Facets of Faith: Readers answer questions of hell ‘yes’ and ‘no’

In July, I wrote about a conference aimed at helping people rethink how they view hell. I also ask readers to send in their views of hell.

Here are those responses.

Real place

The shortest response came from Chuck Bernard, of Lafayette, “Hell? Yes. You better believe it.”

Others also supported the idea of hell being a literal place.

Robin Cook, of Baton Rouge, finds “hell and brimstone” overlooked by today’s preachers and points out numerous Bible verses that speak of hell.

Several facts about hell Cook listed are found in Luke 16, which tells the story of Lazarus, Abraham and the rich man.

“Hell is a place of heat and flames and torment.

“Hell is a place of extreme thirst.

“A resident cannot leave there to go visit people on earth.

“A resident would desire that the people they know would avoid coming there.

“There is a great gulf between hell and heaven and no person can leave hell for heaven, or vice versa.”

Cook also points to Revelation 20:10-14 and says, “Hell is a temporary location and hell will later be cast into the lake of fire after the great white throne judgment.”

This idea is similar to some presented by the Rethinking Hell conference mentioned in July.

As far as who will be in what place, Cook added, “There will be some really bad people in heaven, and lots of good people in hell. It’s not about what they did, but how they responded to what Jesus did for them.”

Christopher Fontenot, of Gonzales, wrote, “It is as real as heaven.”

He said many denominations “try to soft-sell the idea of hell.”

“I think the best description of hell is ‘It is the presence of the holiness of God without a mediator.’ Hell is the wrath of God on unrepentant sinners for all eternity … the same wrath he poured upon his Son when he was robed in the sin of the world.”

George Griffith, of Jennings, writes, “The orthodox Christian view of hell is that it is a place of eternal torment.”

He says people say God is love. But Griffith notes, “He is also perfect and perfectly holy.”

Griffith said, “Because God is so holy, so perfect, our ordinary sins look ugly to him. And, though he is patient, in the long run he cannot endure them.”

He adds that God is “the magnificent lord of the universe” who can’t be expected to ignore our “lying or greed, or life-long bitterness.”

Griffith continued that God loves us so deeply, “His solution was to ask his sinless son, Jesus, to die in our place, thus satisfying the almost contradictory demands of both the fullest justice and the deepest love.”

Real for a time

Marian Yvonne Choudhury, of Baton Rouge wrote, “The teaching of hellfire originated with ancient non-Christian beliefs. The Biblical hell is not a place of fiery eternal punishment for the wicked” because Jesus spent three days there.”

She wrote, “One of God’s cardinal attributes is justice. Since we were created in His image, we all have a sense of justice, a desire to see wicked people pay a penalty for their bad deeds.

“2 Thessalonians 1:9 gives us assurance that unrepentant disobedient ones will face the penalty of everlasting destruction.”

Choudhury points out that in Genesis, Adam’s punishment was returning to dust. “God said nothing about being punished forever in a fiery hell, something a God of justice would have warned about.”

She said we all inherited sin and death from Adam and Eve, and thus the same death. “Our thoughts cease and our bodies return to the dust. We are not tormented forever in hell for our sins.

“We do, however, have a hope. Jesus promises at John 5:28-29 that ‘all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out.’”

She concluded, “No one is tormented forever in hell!”

Real suffering

Some readers posited that hell is found here on Earth.

Virginia D. Reames, of St. Francisville, said, “I feel Hell is in our daily lies here on earth.

“Having a baby, not quite 2, die because of an accident is an example. Having a friend lose both legs due to an electrical accident is an example. Having a 19-year-old in the Army being sent to Afghanistan for a year is an example. Losing dear loved ones and pets are examples.”

And the Rev. Steve J. Crump, senior minister of the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge, wrote, “As a literal place for souls burning in eternal fire, hell is a symbol of human imagination, manipulation and oppression.

“I do not believe in such a place for my opponents nor for the worst human creatures we have ever known. But as a symbol that expresses human suffering — despair, isolation, purposelessness — whether physical or psychological, hell is real.

“And Unitarian Universalists, joining with others who aim to make this a better world, hope to eradicate that kind of hell now on earth.”

Not real

Rod Colletti, of Brusly, wrote, “I DO NOT believe in a ‘HELL,’ and since adulthood, never have. … I DO NOT believe in ‘worshiping’ anything.”

He shared the story of Albert Einstein writing to Erik Gutkind: “I believe that the idea of a God, a Devil, Heaven and Hell is a childish superstition.”

Colletti added, “Since early adulthood, I have shed myself of the ‘brainwashing’ from my parents, pertaining to the belief in a God, Devil, Heaven, and Hell.

“I share the same outlook on life as do 93 percent of the scientific community.”