Open Letter to Christians Who Believe in a Literal Hell

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This letter is addressed to Christians who believe in a literal hell: a place of torment where non-believers will be tortured for eternity.

Before I begin: I was a Christian for 24 years, and I never once thought of these things. Now as an atheist I realize just how hurtful and scary this idea is, and I want to share my perspective so you understand what you’re actually conveying to those around you. Also, this is what your beliefs actually mean when you think them through…

When you tell me that I’m going to hell, this is what I hear: 

1. You honestly believe that I will be thrown into a burning pit, where the flesh will melt from my bones and be regrown over and over again so I can be tortured mercilessly for eternity. This immense pain will never end- I cannot die, I will continue to suffer for eternity while you enjoy paradise in heaven. I cannot repent after the torture begins, God will not forgive me and give me mercy even after a hundred years of having my flesh burned from my body.

2. You believe that this horrific, eternal punishment is justified for mortal crimes I have supposedly committed- crimes that include unbelief in a supernatural deity that defies science, feeling jealous when my friend gets a new pair of shoes, telling a white lie to make someone feel better, etc. These “crimes” are worthy of burning forever. If you don’t believe this punishment is completely justified, then you are saying that your God is unjust.

3. You bow before this God in prayer and in worship, thanking him for his justice, calling him good- all while firmly believing that this God intends to torture me if I don’t believe in him.

Can you see how this makes you look to non-believers? You are willingly serving a deity that would be so unimaginably cruel to us. This makes you seem cold-hearted, immoral, and even a bit maniacal for condoning such a grossly unjust punishment.

Some of you will say what I used to say years ago: “God doesn’t send you to hell, you send yourself to hell by not believing in him! God doesn’t WANT you to go there!” Here is why that argument doesn’t work:

A. I cannot choose to go to a place pf punishment that I do not believe in. Are you choosing to go to the Muslim hell because you don’t believe in Allah? Of course not- that’s silly. It’s no different for someone who does not believe in your religion’s hell. Not choosing one option doesn’t mean I automatically choose another one- and to say so is unfair and unjust and strips me of my free will. Your god would be making this choice FOR me- I am NOT choosing hell by not believing in him. I choose the third and most logical option: When we die that’s it, we are dead- our bodies go back into the earth. Thus we need to make the most of the life that we have while we have it. It’s beautiful, actually.

B. Even if I did choose hell, it’s not much of a choice: either bow to him or burn. That’s no different than putting a gun to my head and saying “You have a choice! Give me your money or die!” It’s technically a choice- but a grossly unfair one, one that spits in the face of my free will that god supposedly gives me.

C. God made the system and he made the rules, so he is 100% responsible for any and all suffering that results from the punishments he gives out. He created hell, regardless of who it was intended for. Since he knew everything, he knew that humans would end up there, and still made hell just as horrific. He purposefully made rules that were impossible to follow.

D. Just a thought- but hell is a pretty sick place. You’d have to be a pretty sick person to torture ANYONE like that- even the devil. What being deserves to be tormented in such a way, even a rebellious angel that has hurt people? Why not just execute them and make them not exist anymore- why keep them alive to torture them over and over again? That is something that a psychopath or someone on a revenge vendetta- not a loving God who is incapable of wrong- would do.

Another thought: Even if God created us, that doesn’t mean that he has the right to mistreat us or torture us for eternity. Most people would agree that burning your child when they disobey is wrong- just because you gave your child life doesn’t mean you get to hurt them or take their life away from them. But this is somehow ok when god does it.

Summary:

I never thought about these things when I was a believer. I couldn’t- because a kind, moral person cannot reconcile the idea of hell when you really start to think about it seriously. I know that most Christians are not psychopaths, nor are they crazy. But can you see how insane and maniacal the belief of hell makes you look, and how hurtful it is to us?

You are WILLINGLY serving a deity that you believe will melt the flesh from my bones for not believing in him.

Just think about that for a moment.

It reminds me of people who served Hitler even when he threw their family and friends into concentration camps: either they served him out of fear, they agreed with his awful methods, or they were too blind to see how awful Hitler really was.

Which are you?

-Lilly

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23 thoughts on “Open Letter to Christians Who Believe in a Literal Hell

  1. I don’t know what hell truly is. Is it really the image that we have made it to be? Is satan really a red guy with horns and a pitch fork? Hell is the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Hell I believe is the absence of a relationship with God. Hell is where God is not. God is love. Hell is empty of love.

    • But why doesn’t he just forgive everyone and not cast them out of his presence in the first place, thus hell wouldn’t be an issue? He seems able to handle our “wickedness” here on earth well enough. Or why not let them fade into nothingness rather than torture them forever? Regardless of whether hell is the absence of his presence or anything else, the fact remains that he made the system. He decided to make an impossible standard for humans to uphold, thus making it impossible for them to avoid hell without serving him- thus forcing us into an impossible and unfair choice. I would rather just die and be dead; why not give me that choice? Why force me into an eternity that I want nothing to do with? That to me is very unjust.

      • Why would you expect him to force you into eternity with Him? The choice is yours freely to make, eternity with He who is love or eternal separation from Him which is hell. I don’t know if hell always existed, or if it came to be after the fall, after man decided to turn from Him.

      • I don’t want to be forced into anything- whether heaven or hell. I believe that when we die we die, so that would be my choice- I have no desire for immortality, so forcing it on me would be cruel. Just because I don’t choose heaven doesn’t mean I choose hell, I choose NEITHER.

    • I would say heaven must also be empty of love since its inhabitants are enjoying themselves while other people burn forever… how can a moral, kind person possibly enjoy paradise when others are tortured? I know I couldn’t. It would be wrong and the opposite of love.

      • My absolute worst fear is those I love and those I don’t even know to not experience this relationship I have with Jesus. It aches in the pit of my stomach that my very own parents may not be with me in eternity, the thought of my children not entering into a relationship with Jesus turns my stomach physically ill. I don’t blame God for that though. We have one life with opportunity to embrace the love and gift He offers or not. As with everything though, we all have to live with the consequences of our choices.

      • I used to believe that same thing, but now I see that my life is just as full and happy without believing in God, and I no longer have to worry about my family not believing as I do. It doesn’t matter what they believe as long as they are happy and they are not hurting others, because there is no afterlife. Honestly it’s such a huge relief! A tremendous mental burden was lifted from me, I found freedom and joy I didn’t know I was missing when I stopped believing in God. It seems cruel to me that if an eternity did exist that god would separate families from each other. Why create an eternity like that? Why not just make a better earth, where it’s like it is now but where God is actually open about his existence? There are so many other ways this deity could have done it… but according to he chose one of the worse and most hurtful systems. It seems very flawed to me.

      • Just as I’m sure you would say to me, you believe there is no afterlife but the existence of it is not dependent on your nor my belief. IMO, your belief takes an incredible amount of faith, more so than believing in its existence.

      • My lack of belief in god takes no faith- I believe in what I can see and touch and what can be proven. That’s not faith, that’s using logic and reason. Why should I believe in a supernatural deity or a mystical afterlife when there is no evidence for it? You can’t just say it exists; you have to prove it, or it’s just fantasy or wishful thinking. Otherwise, it’s the same as you saying it takes faith for me to not believe in unicorns or elves- which of course is silly. You’re right, our belief in something doesn’t make it so- solid evidence tells us what’s real. So where’s the evidence? Where’s the proof of this afterlife? Until you can prove your assertion, it’s just a story that no one needs to take seriously. I don’t mean this offensively, just matter-of-factually.

      • We do have to live with the consequences of our choices- but that doesn’t mean that the consequences are just. People who stood against Hitler faced consequences, but I’m sure you would agree that it was still more noble to stand up and fight him than to give into fear and follow him. Also, for me to live my life as though these consequences will affect me, I’d need solid evidence that they exist- and I have found none.

      • I have two commandments to follow, Love The Lord my God and love my neighbor as myself. The only consequences that will come of fulfilling these commands is goodness.

      • I personally do not like the 10 Commandments… some of them are good, but God prioritizes keeping his name holy above outlawing rape or slavery. They didn’t even make the list. I live by many of those principles, but not because they’re in the Bible. Buddhism and other religions have similar teachings, I don’t need Christianity for that. 🙂

      • The part about them being cold and evil is the best part… because, well, they are to say you’re going to hell in anything less than a desperate attempt to get you to pray

      • It’s been hard for me now that I’m an atheist… I had no idea how hurtful this was when I was a Christian. People close to me believe I’m going to burn in hell, and yet they serve this deity willingly and call him good. It hurts!

      • That passage is very disturbing indeed. Why not forgive the rich man once he realized he had been wrong and repented in hell? Tormenting him for eternity because he tormented someone for a few human years is grossly disproportionate and looks very much like revenge. If I was the man who he had tormented, I would not be happy- I would be distressed to see someone else suffering even more than I did. I might like to see him dead or punished for a LITTLE while if he was really bad (lol), but certainly not for eternity! Even Hitler doesn’t deserve to burn forever. That’s an incomprehensible amount of time- what earthly, mortal crime could possible deserve that punishment? Things I didn’t think about when I was a Christian…

  2. As an atheist, I used to get upset (and angry) when Christians would tell me I was going to go to hell simply because I didn’t believe the same things they believed. I couldn’t understand how these people could condemn me to eternal damnation. And they were being serious. They would tell me that I was *choosing* to go to hell by not believing in god or by accepting Jesus as my savior.

    Now I know longer get upset. I actually find it kind of humorous that these “loving” Christians would condemn me to such an awful eternity knowing that I don’t believe in hell (or in heaven). They were condemning me to spend an eternity in a place that is a figment of their imaginations.

    So now, when someone tells me I’m choosing to go to hell by not believing them, I reply something like, “No, I think, instead, I’ll choose to go to Oz. Or maybe the Middle Earth. Or how about if I go to the planet Uranus? Because that’s where your head is.”

    That usually shuts them up.

  3. Good, graphic, honest post. I recently asked a friend who is a pastor and “follower of Jesus” if he thought I would go to hell. Since he knows me as a person, his friend and colleague, he had to say, “I don’t know. It’s all up to God.” This pretty much sums up the dilemma for the hell-believers: what do you say to your loved ones?

No trolling, please! Genuine dialogue for the purpose of mutual understanding is appreciated; debates are not. General comments are welcome.

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