The Afterlife — Is Hell Real?

I don’t make a habit of studying evil. By its very nature, it is not a pleasant subject. But the truth is, it is part of the human dichotomy and has played a role in our history since the original decision to disobey.

I struggle with the question of whether “evil” is simply disobedience of our Creator, or if there is a demonic influence over this universal body like a cancer. Observing the cold-blooded, sadistic murders in the news certainly implies the latter. The Bible does mention “The Adversary.” But even so, did God not create everything? Is He not God of all? Does this mean He created His own enemy? Is He really that bored?

There are three possibilities I consider whenever I think about this:

  • God and the devil have always existed in tandem (Heaven and Hell have always existed concurrently), or Milton was right and the devil is Lucifer, a fallen angel that became Satan, the king of Hell – which came into existence as a result of his fall. God’s creation of the world was a way to get inhabitants for His Kingdom / souls for His army, although some choose to suffer alongside Satan through blatant rejection and disobedience. Hell is an alternate dimension like Heaven, but farther removed, having no connection to the universal body other than an entrance for demonic cancer to form and spread.

Within the body metaphor, angels are neurotransmitters and the nervous system. They have a very limited free will that allows them to intercede with humanity on God’s behalf. Angelic disobedience is like a brain malfunction that causes a disorder (e.g.  “Universal Tourette’s,” “Universal Schizophrenia”).

The first disobedience was not Adam and Eve, but Satan – that’s why Adam and Eve could not only choose to disobey, but choose to be evil (see Cain). The fall of “Lucifer” is what created the universal cancer/disorder. Note that Adam and Eve did not sin until Satan tempted them, after he fell for refusing to serve them.

As long as some people choose Evil, God’s kingdom cannot come. As long as some people choose Good, God won’t destroy the earth (“cleanse” evil from the earth).

With this possibility, the conclusion is that we must destroy ourselves, or become enlightened, before God can introduce the New Kingdom.

  • There is no Hell, merely nonexistence. Evil people who mock God and do immoral things without remorse are eliminated when they die. In other words, there is either a paradisiacal afterlife or an erasure of the soul and self-awareness, as if you never existed. This is exactly what atheists expect, so in a way, it’s “just deserts.”
  • God created the devil or is Himself both Good and Evil. Free will is His final touch on making us in His image. We have the ability to choose evil because He does. He, too, wrestles with this dichotomy, but Good reigns (Creation is the culmination of Good incarnate). God recognizes that the Evil side is “the adversary.” Perhaps it is an element of Himself that He will eventually destroy.

Whether there is a Hell or nonexistence with this possibility is debatable. If Heaven is God’s mind, Hell is (forgive my crassness) His bowels.  Nonexistence is more likely if His end goal is to destroy evil.

Perhaps we were created so He can experience suffering at the hands of those who choose evil, and surround Himself with Good in Heaven. Perhaps Jesus was sent to experience ultimate suffering in order to destroy the evil in Himself, and therefore free us from being imprisoned by that evil. Perhaps His temptation in the desert was a dissociative identity episode – He was debating with the evil side of Himself, asking Himself whether He really wanted to suffer in order for Good to win out, or whether it would be better to give in to the fleeting power and “happiness” evil could provide.

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The majority of Christians believe the first possibility (excepting the body metaphor, which is my own way of understanding panentheism and how the universe and spiritual realm function together) because it is what the Church teaches, despite not being one hundred percent Biblically-based. A lot of what we think we know about the devil actually comes from John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Inferno.

I’d like to believe the second possibility, only because there is so much suffering in this life. I can’t stand to think there exists such a place of eternal suffering, even if only the worst of the worst go there. Nonexistence is a better way, besides, because why permit evil to go on existing? Is it not better for the universe, and for God, to destroy evil completely? Why banish it to a place where it can fester and exacerbate? But if this possibility of nonexistence is true, then the third possibility must also be true, because otherwise, where does evil come from? If there are no demons or devil, why does evil still remain a choice? The idea that God is both good and evil is hard for me to accept. I hate to think He not only allows, but ordains, oppression and suffering, but it would be foolish of me to dismiss it simply because I don’t like it.

I can’t say which possibility is the correct one. I don’t know. No one does. I find myself believing each one at different times. It is difficult to consider the nature of eternal suffering – none of us want to experience it, and we hope and pray we can be good enough to not find out what it’s like. What I do know is that no one is “good enough” to go straight to Heaven. We all disobey at some level, and do so repeatedly. The truth is we deserve to suffer. That is the wonderful miracle of Jesus – even if He is both good and evil, the good won out. He defeated evil by sacrificing Himself for our sakes; His resurrection is a precursor to the end, when God’s Goodness will triumph over Evil.

No matter what we do, we have the choice through Christ to destroy our own evil and focus on spending an eternity in God’s mind, Heaven, a place of eternal creation and perfect health.

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Supporting arguments for the Third Possibility:

https://perfectchaos.org/2015/08/01/the-devil-doesnt-exist/  (I recommend looking up the Bible verses referenced both in this blog and in the comments.)

https://perfectchaos.org/2012/03/25/morality-and-god/ (Very interesting comments section here as well; I recommend reading through it.)

https://perfectchaos.org/2016/07/24/gods-sovereignty-in-scripture/ (Yes, this is the third link for the same blogger – what can I say, he has some good points. Here he outlines some Bible verses that support God’s control over all good and evil.)

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Bible verses describing Hell (Most describe a fiery lake or blazing furnace, or reference the “realm of the dead” and everlasting destruction – these could be describing a real place. Or, they could be metaphors for the painful process of becoming eternally separate from God – or nonexistent.):

http://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/hell-bible-verses/

2 Thessalonians 1:9 in particular supports the nonexistence possibility. Any reference to a “second death” by way of the “lake of fire” could be speaking of the process of the soul being erased.

…Matthew 25:41, 2 Peter 2:4, and Revelation 12:7 support the first possibility of Lucifer’s fall, however.

 

God bless with mother earth’s bliss.

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Conclusion to The Problem with Biblical Literalism

I should have realized last week that speaking out against Biblical literalism would earn me some backlash from the overtly literal Christian community. Honestly, I didn’t think anyone would really see it, and I definitely didn’t expect attacks to come from within my own family.

I’m going to spare her the embarrassment of repeating the argument here. She embarrassed herself enough by arguing with me publicly on Facebook. However, I found this rant I wrote a few years ago when I witnessed a stranger (on YouTube, I believe) similarly embarrassing themselves and the entire Christian community. Before I move on to other topics, I’m going to leave this here as a summary of  my “Problem with Biblical Literalism” series.

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I wish scientists and theologians would stop being so egotistical and ignorant. Both sides need to understand that science does not make religion null, nor is religion an “excuse” to not have to think about how the world works. Science explains how God works. That’s it. Science cannot explain why, nor can blind faith explain how. Science is a gift from God to allow us to understand certain processes so we can see the extent of His greatness. But we will never know everything, because then we will play like we are gods – which some have already started to do.

There is no need for theologians to disparage the scientific community, nor is there any reason to exclude religious people from that community. I’m sick of these banal and ridiculous arguments.

God created the universe, yes? Out of nothing? So He created language? Okay, so that means He created metaphors. Why would He not use these in a book He has written? Why can’t the Bible use similes, metaphors, exaggerations, and still be “infallible?” Why does the Great Flood have to literally cover the whole world? As I said before, that was probably a metaphor for Noah’s “whole world,” the part of the planet that at the time was inhabited by humans. All the animals in the area were saved along with Noah’s family. It would still take a huge rainfall and perhaps a tsunami to do this, but realistically that’s probably what happened. Story-telling allows for a bit of exaggeration to astound the audience, which is entirely logical as the Old Testament (at the very least the Pentateuch) was passed down via oral tradition before being written.

By discounting figures of speech and taking everything at face value, we Christians make ourselves look incredibly ignorant, and willfully so. It’s not fated martyrdom that causes us not to be taken seriously. It’s that we don’t even try to think anymore. God is outside space and time. Seven days is a metaphor for the earth’s time-frame. God is telling His people to take a day every week to relax for our own good. If God had to rest, obviously we do. The point is not, “The earth was created in seven days,” but, “God created everything, and even He rested on His seventh day, and so you should also rest from your work on your seventh day to preserve your energy and recoup.”

God created ex nihilo. He created language; ergo, He created figures of speech, including hyperbole and metaphors. So why is it so offensive to Christians to think maybe He used them in the Book He authored? Oh, I forgot, it’s “heresy” to question what in the Bible is literal and what isn’t. It can’t be infallible if it isn’t literal. What codswallop. Discernment is not heretical.

God bless with mother earth’s bliss.

 

(Art: “A Swirl of Fog” by Eyvind Earle)

The Problem with Biblical Literalism, Part Two

(I actually wrote this one first as more of a rant, so I may repeat myself.)

Biblical literalists make me want to slam my head into a wall.

I just read some comments regarding the new “Ark Encounter” exhibit in Kentucky. People are vehemently arguing that dinosaurs lived at the same time as humans, saying science has changed theories several times, while the Bible never changes (ignoring of course the differing interpretations and teachings done in churches). They claim death did not exist until Adam sinned. So, dinosaurs were still around [again, ignoring 1) the Bible doesn’t mention dinosaurs, 2) the extinction would have killed Adam and his descendants, and 3) the earth is not 6,000 years old].

Literal death. Did not exist. Until sin.

No.

Spiritual death, yes.

Otherwise, Jesus would have made us literally immortal with his sacrifice. I’m pretty sure we are all still physically dying, yes?

Our spirits die (read: rend from God) because of sin. Jesus paid the bounty to the devil to restore our spiritual immortality alongside our creator.

Now, did God originally intend for us to live on earth longer than 100 years? Perhaps. The Bible supports this theory. But arrogance through sin shortened our mortality.

While Christians interpret literally to “prove” science wrong, atheists often are biblical literalists as well, for the opposite reason — to prove Christians are ignorant.

And, unfortunately, the atheists are successful. One pointed out for the Flood to cover the entire earth, it would have had to cover the Himalayas. Sea creatures would have died at that reach of the atmosphere.

This is true! But such mockery only works if the Bible is entirely literal. This is not true.

The flood covered the entire known world. God inspired the writers of the Bible, but humans communicating with other humans, that far in the past — they didn’t know the Himalayas existed, and obviously did not mention it. Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, is a flood plain. What with the Tigris and Euphrates rivers overflowing, along with the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, Caspian Sea, Mediterranean Sea, and Black Sea, forty days of intense rain could easily have flooded the land mass. And all of humanity likely lived within that area at that time.

Besides, what if the Ark had drifted out into the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea?

Much of the Old Testament is the history of the Hebrews. History is recorded by those who experience the events, not objective third parties who interpret evidence millennia later. Those who were there described it as the whole world because that is what they observed. As such, that became the oral tradition and eventually written word.

The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits. — Genesis 7:18-20, NIV

The waters covered all the high mountains the witnesses knew about. Fifteen cubits is roughly twenty-three feet. “More than” is ambiguous but does not necessarily include all heights taller than twenty-three feet; most likely it referred to mountains that were only a few cubits taller that could not be reached to measure.

The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible. — Genesis 8:3-5, NIV

Ararat is a region, not a specific mountain. The ark may have landed on a lower ledge or hill rather than the very top of a mountain. We don’t know how rapidly the water receded either, only that it did so steadily. It is not heretical to doubt the flood covered the entire world or the highest mountains. In fact, knowing the context and geography helps align our faith with science, rather than ignorantly disputing what God is revealing.

Also worth noting is that the writer (assumed to be Moses) records Noah’s age to be over 600 years old. As I mentioned above, sin shortened our mortality. Oral tradition may have exaggerated his age. Whether we were meant to live over 1000 years, whether God blessed Noah with a longer life due to his righteousness, or whether “year” is a completely different length of time than what we use today is up for debate. Our year is based on the earth’s revolution around the sun, which was not even considered a scientific possibility until centuries after Christ. All explanations are possible.

The Real Noah's Ark

More information about the flood (historical/mythological correlative evidence):

https://ncse.com/cej/8/2/flood-mesopotamian-archaeological-evidence

http://www.isciencetimes.com/articles/6746/20140128/noahs-ark-round-mesopotamia-flood-cuneiform-instructions-mathematically-accurate.htm

https://newrepublic.com/article/116287/babylonian-tablet-describes-noahs-ark-pre-bible

God bless with mother earth’s bliss.