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How Can Christians Who Worship A God Who Says Atheists Like Me Are Going To Hell Still Think They Are Loving?!?!?!

Updated on February 3, 2014

The Nature Of The Frustration

I was furious today.

Blinding rage. Just…stupefied with rage and anger.

I could not figure out why on earth Christians I knew believed in hell and weren't obsessed with questioning and investigating the concept -- most seem to just accept it on faith.

I was broken up about it in my last months as a Christian. Why weren’t most Christians? Why did I see them smiling and laughing and able to get on with their lives while believing this atrocious concept about me? How could they pretend they cared about me while at the same time being so selfish that they held onto this concept of hell so that they could be part of a celestial club that was headed to heaven?

I was so angry I could hardly think straight. Absolutely, blindingly furious. I needed to figure this out. It was a frustrating disconnect that I had to resolve.

I think I’ve figured it out, at least in part. I don’t like it. But it is what it is.

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” -- God in Revelation 21:8 (NIV)

Christians are, for the most part, individuals who have thought that they were worthless at some point in their lives. Individuals who were overwhelmed with guilt and pressure and shame. And Christianity gave them the opportunity to claim that, in spite of that, they are decent people. It gave them a valuable life when they thought their lives were dead and empty.

So it allows them to laugh, to smile, to enjoy the world around them. It may be a fake, false story. But it gives them a hope that allows them to think they are valuable in other parts of their lives.

That’s why doctrine is something very few Christians actually care about – ultimately, it’s not about doctrine. It’s about feeling like they belong in the world, like they’re part of it – and doing so requires, in the Christian's mind, distancing themselves from anyone who might remind them of that worthless person they would naturally be if the fairy tale wasn’t true.

"In order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned." -- Thomas Aquinas

In other words, to feel like he belongs in the world, a Christian feels like he has to distance himself as a saved Child of God from himself as a non-Christian, which requires him to distance himself from the status of non-Christians in general, and hell allows him to do that without becoming a hermit. Ultimately, it’s not about me. It’s about the Christian and who he wants to be. It’s about his desire to think that he is a meaningful part of the world.

"What bliss will fill the ransomed souls,
When they in glory dwell,
To see the sinner as he rolls,
In quenchless flames of hell." -- Isaac Watts (author of It Is Well With My Soul)

That would explain why the Christian doesn’t want to investigate the concept of hell too closely. In the Christian’s mind, everything that makes him a decent human being – including his ability to love you – is connected to his belief in the Christian God, which includes a belief in hell. So if he said you weren’t going to hell – in his mind, he would be saying his life as a "valuable" Christian was no better than his life as a "worthless" non-Christian, in effect making both your life and his life worthless. And because life would be worthless in his mind, he thinks that he would then become callous to you, as he would no longer have God propping up everything that is good about him.

“The view of the misery of the damned will double the ardour of the love and gratitude of the saints of heaven.

"The sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever. . .Can the believing father in Heaven be happy with his unbelieving children in Hell. . . I tell you, yea! Such will be his sense of justice that it will increase rather than diminish his bliss." -- Jonathan Edwards

So, I see the Christian as in a difficult position. He wants to love the atheist he knows well, who is his good friend. But in order to be the kind of person who would love an atheist, he feels he needs to believe he is a Christian headed towards heaven; and in order to believe that he is a Christian headed towards heaven, he has to believe that if he wasn’t a Christian, he would be going to hell; and if he thinks that HE would go to hell if he wasn’t a Christian, he has to believe that you will go to hell as long as YOU'RE not a Christian, as well. Follow that train? So, long story short, in the Christian’s mind, in order for him to be the kind of person who can truly love or care about an atheist, he has to believe that the atheist is going to hell.

"All our love for and joy in others who are with us in heaven will spring from their doing the same, and love and pity for hell's occupants will not enter our hearts." -- J.I. Packer

Yes, there is some selfishness at work here – the Christian is, indeed, selfishly trying to save himself, even if that means letting a lot of people be condemned. But, at the same time, some understanding can happen here, as well, because we’re all selfish. We all want to feel like we’re important, like we matter. And the Christian’s belief in God, in their view, makes them matter to God AS A REPRESENTATIVE OF the entirety of existence. So yes, their belief in God is selfish – but in their minds, it’s what makes them matter to the rest of existence. Indeed, it’s what makes them matter enough to laugh and enjoy life and even enjoy atheists. In other words, by being selfish about his value as a human being, the Christian is able to see his value to others – and I think most Christians and most people in general work that way, although some realize it more than others.

Meaning Without Heaven Or Hell?

And us atheists see great value in the fact that we DON’T need to believe that people are going to suffer eternal torment in order to feel valuable. Many of us often insult Christians who do think they need to believe these things in order to have a sense of worth. I think the insults are helpful, in several places,but in convincing people…if the theory I’m writing here is right, it would be effective to have a multi-pronged approach that had the main goal of showing Christians that life is worth living and can have value without God and without the concept of heaven and, indeed, without the concept of hell. Part of that value is in the ability to live a full, vibrant life without believing things that are false or believing that much of the population is going to hell, but foundationally – perhaps the main thing to convince people of is that it is better to live a life that is based on reality than one that is based on fiction, and that fantasy is not necessary and is, indeed, harmful to the nature of our sense of worth in ourselves and, by extension, other human beings.

Like I said, I’m not OK with Christians believing in hell for the reasons I've discussed here – but at least this theory clarifies things for me a bit.


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    • jonnycomelately profile image


      3 years ago from Tasmania

      @schoolgirlforreal , all that you have written is your opinion.... and it comes from your beliefs. That's all ok. You are entitled to think and believe all of that. But it's not for real. It's all in your mind. And you have been taught what you "aught" to believe and you have swallowed that directive. In other words, you have gone along with what others think you should believe. And I suspect you feel pretty good about yourself, eh?

      I have taken my own choice in this matter and don't believe a word of what you have written. Not believing as you do does not make me a worse person, in any way, shape or form. It's just a difference of opinion. Period.

      Does the love which you believe you receive from your god allow you to apply the same love to others, and respect their non-belief?

    • schoolgirlforreal profile image


      3 years ago

      This is incorrect thinking on your part.

      Christians don't like the "reality" of hell, that's why they pray for others and try to share the truth with others.

      We are all born with a conscience, and when it comes down to it, the fact is that we are all sinners, but it's simple- if we choose God- we can go to heaven.

      The reason there is a hell- It was prepared for the devil first of all. Because he didn't want to be with God. So God had to put him someplace Far from heaven ...and hell is everything that God is's not good, it's not nice, it's not pleasant...That was satan's error. Pride was his downfall, thinking he could be like God.

      People choose hell, they choose not to accept God. But God gives them MANY chances and you may just get converted....there's still time- until the day you die.

      God is merciful, and puts people and things in our lives, to help us understand Him.

      I hope you can come up with better ideas for why people are Christians that what you have written here!

      maybe people just want to obey God- and they know He exists because common sense says He does, and maybe....just maybe they are trying to help you too....

      No, I don't want hell to exist but I guess it has to for monsters like satan (and people like Hitler) though even Hitler could be/have been forgiven by God , if he asked for forgiveness.

      Oh and to comment on

      SwordofManticorE 's post,

      Not everyone goes to heaven.....sadly....

      I wish that were true


      If it were, what would be the point of TRYING to lead an obedient life, and accept God

      it says in Scripture,

      "not all those who say Lord Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven"

      Woe to those who die without God's grace.

      hell is a TERRIBLE truth.

      God bless.......

    • SwordofManticorE profile image


      3 years ago from Burlington

      I am a Christian, and I cannot stress how it saddens me that those who claim to be Christians and spew the turn or burn doctrine of hell are not doing God's work but their own. Hell is a Christian made lie and it does not encourage non-believers into believing. All mankind has been saved, not just the self-righteous.

    • Link10103 profile image


      4 years ago

      A few of my experiences in the forums here somewhat confirms this theory. There were a few Christians who could quite literally not contemplate anything worse than losing their faith in god, even for a second. They were presented with things obviously much worse than a momentary lapse of faith, like say starving families and dying children. Still, nothing in the world would be considered worse for them than losing faith in god, EVEN FOR A SECOND.

      Somehow that automatically granted them a non redeemable ticket straight to hell. Obviously whatever sins, however minor, that were committed and clearly go against principles outlined in the bible pale in comparison to losing faith in an all knowing and all loving god for 1 second.

    • profile image

      Barbara Necker 

      4 years ago

      I don't think most Christians, (or followers of the other Abrahamic religions, for that matter) have thought through all the implications of their beliefs. Most are born into those religions & blindly accept their precepts.

    • profile image


      4 years ago from Meridian, Idaho

      As a former Christian, I think this hits the nail on the head. Consider these two verses:

      "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness neither shadow of turning." - James 1:17

      "Beloved, let us love one another, for charity is of God. Anyone that loves is born of God and knows God." - 1 John 4:7

      Along with the many things the Bible has to say about human nature...

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I realized earlier that we are no longer talking about the original question of this hub, lol. that's ok though. I think I'm just gonna say I agree to disagree on the subject of hell. I feel like we may end up in a similar discussion when I comment on your last few questions though. "thou shalt not kill". from the hebrew word ratsach: to murder, slay Original Word: רָצַח Part of Speech: Verb Transliteration: ratsach Phonetic Spelling: (raw-tsakh')Short Definition: manslayer. A better definition of manslayer I think would be murder. I'm only going to make the point with the murder question because I think everything else is a similar argument. When we make choices it depends on circumstances. God gave these commandments, but throughout the bibe you can find area's of what seem like exceptions. In live there always is. For instance, if a man kidnaps a 5 yr old and has already done horrible things to him/her and is now holding a knife to his/her throat and threatning. to murder that child. If you were a sniper and had a clear shot at him you take it. no questions. Is this killing? sure it is. but the question is it murder? the 2 are different. Same thing when God tells his chosen to kill these people. Speaking of barbaric, the lands that's God told his people to wipe out were doing horrific thing due to the worshiping of other gods. they would sacrafice their children by putting them on a hands of a statue and lettting them bleed out into a base. This is just one thing. they were doing much evil in the land. Even the jews at one point were doing similar things because of turning from God and worshiping gods of other lands. You can see this in Ezekiel. When things less horrific than what was going on in these lands God had cleaned out people expect justice and expect these people to be punished. Many even ask where is your God? My long winded point is essentially many things in life are circumstantial. Not everything is black and white. We must decide what the greater good is.

    • Paladin_ profile image


      5 years ago from Michigan, USA

      (Again, I must beg pardon for lengthy comments).

      Anrkist, I'm afraid you misunderstood my reference to apologetics, and I can now see where I may not have been very clear (but please keep in mind, my comments were already extraordinary long, and I was trying to be brief whenever possible). When I referred to those of us "experienced with apologetics," I was referring to those of us who have experience ENCOUNTERING apologetic arguments.

      In any case, what I was asserting is that I am familiar with the nature of the changes that have been made to the newer versions of the Bible like the NIV and NASB. Each of the changes in translations in those newer versions appear to put the Christian faith in a 'kinder' and 'gentler' light, and I believe this is entirely intentional. Hence, my reference to "sanitizing."

      And, as my example from the Isaiah Scroll suggests, the King James Version is truer to the original material. Given your most recent comments, you obviously disagree. But the translation I cite is that of the experts who currently maintain the scrolls. I also presented my source for the translation of the Greek of the New Testament, which offers additional support for the accuracy of the KJV. At the very least, if your source of Greek translation is incorrect, perhaps your source for the Hebrew translation is incorrect as well.

      You should remember that, despite all our discussion of metaphors and parables, you actually applied that argument only to the story in Luke and the quote from Deuteronomy. The rest you claimed were mis-translations that originally referred to a Jerusalem garbage dump.

      Yet, according to my cited translation source, each of those KJV quotes were accurate. Thus, unless you have some other contention with these quotes, it is reasonable to assume that -- in the original language of the New Testament -- Jesus described Hell repeatedly as a place of fiery torment, not merely separation from God.

      And, as you recently demonstrated, there are additional references in the same vein. I chuckled when I read your "fiery furnace/gnashing of teeth" quote, for I was going to add it in my current comments. While that's no longer necessary, I will add another verse (regarding the final judgement) that also supports my interpretation of Hell (from Matthew 25):

      "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 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:"

      I will also reiterate my analysis of the Deuteronomy quote, and attempt to clarify its meaning with regard to our disagreement. I agree with you that it is a metaphor for God's anger against Israel. However, that doesn't mean it's also a metaphor for Hell.

      The metaphor for God's anger is "fire," and God chose to accentuate that metaphor with the Hell reference ("...a fire is kindled...and shall burn unto the lowest hell"). God is trying to express the depth of his anger -- a fire that is so great that it will burn its way to Hell. The obvious implication here is that a fire, if fierce enough, will eventually reach Hell, which suggests to me an implicit relationship between the two.

      I disagree with your analogy comparing the Bible to school text books. Obviously, text books must be updated to reflect changes in human knowledge and understanding of the world. Presumably, God does not suffer from these limitations, and his word is supposed to be unchanging and eternal.

      You appear to be suggesting that, because its narrative was originally directed at a very specific and parochial audience, we can't truly understand the Bible unless we do vast amounts of research (even though it was written "for" us). Yet, as you and I have clearly demonstrated, research can lead people to vastly divergent understandings. Mine drove me away from my faith, and yours appears to reinforce it.

      Do you truly believe that this is God's intended method for the salvation of the human race -- to use as his instrument a document so incomprehensible to modern man that it can destroy faith as well as affirm it? That the value of Jesus' (supposed) sacrifice is to be measured against a Hell that can be mistaken for a garbage dump?

      You raised a very interesting question regarding Hell being both a fiery furnace and a place of darkness at the same time. I've pondered the same inconsistency. But I already accept the incoherence of the Bible as established fact, so this doesn't pose as large a problem for me.

      One could just as easily ask, "Why does God say 'thou shalt not kill' yet command the barbaric deaths of countless thousands throughout the Old Testament?" Why does he command "Thou shalt not steal," yet instruct the Israelites to take the land of the "infidels" living in the "promised land?" Why does God command that 'Thou shalt honor they father and they mother,' unless they try to convert you to another religion, in which case he commands that you stone them to death?

      I suppose your guess is as good as mine. ;-)

    • profile image


      5 years ago


      I was wanna say first thank you for the conversation. You have forced me to dive deeper into my studies more than I have for a while. Now down to business, lol

      The word Evil in the KJV is translated from the Hebrew word Rah: evil, distress, adversity:יָרֵא רַע Isaiah 45:7(of God), Different words can take on a few different translations or meanings. As you can see adversity or calamity would be a legitament translation of this word here in its context. Just a side note. You say “as those of us experienced with apologetics know, is one of the myriad newer translations of the Bible that have been 'sanitized' to put God and Christianity in a better light”. I think people like Hank Hannegraff, Greg Koukle, and J. Warner Wallace might disagree with that statement. Not that any of these men are the ultimate authority on the bible. They are however very experienced apologists.

      The KJV was commissioned in 1611. More and more reliable evidence has been discovered since then. I'm not putting down the KJV. It's a good translation. There are more updated and reliable versions now however. 1 being the new king james. There is a kind of evolution to language. Meaning it changes over time. There are words and phases in the KJV that could make it difficult to understand or add to confusion of the text if your not educated in Elizabethan English.

      Hell is also described in these ways. (From the ESV)

      I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”(Matt. 8:11-12);  

      The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers,and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 13:41-42)

      They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,(2 Thess. 1:9),

      The first 2 in Matthew raises a question. If Jesus isn't speaking metaphorically, how can hell be a fiery furnace and outer darkness at the same time? Just a thought.

      Jesus' lessons were meant for everyone to learn from. However, when he spoke, he spoke to a specific audience. Funny thing with language is it changes over time. Metaphors, hyperbole, slang and even the meaning of certain words. This was my point with the KJV. They weren't decoding messages and neither are we. We simply have to educate ourselves on the culture in which it was written. The bible was written for us, but not to us. It s composed of writings and letters written to a specific audiences at specific periods of time. Everybody speaks and writes this way. This is why text books in schools get updated every so often.

      Here is a good article on the KJV:

      I also used this site as ref:

    • jonnycomelately profile image


      5 years ago from Tasmania

      Paladin, I respect your knowledge and scholarship with regard to biblical content. I have no qualifications in that area, therefore am not fit to enter any argument about it.

      I come to this discussion not accepting there is a "god" to worship, in the form that is presented as christian or any other religion.

      I do respect that some individuals find such beliefs appropriate for their needs.

      However, I cannot see "literal" interpretations of hell as being valid.... purely for my own purposes of life. What conclusions others come to is their business.

      Where any consideration of a "hell" is useful for me, is translating it into the "inner" workings of my mind, my desires, my failures and how to cope with them, the remorse when I do something "wrong" which is not conducive to good community living.... etc., etc.

      It's in this latter context that I believe one can read the Bible with plenty of benefit. And I read of more informed learning like yours and others in these Hubs, without feeling I have to take them on board.

    • Paladin_ profile image


      5 years ago from Michigan, USA

      Sorry. It appears that my link for the Isaiah Scroll above doesn't work, and I couldn't change it before my 5 minutes ran out. Let's try this again:

    • Paladin_ profile image


      5 years ago from Michigan, USA

      (To begin, I apologize to everyone for the lengths of my comments, but there is a lot of material here that requires comprehensive analysis. I'll try to summarize whenever possible)

      Anrkist, as you recall, my original objection was to your suggestion that Hell is merely "separation from God" and "not to be mistaken with eternal torture." My reason for using specific examples from scripture was to demonstrate that -- according to the Bible itself -- you were mistaken.

      In response, you offered quotes from the New American Standard Bible -- which, as those of us experienced with apologetics know, is one of the myriad newer translations of the Bible that have been 'sanitized' to put God and Christianity in a better light. I'll give one of the most notorious examples, though there are certainly more:

      In the King James Version, Isaiah 45:7 reads --

      "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things."

      Obviously, this is not completely flattering to God, as he is literally admitting that he "create(s) evil." Here is the 'sanitized' version of that same verse from the NASB --

      "The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing [f]well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these."

      Notice the reference to God creating "evil" has been replaced with creating "calamity" -- clearly a softer take on God's more sinister side, and not as big and effective a stick for atheists and skeptics to use in their arguments (if this sanitization is similar to that of the NIV, I'll wager that EVERY reference in the Old Testament to God doing evil has been similarly replaced).

      Luckily, for this verse we have an actual, original reference document with which to compare the translations -- the Isaiah Scroll (one of the Dead Sea Scrolls). This is the translation of the original Hebrew of that same verse from the scroll:

      "I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I am HaShem, that doeth all these things."

      As you can see, the King James Version is MUCH closer to the original source material than the NASB. Add to this your quote regarding Gehenna -- also from the NASB -- which you suggested is based upon the Greek of the original New Testament (but, as I recently demonstrated, is not). Clearly, the NASB is questionable as a reference source.

      I must admit, I'm somewhat confused by your (and Jonny's) insistence that Jesus "knew" his audience and that his use of metaphors and parables was targeted to the specific group to whom he was speaking at the time.

      Are you both then asserting that those select people were the ONLY people to whom he was speaking? Are you suggesting that the all his lessons and instructions throughout the New Testament -- including his references to Hell -- were meant only for those to whom he speaking in person, who supposedly were able to properly decode his message?

      If so, what is the point of the Bible, for the rest of us? Must we spend hours upon hours researching the various references in the Old and New Testaments to properly discern which verses are literal and which are metaphorical? Or are we to simply make that determination based upon which interpretation is more favorable to our faith?

      The latter appears to be exactly what you're doing with regard to each of the Biblical quotes I offered as evidence regarding the nature of Hell. When the verses spoke of "hell-fire," you claimed that it was a mistranslation of the original Greek -- even though I demonstrated that each is a proper translation.

      When a verse quoted God himself describing Hell in terms of fire, you claimed it was only a metaphor for his anger (never addressing that the metaphor he used was descriptive of Hell -- a metaphor for a metaphor?).

      When a verse presented a graphic description of physical suffering in Hell, you claimed it was only a parable (even though it referred to names of specific, known people, whereas New Testament parables are usually more generic in this regard).

      I'll say it again: Each time Jesus offers any description of Hell in the New Testament, he uses images of fire and burning. In each instance, you claim he was either using a metaphor or a parable, and your only explanation is that he "knew" his specific, face-to-face audience.

      And now you suggest that Jesus was only using hell-fire to describe "what Hell is like," not "what it is." This seems like splitting hairs to me.

      But if your argument is correct, there are NO descriptions of Hell in the New Testament that are literal. Which brings us back to your original statement here. If there are no descriptions we can use to reliably determine the nature of Hell, how can YOU presume to know its characteristics, and how can you declare that it is merely "separation from God," and "not torture," since you have no more reliable or literal description than the rest of us?

      The problem isn't that I or anyone else is insisting that EVERY word of the Bible be taken literally. The problem is that it appears that ONLY those quotes that reflect positively on faith can be taken literally. Whenever a verse is offered that reflects negatively on faith, the word 'metaphor' appears faster than a get-out-of-jail free card.

      (incidentally, for those who'd like to examine the Isaiah scroll, it's available for viewing online at

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      That's the point I have been trying to get across.

    • jonnycomelately profile image


      5 years ago from Tasmania

      @Paladin "....why does Jesus supposedly speak metaphorically every time he's referring to the dangers of Hell?..."

      Have you considered that Jesus was so in touch with his followers/friends (and even his enemies) that his words were just what they needed to hear at that time?

      As a person with an a-theist understanding, therefore not regarding Jesus as "God," like others and presumably yourself do; I can see the humanity and wisdom in what Jesus would be saying to those people. The metaphors which they would understand, in his estimation, were tailored for their edification.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I used that example in Deuteronomy to see if you thought the author was suggesting we were begotten by a rock. Obviously you don't. Also thats not an earlier chapter, its in the same chapter just a few verses prior. I was also trying to show how easy it is to take a text out of its context when you don't include the correct pretext.

      for psalms 116 you must have missed the definition I and NASB gave. Not to say pain is an incorrect translation. I just think straits gives a better picture. Also pain isn't always physical.

      I get the Gehenna translation from the footnotes of the NASB as well. The reason Jesus would use this illustration is because of the audience he is speaking to. That being his disciples and a primarily Jewish community. Just prior he says “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Scribes and Pharisees are also Jewish. They would have understood the meaning of Gehenna.

      I don't think its coincidence that Jesus uses the image of fire. I believe however that he describing what hell is like, not what it is. I'm not just waiving this off. I'm simply reading this in its context. Nobody reads other books so literally. Only the bible for some reason. This leads to a lot of unfortunate misrepresentation of Gods word.

    • Paladin_ profile image


      5 years ago from Michigan, USA

      Anrkist, I find it interesting that you've interpreted each of the verses I presented as either a metaphor, a parable or a mistranslation (exactly as I predicted earlier). It makes one wonder if Jesus or God said ANYTHING that was to be taken literally.

      For example, you suggest that the Deuteronomy verse is a metaphor by comparing it to another used in an earlier chapter. But even if it IS a metaphor, why would God choose that particular one? Why would he say his anger will "burn into the lowest hell" if that were not an actual property of Hell?

      As for Psalm 116, it's true that there is no reference to fire there. Nevertheless, it does suggest that Hell is a place of pain, and not merely "separation from God" (which was my original point).

      With regard to most of my New Testament quotes, you insist that they refer to 'Gehenna,' a burning garbage dump outside Jerusalem. This raises a number of questions:

      First, why does Jesus supposedly speak metaphorically every time he's referring to the dangers of Hell? Do you really propose that he believed metaphors would serve as a greater warning than a specific description of torment? And why would he use the metaphor of a specific garbage dump -- a local reference that is going to be known only to the people of Jerusalem?

      In any case, it's largely irrelevant, for I cross-checked the translations from the original Greek myself. In all three of the Matthew and Mark verses, it does, indeed, read "hell" or "hell-fire," NOT Gehenna.

      I don't know where you got your translation, but mine is from an e-book available free online entitled (coincidentally enough) "A Translation Of The New Testament From The Original Greek":

      As for the Luke reference, once again you wave it away as a mere metaphor. Yet, again, Jesus decided to use the image of fire in his "metaphorical" story.

      Indeed, it seems that every time Jesus describes the dangers of Hell, he uses images of fire and burning. Do you really expect anyone to believe this is all just coincidence?

      Incidentally, I cited the King James Version.

    • profile image


      5 years ago


      Deuteronomy 32:22 – reading this in its context God is speaking of his anger against Isreal for idolizing other God's. In the same chapter other metaphors are used such as 22:18 “You neglected the Rock who begot you”.

      Psalm 116:3-4 – Don't see anything about hell fire here. Also in the footnotes of the NASB (not sure which translation you sited) “pains” also is translated as “straits” (a position of difficulty, distress, or need)

      Matthew 5:22,18:9, and Mark 9:34 – All use the word “Gehenna” in Greek and was “Hinnom” in hebrew translated as hell. Gehenna was a deep, narrow glen to the south of Jerusalem, where the idolatrous Jews offered their children in sacrifice to Molech (2 Chronicles 28:3) This valley afterwards became the common receptacle for all the refuse of the city. Here the dead bodies of animals and of criminals, and all kinds of filth, were cast and consumed by fire kept always burning. It became the image of the place of everlasting destruction. In this sense it is used by our Jesus in these passages.

      Luke 16:22-24 – This is a parable Jesus is telling to his disciples as well as others listening. You can see that earlier in the chapter where he tells a parable of the unrighteous steward and the pharisees scoff at him for saying you can't love both God and money. This parable of the rich man and Lazurus is simply meant to tell us our decision to have a relationship with God is our choice now. If we decide not to once in hell or away from Gods grace it will be too late. Parables are filled with metaphors.

    • jonnycomelately profile image


      5 years ago from Tasmania

      If I may answer here..... the metaphor speaks to each of us, often in a similar way, because that is the picture or analogy triggered in our mind.

      You ask about the reference to the "fire" of Hell. Each of us has had experience of standing more or less close to a fire. The heat, and the vision of being thrust into a fire for eternity is a scenario that resonates with each of us on a similar, if not very similar level of understanding.

      Indeed, the metaphor is totally lost if the experiences are not common to most of us.

      The conditions and styles of life in the Eastern Mediterranean world of 2000 years ago was so different from what we experience today that many of the metaphors would be lost on us. However, the metaphor that refers to feelings and emotions is seldom lost on us.

      Those feelings and emotions like sorrow, fear, hate, hunger, sexual desire... and others..... are surely the same yesterday, today, for ever, because our bodies and minds are only different by slight degrees, certainly in the short time period of 2000 years.

    • Paladin_ profile image


      5 years ago from Michigan, USA

      Anrkist, the point is that Jesus was warning of the fires of Hell, whether or not he was being literal about plucking your eye out.

      The problem with insisting that the Bible is "full of imagery, metaphor and symbolism" is discerning what is metaphorical and what is literal. From what I've seen among apologists, it seems to be more or less up to one's personal discretion.

      When one finds a verse that is incoherent, contradictory or repugnant, he or she can simply assert that it is 'metaphorical' (or the other traditional favorite, it was 'mistranslated'). Conversely, if one finds a verse that reinforces one's own paradigms or predelictions, he or she can insist that it is a 'literal' translation.

      Even if one grants that a single verse is metaphorical or 'poetic,' how many times must the same phrase be repeated before it is taken literally? And how specific and descriptive must it be?

      As I demonstrated above, Hell is described in terms of fire a number of times throughout the Bible. Are you claiming that all of these references are merely metaphors -- even the one from Luke that specifically and graphically describes the torment of the rich man suffering flaming torment in Hell?

      More curiously, if you ARE insisting that all of these verses are merely metaphorical, why are you inclined to do so?

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Greetings barrierbreaker,

      If you think your mad just wait and see how much this false teaching disturbs our Father !!! What a frightful day for those who proudly cling to this evil doctrine of lies and contradictions .. for God is Love and Love is not hate..

      Peace to you and thanks for this hub.. :0)...

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      LOL. I like that

    • jonnycomelately profile image


      5 years ago from Tasmania

      haha, yes, good point.... but they do fly,....don't they?

      Reminds me of an Australian expression, "telling a porky." It means telling a lie!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Paladin, do you believe the bible is saying to literally pluck out your eye if it causes you to sin?

      Jonnycomlately, the bible is full of imagery, metaphor, and symbolism. we speak the same way today. I know you will still think we just cherry pick. Do you think though if someone found a partial writing 1000 years from now and saw the phrase "that will happen when pigs fly" that they will think people in this time believed pigs would fly some day?

    • jonnycomelately profile image


      5 years ago from Tasmania

      And if christians who take what is written in the bible as literal fact could just see it as a collection of metaphors and examples of life, then they would stop making up stories to bolster their arguments and claims to "faith."

      "Cherry picking."

      One of those quotes above, about "if thy right hand offend thee," might have been a literal approach to punishment in biblical days, just as it is in some countries today. But I can only see it as metaphor now, aimed at searching our inner-most desires and deciding which are conducive to a good life and those which are not.

    • Paladin_ profile image


      5 years ago from Michigan, USA

      The information in the comments above is incorrect. There are numerous references in the Bible to Hell being a burning torment. It's not just "separation from God." It's definitely torture:

      Deuteronomy 32:22 -- "For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell..."

      Psalm 116:3-4 -- "The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul."

      Matthew 5:22 -- "...but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire."

      Matthew 18:9 -- "And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire."

      Mark 9:43 -- "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:"

      (the book of Mark repeats this notion twice more, for one's foot and eye)

      Luke 16:22-24 -- "...the rich man also died, and was buried; 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."

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I believe in hell. I also care if people are sent to hell. I also laugh and carry on with my life when people I care about may be sent there. What else are Christians to do with so many people denying God's existence and rejecting his grace? If we evangelize we get criticized for that as well and are told to mind their own business and leave others alone. All we can do is spread the good news and try to give the best reasons we have for why we believe. Unfortunately many Christians don't know what they believe and why. There are also many that do though. I find it a bit funny that you say Christians want to be a part of the world when we are called to live in the world but not of it. Hell by the way is eternal separation from God's goodness and grace which results in torment. Not to be mistaken with eternal torture. Not sure if this makes a difference in your mind. The choice is yours to be made though. Nobody can force it on you.

    • carrie Lee Night profile image

      Carrie Lee Night 

      5 years ago from Northeast United States

      Barrierbreaker: Thank you for writing an article that expresses how you truly feel. I am a Christian who tries their hardest to have faith in this crazy world we live in. It should be known that I sin just like everyone else and believe being a Christian is having a personal relationship with Christ (Everyone has this oppronunity no matter what they have done) at times it can be challenging. I'm not supposed to judge people's fate and as far as people going to hell is is something I pray about a lot. I do know this....Our father in heaven knows us inside and out...he knows our minds, our heart, our fears, temptations and desires. The Lord cries for us when we are greiving and carries us when we struggle. He loves us unconditionally. The bottom line is I listen to my heart that the Lord gave me and hope people out there look deep before judging a book by it's cover :) Remember we are human first :) With lots of love,

      Carrie Lee Night.

    • jonnycomelately profile image


      5 years ago from Tasmania

      And some people think (believe!) that they will be welcomed by a bunch of virgins in heaven, having blown themselves up with a bomb.

    • ptosis profile image


      5 years ago from Arizona

      Wasn't in the 'Gospel' of Mary that had JC saying everybody goes to Heaven? And is it not true that Christians are told that by doing good works, then you will be richly rewarded in Heaven? If this is true then I imagine that there is a slum area in Heaven where roads are paved in lead and not gold and Hitler will be my neighbor!

      The concept of eternal punishment forever and ever by a 'perfect' being does not makes sense when sinful mortals such as ourselves only punish for life without parole +1000 years for that monster Ariel Castro. I know that the +1000 years is symbolic but it is not for an eternity.

    • Paladin_ profile image


      5 years ago from Michigan, USA

      No problemo. We all must do what we can, according to our own judgement.

      I'll try to be more careful...

    • profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      I suppose I trip over your definition of the adjective "moral" there. Perhaps if you clarified what you meant -- to me, saying that someone is a moral being isn't really saying much, but it seems as if you have a definition in which it might matter, in your mind.

      I would agree that many of them haven't reconciled it, but I think several of them have.

      I think there is a rational reason that yes, Christians themselves may be unaware of, but not in a sense that invalidates the rational reason. There may be a rational explanation for why a mental patient is ill that a clinical psychologist comes up with, but to say that the psychologist is wrong simply because the mental patient is not aware of the rational explanation renders the one making the claim void of sense his or herself.

      I am rather strong spirited when it comes to people trying to censor me in spaces where it seems I have the freedom to sincerely express myself. I honestly did not realize that you were making a personal analysis. In the future, if you could restrict your personal analyses to first person singular pronouns more conscientiously, I think the reader would appreciate it. Doing so would, at the least, clarify your argument.

      I have had too many atheists and Christians try to press-gang me in service. I appreciate you clarifying that this was not your intention.

      Carry on.

    • Paladin_ profile image


      5 years ago from Michigan, USA

      It's clear that we disagree on the subject of your hub, but I'm not just throwing out random theories here. I used to be a believer. I HAVE been to church, and have been discussing these issues with believers and non-believers for decades now. I HAVE read the Bible a great many times, and continue to do so (for purposes of research). Whether you agree or not, I DO know what I'm talking about.

      You began this hub by declaring that you were "stupified with rage and anger" that Christians were able to reconcile the fact that you're going to Hell (or so they believe). I'm trying to tell you that they, in fact HAVEN'T reconciled it. THAT, sir, is the reason they can go on "laughing and smiling," as you say. They accept it as a necessary part of their religion (i.e. part of the 'framework'), but it's been my experience that it's one of the least examined parts of individual belief.

      I suggest that you read what I stated more carefully. I did not claim that a rational person cannot contemplate Hell. I said that a rational, MORAL person cannot contemplate Hell (and all its consequences and implications) TOO DEEPLY.

      Thomas Aquinas -- your anamolous example -- isn't your average Christian. He doesn't represent most of the believers with whom you interact here at HubPages and at large, mostly because he was definitely NOT a moral person. He was an anti-semitic who declared that those in Heaven would enjoy themselves "more abundantly" if they were allowed to see the suferings of those in Hell. If you believe this constitutes a rational, MORAL person, then I must question your own sense of morality.

      Brother, for someone who'd like to "break down barriers," you appear to take offense rather quickly. My suggestion as to what our 'job' is here was merely a personal analysis. It certainly wasn't intended as any sort of command, and I think you know that. If you disagree with it, fine. Nobody's holding a gun to your head. I'll continue doing my 'job' and you continue doing yours.

    • profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      Paladin, I could not disagree with you more.

      Not all religions survived, and there is no way Christianity would have survived without the concept of hell. I maintain that in many Christians there is a conflict between a heaven and hell that makes life meaningful, and their desire to connect to nonbelievers meaningfully, as I discussed in the blog. Most Christians will support the Bible and there are many sermons in which people have been warned about hell and the concept of hell has been reinforced. How many churches have you been to, I wonder? How many street preachers have you talked to? Have you read your Bible closely? Have you talked to any of the thousands of atheists who were afraid of hell in ways they never felt comfortable admitting as a Christian?

      I think there are reasons behind this belief, and that thinking there are is better than just saying, "Oh, it's there in that black box."

      A rational person CAN contemplate hell, and many do. As I put in the quote...Thomas Aquinas was a great thinker, and yet he supported hell passionately. Same with Tertullian. Same with several Christian thinkers. I strongly suspect you do not know what you are talking about, sir.

      Regarding my "job" as an atheist and anti-theist publisher at HubPages -- who died and made you editor in chief of my blog? I would like to break down barriers between myself and other people, including Christians, and if people connect to it, awesome. So far, many people have (for example -- this blog is currently #2 in the "Religion and Philosophy" category of this site, and #1 in the "Atheism and Agnosticism" category). They don't have to. But they do. If I do have a "job" here, I think I'm doing it decently.

      Take a hike.

    • jonnycomelately profile image


      5 years ago from Tasmania

      Ok! Watch this Space.... lol

    • Paladin_ profile image


      5 years ago from Michigan, USA

      While I find your theory fascinating, barrier, I'm afraid I must disagree with your analysis. I believe your error is in assuming that believers have a rational explanation for accepting the idea of Hell. As a general rule, they don't.

      As an ex-believer and from decades of discourse and relationships with believers, I've come to understand that religious belief is actually more a framework of broad ideas, not a logically integrated system of specific premises.

      Hell is one of those generic ideas that, while it fits easily into many religious doctrines, is too horrible to actually contemplate in detail. It is simply compartmentalized into the corresponding hole in the framework and is largely ignored. It is perhaps removed from time to time and inserted into some theological argument, but is ultimately returned safely back in its hole, safe from examination.

      A rational, moral person simply CANNOT contemplate Hell -- and all its implications and consequences -- too deeply. You simply must assume that you and everyone you love are going to Heaven, and you dare not fathom the reality that, according to your own doctrine, the vast majority of human beings on this planet are doomed for an eternity of unimaginable torment.

      I guarantee that, if you're ever discussing this topic with believers, and you press them on the issue of whether or not -- in THEIR opinion -- you deserve an eternity in Hell, most will vigorously avoid giving an answer. Either they will insist that they are not qualified to judge you (and thus deflect the question to God), or their own sense of morality will prevent them from declaring that you should be condemned to such a horrific fate (I discussed this in my hub "You Can't Save An Atheist").

      Deep down, perhaps even at a subconscious level, most people realize that NOBODY deserves such punishment for simply being a non-believer, or even a blasphemer. It is absolutely impossible to reconcile such a concept with being a moral person. So it is simply avoided.

      Our job, as atheist and anti-theist publishers here at HubPages, is to force them to think about such things -- to get them out of their confort zone and make them try to reconcile the irreconcilable -- and hopefully plant a seed of doubt that will eventually free them from their delusion.

    • jonnycomelately profile image


      5 years ago from Tasmania

      A "sound" barrier breaker no less, lol!

      Thank you for putting it into such appropriate words. You are right, getting it down on paper can clarify your mind.

    • profile image

      Shifaz Salim 

      5 years ago

      Good work. Many things are comparable with Islam as well.

    • karthikkash profile image

      Karthik Kashyap 

      5 years ago from India

      Nice analysis with the Christian mentality :) I am not an atheist, but Christians are just weird to me in their beliefs.


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