the new body. God may even clean up the data some as Scripture talks of wiping away all tears. The term hell in scripture often comes from the original Hebrew or Greek word for grave. Ecclesiastes 9:5 says, "The dead know not anything." Christ and others called death "sleep". The whole idea of hell comes from pagan Roman and Greek mythology, transported into the early Roman Catholic church as a tool for scaring the troops into line. Dante waxed creative with the idea. Only the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus suggests the kind of hell the Greeks had in mind. That story was a commonly known Rabbinical story (sort of like the tortoise and the hare) used by Christ to illustrate a point about faith and not a doctrinal lesson about the state of the dead. Revelation and others speak of a lake of fire at the end of time into which the wicked will be cast. If indeed there is a great conflict at the end of the world between good and evil, you're going to have to do something with all the evil dead - thus the need for a furnace to dispose of that many corpses. Personally, I think the evil guys will try to use nukes against the New Jerusalem which Revelation says comes down out of heaven onto Earth at that time. Should God shield the city, where would all that nuclear fire go? It makes perfect sense if you try to see what Scripture says from the viewpoint of a first century writer. What else would the final death of the wicked look like but consumption in a lake of fire.

    I absolutely agree with you that the idea of an ever-burning hell and everlasting torment is an abomination and a massive lie as to God's character. We are told in the book of Romans that the wages of sin is death, not being chicken-fried for all eternity. Of cours a loving God will do no such thing. Jesus, Himself, said, "Don't fear him who can kill your body, but rather Him who destroys both soul and body in hell." Sounds to me like eternal sleep with out consciousness. Isn't this what atheists believe death is. Doesn't this counter the first lie told by Satan - "Thou shalt not surely die."?

    I do understand your confusion. This heresy was brought into the church by evil men seeking power over their fellows. It is to be expected if there really is a devil seeking to discredit God. This one pernicious doctrine has done more to keep thinking men from seeking God altogether. What kind of God would he be after all to torment even evil men like Hitler, Stalin, Jack the Ripper and Vlad the Impaler. A quick death (perhaps at their own hands even) and disposal of the bodies by fire is the more merciful way to protect the universe. It's how I'd do it if I were God and I think you can find that character trait in Scripture, despite where priests, pontiffs and hell fire and damnation preachers have fiddle with the translations.

    Not all Christians would disagree with you that the Dante version of hell does not exist. It couldn't. God wouldn't allow such an abomination to exist and anyone who says he would is just looking to fill pews with frightened followers. Shame on them I say. The Scriptures say that at the end, such people will find themselves on the naughty list. I suspect some people will find themselves saved in spite of their skepticism.

  • Paladin_ profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Michigan, USA

    To all readers: This hub initially began as a comment on a hub by one of our most prolific atheist authors here on HubPages, Barrierbreaker. But my comments grew to such length that I decided that I could do them justice only by making them into a separate hub!

    Here is the link to the original hub, with my great thanks to Barrierbreaker for the inspiration!


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