Hell does not Exist
There has never been any evidence supporting the existence of Hell. The only “proof” is from Bible quotes, which are posited as true simply because they are in the Bible. Jesus invented the idea of Hell (MAR 9:43; MAT 13:41-42), so he could gladly damn his opponents (JOH 15:16) to suit his all-or-nothing mindset (MAT 12:30; LUK 11:23). Hell was arguably Jesus’ only truly original idea; all of his other teachings were paraphrased or discovered beforehand by other religions or philosophers; and the harshest Old Testament punishment was a (comparatively simple) death penalty.
Despite these facts, many argue that Jesus was not that cruel or vindictive. Many liberal Christians have stated that Hell is just a metaphor for a total isolation from Christ and his love. However, if Christ is omnipresent, then this separation is impossible; if Christ is everywhere at all times, then he must also be in Hell (MAT 28:20). Besides, Jesus was emphatic that Hell was a real place (MAT 25:46, 41; 10:28; 13:42), to the point that he allowed himself to be crucified because he was convinced that it would somehow help keep other people out of there (JOH 5:24; 8:24).
Synopses of the most popular arguments against the existence of Hell are provided below.
- 1 Hell Reveals God's Hypocrisy
- 2 Heaven is a Miserable Place When Your Friends and Loved Ones are in Hell
- 3 Hell Indicates that God Values Justice Over Mercy
- 4 An All-knowing, Hell-creating God Must be Sadistic
- 5 An All-Powerful God Who Wanted to Save Everyone Would Have Done So
- 6 Hell is too Extreme to be a Just Punishment
- 7 Hell would be Disproportionately Populated
- 8 There is no Advantage to Believing in Hell
- 9 References
Hell Reveals God's Hypocrisy
Hell is incompatible with God's unconditional love. One of Christianity's major bulletpoints points of is that you should love everyone -- even your enemies -- and bestow forgiveness and mercy even to the undeserving. Yet God sends people to Hell, because he is a God of wrath -- meaning hate -- which is a contradiction: The God of Love is hatred personified.
The common counterarguments are based on:
- Denying the notion of God’s wrath, and re-interpret it as a projection of our own wrath.
- Reframing God’s wrath as being against sin, and not against sinners.
- Using doublethink to explain that “the fires of Hell are made from God’s love.” Sinners are tortured with love itself, as sinners have chosen to become the enemies of love.
However, if God’s wrath is not objectively real, is Hell not objectively real as well? Can Hell be interpreted non-literally? While that seems reasonable, Jesus clearly stated that Hell is a real, literal place (MAT 25:46, 41; 10:28; 13:42).
Heaven is a Miserable Place When Your Friends and Loved Ones are in Hell
This issue could occur in four ways:
- Those in Heaven are unaware if anyone in Hell; but then their “happiness” is based on a lie.
- Those in Heaven are aware their loved ones are in Hell, and are happy about this; but such people would be too selfish and cruel to deserve Heaven.
- Those in Heaven are aware their loved ones are in Hell, and are unhappy about this; but if the inhabitants are unhappy, what is the point of Heaven?
- The Amish rectify this issue by believing that everyone in Heaven is permanently anonymous; but this would be lonely.
Theologians counter-argue that since Heaven and Hell exist in different realms, they experience the passage time at different rates; Hell just seems like eternity, and those in Heaven are so caught up in the moment that they fail to notice the plight of the damned. However, this is pure speculation, and it can't guarantee that no one in Heaven would or could mourn for those in Hell. This response dodges the question without actually addressing the problem.
Hell Indicates that God Values Justice Over Mercy
Hell may be just, but it’s not merciful. We usually think of mercy as a relaxation, compromising, or even a contradiction of justice. How can divine attributes ever be compromised? Justice must discriminate between those who do and do not deserve mercy. Christ was explicit that Hell is a punishment, and any counterarguments are just word games based on switching between the two different concepts of law:
- Positive laws are posited or willed by man or god. Positive laws have changeable, negotiable punishments which can be influenced by mercy.
- Natural laws are not willed, and could not be different; they are necessary because they govern the nature of a thing. Natural laws are unchangeable and necessary, so violations of natural law are unpunishable because nature acts in such a way that precludes violation (e.g., gravity can't make things go up). Natural laws are invariant, and are thus mercy-exempt.
Hell contradicts God’s mercy for his positive laws, though it is a natural and necessary punishment for being a contrary-to-God kind of person. However, since God is the created of all things, these natures, and this dichotomy, were also posited.
An All-knowing, Hell-creating God Must be Sadistic
If God is all-knowing, he knows all aspects of the future, and thus has predestined everyone. If God predestined some people for Hell before they were born, he is a cosmic sadist, who willingly created some people just too damn them.
An All-Powerful God Who Wanted to Save Everyone Would Have Done So
Theologians argue that since God is all-good and all-powerful, he thus created the best of all possible worlds, which apparently requires a Hell. However, this is a self-contradictory argument; just as you can always add one to any finite number, you can always find ways to improve the world.
Hell is too Extreme to be a Just Punishment
The punishment does not fit the crime: infinite, eternal punishments for finite, temporary crimes. Theologians counter this by arguing against themselves, and claiming that Hell isn’t that bad, because:
- Since eternity is not quantitative, no one can calculate the quantity of punishment dealt.
- The popular working definition of justice, “the punishment fits the crime” implies that both crime and punishment are finite, since “fits” means “proportionate,” and all proportions are finite. Thus, Hell cannot offer infinite punishment, because only God is infinite.
- Selective literalism applies, and the intense fire-and-brimstone imagery is a metaphor for a terrible fate.
- Sin is not just a violation of a rule or law, but a negative relationship with and deliberate divorce from God. Those who object to Hell as too severe a punishment for sin thus do not understand the meaning of sin.
Hell would be Disproportionately Populated
Traditionally, Christians believed that more people went to Hell than to Heaven, despite a lack of census data. Jesus said that the way to Hell is wide and that many find it, but the way to Heaven was narrow and only few find it (MAT 7:13). However, this means that Satan is victorious, having won more souls than God.
There is no Advantage to Believing in Hell
Hell only creates fear, hate, despair and oppression; even the most naïve person agrees that Hell was invented to control and manipulate people.
Theologians argue that any idea, true or false, can be misused, and that its use does not affect its truthfulness. The fear of Hell is not bad per se, because in the presence of danger, the absence of fear is more dangerous than fear. The fact that Hell produces fear has been cited as proof of its existence, but children are often afraid of imaginary monsters. Nightmares are also frightening and unreal.
This is compounded by the fact that believing in the Christian Hell requires rejecting the Hells of all other religions. Faith is an assumption, and avoiding the Christian Hell may lead to being sent to the Muslim Hell, Hel, and any other places which the one true religion night send you. Cultural relativity further complicates this matter; the first Christian missionaries to Alaska experienced great difficulty trying to convert the Inuit, who yearned for Hell’s lakes of fire.
- V. J. Stenger, God: The Failed Hypothesis (Prometheus Books, 2008).
- J. Michaelsen, Like Lambs to the Slaughter (Harvest House Publishing, 1989).
- P. Kreeft, Faith and Reason: The Philosophy of Religion (Recorded Books, 2005).
- D. Barker, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist (Freedom from Religion Foundation, 1992).
- G. P. Harrison, 50 Simple Questions for Every Christian (Prometheus Books, 2013).
- A. S. LaVey, The Satanic Bible (Avon, 1969).