Total Depravity of Humanity – The Outer Darkness
This is part 3 of 3 of my rant against the belief in eternal damnation.
With the implications of eternal damnation on the bulk of humanity, I had no peace in Jesus. I looked at humanity in two camps – the Saint and the Heathen – the Saved and the Damned. I witnessed to my workmates fervently, because they were my friends, and I could not imagine them in eternal torment. I prayed every morning for the Holy Spirit to empower my witness so they too could experience the peace of Jesus.
Several years ago, my mother could tell that I was anguished at her unbelief. She was a strong Christian when I was younger, but had since left the faith after her own period of questioning and doubting. I was constantly witnessing to her and inviting her to church, as if she had never before heard the Gospel. The fate of my mother’s eternal soul weighed heavily on my conscience. One particular day, after praying for the convicting power of the Holy Spirit to fall upon my mother, I tried to show her that she needed to repent and again recognize the One True God through Jesus Christ. My face must have betrayed my true feelings – you can’t fool mom.
Mom: “What are you doing? What’s wrong?”
“I’m going to be blunt. Do you think I am going to Hell?”
Having to answer a question like this to my own mother made me very uncomfortable. I began to soft-peddle the way I heard my pastor do many times before with the dopey Christian cliche, “uh – well, I don’t know your heart…”
“I’ll make it easy for you,” said mom, who had surely heard that line many times in her life. “I flatly reject Jesus Christ. He does not exist. He is dead. There is no forgiveness of sins.”
Emphatically, she demanded, “Do you think I am going to Hell?”
“YES!” I said in exasperation. My face felt flushed and hot tears welled in my eyes.
Mom spoke calmly to me. She had been through all this before. And she said something that I will never ever forget.
“You are going to Heaven to be with God forever. When the Judgment comes, what are you going to do when God passes his judgment on me? Will you be worshipping God when he assigns your own mother to never ending torture? Your sister (an unbeliever)? Your dad (a Mormon)? Will you be thanking God for your own salvation when they are cast into the Lake of Fire? Tell me, what kind of Paradise will that be? What will Heaven be like for you when you know your whole family is burning in hellfire? Will you still be praising God and declaring his judgments to be Holy, Righteous and True?
I had no answer for her, and I never witnessed to her again. And all these years later, I have come to accept that Christian Doctrine has no answer to her questions. I now realize that mom was absolutely correct. I see no hope, nor any peace in passing through the Gates of Paradise.
Does anybody else relate with this? What does a Christian do when they consider the damnable state of their unsaved loved ones, family and friends? I know some Christians assume God will wipe away these painful memories, or trust that somehow God will make us see them as he does – truly worthy of eternal damnation. But when Christians do this, they are just doing what they do when they posit the existence of an ‘age of accountability’ for dying children – they are just making stuff up, desperately trying to make God into their own image, to soften the blow.
And once I have come to understand that people assign God certain attributes to make damnation a little more palatable, then it is not too much a jump to come to the next logical conclusion.
What is the afterlife? It is humanity’s wish for ultimate justice and revenge. That’s it. It has no basis in reality. There is no reason to believe it. That is it. Pure and simple.
If I subscribe to this particular Christian belief system of eternal reward and eternal punishment, then I have become nothing more then God’s Stooge or God’s Flunky. God is the Divine Godfather Don Corleone with an offer the Christian truly cannot refuse. Because the Christian endorses the existence of eternal damnation, and worships an omnipotent judge who can do whatever he pleases with the poor Christian’s eternal destiny, the Christian has no choice but to tell God in essense:
“Yes God, it is okay that you assign the vast majority of humanity to eternal hell.”
“Yes God, I agree with your judgment to cast my unbelieving family into the Lake of Fire. They are certainly evil and deserve Hell since they willingly chose to be apart from you.”
“Yes God, you are correct to damn every single one of my friends who rejected the Gospel that I shared with them. Punish them for their hardened hearts.”
“Yes God, they are most unrighteous, wicked, depraved and corrupt, and you are Holy and Just in declaring their eternal damnation. Thank you for electing me for salvation, and seeing me as righteous through the blood of Jesus Christ.”
“Yes God, the vast majority of humanity who searched for you, but could not find you due to being in the wrong time or the wrong place are without excuse – your decision to torture them forever is Righteous and True.”
“Thank you God, for my eternal reward for being faithful to you. No I do not deserve it, but you are most gracious.”
“Thank you God, for my mansion in Heaven, and my crown of righteousness. I will worship you forever for your Perfect Love and Perfect Justice.”
This is beyond the pale. As I Christian, I could not continue being God’s stooge with a clear conscience. The thought of a God who would cast my own mother into Hell, while I piously continued praising his enduring love and mercy made me literally sick for years. The logical disconnect was just too profound for me to rationalize any longer. I can think of nothing more egocentric than this belief in eternal reward and punishment. I cannot live with this belief; it fills me with nothing but guilt and I cannot accept it. This type of divine love and justice has no meaning to a thinking human, yet the Christian must endorse it because they simply have no choice. Their God is the God of Damnation, the Grand Extortionist whom the Christian dares not question.
This is beyond reason! This is beyond logic! There is no perfect love or justice in any of this! It is beyond anything even resembling justice that all Christians say God is perfect in.
It is not that I am mad at God for creating Hell. I am not shaking my fist at God. It is that the existence of a God like this simply makes no sense! A God who does this is an invention borne from our own insecurities and neuroses. Matthew and Revelation, where most of the Biblical doctrine of Hell comes from, were written during a time of war, where the Jewish nation was severely persecuted by the Roman government. If the Jews had written the Bible during the holocaust of WWII, they would have wished eternal Hell on the German Nazis. This is human nature speaking, not God. If God exists, he cannot be like this. It simply makes no sense.
Eternal Hell is nothing more than a fabrication from barbarous human minds. Some group of people cooked it up to intimidate a certain group of readers, and inadvertently terrified countless millions over the centuries. I will no longer let the self-neurosis from Fear of Eternal Damnation ruin my true Hope and Joy in life! My beautiful wife who has given me a life I could have only dreamed of. My wonderfully crazy family. My precious friends and neighbors. The knowledge and wisdom of this world that the Fear of Hell clouds me from. I have learned treasure this short life that I have been given, and find great wonder, beauty, joy and awe in the natural world. I have learned not to think of this life as a trial from God, where the big show occurs after death, rather to accept and find beauty in my mortal life. Heaven, Hell, the afterlife and eternity are all a distraction, and needlessly sidetrack and complicate our real life here!
I will treasure this precious life because without Heaven or Hell, my remaining few decades here are probably all there is. I love my life, and I have great meaning and purpose in life, and I will love life and love those around me and give hilariously where I can. Does no eternal life mean no hope for me? Hardly. It means hope for the billions who don’t believe in the Trinity, and for me that is all the hope I need.
I am finally, truly at peace.
This is the end of my three-part rant against the belief in eternal damnation. It is my sincere hope, that the poor Christian who has been traumatized by this poisonous belief (and there are many who are) will release that fear. Stare that fear in the face, don’t be afraid to analyze it, criticize it, think it through, and finally throw those chains of fear away. I don’t care whether you come away from this a Christian or not, but the belief in eternal Hellfire and the fear it brings must be thrown in the pile of forgotten mythologies where it belongs.