Total Depravity of Humanity – The Outer Darkness

November 30, 2007 at 12:22 am 81 comments

Generic picture of Hell found on many Fundamentalist sitesThis 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?”

Me: “Nothing”.

“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.

- HeIsSailing

Part I: In Fear and Trembling – The Peace from Our Lord

Part II: Worthy of Damnation – A Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth

Entry filed under: HeIsSailing. Tags: , , , , , , .

God is great, God is good… Suspend your belief a while…

81 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Richard  |  November 30, 2007 at 2:09 am

    Wonderful, wonderful post. Thank you, sir, you your thoughts, and I salute your passion, for I share it. There is no more central reason for rejecting fundamentalist Christianity that this obscene donctrine.

    And God bless your mother for her wisdom (irony fully intended)! I have a theory that the idea of close loved ones going to hell serves as an index of to what degree ones conscience has fbeen hijacked by the fundamentalist ethos. If you do not recoil from this idea, to the core of your being, that someone you love will be tortured forever — excuse me, be allowed to choose to have themselves tortured forever — by the same God you affirm and worship, well, then your conscience has finally and fully evaporated, totally consumed by the Christian fundamentalist meme. You no longer have any place from which to critique it because, after all, God is God, and if He in His wisdom says you deserved Hell, then who am I to protest, right?

    I agree with you that hell survives as dogma because it serves psychological functions. I think it is a result of the degree to which believers have learned to feel badly about themselves, because of the teachings about sin. SInce sin consists of all kinds of negative emotions we cant control, believers feel beseiged by sin. As a defense mechanism, these emotions, these negative feelings (anger, shame, lust, greed, self-interest, etc) are dealt with by projection: they are projected into the past (to ones pre-conversion self), to others in the present (all those godless heathen liberals), and to the future — to the damned in hell.

    Projection, as a defense, serves to rid the (conscious) mind of painful, “bad” feelings by convincing oneself that they exist, totally, somewhere else. It keeps the believers “bad” self (which we of course all know is really still there) safely apart from their “good” self — i.e., their salvation.

    Im trying to keep the psychobabble to a minimum here, but I think the point is this: hell is a testament to how bad these people really feel about themselves. Hell is, essentially, a reflection of how badly one feels oneself to be. So badly, in fact, that believers are willing to damn the whole human race in order to feel better about themselves.

  • 2. HeIsSailing  |  November 30, 2007 at 8:25 am

    Richard:

    You no longer have any place from which to critique it because, after all, God is God, and if He in His wisdom says you deserved Hell, then who am I to protest, right?

    This is why most Christians do not think these things through – whatever God says, goes – and they *dare* not question. It is total fear. I was a Christian for most of my 43 years, I lived through this fear, and nobody can tell me that the Christian life is a life without fear of God.

  • 3. kay  |  November 30, 2007 at 10:05 am

    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 do relate.

    Right now I’m on the receiving end of this view. My mom, a JW, doesn’t believe in hell, but does believe in annihilation. Although we don’t talk about it, I know she believes that when “God’s war” comes I’ll be destroyed with the rest of the unbelievers. I suppose that since I’m an ex JW (and an apostate) that I’m especially worthy of death.

    JWs believe that “God will wipe every tear from their eyes” (a scripture), so that they won’t remember the loved ones that are no more.

    Nice, right? (sarcasm)

  • 4. tobeme  |  November 30, 2007 at 10:15 am

    Excellent thoughts! Tough subject, and you handled with skill. I agree, the typical depiction of hell is a myth that needs to go on the rubbish pile. Hell or Paradise is a state of being, nothing more, nothing less. It is a state that we place ourselves in.

  • 5. Graham  |  November 30, 2007 at 11:34 am

    What if it grieves God as much as it does us to see people go to their destruction?

    Have you ever had a friend, that despite all you tried to do, choose to do something that had really bad consequences. If you make them choose the right thing, they are your subject or prisoner, if you give them the freedom to choose they may choose badly – which is worse?

    If God is truly a “loving” God, and he gives us the right to choose for ourselves – so we are not his prisoners, then wouldn’t it make sense that he is devastated when he sees mothers, brothers, sisters, friends, and lovers choose to spend eternity out of his presence?

  • 6. frodo441  |  November 30, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    have a fish…it’s oily and good for you…in antiquity the fish represented destruction, Jesus took that power and handed it out…if anyone should be livid…it’s Hillel…just take your father off the cross and be careful not to bury your mother too soon…
    If you want to be part of the “economy of means” in the world, you have to step down a few rungs from the epistemological ladder…if you find yourself rolling around in the mud (like Esekiel) wait on God…as far as “real fundamentalists” they do good work…good company with the anabaptists…You have the proclamation, remain true to your invocation, and like Francis said “save yourself”…

  • 7. Richard  |  November 30, 2007 at 12:47 pm

    Graham-
    There are so many things wrong with this response its hard to know where to start.

    1. For one, you are glossing over the reality of this doctrine by your vague words like “destruction” and “eternity out of his presence.” No, hell does not teach just that. Hell teaches *torture*. Lets be clear about that: endless, infinite, agonizing, unspeakable pain.

    If you are an annihilationist, thats one thing. Thats the maximum charity I can grant your argument. If God extinguished the existence of those who “rejected” him, at least that would be humane. Tyrannical, but humane, kind of.

    But even that gives away too much. Why not this: those who rejected God a reborn into another body on another world, much like this world, but with no issue re: salvation. I.e., they spend eternity living thier lives as they do now, with the usual life mixture of joy and pain.

    2. Secondly, what would it take to convince you to permit your child to choose to be tortured? For my part, I do not hesitate in the slightest to say I would stop my children from submitting to torture by any means I could, and screw their free will. **Especially if they made their choice under what I knew to be a misunderstanding of the consequences**

    No one sins and rejects Christian faith believing that in doing so they will go to hell. What do us atheists say here on this site? I know Im going to hell and I dont care because I want to keep sinning? No, we say “hell is a fiction.”

    3. Finally, please help me understand why making bad decisions results in eternal separation from God? Is that what you do with your kids? Say: “you must be perfect in every respect or I will never have anything to do with you again. Youve got a few years to get it right or else Im done with you.”

    A “loving” God may indeed grant freedom, even freedom to reject him. A loving parent does not torture, nor allow to be tortured, his children, eben if they have rejected him.

    Richard

  • 8. LeoPardus  |  November 30, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    Graham:

    Have you ever had a friend, that despite all you tried to do, choose to do something that had really bad consequences. If you make them choose the right thing, they are your subject or prisoner, if you give them the freedom to choose they may choose badly – which is worse?

    Have you ever seen a movie where some dude is about to do something really bad or dangerous, and his buddy/brother/parent/etc knocks him out and drags him away so the dude doesn’t get killed?

    Do we as the audience:
    a- Cheer the hero for saving his friend/relative/lover?
    b- Berate the hero for violating the other guy’s free will?
    c- Say, “That dude is now the hero’s prisoner. The hero should have let the dude choose badly. This is just so much worse” ?

    And if the “hero” was a “zero” and had let the other guy go get killed/hurt, would we:
    a- Berate the zero for not saving his friend/relative/lover?
    b- Cheer the zero for respecting the other guy’s free will?
    c- Say, “At least the other dude isn’t the zero’s prisoner. It’s much better that he got electrocuted/shot/blown up/burned up…” ?

    Obviously the answer is ‘a’ in both cases.

    Now if we poor, wretched, stupid humans can tell a hero from a zero, why should is it so hard to tell a loving God from a evil fiend?

  • 9. karen  |  November 30, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    Wow, another fantastic essay, HIS! You are outdoing yourself with this topic.

    So many points of agreement, so I’ll pick out just a few things to comment on:

    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.

    Yikes. I bet you were “popular” at work. ;-) Seriously, how did your colleagues take it? Did you ever succeed at converting anyone?

    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.

    Your mother sounds like a very wise woman. Does she know about your deconversion (assuming she’s still around)?

    My sister and I witnessed incessantly to my dad during his final year of life. Poor man! We really harangued him, but he never did budge.

    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

    Yes, I can relate completely. I tried to stave off the anguish by the old work-around: we’ll be perfectly happy in heaven and so god must have a way of dealing with the hell situation that won’t bring us anguish. Stupid, I know, but that was the best I had to work with.

    I was a big fan of Lewis’s The Great Divorce, which I don’t recall very much of now, but I think he had some fantasy notion which minimized hell and comforted me, too.

    Just last night I watched an MSNBC report on a Pentecostal minister, Bishop Carlton Pearson, who has rejected the notion of hell and accepted the idea of universal salvation. (I had heard his story on NPR a year or two ago as well.)

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14337492/

  • 10. frodo441  |  November 30, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    so ya’ found out that swine was contraband….big deal…black market pork…the temple was destroyed because of eating the sacrifices …honestly…good ego distinguishes between reality and fantasy…faith makes diplomats in the diametrical world of diplomacy…

  • 11. frodo441  |  November 30, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    anon…become a gnostic…and quite bathing like Byzantines…don’t worry…you have Pheonician’s …the path is wide but the gate is narrow…Janus hinges on a Victorian liquor cabinet…shalom…

  • 12. jazelle  |  November 30, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    I love my GOD more than my family members, as HE loved them so much He sacrificed His only Son for the forgiveness of their sins, if they choose to reject HIM I will love them as long as I am graced with their presence here on earth. After that in heaven I will live in peace without memory of them. As harsh as that sounds, God is eternal, you can’t look into the sky and pretend this magnificent world was an accident, He has proved Himself to me over and over again, I can not deny Him, and I love my family, but if they hate GOD enough to spend their lives trying to disprove Him then they will probably enjoy their company in Hell, wherever that may be. I choose not to focus on this concept as Christ himself did not preach about eternal damnation, he spoke of love so much more.

  • 13. LeoPardus  |  November 30, 2007 at 3:47 pm

    After that in heaven I will live in peace without memory of them.

    Where did you get that from?! Your Bible? Your pastor? Your church? Your own mind?

    God is eternal, you can’t look into the sky and pretend this magnificent world was an accident,

    God is imaginary, and I don’t pretend.

    He has proved Himself to me over and over again,

    How? Objectively speaking that is.

    I would love to see a real miracle, or have an angelic visitation. But they don’t happen. I did tell myself for years that God was in my heart, spoke to me in His Word, etc. But that was all subjective.

    I love my family, but if they hate GOD enough to spend their lives trying to disprove Him then they will probably enjoy their company in Hell, wherever that may be.

    What makes you think they HATE God. It’s silly to think they hate something that they don’t believe exists. I mean do you think they hate the Easter Bunny? Of course not.

    Enjoy hell? I thought hell was the antithesis of enjoyment.

    I choose not to focus on this concept as Christ himself did not preach about eternal damnation, he spoke of love so much more.

    How many times have I heard pastors say, “Jesus spoke more about Hell than any other topic.” ? I never went and did a word/verse count to be sure if that was true, but Jesus did talk about hell, damnation, weeping and gnashing of teeth, etc. quite a lot. So you need to acknowledge that. Choosing not to focus on something doesn’t make it OK or a minor issue.

  • 14. Reynvaan  |  November 30, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    jazelle:
    I don’t know where you got the notion that Jesus did not teach about an eternal hell; the Bible definitely says otherwise. Likely an example of the churches’ sugar-coating of the uglier and more contradictory parts of the Bible.

    HIS, I am a huge fan of this series of yours (and the whole d-C blog for that matter).

  • 15. Paul S  |  November 30, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    jazelle said,

    you can’t look into the sky and pretend this magnificent world was an accident

    Arguments from incredulity don’t strengthen a discussion.
    jazelle said,

    but if they hate GOD enough to spend their lives trying to disprove Him then they will probably enjoy their company in Hell, wherever that may be.

    Why is it that Christians always believe that if someone doesn’t believe in God, then they must “hate” God? I don’t hate God any more than I hate Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster.
    jazelle said,

    I choose not to focus on this concept as Christ himself did not preach about eternal damnation, he spoke of love so much more.

    Really? Ever read these verses (and this is just a sampling!)?Matthew 5:22, Matthew 5:29, Matthew 5:30, Matthew 10:28, Matthew 18:9, Matthew 23:15, Matthew 23:33, Mark 9:43, Mark 9:45, Mark 9:47

    You need to dig that hole to stick your head in a little deeper.

  • 16. Rachel  |  November 30, 2007 at 4:48 pm

    Here’s a different perspective on hell that you might find interesting:

    http://www.frederica.com/writings/why-we-need-hell.html

  • 17. karen  |  November 30, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    I love my family, but if they hate GOD enough to spend their lives trying to disprove Him then they will probably enjoy their company in Hell, wherever that may be.

    That’s just cold. :-(

  • 18. OneSmallStep  |  November 30, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    For my part, I do not hesitate in the slightest to say I would stop my children from submitting to torture by any means I could, and screw their free will. **Especially if they made their choice under what I knew to be a misunderstanding of the consequences**

    I think this explanation is key. If someone is willingly choosing to be tortured, or choosing a path that leads to torture, then can we say the person is making a rational choice? Or that the person is in the right frame of mind?

    I did read the article Rachel offered. I do like Frederica’s rejection of penal substition, and that God does not need to punish someone in order to forgive, and that one is always with God, but one’s response to God’s presence depends on one’s desires. As in, evil vs. good.

    However, I have two difficulties with one: one, I think she’s employing Pascal’s Wager, in her line of the safest bet is to regard oneself as the worst sinner. The only reason why I see her saying this is to avoid the eternal misery. I also don’t see that creating a healthy lifestyle, as you’d be constantly examining yourself to make sure you’re in the right frame of mind in terms of God. Two, it still doesn’t explain why it must be eternal misery. What this essentially gets you is God deliberatly creating people who He knows will reject Him, who will find Him painful … and creating that person anyway. Why?

    She also seems to be operating under the assumption that those who discard hell then say one can live however they want, and not encounter repercussions. That’s not how many approach it — such as universalists. While they say that all will be saved eventually, it will be becase in the end, they all wanted to turn from sin. Were they a wretched person in this life, there will be consequences afterwards. But not eternal ones.

  • 19. LeoPardus  |  November 30, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    Rachel:

    Eastern Orthodoxy is always different. :) That’s why I can stand to go to church. If I had to try to suffer through a Protestant service week after week, I couldn’t do it.

    Of course I had a different view from the wrong-headed, typical, Protestant, hellfire-n-brimstone view of hell going way back.

    It should be note of course that Frederica’s views on anything are her own, and may only be flavored by the EOC rather than direct EOC doctrine.

  • 20. jazelle  |  November 30, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    “God is imaginary”, when in hell you can apply the same logic my friend, “bury your head in that hole a little deeper…”

    Yes I believe that if they deny that God exists they “hate” God, the very idea of them choosing to deny is evidence that he exists. What do just moderately dislike Him, no.

    And as for Him haven proven Himself to me…yes, I have modern day miracles to reference, my water did not turn to wine, my disease not cured, but my eyes were opened.

    If you continue to need Him to come down in the flesh and answer all of your hard questions know that will never happen. He was made a spectacle and crucified once already for you. You questioned Him in the streets and persecuted him and weren’t convinced then. Sometimes you have to accept things you don’t know the answer to, we accept things everyday that we don’t understand, it is called “faith”, the bible says blessed are those that see and yet still believe. I choose to walk by faith, what am I risking in doing this, your high regard for me, I think not, but…I could be risking everything should I choose not to believe. Besides that, I want to believe, I said He has proven Himself to me, He has. I have had some very intense life experiences, some amazing stories I could tell you.

    Is it cold for me to love my God more than my family, he gave me life, gives breath to my beautiful children, my family, I think it is wise for me to love the one who gave life more than life itself.

    GODSPEED my friends

    I am glad you are seeking even though you would never admit it, and I appreciate the way people can speak freely on this site.

  • 21. LeoPardus  |  November 30, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    Yes I believe that if they deny that God exists they “hate” God, the very idea of them choosing to deny is evidence that he exists.

    You deny the existence of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, pink unicorns, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and heffalumps I’ll bet. So that must constitute evidence that they actually exist.

    Good logic there.

    I have modern day miracles to reference, my water did not turn to wine, my disease not cured, but my eyes were opened……. I have had some very intense life experiences, some amazing stories I could tell you

    I don’t think you mean you were blind. Intense or amazing experiences don’t constitute proof either. They are purely subjective. And I assure you that you can find folks of every stripe of belief and non-belief who will relate intense/amazing experiences to you.

    the bible says blessed are those that see and yet still believe

    You need to actually read your Bible.

    Besides that, I want to believe,

    There’s the crux of the matter. You want a faith, a big Daddy that will take care of things, and so on. I want the truth. Even if it leaves me alone in a big, hard universe.

  • 22. HeIsSailing  |  November 30, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    jazelle says:

    I love my GOD more than my family members, as HE loved them so much He sacrificed His only Son for the forgiveness of their sins….etc…

    jazelle, your comment is truly the saddest thing I have read in a long time. I mean that sincerely.

  • 23. HeIsSailing  |  November 30, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    Karen asks:

    Yikes. I bet you were “popular” at work. Seriously, how did your colleagues take it? Did you ever succeed at converting anyone?

    Thanks for asking Karen. During the peak of my evangelistic fervor, I was working as a cook at a high volume restaurant back around 1990-1994. Actually I was pretty popular and well liked by most everyone there. We could be stuck back on the prep line for hours at a time, so we talked often about anything and everything under the sun. We debated taboos like religion and politics often, so I could evangelize often and not offend. A pretty patient bunch of folks, I guess that is why I liked them. I managed to get a couple to go to church with me, and yes, I did personally “lead one to the Lord”. All in all, I have many fond memories of those days, Karen.

  • 24. the chaplain  |  November 30, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    HIS:
    This is an outstanding conclusion to a fabulous series. Thank you for all of your hard thought and work.

    In the first comment, Richard said;
    “I have a theory that the idea of close loved ones going to hell serves as an index of to what degree ones conscience has fbeen hijacked by the fundamentalist ethos. If you do not recoil from this idea, to the core of your being, that someone you love will be tortured forever — excuse me, be allowed to choose to have themselves tortured forever — by the same God you affirm and worship, well, then your conscience has finally and fully evaporated, totally consumed by the Christian fundamentalist meme.”

    Sadly, at several points throughout this thread we have seen, in Jazelle, an example of what Richard wrote about.

    Since my deconversion, I’ve come to the conclusion that, even if I’m wrong and the Christian God does exist, and the Christian portrayal of Him is pretty accurate, I still reject Him. I cannot worship such a heartless God, and I certainly cannot love Him. If such a God does exist, I can only loathe Him.

  • 25. Quester  |  November 30, 2007 at 9:55 pm

    Like some of you, this doctrine slowly tore me apart as I grew older, thought about it more, and met people my beliefs told me were going to Hell. Like Karen, Lewis’ Great Divorce gave me some comfort. Karl Rahner’s inclusivist theology and the Linns’ Healing our Image of God also contributed in giving me some breathing space. Eventually, I came to the point where I have a hard time believing in Hell, which over a matter of years brought me to the point where I’m having a hard time believing in God. That’s why I’m here.

    But still, in the odd moments, I find myself praying that God will not torture those who are not saved because I did not witness, but would find some way to open their hearts despite my failure to act on God’s behalf.

    The quote I’ve seen oft cited on the Internet, “Prayer: a way of doing nothing while convincing yourself you’re helping.” can really bite deep, sometimes.

  • 26. LeoPardus  |  November 30, 2007 at 10:11 pm

    Good stuff as usual HIS:

    It’s interesting to me that the issue of hell is a big problem for many. I understand why too when I think of what is taught about it so often.

    For some reason I took a different tack on hell long ago, despite hearing the same sort of teachings you did.

    I did take on some of the “coping methods” you mentioned. Notably “somehow God will make us see them as he does – truly worthy of eternal damnation.” That made some sort of sense to me.

    And I also took to the idea that people didn’t want to have to do with God, so God wasn’t really being nasty, He was just saying, “OK. You can be on your own.” That led to my understanding of hell as simply being totally on your own with nothing provided. No light, no food, no companions, just you.

    Somehow I took that to be “just what you’d asked for” and thus totally justified.

    But now I can see that is no different than the fire and brimstone version. Solitary confinement drives people mad sometimes. It’s not pretty or nice or loving. In fact it’s a means of punishment and torture. So my effort of justify or mollify hell still left God in the torture business.

    But something else you said got me thinking of how Christians hold this horrible doctrine. Just part of it was, ”Thank you God, for my eternal reward for being faithful to you. No I do not deserve it, but you are most gracious.”

    Here I see plainly the root of the Christian faith, and one of the main reasons I finally could no longer believe. It’s all about ‘ME’: my salvation; my walk with the Lord; my eternal reward; me getting out of hell; my sanctification. And of course we hear self-centered quips like, “God blessed me with a new job, nice home, cancer remission, lovely wife, etc.”

    So we have people who can thank God for blessing them with a parking space close to the door of their favorite restaurant, while ignoring that God has not blessed millions of other praying folks with so much as enough food to avoid starvation. Is it any surprise that they can look forward to their “heavenly bliss” and not worry about the eternal anguish of others?

    HEY, HEY! As long as I get mine, the rest can get what they deserve. I.e. HELL :@

  • 27. the chaplain  |  November 30, 2007 at 11:35 pm

    Leo:
    You nailed it. Christianity is a supremely narcissistic religion.

  • 28. Yurka  |  December 1, 2007 at 12:19 am

    Friend, you need to listen to wayofthemasterradio.com and Ray Comfort. Maybe you were a false convert and had only the fear of Hell instead of love of God. That’s no reason to all of a suddenly rebel – if you have a clear perception of Hell it have strengthened your witness, as it has done with Ray Comfort and Todd Friel.

  • 29. Jon F  |  December 1, 2007 at 1:09 am

    The ancients almost universally understood “heaven” to be up (indeed the hebrew qord for heavan is the same as the word for sky), and “hell” to be down, therefore it is not surprising that, on witnessing volcanic and geothermal activity, they concluded that the underworld was a place of burning sulphurous molten lava and most unpleasant indeed, just as angels “up in heavan” would need wings to fly.
    What is surprising is that, 2000 years later, there are still people who cannot see this simple and obvious association of the ancients is no longer in the slightest bit meaningful or relevant.
    Thank God I’m free of this fear-based superstition!
    Thanks for this great post.
    Jon

  • 30. Rachel  |  December 1, 2007 at 1:31 am

    “It should be note of course that Frederica’s views on anything are her own, and may only be flavored by the EOC rather than direct EOC doctrine.”

    Oh, I know that. I just thought it might be beneficial to the discussion if we looked a version of hell that wasn’t your typical fire and brimstone bit. :)

  • 31. The de-Convert  |  December 1, 2007 at 1:35 am

    Here’s a quote from JumpingFromConclusions’ blog:

    http://jumpingfromconclusions.blogspot.com/

    Amazing Grace

    ….When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
    Bright shining as the sun,
    We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
    Than when we’ve first begun.

    This was my favorite hymn. It’s uplifting, and it is very emotional for a believer. But that last verse bothered me. I don’t know if I even knew that verse before college, but when we sang it at chapel services, it bothered me. It bothered me because it made me think. It made me think of most of the men and women who ever lived. Because the damned wouldn’t be thinking about singing God’s praise. And the verse barely has to be changed to make any hell-believing Christian cringe (unless they have no heart).

    When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
    Hot, burning as the sun,
    We’ve no less days to scream in pain
    Than when we’ve first begun.

  • 32. LeoPardus  |  December 1, 2007 at 2:43 am

    Yurka:

    Let’s see. You get three points for tossing off three of the “Simplified reasons people leave” excuses that Christians love to use. Yours were:
    1 You were a false convert
    2 You didn’t love God
    3 You’re rebelling

    Maybe Karen has the rest of the list and can give it to you for future reference. This will help you to have a handy list of readily applicable labels that you can slap on any de-converts you encounter. That way you can nicely pigeon-holed them and avoid trying to understand them. It will help to keep your faith nice and tidy.

    Ray Comfort and Todd Friel

    Hey! They’re great! Ray gave us the “banana argument” that proves intelligent design. …. Bananas ergo Deus. :)

  • 33. HeIsSailing  |  December 1, 2007 at 7:34 am

    Leopardus:

    For some reason I took a different tack on hell long ago, despite hearing the same sort of teachings you did.

    Based on the Frederica article linked by Rachel, it seems to me the EOC has a more moderate and sane view of damnation than the more Fundamentalist protestant churches I stuck with. Maybe that is why you were never bothered with it too much.

  • 34. LeoPardus  |  December 1, 2007 at 11:59 am

    HIS:

    The EOC does have a more moderated view of hell. It’s a confusing one though. Unfortunately, when I tried to get clarification on the confusing parts, I ended up with “It’s a mystery” for an explanation. That happens a lot in the EOC (and in the RCC).

    But I only got to the EOC in early 2004. I’d developed my view of hell long before then. But of course I was always a heretic no matter where I was. Unlike so many others, I could just never swallow every word that proceeded from the pulpit.

    See?! I was always a rebel; I had a contentious spirit; I wouldn’t accept the truths of god; I was really a heretic; I was never saved; ………………

    Oops! Guess that was my ‘old nature’ showing . :D

  • 35. karen  |  December 2, 2007 at 1:54 am

    Here’s the “reasons people pin on us” list:

    You are rebelling against God
    You have rejected God
    You are turning your back on God
    You are godless and `angry at life’
    You are not `open’
    Something made you `turn away’?
    You don’t want to believe in God
    You have another God, i.e. Science
    You want to be God and be in charge (Rick Warren)
    There is a battle going on for your soul and you are losing
    You have `decided’ there is no God
    You are running from God
    You’re mad at god
    You were in the wrong denomination/sect/religion and never got right teaching
    You’re running away because you were hurt by the church/your pastor/other Christians/bad doctrine
    You need to get your eyes off of humans and back onto Jesus
    You were a “false convert” who never truly accepted Jesus/the holy spirit/god’s word
    Your may have converted but your heart was never actually changed (i.e., the seed fell on the bad soil)
    You’re looking for reasons to reject god so you can be sexually promiscuous (Dinesh D’Souza recently said this)

  • 36. HeIsSailing  |  December 2, 2007 at 2:30 am

    Karen:

    You’re looking for reasons to reject god so you can be sexually promiscuous (Dinesh D’Souza recently said this)

    Your kidding, right? Wow, the word is out. I hope my wife does not find out :-P

    Seriously though, I have to wonder how many apostate Christians D’Souza actually asked when conducting this research. How did he come to this conclusion?

  • 37. LeoPardus  |  December 2, 2007 at 3:36 am

    D’Souza ask someone about something???
    D’Souza do research???
    D’Souza doesn’t need to do any such stuff. He just KNOWS!

  • 38. Yurk  |  December 2, 2007 at 3:47 pm

    I didn’t mean to be pat – I see I must tell you a hard truth. What if a memeber of a mafia family reformed? Should he reject his newfound knowledge of right and wrong and hate it, simply because the law might punish his family? This is emotionalism. It should be rejected. Darwin made the same mistake. We don’t have the same relation to God that we do to each other. To each other we are fellow prisoners on death row – we have no right to judge each other. But God is our Judge – holy and righteous. It doesn’t make sense to complain that he acts in this capacity towards us. This is made even more wrong-headed since He offers everyone a free pardon – if only they would accept it!

  • 39. Yurka  |  December 2, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    If one is Christian, one must accept the doctrine:
    http://www.jonathan-edwards.org/Eternity.html

    The hard truth:
    http://www.reformed.org/documents/Edwards/index.html?mainframe=/documents/Edwards/edwards_endofwicked.html

    Accept it and come to your senses!
    http://www.leaderu.com/cyber/books/edwards/sinners.html

  • 40. LeoPardus  |  December 2, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    Yurk:

    Let me tell you a hard truth. Just because you happen to believe something, doesn’t make it true.

    Here’s another one for you. Making bald statements that can’t be supported, is not persuasive. It just makes you look like a mindless bigot.

  • 41. cipher  |  December 2, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    I’m just coming late to this. I agree with everything that is being said here – other than what is being said by the fundamentalists, of course.

    Yurk included a link to a Jonathan Edwards site. Appropriate, because it speaks to the problem of a Christian contemplating the fate of his unsaved loved ones. Edwards said that a father would have the opportunity to watch the torture of his damned child in hell, and would enjoy the spectacle, as it would glorify God and demonstrate his righteous judgment. Ladies and gentlemen – Christianity.

    LeoPardus – thank you for saying that about D’Souza. Dear God, he is a tool! Never could stand the man. I believe he was brainwashed by Jesuits as a child (Catholic school, if I remember correctly), and now, the rest of us are paying for it. A poster child for the Right, one of their token ethnic “success stories” – “See, we aren’t all just rich old white guys!” Deplorable.

    LeoPardus also said, HEY, HEY! As long as I get mine, the rest can get what they deserve. I.e. HELL

    I’ve been making this complaint about Christianity for years. I used to hang out a lot with Buddhists (although I wasn’t one myself). In Mahayana Buddhism, the larger of the two remaining forms, the goal is to become a Boddhisattva, an enlightened being who could become a Buddha, and enter into Nirvana – a deathless, blissful state that we are told is beyond description. Instead, the Boddhisattva chooses to remain within samsara, the endless cycle of birth and death, taking whatever form is necessary in order to help other beings to attain enlightenment. And, as the number of sentient bengs is believed to be infinite, the job never actually ends!

    There is a Bodhisattva prayer, that the Dalai Lama recites every day –

    As long as space endures
    And sentient beings remain
    May I, too, remain
    To dispel the misery of the world

    In Buddhism, the goal is to become a being whose compassion has become so all-pervading that one willingly postpones one’s own “salvation” indefinitely for the benefit of all other sentient beings. In Christianity, the attitude it, “I’ve got mine; you get yours.” A PROFOUND difference.

    But, of course, it just seems preferable to me because I am a godless secular Jew who has rejected God’s free gift of salvation, because I want to lead a life of hedonism and debauchery. I don’t have the holy spirit to whisper the secrets of creation in my ear, to make sense of the whole obscene mess. And, of course, my greatest crime is saying these things in front of fundies, so that they have to confront their own lurking doubts, instead of being able to stave them off for a while longer. – so I deserve the endless torment that awaits me. Troglodytes.

  • 42. cipher  |  December 2, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    And I wouldn’t pay too much attention to Frederica Mathewes-Green. She may be Greek Orthodox – but she still writes for Christianity Today, the flagship evangelical mouthpiece.

  • 43. Yurka  |  December 3, 2007 at 9:26 am

    “Making bald statements that can’t be supported, is not persuasive. It just makes you look like a mindless bigot.”

    LP, I am not simply making assertions – have you taken the Good Test? http://www.wayofthemaster.com/goodperson.shtml

    Your answers are objective data, not me simply making unsupported assertions. You (and me and everyone) are guilty – this is fact.

  • 44. LeoPardus  |  December 3, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    Yurka:

    I am not simply making assertions – have you taken the Good Test?

    That was hilarious! What a crock! You take the test and they ignore your answers entirely.

    Your answers are objective data,

    You need to develop an understanding of the term “objective”.

    You (and me and everyone) are guilty

    Of what? Of violating some precepts of a particular religion? Of falling under the interpretation of the precepts of a particular religion that you happen to choose to believe?

    - this is fact.

    You need to develop an understanding of the term “fact”.

  • 45. Rachel  |  December 3, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    I clicked on that link but it was too painful to watch the whole thing. I’m glad I discovered Christ before I heard Kirk Cameron. :)

  • 46. HeIsSailing  |  December 3, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    Yurka:

    LP, I am not simply making assertions – have you taken the Good Test?

    Wow, sorry I clicked on that link. Just for a twist, I hope someday Kirk Cameron proves our sinfulness by enumerating the 10 commandments of Exodus 34 rather than the more familiar Exodus 20. That ought to be good for a chuckle or two.

  • 47. Matt  |  December 5, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    Not all Christians believe in Hell, the early church didn’t either. Hellfire was only a Roman (or Carthage) teaching amongst 8 other schools of theology. The Dark Ages proved that the Hellfire version was the most powerful for governments, thus making it prevelant today. The original Christianity had no eternal hellfire, as goes with Judaism. The Jews weren’t looking for a Messiah to save them from Hell… Anyway, I could go on and on, but check out
    The Case against hell:
    http://www.tentmaker.org/articles/ifhellisreal.htm
    Yes, there arte lots of Christians that don’t believe in Hell. It’s funny that atheists and agnostics hate religion so much, but truely sometimes they are just as narrow-minded as fundamentalists. Now THAT pisses me off. I hate narrow-mindedness, in atheists, and in Christians.

  • 48. cipher  |  December 6, 2007 at 12:08 am

    I don’t know if that’s true, that early Christianity had no eternal hell. I know that some of the early theologians were universalists – Origen, for example, if memory serves – but their teachings were proscribed and condemned as heresy once Constantine took over, if not earlier. But I think that it was always there. And I think the Jews and Christians got it from diverse sources, although I was told by my religion prof more than thirty years ago that it was primarily from the Zoroastrians.

    In any case, I am certainly not going to try to dissuade a Christian universalist. I wish that all Christians were.

  • 49. Yurka  |  December 6, 2007 at 12:10 am

    This article doesn’t even mention the passages speaking of the doctrine of hell as everlasting punishment, such as Matthew 25 and Rev 14. I’m sure this person means well, but his untruths will cause more harm than good in the end. It all reduces to emotional pleading in the end, it’s hardly a scholarly article. You think R.C. Sproul, John Piper, Albert Mohler, etc. aren’t acquainted with early church history, etc.? You can hardly pull out one early church father Origen (afaik the only ECF with these strange views) and use that as a basis to claim hell is a medieval invention.

    Matt also confuses the senses of narrowminded. If by that he means unreasonably not accepting facts he’s correct narrowmindedness is bad (in fact I think he may be ‘narrowminded’ in this sense by denying the biblical teaching of hell). If by narrowminded he means sticking to the truth even if it some people don’t like it, and correcting those people out of love, then there’s nothing wrong with being ‘narrowminded’.

  • 50. Matt  |  December 6, 2007 at 1:13 am

    Yurka I dont think I’m wrong, nor do I think I ‘m confusing any senses. Narrowminded would be viewing the biblical teaching of hell as uncontested, proven, and 100% accurate despite reasonable questions, despite schools of theology agianst it, and so on and so fourth.

    Sticking to the truth even if some people don’t like it… I believe that’s exactly what anti-theists do, fundamentalist muslims, christians, and so on and so fourth. Sticking to the truth, as you perceive it.

    If my theology is wrong, I’ll be the first to admit it. I claim no monopoly on truth. I just choose to believe the Apostolic Creed, which mentions nothing of hell or enternal punishment.

  • 51. Matt  |  December 6, 2007 at 1:15 am

    Universalism was a fairly commonly held view among theologians in early Christianity: In the first five or six centuries of Christianity there were six known theological schools, of which four (Alexandria, Antioch, Cesarea, and Edessa or Nisibis) were Universalist, one (Ephesus) accepted conditional immortality, and one (Carthage or Rome) taught the endless punishment of the lost.[1]. The two major theologians opposing it were Tertullian and Augustine.[citation needed] In later centuries, Universalism has become very much a minority position in the major branches of Christianity, though it has a long history of prominent adherents.

  • 52. cipher  |  December 6, 2007 at 10:40 am

    Matt,

    I agree about Augustine – a classic self-loather who projected his pathologically low self esteem onto the rest of humanity, establishing a strand of thought that has poisoned Christianity. The idea was sustained by those who came after – Aquinas, Luther, Calvin. I’ve become convinced that those revered as the church’s greatest minds have done it the most harm.

    In the other thread, you asked me not to condemn religious people. I don’t, actually; I’m not even much of an atheist myself, strictly speaking. I’m not even a very good agnostic. It’s guys like this Yurka character who push me over the edge; they’ve been tormenting me all of my life. You can see how they think – even attempting to find a universalist strain within Christianity amounts to little more than sentimental pleading in their view. We’re all born inherently deserving of eternal damnation. And he seems to be enamored of Calvinists like Piper, who believe that God has ordained, from the beginning of time, who is to be saved and who is to be damned – but, somehow, we all still “deserve” it. And none of this makes God a bad guy. We just can’t understand, with our puny human minds, the ultimate rightness of it all.

    Yurka, you’re a piece of work. People like you have convinced me that humanity is a terminal species, that we cannot solve our problems and that we’re almost out of time.

    Matt, btw, we may both be correct about the source of the idea of eternal damnation. It might have come from the Romans, who were influenced by the Manichaeism, which was either an offshoot of or influenced by (I’ve come across both opinions) Zoroastrianism. In any case, it was a dualistic Persian religion. Although, as I recall, the Egyptians had it as well, at least during their later periods. As with all things, it’s all very muddled, and we can’t be certain. Well, you and I can’t be. Yurka is. God told him.

  • 53. Matt  |  December 6, 2007 at 11:15 am

    The beatuy of it is that even Paul said something very close to “it’s all very muddled” One of my favorite passages in the Bible is where Paul talks about thinking like a child, and then when he became mature, and became more of an adult, he realizes that we see through a glass darkly, that the truth wont be revealed in his lifetime.

    That is interpreted in a number of ways.. For a fundamentalist, it has to be interpreted in a way that doesn’t harm their fundie teaching. For a person like me, it reinforces my healthy, doubting, mind.

    Cipher, keep your free-thinking attitude. I believe free-thinkers are a gift from God himself. If there is a hell, people who condemn others and abuse them emotionally, spiritually, and physically out of “love” will get their just desserts.

    My personal opinion is that there is no hell, and a closer look at the words used for eternal, and the words translated as “hell” are mis-represented at best. Further research and fair questioning with the Bible alone indicates eternal damnation is a stretch.

    If all humanity is condemned, then Mercy cannot triumph over justice, love does not win, and Jesus dying on the Cross means absolutely nothing. In Jewish history, Go’ds “wrath” and “judgement” was never placed in a spiritual realm, but always took place in the natural world.

    THe mistranslated words for “eternal” when speaking of torment all come from a greek word that means “eon” which means AGE. which means it has an end. When speaking of God we get a different root word all together, which means Immortal, everlasting, without end, etc. The difference raises a question that a fnudie HAS to push under the rug to prevent a mental breakdown.

    Cipher, you have every right to get pissed off at fundies and I know they have hurt you in the past. They have hurt me too. I believe you need healing, and as you embrace free-thinking, and announce your own beliefs, healing willl come. My only plea is to avoid bitterness and resentment. To forgive them, for they know not what they do. But that is entirely up to you, and in the long run, God loves you and udnerstands completely why you cant stand fundamentalism. He hated the pharisees of the past, and he hates them of today. I can’t stand them either. RIghteous judgement? on them I say, on them..

  • 54. Matt  |  December 6, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    If Hell is real, why didn’t God make that warning plain right at the beginning of the Bible? God said the penalty for eating of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was death- -not “eternal life” in fire and brimstone.

    If Hell is real, why wasn’t Cain warned about it, or Sodom and Gomorrah , or any of those who committed the earliest recorded “sins?”

    If Hell is real why didn’t Moses warn about this fate in the Ten Commandments or the Mosaic Covenant consisting of over 600 laws, ordinances, and warnings? The Mosaic Law simply stated blessings and cursings in this lifetime.

    If Hell is real, why are its roots in paganism, rather than the Bible? Many nations surrounding Israel in the Old Testament believed in Hell-like punishment in the afterlife, for they served bloodthirsty and evil “gods,” while Israel simply taught the grave (sheol) and a hope of a resurrection. If Hell is real, why was the revelation of it first given to pagan nations, instead of God’s covenant people? Did God expect Israel to learn about the afterlife from the Pagan Gentiles? If so, why did He repeatedly warn Israel to not learn of their ways?

    If Hell is real, why did God tell the Jews that burning their children alive in the fire to the false god Molech, (in the valley of Gehenna ) was so detestable to Him? God said that such a thing “never even entered His mind” (Jer. 32:35). How could God say such a thing to Israel , if He has plans to burn alive a good majority of His own creation in a spiritual and eternal Gehenna of His own making?

    **FACT: The King James Bible erroneously translates the word “Sheol” as Hell a total of 31 times

  • 55. cipher  |  December 6, 2007 at 9:56 pm

    Matt, one thing – I know you’re referring to the word anionios. Universalists always say that it’s been incorrectly translated as “eternal”, that it doesn’t have the same connotation. Their opponents counter that the same word is used to describe the duration of one’s stay in heaven, so why translate it as “eternal’ in one context, but not in the other? I’ve never heard a really good answer to this. I did come across something recently – I can’t remember where and I don’t want to misquote – to the effect that it can be mean either, depending upon the context. This fellow was arguing for universalism, and claimed that the contexts in each case were different.

    This isn’t a problem for me, as I’m not a believer, but I’m curious as to how you respond when you’re arguing with “conventional” Christians and they hit you with this.

  • 56. HeIsSailing  |  December 7, 2007 at 6:50 am

    Matt:

    Anyway, I could go on and on, but check out
    The Case against hell…

    Matt, Thanks for the link. I have am aware of these kinds of arguments, and I agree many of them are quite valid! (ie Sheol does NOT equal Hell). In the end though, I think the concept of Hell certainly evolved over time as you look through the Biblical writings. I think it is explicit in Revelation, and to a lesser degree in portions of Matthew. When you get to much later writings like the Apocalypse of Peter, you get the concept of Hell fully developed – so you can see how the ideas and myths evolved and grew with time.

    At any rate, I think you have a very healthy perspective on Biblical inspiration and your Christian walk. As a former Fundamentalist, I really appreciate when you say things like:

    If my theology is wrong, I’ll be the first to admit it. I claim no monopoly on truth. I just choose to believe the Apostolic Creed, which mentions nothing of hell or enternal punishment.

    Most of my Christian friends would never budge in the Truth department. They cannot ever admit that they could possibly be wrong, and they are just doing the best they can along with everyone else. That is the main difference that I have learned when I left Christianity. All of us, me included, believe some things that are just wrong. We are all wrong about something, everyone reading this has an assumption about life that is not correct – but that is ok. We are all just doing the best we can, and hopefully learning and doing better in the process.

  • 57. Matt  |  December 7, 2007 at 9:19 am

    Hey cipher, my personal argument would be that heaven isn’t eternal either. The answer would be neither.

    Another way I look at this, is that JEsus speaking of eternal life meaning that simply the human race benefits and thus the race (our children’s children, and so on) will continue and continue and continue.

    Those are two different ways I look at it. But personally, I would say since Mercy triumphs over Justice, Love wins, and God came to save the Lost, and every knee will bow, and every tongue confess, and all the nations will have peace, then all will be reconciled to God.

    Honestly I have always thought, that heaven might not be at all what most Christians think. That we might be in a different state of consionsness. That maybe we’ll be a part of God, like a cell is to the body, maybe we won’t even remember our human lives, etc. I ponder those things because they are not made clear in the Bible either.

    I have also thought of the Lake of Fire, and thought of it as God destroying the Evil in us, but the Good in us goes with him.

    Another Lake of Fire issue I have is: How can the LAke of Fire burn someone forever? Surely, that someone would burn up and die. A second spiritual death? That must mean dead all the way? Jesus using the words “perish” also doesnt mean everlasting torment. Just some more inconsistencies I have with eternal damnantion, and spiritual punishments.

    I have many ideas, which I think of and ponder, because I really don’t subscribe fully to any denomination, and “am my own”

    HelIsSailing: Yeah, I’m really sorry for what fundamentalism has done to you. I know too well that fundamentalism can destroy people. It can abuse them so badly, torment them. I have a friend at my church where he was in the psych ward then in deprogramming institutes for 12 years because of a CULT (which is worse than fundamentalism but damn close, damn close I say)

    Anyway, what I belieive is what I believe, and I just “know it” – I believe in this Jesus stuff. becuase I want to. Because I find hoep in it, because I find love in it, because I find mystery in it. But I don’t think I’m right, I know I could be fully flat-faced wrong. But I dont think anyone is right anywqy. When I was an atheist. I felt the same way. Only difference is, I have a good chruch family who is just like me (intellectual and always challenging theology) I’m glad I found a church that works for me.

    I call myself a Christian. But I honestly would like to label myself a Secular Humanist Christian. If that makes any sense at all. lol

    I think the greatest gift from God is secularism. The beauty of secularism is we can all unite together DESPITE our differences. I love that, more than anything else.

  • 58. cipher  |  December 7, 2007 at 10:18 am

    Honestly I have always thought, that heaven might not be at all what most Christians think. That we might be in a different state of consionsness. That maybe we’ll be a part of God, like a cell is to the body, maybe we won’t even remember our human lives, etc.

    This is the mystical answer. It’s also the answer of much of Indian religion (“Hinduism”, although I don’t like the term; it’s a made-up Western concept). I don’t know that I even believe that much any more, but I’ve always preferred it, as it’s the most inclusive, and the neatest (Occam’s razor and all). The Kabbalists say that when the Bible tells us that God is one, it isn’t saying that there’s only one God – it’s saying that God is all there is.

    This is why I can’t communicate with fundamentalists. We’re almost literally speaking two different languages.

  • 59. Matt  |  December 7, 2007 at 10:32 am

    Hey Cipher, it is very hard to reason with a fundamentalist. What I have noticed in my short life, is that every time I would question a fundamentalist, or display a concern for Bible errancy, they would make me feel guilty. I don’t know how they would do it, but it was always some way to guilt me into thinking I shouldn’t have asked them in the first place.

    I find effectiveness in questioning though, because it breaks things apart. With a fundie, when directing them questions, they can be broken into pieces, and at sometimes, although they wont admit it, come in clash with their own reality.

    I can say that I don’t necessarily follow that belief(the one akin to hinduiism), but I think of it as a major possibility, because the BIble does not say we’re going to have the same names, we’re going to recognize each other, or anything like that at all. It says we’ll be in heavenly bodies, which could be anything, and more or less completely different.

    What my main point is, I don’t think anyone really knows to be honest. Which makes it all the more a mystery, and in some ways, imaginative and hopeful. In other ways, downright destructive.

  • 60. GraceHead  |  January 28, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    You are onto something there …
    NO SUCH HELL
    proof
    http://gracehead.com/index.php/2007/10/28/p287
    the myth
    http://gracehead.com/index.php/2006/03/01/p258
    God, hates “hell”
    http://trumpetcallofgodonline.com/index.php5?title=Proclaim_NOT_the_Hell_of_the_Church_of_Men…In_Their_Word_is_No_Mercy_Found%2C_Only_the_Makings_of_Satan

  • 61. D.C.  |  March 20, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Interesting logic and reason for rejecting your salvation.
    We all struggle at given points with these thoughts and I wont go into an apologetic explanation or witticism because no one can argue with a made up mind- I would like to share one thing from a person who struggled with the same thing in her search for peace of heart and mind. She had been searching her soul for years and asking God for some answers before making any decision to accept Christ as savior. She said that she was sitting in the back row of a little church on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State struggling with her knowledge that her mom and dad had been practicing pagans when alive (as she was at that time) and according to what she knew the bible said they were now in hell. As she pondered about this she said she heard a voice ask her this question: “how long are you going to hold your parents choices against me?”.

  • 62. Quester  |  March 20, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    To that voice, D.C., I respond, “Until your response to their choices conforms to the character you claim.”

  • 63. HeIsSailing  |  March 20, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    DC
    “how long are you going to hold your parents choices against me?”

    That sounds like a voice of fear. As for me, I cannot side with a diety who would condemn my parents to everlasting hell. It is against any ethical or moral standard that makes sense to me, so how can I worship with a Being who will do this in the name of Righteousnes – except out of fear? I am sorry DC, but that is too high a price for me to pay.

    If your friend ever faces the God who cast her pagan parents into Hell, will she tell God that his judgements to her parents were righteous, just, loving and true? You know she won’t. Nobody can do that – yet that is what the Christian is forced to believe. That is too large a logical disconect for me, and I cannot bridge that. I can only live my life to what makes sense to me – and I cannot pretend otherwise out of fear.

  • 64. Drew  |  June 26, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Hey, I feel your frustration. I am a Christian, I love God, I do share my faith and I do have family members who are not saved who I am concerned about.

    One thing that I would like to say is that I never believe it is wrong for us to question God or the bible! This is how I have learned much of what i know. I dont question God acusingly, but with an open heart, in faith, telling God i cant understand this certain thing and this makes no sense to me. GOD IS NOT AFRAID OF OUR QUESTIONS.

    So many people are not real with themselves, or with God. They will believe a thing, because their church or pastor told them so, but never trully search it out for themselves. This is blindness! We must search for truth and be in constant prayer to God to reveal this truth according to His Word, no matter how hard or confusing it may seem.

    Real quick about the questions your mom had. Well for one, Jesus said that we will not even have wives or husbands in heaven, we will be like the angels. I dont know exactly what that means. But I do know that God looks at family alittle dif. that we do. I mean really all of our ancestors are the same anyway, I believe from Adam and Eve, but if you dont, we all are related somwhere along the way. And Jesus said, who are my brothers and mother and sisters? Those who do the wil of God are my family. So in Heaven, we wont nes. have family like we have it now, we think of flesh and blood, but in Heaven we will have more like spiritual family. I dont believe you will recognize your mom as “your mom” but rather another person who loves God (if she goes to Heaven). I am not exactly sure, i can reason. but regardless if I know all the answers or not, I KNOW God and I know His salvation, if I need to know thos questions your mom asked, then I believe God will reveal it to me as I seek Him in faith and trust.

    About eternal hell; your motive to tell your friends/family about Jesus(so they dont go to hell) was a worthy motive, you were trully concerned about them. However if you yourself did not trully understand your own need for Christ to redeem you, then it was only a matter of time for someone like your mom to steer onto another course.
    I am not going to use a whole lot of scripture here, just biblical reason from the scriptures.
    I am not sure if you believe in Heaven, but most people do and have no problem with it,because it will be wonderful. But hell, that is a place of torment and pain and fire, who want want to believe in that place, it is scary to think that ppl. will spend their whole eternity there. But we must know that God is LOVE. We must have an understanding of His holiness, His perfection. We must know that mankind totally blew it when we sinned against God in the garden. We have to understand that we are completely and totally lost! We have all personally broken Gods moral lawe, the 10 commandments. We have stolen, lied, lusted, dishonored our parents, ext. We have to see that if we are real withour selves, we will see we have indeed broken Gods law and we are Gods enemy! Gods wrath abides on those who’s sin is upon them. We have no hope in the world, we cannot control our sinful nature. Humanity is like Lord of the Flies, put any 20 people on a remote island and eventually evil will take over and it will be sin island. Just let children grow up with no parents or guidance, they dont have to be taught to steal and lie and fight, they learn it themselves, from within!
    We have all gone astray, and there is no human who does good(Gods standard of good is perfection!) Therefore all of humanity justly deserves hell! God set up the law(10 commandments) and if we keep them our lives will be blessed, if we dont keep them, curses will come upon us. God gave us the 10 commandments to show us that no one can keep them perfectly! No one at all. That means no one can enter the presence of God and none are righteous to enter Heaven!
    God is just, and because He is just, He must punish sin. Even in corrupt America, a judge would be considered unjust if they allowed an admitant rapist to go free. How much more Holy and Just is the creator of the universe.
    This why the good news of Jesus Christ is soooo good! Every single goody goody Christian deserves eternal hell because they violated and rebelled in sin against an eternal God!! However God so loved the world, that in HIs love and divine grace has made a way for us to escape the eternal hell we deserve! Jesus Christ never sinned and was perfect, and His death satisfied the wrath and the punishment that our dredful sin deserved, when He died on the cross, and was risen fromthe grave proving He had the power over hell!

  • 65. Mary  |  August 14, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Jesus Christ did not have religion, he taught us to love one another as he loved us. That is why America was created so we could love him without being crucified for our beliefs. One Nation Under God.

  • 66. Mary  |  August 14, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    John said, if everything Jesus said were written I don’t suppose their would be enough books to write it all down. I thought I’d give a little peace of some writings the Lord has given me to read.

    Thatcher’s American Indian Biography 1831

    He said, that Sachem once to Dover came,
    From Pennacook, when eve was setting in,
    With plumes his locks were dressed, his eyes shot flame;
    He struck his massy club with dreadful din,
    That oft had made the ranks of battle thin;
    Around his copper neck terrific hung
    A tied-together, bear and catamount skin;
    The curious fishbones o’er his bosom swung,
    And thrice the Sachem danced, and thrice the Sachem sung.

    Strange man was he! Twas said, he often pursued
    The sable bear, and slew him in his den;
    That often he howled through many a pathless wood,
    And many a tangled wild, and poisonous fen,
    That never was trod by other mortal men.
    The craggy ledge for rattlesnakes he sought,
    And choked them one by one, and then
    O’ertook the tall grey moose, as quik as thought,
    And then the mountains cat he caught.

    A wonderous wright! For over Siogee’s ice,
    With brindled wolves, all harnessed three and three,
    High seated on a sledge, made in trice,
    On mount Agiocochook*, of hickory,
    He lashed and reeled, and sung right jollily;
    And once upon a car of flaming fire,
    The dreadful Indian shook with fear, to see
    The King of Pennacook, his chief, his sir,
    Ride flaming up towards heaven, than any mountain higher.

    * The Indians name applied to the White Mountains. There is a curious tradition, preserved in Josselyn’s New England, of the
    veneration of the Indians for the summits of these moutains.
    They consider them the dwelling places of invisible beings, and
    never ventured to ascend them. They had also a tradition, that the whole country was once drowned, with all it’s inhabitants, except one Indian with his wife, who, foreseeing the flood, fled to these mountains, were preserved, and afterwards re-peopled the country.-

    New Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ
    translated from the Original Greek
    with original notes and practical observations.
    by Thomas Scott
    rester of Aston Sandford, Bucks, and Chaplain to the
    LOCK HOSPITAL.
    Published by Samuel T. Armstrong
    1815

    Matthew 11:v 9-12 year of the world 4001

    Notwithstanding the ignorance and inattention of the Jews, the eastern sages prosecuted the design of their journey, by setting out for Bethlehem: and to recompanse their pious and believing constancy, the star, which they had seen in their own country, again appeared to them, and, going before them, became stationary just above the house where Jesus was. Hence it appears, that it was no star, (properly called,) or planet, or comet; but a luminous meteor in our atmosphere, which at, a distance looked like a star, and which was formed by God for that purpose, and could descend so low, as to mark out a single house in the midst of the city. It is evident, that Mary and Joseph resided at this time.
    When the wise men saw the star, they were assured of success
    in their undertaking; and therefore they rejoiced exceedingly, and entered the house, which doubtless was a very different abode from what they had expected for the King, and having seen the infant Jesus, they were not offened by his mean circumstances, but acknowledged him as their Lord and King, prostrating themselves before him and worshipping him; and opening the teasures which they had brought for that purpose, they presented him with the chiocest productions of their country, even “gold frank and incense and myrrh”

    God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness hath shined in our hearts, to give light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

    But Mary; kept all these things in her mind, and pondered them in her heart.
    prehistory on August 14 2008 12:13:18
    Near the cross was Mary weeping,
    There her mournful station keeping,
    Gazing on her dying Son;
    There in speechless anguish groaning,
    Yearning, trembling, signing, moaning,
    Through her soul the sword had gone.

    He sleeps in the lap of the maiden he has saved,
    the mother of the new year, and the falsehood of the knight
    who claims the maid, who is the god dethroned by the god of light, is proved by the prodution of the wise men.

    The lapse of time, restore the dead prince to life by the healing root
    and bring him back to the wedding, where he proves his right to the bride.
    prehistory on August 14 2008 12:45:59
    The sacred depository of National lore, formed by the accredited
    national myth-makers from carefully-preserved recollections, handed down from generation to generation, and from tribr to tribe, and guarded from alteration by ignorant transmitters as taboo, which pronounce these records to be divine inspirations which it was sacrilegious to alter, and which were only accurately known by consecrated guardians of the national history.
    It was these people who formed the great confederacy of rules of the tortoise earth grouped round the mother-mountain of the East.

    The Creation

    Before this world came to be, there lived in the Sky-World an ancient chief. In the centerof his land , grew a beautiful tree which had four white roots stretching to each of the four directions; North, South, East, and West. From that beautiful tree, all good things grew.

    Then, it came to be the beautiful tree was uprooted, and through the hole it made in the Sky-World fell the youthful wife of the ancient chief, a handful od seeds, which she grabbed from the tree as she fell, clutched in her hand.

    Far below there was only water and water creatures who looked up as they swam.

    Someone comes they said, We must make room for her.
    The great turtle swam up from his place in the depths. There is room on my back, but there must be earth where she can stand.
    So these creatures dove as deeply as they could swimming to the bottom of the water and came up with a tiny speck of earth.

    Place the earth on my back the great turtle said, and as they spread the tiny speck of earth it grew larger and larger and larger until it became the whole world.

    Then the eagle and the dove flew up, and between their wings they caught the woman who fell from the sky. They brought her gently down to the earth where she dropped her handful of seed from the Sky-World.

    It was then the first plants grew and life on this earth began.
    prehistory on August 14 2008 13:08:36
    If I live, this accursed system of robbery and shame in our
    treatment of the Indians shall be reformed. ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

    In 1807 another “witch” was killed on the Allegany Reservation, at the Prophet’s direction.

    (Turner, 1849, p. 509)

  • 67. Mary  |  August 14, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    There are no better writters of History
    than those who sit upon Thrones.

  • 68. Obi  |  August 14, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    Mary said, “John said, if everything Jesus said were written I don’t suppose their would be enough books to write it all down.

    Actually, he said that if all of the “things” (which I’m assuming are miracles) Jesus did were written down, then the records would cover the Earth.

    John 21:25, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

    Other than that…long post.

  • 69. silentj  |  August 14, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    “There are no better writters of History
    than those who sit upon Thrones.”

    Really? Those are the folks that I’m usually the most suspect.

    I guess they’re really good at commissioning the writing of history.

  • 70. Alan McDougall  |  October 22, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Hi,

    This is something I struggle with. Infinite punishment for a finite transgression “TO ME” does not seem just, but I am not God.

    I asked God many times about the reality of hell and one night had a dream about it.

    There I did not see any what we call good people but I did see many of the depraved despots looking out at me from this dark bleak place

    So perhaps people like Hitler, Stalin are going to be punished in accordance with what they were responsible in life. Such as the death camp horrors.

    Will God annihilate their souls in the end I don’t know, but as for the unimaginably evil devil and his demons the bible says they will be tormented day and night forever and ever?

    Punishment and rewards are not all equal in the afterlife

    Alan

  • 71. Paul  |  March 27, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    I have a question. Assuming this creation is a typology of what is to come. And the theory that there is no hell. It seems to me to fly in the face of our reality whereas all of creation is bound by the laws of cause and effect. Therefore assuming I have the right to choose the action I wish ( which I most certainly do). It stands to reason thet I also have to endure the consequences of my choice.

    This very law is played over and over everyday of our lives. I overeat and I get fat. I break the law and I suffer the consequences, I plant seed and a flower grows.

    If the lake of fire ( hell is the grave and all are subject to that) is the ultimate end of those who persist in their choices and Heaven the ultimate end of the others.

    Why is this so unbelieveable?
    If the desenters are wrong, holy cow I hope they have some power to stand in my stead at the judgement ( assuming it exists!)

    Listen I know Religion is full of crap. It has turned the Bible into a mockery. But something tells me the book is right, Jesus is right. The problem is corrupt men and their agenda’s that is wrong.

    At least when I was all alone in my darkest hour that is what MY heart said to me.

    Just my thoughts.

    Paul

  • 72. LeoPardus  |  March 27, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    What is it about people that makes them think they can communicate with shitty grammar?

    Is it laziness, stupidity, some combination of both?

  • 73. Quester  |  March 27, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    The guy thinks the Bible needs religion to turn it into a mockery, and you think he should be able to handle complete sentences? Personally, I assume English isn’t his first language. It’s help explain his inability to read before writing.

  • 74. Quester  |  March 27, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    *laughs* “It’d”, not “It’s”. ‘Pride goeth’, and all that.

  • 75. Paul  |  March 27, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    I apologize for my apparent lack of grammatical finesse. I beg forgiveness from the “gods” of the English language here. Who have so graciously and humbly attacked my question rather than provide a legitimate response. I suppose if it presents difficulty to some attacke is the only response.
    Incidentally, I’m not sure if “shitty” is a legitimate word taught in English as a first language. So with regards to its use is that just laziness or….? Ask Quester he apparrently is an expert in the English language as well. LOL

  • 76. orDover  |  March 27, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    I beg forgiveness from the “gods” of the English language here. Who have so graciously and humbly attacked my question rather than provide a legitimate response.

    To be perfectly honest, you did not really present a question to be answered. You have your personal opinion, which you even admitted yourself. What can anyone say against it? I believe you are wrong. I believe you are unnecessarily extrapolating. That’s about it.

    Assuming this creation is a typology of what is to come. And the theory that there is no hell. It seems to me to fly in the face of our reality whereas all of creation is bound by the laws of cause and effect.

    Why would we assume there is anything to come? If there is anything to come, why would we assume the same sort of laws apply there as here. But you want those things given a priori. Okay.

    Therefore assuming I have the right to choose the action I wish ( which I most certainly do).

    The concept of “free will” is in no way a certainty. In fact, the most current research suggests that it is merely a construct of the brain.

    It stands to reason thet I also have to endure the consequences of my choice

    This very law is played over and over everyday of our lives. I overeat and I get fat. I break the law and I suffer the consequences, I plant seed and a flower grows.

    If the lake of fire ( hell is the grave and all are subject to that) is the ultimate end of those who persist in their choices and Heaven the ultimate end of the others. .

    But only if you first accept that:
    1. There is an afterlife
    2. The same rules apply there as here
    3. There is such a thing as free will
    4. Our actions in this life will carry over into the next

    What is your basis for all of these assumptions?

    Why is this so unbelieveable?

    Because it’s based on a slew of unproven and unsupported assumptions.

    If the desenters are wrong, holy cow I hope they have some power to stand in my stead at the judgement ( assuming it exists!)

    What? Is this a thinly veiled Pascal’s Wager?

    Listen I know Religion is full of crap. It has turned the Bible into a mockery. But something tells me the book is right, Jesus is right. The problem is corrupt men and their agenda’s that is wrong.

    At least when I was all alone in my darkest hour that is what MY heart said to me

    Ah. So, you have no real foundation of evidence for your ponderings? This is all based on “something” which tells you that the Bible is true, and the secret stirring of your heart? What about those who feel the same about the Koran. Should I listen to them, or should I listen to you?

    Look, Paul, if we accept all of the assumptions that you want us to accept, then yes, your logic makes sense. But we don’t. We see no evidence for an afterlife, so we don’t assume there is one. We see no evidence that there is hell, so we don’t assume there is one. To get us on board, you’re going to have to first prove all of your assumptions.

  • 77. Quester  |  March 27, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    orDover,

    You give Paul too much credit. His beliefs don’t even make sense within his assumptions. For if one is to posit a lake of fire that burns without consuming for time without ending, one can not also hold to the law of cause and effect. He hasn’t made it all the way to coherent, let alone defensible.

  • 78. orDover  |  March 27, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    Ha! I hadn’t realized that Quester. Good observation.

  • 79. BigHouse  |  March 28, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Paul is wrecking trains in other threads too…

  • 80. Helen  |  December 1, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    I stumbled upon your post whilst looking for something else. I mean no offense to you, quite the opposite. I have struggled with the ‘Problem of Hell’ for a while and have found some consolation that I wish to share with you. I hope you don’t mind me posting a link to a former pastor who also struggled as you did.

    http://www.tentmaker.org/articles/pastor_confession.html

    There are also many other wonderful, comforting articles on this site. I believe that as Peter said..God wills all to come to repentance and so life. As such, I am comfortable believing that God’s will be done. Jesus Christ, saviour of ALL mankind, especially those who believe.

    God bless you and all whom you care for.

  • 81. LeoPardus  |  December 1, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    Thank you Helen. Feel free to stick around and read a bit here to find out just who we are, who we were, and how we got to our conclusions.
    And thanks for not taking the all-too-usual, “Here you poor idjits. Let me set you aright,” approach.

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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