Did a Misinterpretation of the Bible lead to the Trail of Tears, American Slavery,
Hiroshima and the Holocaust?
by Michael R. Burch, an editor and publisher of Holocaust
and Nakba poetry
Is it possible that a misinterpretation of the Bible led to the Trail
of Tears, American slavery, Hiroshima and the Holocaust? Yes, I believe so. And
I believe the same misinterpretation led to "witches" and "heretics" being
tortured and burned at the stake, and to the Inquisitions and Crusades in which
millions of people were tortured and slaughtered in the name of Jesus
This misinterpretation of which I speak in the Christian dogma of an eternal
hell. Once Christians believe that God intends to cause or allow
non-Christians to suffer for all eternity, what happens to them here on earth
becomes almost inconsequential. When one of the queens of England was asked why
she was allowing heretics to be burned at the stake, she pointed out that what
she was doing to them was nothing compared to what God intended to do to them
for all eternity.
And quite obviously American Christians could not have treated Native Americans and
African Americans so cruelly and unjustly, if they believed they would all enter
the same heaven together. Nor could German Christians have put Jews through the
Holocaust, if they believed they would all dwell in the same heaven
someday. But I intend
to prove, via a simple logical proof, that the Bible does not teach that human
beings live in danger of an eternal hell, so there is no reason for Christians
to treat people of other religions as if God wants them to suffer here on earth,
And this is not merely a matter of Christians treating other people more
compassionately and justly.
Hell is child abuse, clear and simple, and millions of children being raised by
Christian parents are being abused even as we speak. We need to end the emotional,
psychological and spiritual abuse of millions of innocent children by their
pastors, Sunday School teachers and their own parents, today.
As I intend to demonstrate, there is no reason for any adult to ever threaten a
child with hell (children grow up, a fact that always seems to elude Christian
theologians who insist that Jesus loves the little children, and yet will
his back on them when they reach the mysterious "age of accountability" which
was never mentioned in the Bible by Jesus or any apostle or Hebrew prophet).
Would it surprise you to know that the God of the Bible and his prophets never condemned anyone to "hell,"
at any age? Here is a simple proof that there is no
reason to believe in "hell," according to the Bible itself:
There is no mention of "hell" or any possibility of suffering after death anywhere in the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament
The Hebrew word Sheol clearly means "the grave," not "hell." This can easily be confirmed because if Sheol is translated
as "hell" the Christian dogma of hell as an inescapable place of suffering where God is absent is immediately refuted. This is true because: (1) King David said that if he made his bed
in Sheol, God would be there with him; (2) Job asked to be hidden from suffering in Sheol; (3) the sons of Korah said that God would redeem
them from Sheol; and (4) the prophet Ezekiel and the apostle Paul agreed that all Israel would be saved,
and yet Israel himself said that he would
be reunited with his son Joseph in Sheol. How can all Israel be saved if Israel himself is in "hell""? In each case Sheol
clearly means "the grave" and cannot be interpreted as "hell" unless "hell" is heaven!
This has been confirmed by conservative Bible scholars because there is no mention of the word "hell" in the OTs of the NIV (the
best-selling Bible), the NABRE (produced by the Roman Catholic Church), the HCSB (published by the famously literal Southern Baptist
Convention), and most other modern translations of the Bible.
Furthermore, in biblical chronologies spanning thousands of years, the God of the Bible and his Hebrew prophets never mentioned any
possibility of punishment after death. Nothing like "hell" was even remotely suggested to Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Job, Moses,
David, Solomon, et al.
In fact, "hell" was never mentioned even to the worst people at the worst of times. "Hell" was never mentioned to Cain
(the first murderer), nor to the people guilty of the wickedness that led to the Great Flood, nor to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, nor
even to the Pharaoh who enslaved the Hebrew tribes and defied God repeatedly.
We can further verify this because there are no OT warnings about the need to repent in order to avoid suffering after death. In the
OT, people were being warned about the need to repent in order to avoid suffering here on earth. To condemn people or nations to
Sheol was to condemn them to death or destruction here, on this planet, in this life.
Of course it makes absolutely no sense to constantly warn people about temporal (earthly) punishments if they face eternal suffering after death.
Therefore according to the Bible, "hell" clearly did not preexist.
But there is no mention of the creation or purpose of "hell" in the New Testament (NT). Nor is there any verse in the entire Bible
that ever announced that the penalty for sin changed from death to "hell."
A loving, wise, just God could not create an "eternal hell" and fail to immediately warn the whole world about it. But
obviously the whole world was never warned about the creation of "hell."
Native Americans knew absolutely nothing about hell before 1492. Billions of people have lived and died never having heard anything about hell or Jesus Christ. Would anyone
who had never read the Bible consider God to be loving, wise or just if he died and woke up in hell? Of course not.
And to this day, no Jew or Christian has ever been informed by any prophet or
apostle that "hell" was created, or that the penalty for sin changed from death
to "hell." If a loving, wise, just God had wanted human beings to believe in
hell, wouldn't he have communicated its existence to the whole world, or at
least have put a verse in the Bible that explained when hell was created, and
why, and how to avoid it? But there is no such verse in the entire Bible.
An eternal hell would make God monstrously unjust, but according to the Bible itself, "hell" did not preexist and was never
created. From beginning to end, the Bible is absolutely silent about either the preexistence or creation of "hell."
Furthermore, as we shall see, the Greek word "Hades" does not mean "hell." As with Sheol, everyone went to Hades when
they died: both words clearly mean "the grave."
Gehenna is not "hell" either, but a physical location in Israel known in Hebrew as Gehinnom, or the Valley of Hinnom. Today
Gehenna is a lovely park and tourist attraction. Wonderful archeological discoveries have been made there, such as the healing pool of Siloam
and the oldest Bible verses ever discovered, inscribed on small silver amulets. Those verses are the benediction "The LORD bless thee and
keep thee; the LORD make his countenance to shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee." Those are wonderfully comforting words to have
been discovered in "hell," don't you think?
What does all this mean? If you believe in a loving, compassionate, wise, just God, you might conclude that "hell" has always been
either an error of translation or an outright human fabrication. Why would human
beings invent hell? Well, as ancient Greek philosophers like Celsus pointed out,
hell was a good way to control the unwashed masses. Hell was also a handy way to
increase church revenues.
But perhaps the best reason not to believe in hell is this: If at any time God, Jesus, the Hebrew prophets, or any of the apostles were
aware of the existence of an "eternal hell," they should have immediately warned human beings never to have children, because the
risk of giving birth was too terrible to imagine. But of course there are no such warnings in the Bible. Rather, Hebrew prophets like
Ezekiel confidently predicted that all Israel would be saved in the end, along with Sodom and other Gentile nations that were historically
enemies of Israel, such as Samaria. Samaria is now home to millions of Palestinians, many of them either sworn enemies or fierce critics of
Israel. Most Jews and Palestinians have never believed in Jesus, so how can all Israel and Samaria be saved, if only Christians are saved?
How did "hell" enter the Bible? Ironically, the only Jews who believed in "hell" at the time of Jesus were the Pharisees.
We know this from the Jewish historian Josephus, a contemporary of Paul. The Pharisees undoubtedly "borrowed" the concept of
"hell" from the pagan Greeks after Alexander the Great conquered the Middle East during the "silent" period between the
writing of the OT and NT.
But the Greek hell was Tartarus, not Hades. As we will see, there is only one verse in the entire Bible containing a word that actually means
hell, but that hell is not for human beings, nor is it eternal.
Chad Holtz is a Methodist pastor who was recently asked to resign by members of his rural North Carolina congregation after he questioned the
Christian dogma of an "eternal hell." Holtz had made positive remarks about the bestseller book Love Wins, written by Rob
Bell, another pastor who questions the existence of "hell." (Bell was the focus of the cover of the April 25, 2011 issue of TIME
Magazine, captioned "What If There's No Hell?")
Holtz agreed to leave his church in what he termed a "divorce." In an interview published online Holt said, "We do these
somersaults to justify the monster god we believe in ... Am I really going to be saved just because I believe something, when all these good
people in the world aren't?"
Mind you, Holtz is not saying that God is a monster. Instead, he's simply pointing out that orthodox Christianity makes God
seem like a monster by claiming he'll condemn billions of people to an "eternal hell" for not "believing" in Jesus,
when he could have saved them by grace. But how can a God who chooses to remain hidden demand human belief? That is patently unfair. If a man
refused to introduce himself to other people, then started torturing them for not "believing" in him, we'd lock him up and throw
away the key. But as I intend to prove, if you will bear with me, that the Bible itself contradicts the idea that God ever said that anyone
would go to an "eternal hell." In fact, if we read the Bible
chronologically from the beginning of Genesis to the end of the book of
Acts (the self-recorded history of the early Christian church), we will not find a single verse in which God or any Hebrew prophet or Jesus or
any apostle ever mentioned a place called "hell."
This is true because the words Sheol, Hades and Gehenna do not mean "hell." The Hebrew word Sheol clearly means "the grave"
or "the abode of all the dead, good and bad." The Greek word Hades also means "the grave" or
"the abode of all the dead, good and bad." Gehenna is a valley, not "hell."
According to the Bible "hell" clearly did not preexist and just as clearly was never created. Did evil-minded men begin damning
other people to "hell" in the name of God? Yes, they did. But they cobbled their hellish verses into the Bible so clumsily
that they forget to insert fictitious verses announcing the creation of "hell"! Such a colossal blunder could only have been
made by fallible men, not an all-wise God.
If we consider the Bible as a whole, from
multiple angles, it becomes obvious that "hell" was created by human beings, not
God. The verses that describe suffering after death are not
credible, and the proofs are simple. For instance, a verse in Genesis
clearly announced that the penalty for sin was death, as soon as the penalty was
enacted. But where is there
any verse in the Bible that clearly announced when the penalty
became eternal suffering? Where is there any verse in the Bible that clearly announced the creation or purpose of "hell"?
There are no
such verses anywhere in the Bible. Nor are there any verses that
unclearly announce such things. The Bible is
completely, absolutely silent about the most important event in human history
(if it actually occurred): the creation of a place called "hell" and the change
of the penalty for sin from death to eternal damnation.
How could a loving, wise, just God create an "eternal hell" yet
never once mention its creation and purpose to any of his prophets or apostles?
How could a loving, wise, just God cause or allow billions of people to suffer
for all eternity when they died knowing nothing about the Bible, Jesus or
"hell"? Why would God save "the chosen few" by grace, but deny any
chance of grace to billions of people who never heard of Jesus?
At the time of Jesus and Paul, "all the world" meant the Roman Empire: a narrow
strip of cities, towns and villages fringing the Mediterranean Sea. The
early Christians knew nothing about vast continents that wouldn't be discovered
and explored for another 1,500 years or more: North America, South America and Australia.
They knew nothing about China, Japan, Southeast Asia, Central and Southern
Africa, Russia, or thousands of faraway islands. When they
vowed to preach the gospel to "all the
world," they had no idea what that really entailed. So what happened to the billions of human beings who lived and died in the
meantime, knowing nothing about the Bible or Jesus? If God condemned them all to
"hell," that would make God horrendously unjust, and therefore
unqualified to judge human beings. But if people who hadn't heard about Jesus
didn't go to "hell," while people who heard about Jesus and rejected
him did, then it would be a terrible crime for Christians to
ever mention the name "Jesus" to non-Christians. Furthermore,
through the centuries Christians
have so defamed and blasphemed the name of Jesus by raping, enslaving and
murdering multitudes of non-Christians that it makes no
sense to expect non-Christians to "believe" in him. Should a Jewish girl
who was raped, tortured and murdered by German Christians during the Holocaust be punished
eternally for not converting to their religion? Heaven forbid!
I believe Holtz made a very important point: one that is seldom voiced by
Christians. If Jesus will cause or allow Mohandas Gandhi and Jewish Holocaust
victims to suffer for all
eternity, when the Christian Bible clearly says that Jesus is the only savior and human
beings can't save themselves, wouldn't that make Jesus a monster? If an all-knowing
God created human beings foreseeing in advance that many (or any) of them would suffer for
all eternity, wouldn't that make God a monster? And if Christian mothers believe
in "hell," how can they give life to babies who might end up in "hell" —
wouldn't that make them monsters?
This is the horror of hell-based Christianity: it turns God, Jesus and Christian
mothers into monsters willing to play eternal roulette with the souls of
And what about all the mothers who would be forced to choose between Jesus and
their own children? Could good mothers live happily in heaven with Jesus, knowing
their children were suffering forever because Jesus refused to save
them, when he was able to save the thief on the
cross with a nod of his head? Surely only the bad mothers would remain in heaven.
All the good mothers would curse Jesus and storm out of heaven to be with their children.
They certainly wouldn't worship or praise the
petty egomaniac who demanded belief without ever bothering to introduce
himself to their children personally!
Please keep in mind that I am not calling Jesus a
petty egomaniac. It's the "Bible believing" fundamentalists who turned Jesus
into a petty monster with their bizarre theology, not me. I'm a recovering fundamentalist who
no longer blasphemes the name of Jesus by accusing him of saving Christians
by "grace" while condemning the saints of other religions and
non-religions to an "eternal hell." Ironically, most atheists, agnostics and
other non-Christians have much higher opinions of Jesus that Christians who
accuse him of being petty, unjust and inhumanly cruel. Gandhi and Einstein both admired Jesus,
while not "believing" in him in the orthodox Christian sense. But at least they
didn't accuse him of being so petty and cruel that he would cause or allow
billions of souls to suffer for all eternity. Most Muslims believe in Jesus and
have a high opinion of him, but they don't believe he sends people to "hell" for
not "believing" in him.
Ironically, the people with the lowest, basest
opinions of Jesus are the Christians who pretend to "love" and "admire" him in
order to "save" themselves, while in effect telling the rest of the world
the Devil. How can anyone "love" a being capable of causing or
allowing their loved ones to
suffer for all eternity? That would be like me pretending to "love" and "admire"
Hitler during the Holocaust, in order to escape torture at the hands of the
Nazis. But of course the driving impulse would be fear, not love. The
Bible says perfect love casts out fear because fear produces torment.
Should I believe in the perfect love of God, or in a hell that produces nothing
but torment? As
we will see together, there are many Bible verses that completely contradict the
idea that God will punish anyone for all eternity, or fail to save anyone in the
end. Here are just a few of them (there are more at the bottom of this page):
Truly I say unto you, the tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the
kingdom of heaven before the self-righteous. (Matthew 21:31) Think about
it: Jesus had table fellowship with the outcasts of society, drank wine and
partied with them, and reserved virtually all his criticism for the "religious experts" who failed to be
hospitable to "sinners." Today conservative Christians seem to despise prostitutes,
homosexuals, and anyone else who doesn't meet their "high moral standards,"
while their self-righteousness makes the rest of us gnash our teeth. But
Jesus clearly said that love and compassion were the real moral standards. (The
Hebrew prophets and Jesus also clearly said that the "sin of Sodom" was
self-righteousness and a lack of compassion, not homosexuality, which ironically
would make conservative Christians the "Sodomites.") Jesus
also said that the first would be last, and the last first. Was he just
whistling Dixie, or did he mean what he said? The verse above doesn't say that
anyone will be excluded from the kingdom of heaven in the end, but it certainly doesn't
make moralists the "chosen few" who inherit heaven at the expense of the people they despise.
He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces. (Isaiah. 25: 8)
Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail
against it. (Matthew 16:18) Most of the estimated hundred billion people
who have lived here on earth died without reading the Bible or knowing anything about Jesus. If most of mankind
going to "hell" then the gates of hell will have prevailed and Jesus will be just another inept, failed
Messiah. How can Jesus be the Savior of the World unless all the world is saved?
For unto this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior
of all men, especially believers. (1 Timothy 4:10) This is only
one of many Bible verses that say all men will be saved, and that God will be
all in all (not all in some, or all in the self-proclaimed "chosen few"). Paul said that all Israel would be saved, agreeing
with the prophet Ezekiel, who also said that the Gentile nations,
Sodom, would be saved in the end, linking their salvation to Israel's. Paul said that different people would be saved
at different times, in stages, with Jesus being the Firstfruits of the
resurrection. Orthodox Christians ignore the best verses in the Bible to focus
narrowly on the worst. Why is that? If we can't believe the best verses, why
believe the worst?
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:22)
We know that all human beings die; this verse clearly says that the same "all" shall be
made alive, in Christ. There are many such verses in
both the Old and New Testaments.
All flesh shall see the salvation of God. (Luke3:6)
I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor
things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor
anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God.
I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with
loving-kindness. (Jeremiah 31:3) In his epiphany on
Divine Love in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul said that Divine Love never gives up,
endures all things, and never fails, which sounds like the love of the best
human mothers. But the Bible insists that the love of God exceeds human love ...
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will
not forget you! (Isaiah 49:15) This verse compares the love of God to the love of a human mother. Would any compassionate mother
torture her child for a second, much less all eternity? No, the only suffering
she might permit would be remedial suffering, such as surgery to correct a birth
defect. And even then she would agonize with her child.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so
that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the
Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our
sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of
the whole world. (1 John
[Jesus Christ] whom the heaven must receive until the times of the restitution of
things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the
world began. (Acts 3:21) In his second sermon after Pentecost,
Saint Peter claimed that the resurrection of Jesus was the fulfillment of the
prophecies of all the prophets. What was their message, according to the first
great preacher of Christianity? That God would
reconcile all things to himself, and thus be all in all.
Verily I say unto you, all sins shall be forgiven unto the Sons of
men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme. (Mark 3:28)
Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for
one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.
... they will all know me from the least of them to the
greatest," declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more. (Jeremiah
The word "heaven" appears over 600 times in the Bible.
But as we will see together, a word that actually means "hell" appears only once
in the Bible, and that hell (Tartarus) is for fallen angels awaiting judgment
and thus is not for human beings and is not "eternal."
Chad Holtz is not the first Christian pastor to lose his job after expressing the
hope that God will not allow anyone to suffer for all eternity. One of the most
interesting cases is that of Carlton Pearson, a charismatic black minister who
once appeared on national television, where he reached large audiences on a
weekly basis. His program was one of the most-watched shows carried by the
Trinity Broadcasting Network. Pearson pastored one of the largest churches in
Tulsa, Oklahoma, was made a bishop of his denomination, and served on the board
of regents of Oral Roberts University, his alma mater. He campaigned for George
W. Bush, was invited to the White House, and met with and counseled former
presidents Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush. Pearson was also a talented
gospel singer who won two Stellar Awards and was nominated for a Dove Award.
When Timothy McVeigh bombed the Murrah building in nearby Oklahoma City, Pearson
appeared on the Larry King show. He was a rising star — a shooting star — in the
And yet he was far from a "happy camper." Like many Christians, Pearson
harbored deep resentment in his heart for God because he believed that when his
grandparents died, they went to "hell" (his grandmother had "backslidden" by
drinking and his
grandfather was a "womanizer"). Then one day while watching the terrible
suffering of Rwandan refugees on TV, Pearson's resentment and anger boiled over
and he cried out, "God I don't know how you're gonna call yourself a loving God
and allow those people to suffer so much, then just suck them into hell!"
According to Pearson, he heard God reply, "Is that what you think we're doing?"
and he received the understanding that "hell" exists here on earth, not in the
Pearson then began to preach a "gospel of inclusion" (universal salvation)
and was soon ostracized by other Christian pastors, who called him a "heretic."
His congregation, which had averaged around 6,000 in weekly attendance, quickly
dwindled to a few hundred souls. He couldn't make the rent and his church
eventually lost its building to foreclosure. Gospel singers who had once
clamored to appear with him now shunned him. Before long, he was churchless and
out of a job. Why? All because he expressed the hope that a loving,
compassionate God would show grace to everyone.
Are pastors like Holtz, Bell and Pearson "heretics"?
Perhaps not. As I mentioned previously, "hell" has vanished almost entirely from modern
translations of the Bible. You can verify this by clicking this
link www.biblegateway.com/keyword, then
searching for "hell" in modern translations of the Bible such as the NIV, NASB,
RSV, NCV, ASV and HCSB. If you do this and ignore the contraction "he'll" or
select only exact matches, you'll find only around ten verses that contain the
word "hell" (and some of those are duplicates). This is true even for the HCSB, a
recent translation produced by conservative Bible scholars and published by the
famously literal Southern Baptist Convention. But as we will see, even the few
remaining occurrences of "hell" are still inaccurate translations, except for
one. And that single verse (2 Peter 2:4) describes a "hell" that is not eternal
nor for human beings!
Why is "hell" disappearing from the Bible? Primarily for the following
(1) The Hebrew word Sheol clearly means "the grave" or "the abode
of all the dead, good and bad," not "hell." The Hebrew
language doesn't have a word that means "hell" (a startling omission if
there really is a "hell" and an all-knowing God spoke to the men
who gave us the Bible).
(2) Like Sheol, the Greek word Hades means "the grave" or "the
abode of all the dead, good and bad," not "hell." (The
words are equivalents; the Septuagint, quoted by Jesus Christ and the apostles,
uses the Greek word Hades to translate the Hebrew word Sheol.) Everyone went
to Sheol/Hades, not just the "wicked." To condemn a person or nation to
Sheol/Hades was to say that they would die, be destroyed or vanish from this
earth, not suffer eternal punishment. Therefore most of the occurrences of
"hell" in the King James Version (KJV) are blatant mistranslations. This can
easily be confirmed because if "hell" is substituted for Sheol, the Christian
dogma of "hell" is refuted. After all, King David said that if he made his bed
in Sheol, God would be there. Job asked to be hidden from suffering in Sheol.
Ezekiel and Saint Paul both said that all Israel would be saved, but Israel
himself said that he and his son Joseph would be reunited in Sheol when they
died. The sons of Korah claimed in a Psalm that God would redeem them from
Sheol. In each case, the men speaking were clearly talking about dying and going
to the grave, not "hell." If "hell" is substituted for Sheol, then according to
the Bible, God will be in "hell" with human beings when they die, "hell" is a place to go
to escape suffering, Israel himself will be in "hell" (refuting the prophecies
of Ezekiel and Paul), and human beings can be redeemed from "hell."
(3) Anyone who has studied the Hebrew Bible (our OT), knows that a place
called "hell" and suffering after death were never mentioned to Adam, Eve, Cain,
Noah, Abraham, Lot, the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, Jacob/Israel, Joseph, Moses,
the Pharaoh who defied God, or a long line of Hebrew
prophets. If an all-knowing God was speaking to human beings and their souls
were in danger of suffering after death, surely he would have given them
instructions about avoiding "hell." But there are no such instructions in the
OT. It makes absolutely no sense that God and the Hebrew prophets spoke
constantly about the temporal consequences of sin, if there were infinitely more
onerous eternal consequences. Therefore, it is obvious that "hell" did not exist
at the time of the prophets, if they were in communication with an
(4) Bible scholars know these things; therefore most conservative Bible
scholars no longer translate Sheol and Hades as "hell." For instance, the word "hell" appears
in a scant ten verses of the HCSB, primarily in the gospels of Matthew and Mark,
and six of those verses are duplicates. Since Matthew and Mark obviously draw
from the same original text, it seems that only one major Bible writer knew
anything about a place called "hell." But ironically even this "hell" is a
(5) With the exception of a single verse from 2nd Peter (discussed
below) even the few verses in the HCSB and other modern translations that
contain the word "hell" are mistranslations of "Gehenna," with some being
duplications (the same verses appear twice in the parallel gospels of Matthew
and Mark). So the list of unique verses that mention "hell" has been culled down
to around seven, depending on the translation in question (and none of these
verses actually say that anyone will go to "hell"). Bible scholars generally
agree that the gospels were written after the epistles of Paul,
and Paul never mentioned a place called "hell," so it seems obvious that this
place named as "hell" was introduced at a very late date in the development of
the Bible. But Gehenna is a physical location in Israel, not an "eternal hell."
At the time of Jesus, Gehenna was a fiery landfill and a good metaphor
for a place to avoid. But today Gehenna is a lovely park. You can find pictures
of it on the Internet. There have been some wonderful archeological discoveries
in Gehenna, such as the healing pool of Siloam and the oldest extant verses from
the Bible, recorded on silver amulets. The Bible verses discovered in "hell" are
the priestly benediction: "The Lord bless thee and keep thee; the Lord make his
countenance to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee ..." So there is no
logical reason to believe that Gehenna is "hell."
(6) The Greek word for "hell" is Tartarus, a word which appears in only a single
verse in the entire Bible (2 Peter 2:4). But that verse is about fallen angels
awaiting judgment, so its "hell" is not eternal and is not for human beings.
Jesus Christ himself mocked the idea that human beings would go to Tartarus in
his parable of Lazarus and the rich man, which clearly describes the afterlife
of the pagan Greeks, called Hades. Hades was not "hell" because everyone went to
Hades when they died. In Hades the heavenly regions (the Elysian Fields) were separated from the
fiery pit of Tartarus (the Greek "hell") by an impassable abyss. The dead could chat
with each other across this abyss, but no one could cross it. Thus the "blessed"
were unable to help the "wicked." But of course this bizarre place was
the invention of Greek poets like Homer and such a place had never been described anywhere in Hebrew
scripture. When the Pharisees claimed that they would inherit heaven
simply by being descendents of Abraham, Jesus ridiculed their absurd belief by
putting the Gentile beggar Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham, and a rich
Pharisee in the fiery Tartarus. But this does not mean that Jesus believed in
"hell." What he did is like me telling a flat-earther, "Be sure not
to fall off the edge!"
(7) If a loving, just, all-wise God had wanted human beings to believe in
"hell," he could have mentioned its name, its purpose, and how it might be
avoided, as soon as it was created. Indeed, in order to be considered just, it
would have been incumbent upon God to do so. But there are no such verses anywhere
in the Bible.
(8) Perhaps the best reason not to believe that early Christians were
condemning human beings to "hell" has to do with marriage and childbirth. If an
all-knowing God had spoken to Paul and informed him that human children were in
danger of growing up and being condemned to an "eternal hell," surely Paul would
have told Christians not to have children. How could any Christian woman play
God by bearing a child who might end up suffering for all eternity? And of
course present-day Christian women should ask themselves the same question. If
there is an "eternal hell," and people will go there for such common things as
having sex and not believing in Jesus, then it would be an act of incredible
wickedness to bring a child into the world.
But there is no reason to believe in "hell," if we consider the Bible as a
whole, and accept the fact that all palpably evil, error-riddled and/or
contradictory verses in the Bible must have human origins.
Although many Christians don't yet realize it (why haven't their pastors told
them?), "hell" is vanishing from the Bible. The latest translation published by the Roman Catholic Church, the New American Bible
Revised Edition (NABRE) does not contain a single mention of a place called "hell." The Bible
published by the famously conservative and literal Southern Baptist Convention, the Holman
Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), has no verse in its entire Old Testament in which God or the
Hebrew prophets ever mentioned a place called "hell" and its New Testament
contains only a handful of verses that mention "hell" (all mistranslations of
Gehenna). The New Testament published by Dr. Ivan Panin, who discovered
the number seven in Bible verses, has no mention of a place called "hell."
Thanks to the Internet and online search tools, it is now a matter of a few
mouse clicks to search modern versions of the Bible for the word "hell." A few
minutes online will verify that a place called "hell" is hard to find
in accurate modern Bibles such as the NABRE, HCSB and NIV (the best-selling
the few remaining "hell" verses, other than a
single verse that mentions
Tartarus, are all mistranslations. How is it possible that God and the prophets
completely forgot to mention "hell," if there really is a "hell"?
The idea that God demands human belief when he chooses to remain hidden is
absurd and unjust. If God wants me to "believe" he exists, why doesn't he just
say "hello"? Since God never said "hello" to me or to
billions of other human beings, I can only conclude that God doesn't require human belief. And of course the
Hebrew prophets never said that God required human faith or works in order to reconcile
all things to himself. In fact, they said just the opposite: that God would save
human beings despite their lackluster faith and works.
If God sends everyone to "hell" who doesn't "believe" in Jesus, we are
immediately confronted by the problem of a Jewish girl who was raped by German
Christians during the Holocaust, and who saw her loved
ones tortured and
killed by Christians. If she chose not to believe in Jesus because of the
horrendous way she saw Christians acting, who could blame her? If she was murdered
by German Christians, should she wake up in an "eternal hell," which would make
God and Jesus infinitely more unjust and cruel than Hitler and Megele?
What a sickeningly unjust religion orthodox Christianity is! How can anyone
possibly believe that Jesus would treat Jewish girls infinitely more despicably
and cruelly than
Hitler and Mengele did? If this is what Christians believe, they obviously
have no knowledge of good and evil. But if they have no knowledge of good and
evil, then according to Genesis they should be immortal, since death
was the punishment incurred when human beings acquired the knowledge of good and
And what about millions of Native Americans who were robbed, raped and
killed by Christians, or millions of Africans who were enslaved, raped and
killed by Christians? If they chose not to believe in the God of their
oppressors, would it be fair for them to wake up in an "eternal hell"? Of course
Is there any way to reconcile Paul's gospel of salvation by grace, through
faith, with a loving God? Yes, there is a very simple solution. Due to the
nature of the Greek language, when Paul spoke of Jesus and faith, he could have
been speaking of the faith of Jesus in God the Father, not the faith of
Christians in Jesus. Then there is no reason for Christians to suggest that
Jesus would send Jewish girls who suffered through the Holocaust to an "eternal
hell." Christians could simply trust in the faith of Jesus to save everyone.
This simple solution reconciles Paul's
gospel with a God who is loving, compassionate, wise and just. There is no
"justice" if God saves Christians whose actions cause other people not to believe
in Jesus, while sending their victims to "hell." If the only way human beings can be saved is by the grace of God, and
if faith is required to activate that grace, then the perfect solution is for the
perfect faith of
Jesus to activate the grace of God. That would be like the faith of a son in his father, or
like the faith of God in himself.
If Jesus is able to save human beings with a nod of his head, why wouldn't he
just save them all? If he is unable to save human beings, why call him the
Savior? Is Jesus a sovereign Savior, or an inept "helper" who can't save anyone
unless they do all the hard work? Does Jesus save human beings sovereignly by
divine grace, or do they save themselves by doing all sorts of difficult things to earn the right to enter heaven?
How can his yoke be light unless he does all the heavy lifting?
If no Christian achieves perfection in this life, how can any
of them enter a perfect heaven unless God perfects their natures? I know many
Christians who would make heaven just like earth if they entered heaven as they
are today. I'm sure you do too. But if their natures can be
perfected because God is able to
save them, why should I object? But if God can perfect
human nature, he obviously doesn't need "hell." If he can't perfect
human nature, how can anyone be saved?
If the Hebrew prophets, Jesus and the apostles had believed in an "eternal
hell," wouldn't they have warned mothers never to have babies, out of
simple compassion? But of course there are no such verses in the Bible. Isn't this
compelling evidence that orthodox Christianity took a wrong turn many centuries ago?
If Jesus loves children, it's hard to imagine him treating children and their
mothers so cruelly, if all he has to do is nod his head to save them. (Most children grow up, a fact Christian theologians seem
unable to grasp.) Is it easy for Jesus to save, or supremely difficult? Did
Jesus tell the thief on the cross, "After an immense struggle I will
attempt to save you by the skin of your teeth, since you haven't reformed and become perfect
in this life"? No, Jesus didn't make it sound as if he was barely able to
save. The Bible never says that it is difficult for God or Jesus to
save. But if it is easy for God to save human beings, he would be a
monster to turn his back on them, if they are unable to save themselves.
The idea that God allows billions of babies to be born, knowing that most of
them will end up suffering in an "eternal hell" turns God into the Devil and
Christian mothers into heartless, unfeeling monsters. Can this be a true
religion? Can this possibly be what Jesus and Paul taught? I submit that it is
not, and will demonstrate that:
There is no mention of a place called "hell" in the entire Old Testament
There is no mention of punishment or suffering after death in the OT.
Nothing like "hell" was ever mentioned to Adam, Eve, Cain, Noah,
Abraham, Lot, the people of Sodom, Moses, David, Solomon, et
In the OT, "hell" was never mentioned to even the worst people at the worst of times.
We can further verify this because that are no warnings in the OT about the
need to repent in order to avoid suffering after death.
In the OT, people were being warned about the need to repent and change in
order to avoid suffering here on earth.
But it makes no sense to constantly warn people only about temporal suffering
if they risk eternal suffering after death.
Therefore according to the Bible itself, "hell" clearly did not preexist.
But there is no mention of the creation or purpose of "hell" in the New
A loving, compassionate, wise, just God could not create an "eternal hell" and
fail to immediately warn the whole world about it.
But obviously the whole world was not warned about the creation of "hell." Nor
were Jews in the OT or Christians in the NT.
Therefore, according to the Bible, "hell" did not preexist and was never
Verifying this, there is no mention of anyone going to "hell" in the
book of Acts, the self-recorded history of the early church, nor is a place called "hell"
named in any of Paul's thirteen epistles. Paul claimed that he received his
gospel directly from God. If the purpose of salvation is to be saved from an
"eternal hell," how is it possible that Paul never mentioned the creation or
purpose of "hell"?
Three words translated as "hell" in the King James Version of the Bible do not
actually mean "hell."
The Hebrew word Sheol clearly means "the grave" or the "abode
of all the dead (good and bad)," not "hell."
The Greek word Hades also clearly means "the grave" or the "abode
of all the dead (good and bad)," not "hell."
Even conservative Bible scholars no longer translate Sheol and Hades as "hell"
(this is true even for versions published by the Roman Catholic Church and Southern Baptist Convention).
This leaves only Gehenna and Tartarus as words that might possibly mean
But the Hebrew word Gehenna names a physical location in Israel, not "hell."
If Gehenna is "hell," archeologists have made wonderful discoveries in "hell," such as the healing pool of Siloam and the oldest extant Bible verses.
Those verses, the priestly benediction ("The LORD bless thee and keep thee
...") are wonderfully gracious words to be discovered in "hell."
Today Gehenna is a lovely park and tourist attraction, so there is no reason
to call Gehenna "hell."
This leaves only one verse in the entire Bible (2 Peter 2:4) that
names a real "hell."
But that verse is about fallen angels awaiting judgment in Tartarus.
So that "hell" is not eternal and is not for human beings.
There is no reason to believe that Jesus believed in "hell" either, since
"hell" was not a Biblical teaching, but a pagan Greek myth.
Jesus mocked the pagan Greek view of the afterlife (which had been
adopted by the Pharisees) in his parable of Lazarus and the rich man.
The Greeks had a myth that heaven (the Elysian Fields) and hell (Tartarus)
were separated by an abyss which the "blessed" and "damned" could chat
This is clearly the bizarre place Jesus ridiculed in his parable (just as I
might mock a flat-earther by saying, "Be sure not to fall off the edge!").
But how can heaven be a joyful place if the people there can see and hear other people
Why should Gandhi and Einstein to go to hell, when so many Christians fall far
short of their good works?
Shouldn't we suspect other people when they claim to be the "chosen few" who
are "predestined" to inherit heaven at other people's expense?
That was the religion of the Pharisees, according to Jesus's parable and the
Jewish historian Josephus!
The largest denominations condemning human beings to "hell" in the US
are pharisaic cults which routinely blaspheme the names of God and Jesus.
The last hymn in the hymnal published by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)
The Bible published by the SBC, the HCSB, contains no verse in which God
or any Hebrew prophet ever mentioned "hell."
The few verses in the HCSB that mention Gehenna
(mistranslated as "hell") never say that anyone will actually go there.
If God and the Hebrew prophets never mentioned "hell" is it not blasphemy to
condemn human beings to "hell" by invoking the name and authority of God?
The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) has recently admitted (after 1,800 years
of waffling) that there is no
This means the RCC, which claims to be able to speak "infallibly" on
matters of theology and salvation, has no idea what happens to unbaptized babies
when they die. But the pope and church routinely condemn children to suffer and die by
calling it a "sin" to use condoms, in a world where unprotected sex is
dangerous and often deadly. This makes the pope and RCC liars, frauds, blasphemers,
child abusers and murderers.
The pope is aptly named Ratzinger/Benedict, a plague-carrying rodent and a
traitor to mankind, if there are no accidents with God.
Infant baptism and the "age of accountability" were never mentioned by Jesus,
Paul or any other apostle. These bizarre non-Biblical teachings were only needed
after the true church was infiltrated by the Cult of Hell. If Jesus loved
children and they were in danger of going to "hell" once they reached a certain
age, or if they weren't splashed with water, how
could he have failed to tell his disciples exactly what needed
to be done to save
them? But of course there was no "hell" at the time Jesus and Paul were
preaching. "Hell" was clumsily cobbled into the Bible after Jerusalem was
destroyed in AD 70. By that time Jesus and Paul were no longer here in the
flesh, to contradict the witchdoctors of the Cult of Hell.
As Mark Twain and other wise men have pointed out, "hell" is used by
charlatans to fleece the gullible. The Greek philosopher Celsus pointed out to
Origen and other early Christians that the Greeks had invented "hell" to control
the masses. Celsus also pointed out that no wise man believed in "hell."
Should Christians be as gullible and undiscerning as the dupes of Celsus's day?
Jesus said we can know people by the fruit they produce. What is the fruit of
churches like the SBC and RCC but bigotry, intolerance and the brainwashing of innocent
children via emotional, psychological and spiritual torture, when they are
told that God has cruelly condemned billions of human beings to "eternal
damnation" when he could save them by grace, with a nod of his head?
I will give other reasons why no Christian should believe in an "eternal
hell," in due course. But for now one of the best clues can be found in the first recorded
sermon of Jesus, in Luke 4:14-21. According to Luke, when Jesus
preached his first sermon he quoted from Isaiah 61:1-2,
but stopped reciting
when he reached the part about God's vengeance. The God of the OT was often
arrogant, petulant, jealous, unjust, vengeful and full of murderous "wrath." He
and his cohorts (Moses, Joshua, Caleb, et al) commanded racism, slavery, sexism,
matricide, infanticide, ethnic cleansing and genocide. Is it possible that Jesus
a compassionate man and a man of peace didn't believe these depictions of
God were accurate? If so, pastors like Chad Holtz and Rob Bell are imitating
Jesus when they suggest that love and compassion are God's true nature,
rather than wrath and vengeance. If human beings are
instructed not to let the sun go down on their anger, should God harbor his
anger for all eternity? Wouldn't that make him a hypocrite,
if he is able to save human beings by changing their nature?
The horrific idea that God will burn billions of human beings in an "eternal
hell" has led Christians to burn "heretics" and "witches" here on
earth. After all, if God plans to burn people forever, what did it matter if
Christians "help" God by burning them here? How much fear, anger, bitterness and
rage has the dogma of hell instilled in Christians, over the ages? The result has been a series
of bloody Crusades, Inquisitions and witch hunts. Today conservative Christians
do the same things spiritually, when they condemn homosexuals and non-Christians
to "hell" in the name of God and Jesus. As other people grow more enlightened
and choose to believe that God is good, or not to believe in God at all,
orthodox Christians seem increasingly primitive and grotesque in their beliefs.
Are God and Jesus intolerant bigots, or has orthodox Christianity devolved into
another stone-age religion?
In the OT, "hell" was never mentioned as a possible punishment to
even the worst people at the worst of times. "Hell" was not preached to Cain at
the time of the first murder. "Hell" was not preached at the time
of the great wickedness that led to Noah's Flood. "Hell" was not preached to the
people of Sodom and Gomorrah. "Hell" was not preached to the people of Nineveh
by Jonah. "Hell" was not preached by any of the Hebrew prophets even when Israel
went wildly astray and was threatened with dire temporal catastrophes. Nor was
"hell" preached to the Pharaoh who enslaved the Hebrew tribes and refused to let
them go, defying God time and time again. So more than obviously, according to the Bible itself, "hell" did not
preexist, nor was it created during the thousands of years covered by the
chronologies of the books of the OT.
But neither is there any verse in the New Testament in which God, Jesus or
any apostle ever announced the creation and purpose of "hell." These
omissions, to say the least, if any part of the Bible came from God.
If a loving, wise, just, all-powerful God had decided to create a place of
eternal punishment because for some unfathomable reason he was unable to save
human beings, it would have been incumbent on him to not only inform his
prophets and apostles, but all the people of the earth. But anyone who has
studied the Bible and history knows this didn't happen. Billions of people have
now lived and died without having read the Bible or knowing anything about Jesus
existence of "hell." How could God be considered "just" if human beings died and
woke up in a place they knew nothing about, for not believing in someone they
had never heard of?
Conversely, if people who never heard of Jesus don't go to "hell" when they
die, the worst thing anyone could possibly do is tell anyone else about Jesus,
if hearing his name and not believing in him flings wide the gates of "hell."
And how can it be "good news" to tell people about Jesus, if the only way they
can go to "hell" is to hear his name?
Obviously, there is something very fishy about the "hell" thing. If "hell"
doesn't really exist, how did it worm its way into the Bible? The answer is
quite simple and amazingly ironic (I would add humorous, but there is nothing
funny about billions of people being terrorized by the dogma of "hell,"
Ironically, it seems "hell" entered the Bible via the sworn enemies of Jesus
— the Pharisees!
According to the Jewish historian Josephus, a contemporary of Paul, the
Pharisees were the only sect within Judaism that had a dogma of "hell." Josephus
was born in Jerusalem in AD 37, a few years after the crucifixion of Jesus. As a
young man Josephus studied the beliefs and teachings of the major Judaic sects:
the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Essenes. Here, according to the testimony
of Josephus, is
the most likely origin of "hell" in the Bible: "Their [the Pharisees'] belief is that
there is an undying power in souls and that, under the ground, there is an
accounting to reward and punish those who were righteous or unrighteous in
[this] life. Eternal punishment is offered to the latter, but re-creation in a
new life to the former. Because of these ideas, they [the Pharisees] are the
most persuasive among the citizens. And all the sacrifice and prayer offered to
God happens to be according to their exegesis [of scripture]."
Why were the Pharisees the "most persuasive"? Josephus said they were the
most persuasive sect specifically because of their teachings about the afterlife
and "hell." Of course "hell" is a powerful weapon that can be used to terrify
gullible people into doing whatever they're commanded, and turning over their
money to charlatans. Today Catholic and Protestant churches receive billions of
dollars yearly from the people they condemn to an "eternal hell" in the name of
God and Jesus. "Hell" is, and always has been, a highly profitable scam.
The phrase "under the ground" is important, because the ancient Greeks had a
dogma of pit deep underground where the souls of the "wicked" were perpetually
tormented. This deep, dark, fiery pit (Tartarus) was a region
within Hades. According to Greek mythology, the souls of the blessed went to the
heavenly regions of Hades, while the souls of the damned went to Tartarus, which we now call "hell." But there is absolutely no reason to
believe this mythological place really exists. After all, the Greek "hell"
was guarded by monsters, contained giants and defeated gods (the Titans) and was
ruled by three gods, not a single omnipotent God. According to Plato,
Rhadamanthus judged Asian souls, Aeacus judged European souls and Minos judged
Greek souls. Tartarus was clearly a place of myth, and was cynically used by the
rich and powerful to establish a reign of terror over the poor and gullible.
Today the Pope and his cronies terrorize Catholics with the threat of
"hell," while Protestant "ministers" rake in billions of dollars by threatening
people with "hell," then pretending to "save" them with an
irrational combination of faith, grace and works. But a God capable of saving by
grace doesn't need human faith or works, and when did the God of the Bible or
his prophets ever say that anyone was in danger of "hell" or that God needed
human faith and works in order to save?
Our English word "hell," the Hebrew word "Sheol" and the Greek word "Hades"
all have ancient connotations of an underground region that is covered, hidden,
dark and unseen. This makes perfect sense because graves are underground,
hidden, dark and unseen. But it was the pagan Greek poets who created the myth
of eternal damnation and punishment. Christian poets like Dante and Milton would
later add vivid, disturbing, terrifying pictures of the torments of "hell." But
there is no evidence in the Bible to support the idea that a supreme,
all-knowing God ever mentioned such a place. The only books of the Bible that
mention "hell" are the ones that were written in Greek. None of the books
written in Hebrew or Aramaic say anything about "hell." This makes perfect
sense, because the Jews have never believed in an "eternal hell," but the pagan
Greeks did — or, more correctly, the gullible masses did.
How did this mythological place, "hell," worm its way into the Bible?
Between the writing of the last books of the Old Testament and the first
books of the New Testament, there is a "dead spot" in time of several hundred
years. During this dead spot, Alexander the Great invaded and conquered the
Middle East. This invasion introduced Jews to the ideas and myths of the pagan
Greeks. The most powerful and far-reaching Greek concept to enter the Bible was
that of an "eternal hell." The combination of an "eternal hell" and an
all-powerful God who was able to save anyone, but who for some unfathomable
reason chose not to save billions of people, would ultimately transform orthodox
Christianity into glorified Devil worship. (I do not mean that God is the Devil,
only that the dogma of hell makes God seem like the Devil.) Why should
Christians praise a God who is able to save anyone with a nod of his head, but
chooses not to save billions of people out of sheer pettiness? But this was not the message of the
Hebrew prophets, and the evidence of the Bible is that this was not the original
belief of the earliest Christians either, as we shall see.
How can Saint Paul's gospel of salvation by grace through faith, be
reconciled with the Old Testament, which never said that human faith or works
were required for God to save? I've read two contemporary Greek translators who
made the point that, due to the nature of the Greek language, when Paul
spoke of faith, he could have been speaking not of believers' faith in Jesus,
but of the faith of Jesus in God (which would be like the faith of a son in his
father, or the faith of God in himself). Paul spoke of all Israel being saved,
as did the Hebrew prophets, who said that even Sodom would be restored. Sodom
was not part of Israel and none of the inhabitants of Sodom were Hebrews, other
than Lot and his family (and they fled the city before it was destroyed). So
Sodom was a Gentile city. And yet according to the Bible, Sodom and other
non-Hebrew nations such Moab, Elam, Ammon and Samaria will be restored along
with Israel. Ezekiel
16:53 says, "I will restore the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters and of
Samaria and her daughters, and your fortunes along with them." So the
restoration of Israel was linked to the restoration of Gentile nations and
How was this restoration to take place?
In Ezekiel chapter 37, in Ezekiel's famous vision of the "valley of the dry
bones," God showed Ezekiel that he would resurrect the entire house of Israel,
"an exceedingly great host," and God said that the Israelites would believe in him
after he gave them new life, not before. This contradicts the orthodox
Christian dogma that human belief in God is required in this life. Nowhere in the
OT did God or any prophet ever say that God is limited by human faith. If
Christians want their faith to be in agreement with the OT, they should consider
the fact that the same prophets who spoke of the Messiah also spoke of the
reconciliation and restitution of all things to God as being entirely the work
of God, not of man. The Hebrew prophets said God would save human beings
despite man's lack of faith and works, not because of his faith and works.
The God of the OT clearly did not need the faith or works of man to reconcile
all things to himself.
Saint Paul agreed with Ezekiel that all Israel would be saved. But there are
verses in the Bible that link the restoration of Israel to Gentile nations,
including Sodom. And there are many verses in the Bible that clearly describe
universal salvation. For instance, in his second sermon after Pentecost, while
speaking to the same men who had recently demanded the crucifixion of Jesus,
Saint Peter spoke of "The restitution of all things to God, spoken of by all the
Holy Prophets since the world began." And there is no mention of anyone being
condemned to "hell" in the entire book of Acts (the self-recorded history of the
early Christian church). If the men who murdered Jesus weren't being threatened
with "hell," why are so many Christians condemning people to "hell" today for
having sex or being gay? Does that make any sense? In what dimension is
making love a reason for anyone to suffer for all eternity? If God can forgive
the men who murdered Jesus, why can't he forgive young lovers for following
their hearts, if indeed having sex before marriage is a "sin"?
If the book of Acts is authentic and accurate, it seems the earliest
Christians weren't condemning anyone to "hell." When Saint Stephen was murdered
by the same men who had murdered Jesus just a few weeks earlier, he repeated the
words of Jesus, asking that his murderers be forgiven because they didn't know
what they were doing. Were the murderers of Jesus and Stephen forgiven, despite
their unbelief? If so, why should anyone go to "hell" for having sex, regardless
of what they do or don't believe? If not, did God ignore the dying requests of
Jesus and Stephen?
Why would God save murderers yet send young lovers to an "eternal hell"? Why
would God save white Christians who practiced ethnic cleansing and genocide
against Native Americans, making them walk the Trail of Tears, and yet send gay
lovers to an "eternal hell"? Why would God save white Christians who owned
slaves and treated them like animals, often separating mothers from their
children, but send agnostic vegans who never hurt a flea to an "eternal hell"?
Will Christian fascists like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Andrew
Jackson (who all owned slaves) and Christian Nazis go to heaven, while men of
peace like Gandhi and Einstein go to "hell"? If God is able to perfect the
natures of Christians who are far from angels on this planet, why can't he do
the much easier work of perfecting human angels like Gandhi?
According to the Bible, Moses, Joshua and King David slaughtered
defenseless women, children and the handicapped in bloody orgies of ethnic
cleansing and genocide. If these mass-murderers will be in heaven, as virtually
all Christians believe, why should anyone go to an
"eternal hell"? David was the Jewish Hitler. If he can enter heaven,
why can't anyone? David said God could simply choose not to impute sin, meaning
that he believed in salvation by grace long before the time of Jesus and Paul.
There's another very good reason to doubt that the early Christians were
condemning other people to "hell" — the lack of any recorded debates about the
existence of "hell." The Bible mentions several disagreements between Jesus and
Jews who were not his disciples. Jesus debated the Pharisees and Sadducees on
various topics, some of them rather trivial, such as matters of diet and Sabbath
observance. Paul also entered into debates about matters of diet, Sabbath
observance and circumcision. But there is no debate recorded in which Jesus or
Paul said that people would go to "hell" and they responded by asking, "How can
you condemn us to a 'hell' that was never mentioned in Hebrew scripture by God
or any prophet! Who are you to condemn us to this 'hell' which God and the
prophets knew nothing about?"
Ironically, Jesus ridiculed the Pharisees' concept of "hell" in his parable of Lazarus and the
rich man. The vision of the afterlife that Jesus ridiculed was clearly the pagan
Greek Hades, with its "heaven" and "hell" lying side-by-side, separated by a
chasm which the dead could chat over, but which no one could cross. Such a
bizarre place had never been discussed in Hebrew scripture. Jesus was obviously
mocking the idea that some people (the Pharisees) would inherit heaven
simply by being "sons of Abraham" while other people (the Gentiles) ended up in
a fiery pit. (Even more ironically, Christians eventually borrowed the religion
of the Pharisees and replaced Abraham with Jesus!) If Jesus and his apostles had
been condemning other people to "hell," those people who were familiar with
Hebrew scripture would have been livid with rage. I know this, because I feel
the same anger today, when I hear Christians condemning people of other faiths
to a "hell" that I know the God of the Bible and his prophets never even
mentioned. But there are no heated debates about "hell" recorded in the Bible,
even though Jews who had read the Hebrew Bible would have known that it never
mentioned "hell." The best explanation is that the "hell" verses were inserted
later, after Jesus and Paul were no longer alive; the people making the
additions were not Jews like Jesus and the apostles, but Greeks who already
believed in "hell" (or didn't believe themselves but cynically used "hell" to
defraud and control other people).
Also, it is important to note that "infant baptism" and "the age of
accountability" are both non-Biblical doctrines never mentioned by Jesus, Paul
or the other apostles. These bizarre dogmas were only needed after Christians
began to condemn people to "hell" for not believing in Jesus, which left them
with the problem that babies condemned to "hell" due to "original sin" could not
be saved. The idea that babies had to be baptized in order to avoid "hell"
(later softened somewhat to "limbo") was the brainchild of guilt-plagued
Catholic "theologians" like Saint Augustine. But the early Catholic church
wanted "salvation" to lie in the hands of priests, and of course not every baby
could be splashed with magical water by magical priests before dying, so over
time multitudes of Christian mothers were led to believe that their unbaptized
babies went to "hell" or "limbo." Just think of how they
must have suffered, and so
needlessly! When Martin Luther came up with his reformations of Christianity,
priests and infant baptism went out the window, but Luther was another
guilt-plagued theologian, so the mysterious "age of accountability" was soon
ushered in to keep God from sending babies to "hell" for not believing in Jesus.
But of course no one knew what the "age of accountability" was, because God, the
prophets, Jesus, and the apostles never defined it. Without "hell," there is no
need for infant baptism or the "age of accountability." Once "hell"
had been created
by human beings, suddenly no Christian theologian knew how children could be
saved, because being descended from Adam or stealing a cookie could cause them
to go to "hell" at some indeterminate age. But in what dimension is being born
or stealing a cookie a reason for anyone to suffer for all eternity?
Why should anyone believe such evil, irrational, terrifying nonsense? Here
are a number of reasons not to believe in "hell," even if you believe that the
Bible or parts of it came from God:
There is no mention of "hell" in the entire OT.
Suffering after death were never mentioned to Adam, Eve, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Moses, et al.
The Hebrew word Sheol clearly means "the grave," not "hell."
The Greek word Hades clearly means "the grave," not "hell."
Therefore, to condemn someone to Sheol/Hades was to simply to say they would die.
There are only a handful of verses in the New Testament that discuss a
place called "hell," and all but one are mistranslations of Sheol, Hades and
Gehenna. The only verse that discusses a place that might actually be translated
as "hell" (Tartarus) is about fallen angels awaiting judgement and thus this
"hell" is not for human beings and is not eternal.
The early Christians were not condemning people to "hell," if Acts is
authentic and accurate.
Paul never mentioned a place called "hell" in any of his thirteen epistles,
even though he said that he received his gospel directly from God, not man.
If Jesus and the apostles had condemned other Jews to "hell," there would
have been heated debates, since "hell" had never been mentioned by the Hebrew
prophets. But no such debates are recorded in the Bible.
If the early Christians had believed their children might go to an "eternal
hell," Paul and the other apostles would have warned them not to have babies.
But there are no such warnings in the Bible.
An eternal "hell" would cause mothers to have to choose between God and
their children grandchildren and great-grandchildren; thus the only mothers who would
choose to remain in heaven would be the bad mothers!
Infant baptism and the "age of accountability" were never discussed by the
Hebrew prophets, Jesus, Paul or any of the other apostles. They were only needed
after evil-minded men had clumsily cobbled "hell" into the Bible, as a means of
robbing people and controlling their behavior.
According to Josephus, "hell" in Judaism originated with the Pharisees, the sworn
enemies of Jesus.
While there are a few verses in the Bible that seem to describe suffering
after death, the question is whether such verses are credible. If God, the
Hebrew prophets, Jesus and the early Christians never mentioned a place called
"hell," and someone else cobbled in a few nonsensical verses at the last minute,
in order to defraud and control other people, should anyone believe those
verses? Why not look at the Bible as a whole, and discount the verses that make
no sense and are unworthy of human belief? No one "believes" the verse that
allowed fathers to sell their daughters as sex slaves with the option to buy
them back if they failed to please their new masters (Exodus 21), or the verse
that commands parents to stone their daughters to death if they're raped
(Deuteronomy 22), or the verse that allows "men of God" to slaughter mothers and
their infant sons, keeping only the virgin girls alive as sex slaves (Numbers
31). No sane person believes the Bible verses that command racism, slavery,
matricide, infanticide, ethnic cleansing and genocide. So why "believe" the
horrendous verses about eternal punishment or the ones that condemn
Today men who claim to "know the truth" and to "speak for God" ecstatically
proclaim that Jesus saves. But what do those seemingly simple words mean? Do
they mean that a loving Savior will save everyone because he is able to save
people who can't save themselves? Or do they mean that Jesus is able to save
everyone, but is so petty that he will only save the "chosen few"? Or do they
mean that Jesus is unable to save people by himself, and thus needs the help of
human beings? Is Jesus a loving sovereign Savior, a petty egoist who has hissy
fits if people don't believe in him even though he deliberately remains hidden, or an
inept helper who leaves the hardest part of salvation up to human beings and loses
most of the people he loves to the flames of an "eternal hell"?
Are Christians who claim to be the beneficiaries of God's sovereign grace
being saved by their evil-minded faith that would turn God and Jesus into
monsters if their beliefs were true, or are they being saved by the faith of
Jesus in God? Which is the superior faith?
Curiously, Christians who claim to "know the truth" and to "speak for God"
don't seem to know the answers to the simplest questions about salvation. They
confidently proclaim that salvation is by grace, not works, because no human
being is able to "earn" heaven. But then they insist that once people are saved,
they have to continually repent, confess and strive to become perfect. They
often don't allow homosexuals or people "living in sin" to become members of
their churches. But does it make any sense to ban people from earthly churches
if God will welcome them in heaven? Of course not. So it seems they don't really
believe in salvation by grace, after all. Is it possible that an all-wise God
provided the means of salvation but made it so complicated that after nearly 2,000
years his disciples still have no idea how anyone can be saved? Is salvation
simple, or so complicated that popes, priests and pastors can't explain it, to
save their lives? Did God make salvation so incredibly complicated, or did man?
How can these charlatans speak for God, if they tell human beings that they
need to be saved from an "eternal hell" which the God of the Bible and
his prophets never even mentioned? Should we believe people who blaspheme the
names of God and Jesus, or challenge them to prove that there is a "hell" as a
clear teaching of the Bible from beginning to end? If they can't prove that
there is a "hell," shouldn't they repent and change their blasphemous beliefs?
Why do Christians who profess to believe in the love, grace, compassion and
forgiveness of God have such a hard time being tolerant of other religions, and
even of their own sects and sub-sects? Why did Catholics once burn Protestants
at the stake, as heretics? Why, when American Protestants gained control of the
US government, did they unleash a series of horrors against Native Americans and
black slaves? Does it all boil down to something which undermines the ability of
orthodox Christians to truly believe in the main articles of their faith: love,
compassion, grace, justice and forgiveness. Is that something fear? If so, what
are they afraid of:, but an eternal "hell"? Obviously, they fear it for themselves
and their loved ones. Parents especially fear "hell" for their children. If you
believe that God may torture your daughter in "hell" for all eternity, or allow
her to be tortured, over incorrect beliefs in obscure articles of religious
dogma, how can you truly believe in God's love, grace, justice, forgiveness and
compassion? Isn't this fear the root cause of "saints" burning other Christians
at the stake during the Dark Ages over points of religious dogma, and
accomplishing the same thing today, spiritually, by damning them to "hell"?
Why did the Catholic church burn "heretics" at the stake?
Primarily for two reasons:
(1) Catholics distrusted God and assumed that if God was going to
burn people in "hell" for all eternity for not having the "correct" beliefs,
they were only doing what God would do, on a lesser scale; and (2) the Catholic
church was far more interested in preserving its temporal power and ability to
generate revenues than it was with the message of Jesus and the
Hebrew prophets, which was to practice compassion and social justice. Obviously
there is nothing "compassionate" or "just" about burning someone at the stake
for any reason, much less for not believing that God and Jesus are the petty
demons orthodox Christianity portrays them to be.
Unfortunately, Protestants could be just as irrationally cruel and evil-minded as Catholics. Calvinism with
its terrible doctrine of predestination (which claims that some human beings
were created to be "vessels of glory" while others were predestined to be
piss-pots and "vessels of destruction") is an incredibly dark religion.
The Puritans once put hot pokers through the cheeks and tongues of peaceable
Quakers for not subscribing to their dark theology. Today
Protestant churches continue to teach predestination along with salvation by a
combination of faith, grace and works. But obviously if one's fate is predestined
before birth, there is no need for either faith or works. Christians try to
believe so many evil, absurd, contradictory things that they end up being small
bundles of wild confusion. What on earth are they teaching their children, and
how are those teachings affecting their children's development?
How can anyone be predestined to eternal damnation, if the God of the Bible
never mentioned an "eternal hell" to Adam and Eve (the original sinners), nor to
Cain (the first murderer), nor to Noah (at the time of the great wickedness that
resulted in the Flood), nor to Abraham (the father of Judaism, Islam and
Christianity), nor to Jacob (who became Israel), nor to Moses (even at the time
of the giving of the Law and its punishments), nor to any of the Hebrew
prophets? After he clearly announced that the penalty for sin was death, when
did God ever clearly announce this new, far more drastic penalty? Why did he
wait thousands of years to announce the existence of "hell," and yet still
forget to inform the great preachers of early Christianity — Peter, Stephen and
Paul — of when "hell" was created, and why? If there was a
"hell," why didn't Peter and Stephen warn the men who murdered Jesus that they
were in danger of an "eternal hell"?
If Jesus was the son of God and there is an "eternal hell," why didn't Jesus
explain the creation and purpose of "hell," and how children could avoid it, if
there was an "age of accountability" or the need for infant baptism?
Where in all the Bible is the verse that says the penalty was changed from
death to "hell," on such-and-such a day, for such-and-such a reason? There is no
such verse. How can God be considered "just," if he created an eternal "hell,"
but never mentioned that it had been created, or why, or how it might be
avoided? Does it make any sense to say "You must believe in Jesus to be saved
from a terrible place that I forget to mention to anyone for thousands of years,
and which I still have never mentioned to billions of people now who must die,
then wake up in an eternal torture chamber they never dreamed existed"?
Of course anything like this would be the height of evil and injustice. But
if people who never heard of Jesus don't go to "hell," then the worst thing
anyone could possibly do is mention the name "Jesus" to them. Is this the wisdom
of God, or the evil lunacy of man?
The Christian concept of predestination would be the height of all evil,
unless God predestined a happy end for every creature that ever lived, suffered
and died. What sort of monster would allow anyone to be born, suffer and die
only to wake up in an "eternal hell" where unremitting suffering would serve no
purpose whatsoever? What sort of being causes or allows unremitting punishment,
without purpose, if he is able to prevent it? If God is able to save me, when I
cannot save myself, but God chooses to turn his back on me, isn't that like a
doctor who allows a patient to writhe in pain rather than administer an antidote
that costs him nothing to provide? If Jesus was able to save the thief of the
cross with a nod of his head, why doesn't he just nod his head at everyone?
Is salvation easy for a supreme God, or almost impossibly difficult?
Earthly judges hand out prison sentences because they are unable to change
human nature. But Christians claim that God is able to perfect human nature, so
that human beings who were imperfect in this life can enter a perfect heaven.
But a God who is able to perfect human nature by grace obviously does not need
an eternal torture chamber. Nor would any good human judge sentence anyone to be
tortured for a second, much less for all eternity. The purpose of incarceration
is remedial and protectional, not mindless incessant punishment. So the
pertinent question becomes: how can any human being enter a perfect heaven? If
human beings can enter a perfect heaven only by being perfected by the grace of
God, why wouldn't God show the same grace to everyone? And indeed the Hebrew
prophets claimed that in the end God would save everyone — all Israel along with
the people of Sodom, Samaria and other Gentile nations. Long before the birth of
Jesus, King David (a mass murderer who slew every woman when he "smote the land"
and who ordered the slaughter of the lame and blind when Jerusalem was taken
from the Jebusites) said that God could simply not impute sin. If serial
woman-killers like Moses, Joshua and David will be in heaven — as most
Christians believe — then why can't everyone?
If God is able to save by grace, and if no human being can save himself, it
would be the greatest injustice imaginable for any human being to go to "hell."
Conversely, if God is not able to save, no one should call him the Savior.
Am I condoning what Moses, Joshua and David did, when they murdered women,
children and the handicapped, according to the Bible?. Not at all. Obviously we
create "hell" on earth when we practice terrible injustices against defenseless
innocents. I have never physically harmed a woman or child, and I have done my
best not to harm women and children emotionally or psychologically. While I
don't claim to be perfect, I have never remotely approached the evil acts of
Moses, Joshua and David. If God will save them by grace, I see no reason why he
wouldn't save me by grace, not to mention far more deserving people like Gandhi.
If God saved me by grace, but refused to save a saint like Gandhi, that would be
the height of injustice, and I would rather cease to exist than have Gandhi
suffer interminably. Is it possible for a mortal man to be more compassionate
than God, or to have a more highly developed sense of justice than God?
No human being has done more to establish peace and equality through
non-violence than Gandhi. Should I — who have done far less — desire to be
"saved by grace" at his expense? If Jesus would cause or allow a good man like
Gandhi to suffer for all eternity, simply because Gandhi didn't believe in
Jesus, when Jesus chose to remain hidden and not speak to him personally,
wouldn't that make Jesus an incredibly petty, cruel, unjust monster?
How can a God who chooses to remain hidden demand human belief? If God is
able to save by grace, why does he need human belief? Why can't God have faith
in himself, even if human faith falls short of perfect faith? If Jesus had
perfect faith in God, why can't God be satisfied with the faith of Jesus, even
if my faith falters in the face of God's perpetual silence and hiddenness?
How could Jesus applaud the Good Samaritan — a man of the "wrong" religion
who showed compassion to a man of the "right" religion — if Jesus refuses to be
a Good Samaritan himself? Wouldn't that make Jesus a hypocrite? How could Jesus
criticize Jewish priests for turning their back on the man the Good Samaritan
helped, if Jesus is going to turn his back on the Good Samaritans of other
religions and non-religions — good men like Gandhi and Einstein?
How could Jesus criticize the Pharisees for practicing hypocrisy, then
practice the cruelest, most vile hypocrisy imaginable? The Good Samaritan put
religious dogma aside, to help a man in need. If Jesus was able to save the
thief on the cross with a nod of his head, and if he is able to save newly
converted Christians on their deathbeds, when they don't have time to reform —
as most Christians believe — then why would he fail to show compassion to people
of other religions? Is Jesus a hypocrite and a monster, or are there terrible,
blasphemous flaws in orthodox Christian dogma?
Fortunately the God of the Bible and his Hebrew prophets never said that
anyone would go to "hell." Nor is there any mention of a place called "hell" in
any of the epistles of Saint Paul, the great Evangelist, or in the book of Acts,
the self-recorded history of the early Christian church. "Hell" was a very late
(and very clumsy) addition to the New Testament. "Hell" was added to the Bible
for a very simple, very obvious reason: to force the poor, ignorant, unwashed
masses to obey the whims of Roman emperors while making evil Christian
"ministers" rich. But the men who clumsily cobbled
"hell" into the Bible are the Keystone Kops of theology because they forgot to
have God or any prophet or apostle ever announce the creation or purpose of
The men who added "hell" to the Bible so clumsily were evil morons. Why should
anyone believe evil morons?
How can God be considered loving, compassionate, wise and just, if he sends
people to a "hell" he forgot to mention for thousands of years and still to this
day has never announced? There is no verse in the Bible that announces the
creation of "hell," or its purpose, or how to avoid it without believing that
God and Jesus are petty demons. Does that make any sense?
Most Jews have never believed in an "eternal hell." Nor did the early
Christians seem to know anything about "hell." The book of Acts records the
word-for-word sermons of Peter, Stephen and Paul. But even when Peter and
Stephen were speaking directly to men who demanded the crucifixion of Jesus, a
mere forty days after his resurrection, they never mentioned an "eternal hell."
In the entire book of Acts, even according to the inaccurately-translated King
James Version, there are only two occurrences of the word "hell," both of them
quotations of David saying that God would not leave his soul in "hell" (by which
he clearly meant Sheol, the grave). Nor did Paul ever name a place called
"hell," or explain when, where or why it came into existence, even though he
said he received his gospel directly from God.
If Peter, Stephen and Paul didn't believe in "hell," why should any
Christian? Peter was the chief apostle and first spokesman of Christianity. If
Peter didn't know about "hell," having been in Jesus's inner circle, then how
can there be a "hell," if Jesus was the son of God? If Jesus had believed in an
"eternal hell," surely he would have told Peter about it.
"Hell" is the clue. "Hell" is the key. Either man made up "hell," or somehow
God unaccountably announced all sorts of temporal consequences of sin, while
invariably forgetting to mention the infinitely more important eternal
consequences. That would be like me telling my son that the consequence of a
failing grade is no TV for a week, then torturing him day and night for the rest
of his life for failing a pop quiz. For God to go on and on about the temporal
consequences of sin would be bizarre, if there were eternal consequences as
well. So what happened? Where did the dogma of "hell" originate? How is it that
the prophets never described an "eternal hell," and yet Christians are
terrorized by the fear of their own children suffering for all eternity?
"Hell" is an error of translation, and a very clumsy error, at that. The
Hebrew word "Sheol," which was incorrectly translated as "hell" in the King
James Version of the Bible, quite obviously means "the grave," not "hell" as we
think of it today. For lovers of the KJV, if "Sheol" is correctly translated as
"hell," the orthodox Christian concept of an inescapable eternal "hell" is
incontrovertibly refuted, for the following reasons:
In Psalm 139, King David said that if he made his bed in Sheol, God would be
there. Orthodox Christianity claims that "hell" is the absence of God. But how
can both be true? Obviously, David was saying that if he made his bed in the
grave (i.e., if he died), God would be there. That would be a comfort, not
torture, if God is Love.
In Job 14:13, Job cried out to God, "Oh, that you would hide me in Sheol!"
Job was suffering terribly. He saw the grave as a place where God could hide him
from the suffering of life in this world. But no man in his right mind would ask
God to "hide" him in a place of eternal suffering.
Psalm 49:15 says, "But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, for
he will receive me. Selah." If Sheol is "hell," this refutes the orthodox
Christian dogma of a "hell" that cannot be escaped.
If Sheol is "hell," then 1 Samuel 2:6 says that God "brings [down] to 'hell,'
and brings up." This again contradicts the dogma of an inescapable "hell."
Perhaps the best evidence that Sheol cannot be "hell" is found in the first
verse in the Bible that mentions Sheol, Genesis 37:35. When Jacob heard that his
beloved son Joseph was dead, he said that he would be reunited with his son in
Sheol. Jacob became Israel, "a prince with God," and the namesake of the nation
that gave us the Bible. Both Ezekiel and Saint Paul said in no uncertain terms
that all Israel will be saved (something Christians choose to ignore, since most
Jews have never believed in Jesus). Surely no Christian believes that Israel
himself is damned to an "eternal hell," nor his son Joseph, one of the few truly
sterling characters in the Bible. So if Israel knew what he was talking about,
Sheol cannot be the Christian "hell." If the men mentioned above were wrong about
what they said, the Bible can hardly be "infallible."
Why then are young, highly impressionable children taught to believe in the
most sordid of all human creations — an eternal "hell" — while they are
simultaneously led to ignore the best, most hopeful, most glorious verses in the
Bible? What about these Biblical concepts and teachings: God will be all in
all. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should have eternal
life. Jesus will draw all men to himself. God will restore all things to himself, even Sodom and the Gentile nations
that warred with Israel. The lion will lie down with the lamb. Chesed
[mercy, compassion, lovingkindness] will triumph over judgement. All men have
life in Christ. Jesus Christ is the savior of all men, especially of believers.
God makes it to rain on both the righteous and unrighteous here on earth if he
is the same yesterday, today and forever, why would he be less gracious in
heaven? The Bible instructs human beings to love and forgive their enemies can
God do any less and not be considered a raging hypocrite? The Bible instructs
human beings not to let the sun go down on their wrath so how can God
harbor his wrath forever and not be considered a raging hypocrite?
What did the foremost apostle and first speaker after Pentecost, Peter, mean
when in his second sermon he spoke of the "reconciliation of all things to God,
foretold by all the holy prophets since the world began"? Orthodox Christianity
is hopelessly out of synch with the testimonies of the Hebrew prophets. Yes,
they spoke of temporal woes in this world, and who can contradict them? But when
they spoke of the end times, they spoke of Sodom being restored, of the lion
lying down with the lamb, and of chesed [mercy, compassion, lovingkindness] triumphing over judgement. And
when did they ever say that God was limited by human faith, or the lack of it?
When did they ever say that anyone would suffer for all eternity? Or that God
couldn't save to the utmost?
Many of the early Christians seem to have been universalists. They believed
that God would save everyone, and reconcile all things to himself, even Satan.
In the early days of the Christian church, from the letters we have by and about
early church fathers like Origen, there is no indication that such a belief was
considered heretical. Origen and other universalists were accused of heresies,
but universalism was not one of them. Therefore, universalism seems to have been
an accepted doctrine of the early Christian church. After several hundred years,
the tide seems to have turned and the dogma of an eternal "hell" became firmly
established. But it has always had very shaky foundations. If God ever spoke to
any human being, and if any of his words were ever recorded in the Bible, surely
he would have warned men in no uncertain terms about an "eternal hell," if one
existed. Conversely, if God didn't speak to the Hebrew prophets, how can their
prophecies proclaim Jesus as the Messiah? Surely the two must go hand in hand.
Could the prophets have been right about Jesus and yet wrong about God,
salvation, the ability of God to act without man's faith or works, and man's eternal
Either God spoke to the Hebrew prophets, and there is no reason to fear a
place of eternal suffering, or the Bible is the opinion of man, in which case
there is no reason to fear a figment of his overactive imagination. But how can
the Bible be the word of God and yet be silent on the weightiest matter of all:
the fact that a child could be born and after some undetermined span of time
(the never-explained "age of accountability") be consigned to an "eternal hell,"
without God so much as identifying the place, or explaining its purpose, or
clearly explaining how it might be avoided?
Today orthodox Christianity claims a number of contradictory things. It
avows that God can save the thief on the cross, or a man on his deathbed, entirely by
grace. That means God can save anyone at any time. It says that God is the only
savior. It says that no man can save himself. It says that God is not a
respecter of persons. But it also says that God will save only the "chosen few" while
billions of souls end up being "chaff" on an eternal bonfire. But if these
things are true — that no man can save himself, and yet God can save anyone with
a nod of his head — then why would God save the thief on the cross, but not
Gandhi? If salvation is by grace, a gift, then why would God give the gift
freely to one person, but not to another? That would make him not only a
respecter of persons, but a cruel, unjust monster.
It seems to me that Christians must make a choice. Do they believe that God
is Love, that salvation is by grace, and that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the
World? Do they truly believe in the Grace of God and the Karma of Christ? Then
they can proclaim the good news without evangelizing, because all men will be
Or do they believe that God is a cherry-picking Monster, who bestows eternal
bliss on one imperfect human being, while tossing away another like worthless chaff? Yes,
there are verses like that in the New Testament, but who wrote them? Did God, or
did man? Do we want to believe in a God who calls any human being — our mothers,
our fathers, our brothers, our sisters, our children — "chaff"?
The Bible is quite clearly not "infallible," which doesn't mean that certain
parts of it aren't inspired. But can we take every word of it literally, when it
tells us to stone children for being stubborn; to commit genocide, killing even
babies; and to kill mature women then take their virgin daughters as sex slaves?
In the New Testament, Jesus himself misnamed the high priest who gave the shewbread to David. In the gospel of Luke, Jesus prophesied that not a stone of
the temple would be left standing, but the Wailing Wall still stands to this day
and remains an emblem of hope to millions of Jews. Other stones of the temple
have also been uncovered by archeologists and they too stand on top of each
other today. According to the New Testament, Paul didn't allow women to talk in
church. But he quite obviously did, because elsewhere he named women as
deaconesses, said that a women, Junia, was foremost among the apostles, and
advised women to keep their heads covered while praying and prophesying in
church. How did they pray, prophesy and act as apostles if they weren't allowed
to speak? In one account of the census taken by David, God
hardened David's heart to take the census. In another account of the same
census, Satan hardened David's heart. Unless God is Satan, two different writers
of the Bible had very different beliefs. One writer believed that God created "weal and woe,"
since thousands of people died after David took the census. The other writer
reasoned that God is good, and therefore could not be responsible for causing
innocent people to die, so he changed the account by introducing a
never-before-named fall guy, Satan. (The account of the census in 1 Chronicles
21 contains the first mention of a being called Satan in the Bible, after
chronologies covering thousands of years in which he was never named.) The Bible
is full of such contradictions and conundrums. It tells us that it's a shame for
a man to have long hair (how long?), and yet the men consecrated to God, the Nazarites, never cut their hair. How did such
blatant contradictions enter the Bible? The answer is quite
simple. The Bible was written and copied by many men over a long period of time.
The person who wrote the bit about not a stone of the temple standing was
probably writing somewhere in Greece. He had heard that all Jerusalem had been
leveled, which was very nearly true because the destruction had been massive.
But he couldn't see Jerusalem for himself. So he made a mistake, because beneath
the rubble some of the temple stones still stood on top of each other, and still
stand to this day. The
person who said it was a shame for a man to have long hair had probably never
heard of Nazarites like Samson and Samuel because he was writing thousands of
miles from Israel. It's quite possible that John the Baptist, who baptized
Jesus, was a Nazarite. Jesus himself is usually depicted with long hair. But in
any case, if God is disgusted by men having long hair, wouldn't it make sense
for him to at least give us something precise to go on, lest we offend him? Who
can possibly know if "long hair" means six inches, or twelve, or eighteen, etc.?
Perhaps the biggest conundrum for Christians is deciding which verses to
believe, and which ones to ignore. Should I put fear aside, since perfect love
casts out fear, or should I work out my salvation in fear and trembling? Should
my son be circumcised, as most boys born to Christian parents are, or should I follow Paul's
advice to shun circumcision, since it places Christians back under the law?
Should I baptize for the dead, which the New Testament mentions in passing but
doesn't describe or explain? If it's important, why aren't there more specific
instructions? I'm told that my wife should keep her hair covered "because of the
angels." Don't angels like women's hair? My wife Beth has very nice hair; I
rather think they would like it.
The simple truth is that no one lives by every letter of the Bible, because
we can't. It says all sorts of contradictory things. Christians pick and choose
which verses to heed, because they have to. How can I overcome evil with good,
if I stone my son to death for being stubborn, or cursing me? How can I believe
that God is Love and also believe that he commanded the murder of women and
children? How can I believe that God is the same yesterday, today and forever,
when at various times in the Bible he demands compassion and justice, yet also
commands or condones slavery, ethnic cleansing and genocide, drowns all the earth's
animals for the sins of men, hardens men's hearts to sin so that thousands of deaths
result, and flies into rages when people complain that they're hungry and
thirsty? How can I reconcile Jeremiah 48:10 — "Cursed is he who keeps his sword
back from bloodshed" — with Ezekiel 22:13, where I am commanded to hate
bloodshed, or it will pursue me?
If Christians were to actually believe in the love and grace of God, and stop
acting as if he's a Devil intent on torturing human souls for all eternity over
the sins of a few brief years on earth's beleaguered planet, then perhaps the
promise of "peace on earth, goodwill to man" might yet be fulfilled. And if Jews
and Moslems choose not to believe in Jesus, Christians can still proclaim the
good news that God is faithful, nonetheless. Then there would be no more bully
pulpits, no more hypocrites damning the souls of other men to "hell" while
claiming the love and grace of God for themselves, and no more pastors filling
innocent children's heads with horrific visions of a "hell" which the God of the
Bible never mentioned.
Perhaps most importantly, Christian mothers and fathers would no longer have
to terrorize their children by telling them that Jesus sends people to an
"eternal hell" for not believing in him, when he chose never to speak to them
personally. Only the Devil could be so evil, unjust, petty and cruel. Should
parents teach their children to worship the Devil?
I grew up in an evangelical Christian family and attended a series of
"Bible believing" Christian churches around the world. When my mother — my guardian
angel — agreed with an evil, unjust religion that I and billions of other human
beings lived in constant danger of an "eternal hell," I was shattered and to
this day our relationship remains poisoned by this foul idea. She lives in
despair that she will have to choose between me and Jesus. I refuse to believe
that any human being deserves to suffer for all eternity, and I am confident
that this was not the teaching of the Hebrew prophets or the early Christian
church. Even if it was, I would reject the teaching as unworthy of human belief.
Would a loving God want to come between mothers and their children? Would Jesus
want mothers to have to choose between their children and him? Would an all-wise
God who can see the end from the beginning have created beings capable of love
and compassion, knowing they would face such an unthinkable choice?
I find it impossible to believe that a loving, wise, just God could do any
such thing. So I have to believe that "hell" is the creation of man's over-vivid
imagination. If I ever have to stand before God and Jesus, at least I can say
that I didn't blaspheme their names as so many people who called themselves
"Christians" do on a daily basis. Before anyone who has read this article tells
the next child that "Jesus saves," I hope they will consider what those
seemingly innocent words really mean, if Jesus doesn't save everyone. If we call
Jesus the Savior and say that only he can save, we turn him into the Devil if he
doesn't save everyone. And since the Bible doesn't say anything credible about
human beings going to "hell," that seems like blasphemy to
Michael R. Burch
April 3, 2011
P.S. — I would like to close by mentioning a few things about two churches
that claim to "know the truth."
The first church is the Roman Catholic Church, which claims to be able to
speak infallibly on matters of theology, salvation, etc. After around 1,700
years of vacillating wildly on the subject of what happens to unbaptized babies
when they die, the RCC seems to have finally
admitted that there is no place called Limbo. This means the RCC has no idea
what happens to unbaptized babies when they die. The RCC routinely condemns
children to terrible suffering and death by telling them that using condoms is a
"sin" in a world where they can easily contract deadly diseases like AIDS if
they have unprotected sex. The current pope's name is Ratzinger/Benedict. He
looks like a rat and is a traitor to the human race, so he is appropriately
named. If this lying murderer of innocent children who sits on a throne and
brandishes a scepter like a medieval king can go to heaven, why can't anyone?
I was baptized in a Southern Baptist church. The Southern Baptist Convention
publishes the HCSB version of the Bible and the Baptist Hymnal here where
I live, in Nashville, Tennessee.
The HCSB version of the Bible has only seven unique verses containing the
word "hell," but they are all mistranslations of Gehenna. And yet the Southern
Baptists, like most Christian fundamentalists, routinely condemn billions of
non-Christians (and even non-heterosexual Christians) to an "eternal hell." But
their own Bible, which they praise for its accuracy on their website, has no
credible explanation of "hell" as a revelation of God or any prophet or apostle.
How is this not blasphemy?
The Baptist Hymnal my ex-church used ends with hymn number 666. (I kid you not!)
My mother gave me a copy of the hymnal that a friend of hers had found at a
garbage dump, and I keep it in my office to remind me of my childhood suffering
at the hands of the "garbage men." On the flip-side of hymn number 666 is the
standard orthodox Christian version of salvation. It says "God loves you" and
that he loves "all persons." It says "You can't save yourself" and "You can't
earn salvation." It says that "Jesus died for your sins, taking your punishment
on Himself." The logical conclusion of all this would be that Jesus did what I
was unable to do, and since he bore my punishment, I am saved and free to live
without fear of the punishment Jesus bore in my place. But of course this is not
what most orthodox Christians really believe. They do not believe in "salvation
by grace" because they will not allow people who "live in sin" or homosexuals to
be members of their churches. It makes no sense for any earthly church to bar
anyone that God would welcome in heaven. It makes no sense that God would save
heterosexuals by grace, but not homosexuals. No one who attended any church that
I ever attended was perfect, or claimed to be close to perfect. So how can these
imperfect people claim that they will be able to enter heaven, but other
imperfect people won't?
The religion makes no sense, and never will as long as imperfect human beings
insist on condemning other imperfect human beings to "hell." In order to enter a
perfect heaven, one of two things must happen: either (1) human nature must be
perfected, or (2) the nature of heaven must be such that no one can cause anyone
else to suffer. In either case, there is no need for an eternal "hell." The
question for Christians who consider faith essential for salvation becomes whether it is their faith in Jesus that saves
them, or Jesus's faith in God. Since human faith seldom if ever results in
miracles here on earth, I would suggest that Christians who want to believe in a
perfect God, a perfect Jesus and a perfect heaven should put their trust in the
faith of Jesus in God, and give up the pretense that any earthly church
can bottle and sell Divine Love and Grace like cheap perfume.
Other Verses of Interest
The LORD is good to all, and his compassion is over all
that he has made. All thy works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and
all your saints shall bless you! (Psalm 145:9-10) How is it possible that Christian
mothers will bless God if he could have saved them with a nod of his head, but
allowed them to suffer for all eternity out of petty egotism?
All flesh shall see the salvation of God. (Luke3:6)
He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from
all faces. (Isaiah. 25: 8)
When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself.
I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor
things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor
anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God.
For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has
also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so
all will be made
alive in Christ. (1 Cor. 15:21-22)
Verily I say unto you, all sins shall be forgiven unto the Sons of
men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme. (Mark 3:28)
Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so
one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. (Romans 5:18)
For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all. (Romans
My little children, I am writing these things to you so
that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the
Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our
sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and
declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows
will be fulfilled. You who hear prayer, to you all men will come. When we were
overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions. (Psalm 65, a psalm of
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding
in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us
according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so
great is his love ... (Psalm 103:8-11)
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will
not forget you! (Isaiah 49:15)
"I am merciful," declares the LORD, "I will not be angry forever."
"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit
upon all flesh ..." (Joel 2:28 ) This passage was quoted by Peter in his first sermon after
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good
tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto
him. (Luke 20:38)
And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying:
for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the
Saviour of the world. (John 4:42) Can Jesus Christ be the Savior
of the World if most human beings go to an "eternal hell"?
[Jesus Christ] whom the heaven must receive until the times of the restitution of
things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the
world began. (Acts 3:21)
"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with
loving-kindness." (Jeremiah 31:3) In his epiphany on Divine Love, Saint
Paul said that Divine Love never gives up and never fails.
"... they will all know me, from the least of them to the
greatest," declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more." (Jeremiah
Because of the LORD's great love we
are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD
is my portion; therefore I will wait for him ... For men are not cast off
by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will
show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. (Lamentations 3:22-32)
Ezekiel 37 (the famous Valley of Dry Bones vision, in which God shows Ezekiel
that he can resurrect the entire nation of Israel, and explains that the dead
will believe in him after the resurrection, not before):
The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out
by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of
bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the
floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, "Son of man, can
these bones live?"
I said, "O Sovereign LORD, you alone know."
Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones and say to
them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says
to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will
attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I
will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was
prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together,
bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered
them, but there was no breath in them.
Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy,
son of man, and say to it, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the
four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.'" So I
prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and
stood up on their feeta vast host.
Then he said to me: "Son of man, these bones are the
whole house of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone;
we are cut off.' Therefore prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign
LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from
them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will
know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I
will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own
land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it,
declares the LORD."
Is the Bible infallible, or the inerrant word of God?