Things I’m Doing Before Going to Hell

Close-up of fire and flames on a black background (Huge file)

I’m going to Hell.

I know this, because lots of religious people regularly make this quite clear to me. 

My beliefs about the Bible, my full affirmation of the LGBTQ community, my criticisms of the American Church, (even my questions about the very existence of Hell itself) all apparently ensure that I’m headed there once I reach my expiration date here.

Believe me, I’m not thrilled about it but hey, they’re Christians and they must know these things or they wouldn’t make such claims about the eternal destination of my soul, right? That would just be cavalier and arrogant and reckless—the most irresponsible kind of religion.

I used to argue with these folks. When they’d toss damnation grenade Bible verses at me, I’d fire back in vigorous defense; challenging their hermeneutic, questioning their theological conclusions, and passionately making the case for myself.

I don’t do that very much these days. Now I just assume that they’re right. I resign myself to the hot and humid forever fate they’ve so willingly prescribed for me.

And since I now know how my story ends, at least I can use whatever time I have left wisely and stay busy.

So, before I go to Hell…

I’m going to give all people as much grace as I am able, knowing that they’re very likely as much of a daily, frazzled, freaked out mess as I am.

I’m going to look relentlessly and deeply for the good in even the most seemingly unlikable human beings, because I believe this goodness is embedded there somewhere in each of them.

I’m going to live my faith as best I can at any given moment, with all the inconsistency, hypocrisy, doubt, and vacillation that endeavor may come with.

I’m going to speak defiantly into bigotry and hatred, especially when they come delivered in the name of God, because sadly that is often when they are most likely to go unopposed.

I’m going to let people know that they matter and belong and have value; not if they get their act together, not when they sand blast off their rough edges, not once they clean up their crap—but as they are, right now.  

I’m going to look for the broken places in the landscape of my days and to try my best to bring some healing there; to leave less injustice and pain than I found when I arrived.

I’m going to be the best father, husband, brother, son, friend, pastor, and human that I can be; the best version of myself I can manage in each day, holding fast to humility when I succeed, and gentleness when I fail.

I’m going to resist retaliation and revenge when I feel unfairly judged or poorly treated, knowing that only perpetuates damage.

I’m going to have patience with those who exhaust me, compassion for those who disappoint me, and forgiveness for those who injure me, knowing that I so often exhaust and disappoint and injure others.

I’m going to keep searching for God, knowing full well that I’ll never find everything I’d like to find or figure out all that I hope to figure out while here—and to make peace with that truth.

It’s likely that none of this will spare me from the brimstone future awaiting me, and many Christians folks assure me of as much.

But I’m not doing these things to get myself into Heaven or to have a cushy afterlife of clouds and wings and harps. I’m doing them because they need to be done here whether they benefit me beyond this life or not.

I’m doing them because my deepest faith convictions tell me to try and make this place more like however I believe Heaven to be, and that this will bring justice and mercy along with it.

I’m doing them because loving people as I desire to be loved is the best way I know of reiterating Jesus in the world.

I’m doing them because restoration and redemption are not cloistered religious relics saved for church buildings. They are the loud, messy places faith invites us to live in here and now.

I’m doing them because I don’t believe this life is a meaningless holding area before something better, but the sacred chance to make something better with this day and this breath and this place.

Those religious advisors may be right. I may indeed be going to Hell for believing the wrong things or not believing the right things, or for what I do or fail to do.

But if that’s the case, I’m going to bring as much of Heaven down here as I can before I do.

 

228 thoughts on “Things I’m Doing Before Going to Hell

    • I AM SORRY YOU FEEL LIKE RELIGION IS SUCH A LOT OF
      JUDGMENTAL NONSENSE ! YOU MISSED THE MAIN REASON JESUS CHRIST CAME TO EARTH , DIED ON THE CROSS TO SAVE US FROM SIN. WE HAVE ALL SINNED ! HIS DEATH PAID THE PRICE SO THAT WE ARE NOW FORGIVEN AND MAY LIVE WITH HIM FOREVER IN HEAVEN. JESUS LOVES US THAT MUCH ! AMEN……….THIS I KNOW, THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO. Patsy Robison.

      • I don’t think it’s religion he has a problem with. It’s the people that claim to have religion but are judgemental and hateful.

      • Two Bapist ministers in two different states on Monday said all gay people should be put to death and they were glad the people died in Orlando. One went so far as to say they should be placed before a firing squad and shot down by the government. Do you feel this is the preaching of God? You could sure fool me as it wasn’t what I was taught. I feel that gay people are the children of God just like everyone else or am I wrong. To me they are just people.

      • Patsy, I do believe you missed the point. He gets it. He’s going to do everything a real Christian should be doing everyday. And not what most Christians are actually doing instead.

      • Shouting hurts both those in ear’s reach as well as those shouting. No wonder she missed John’s point. I’ll pray for you to let your mind and sould become open to helping bring a little heaven to earth.

      • SAYS THE RELIGIOUS PERSON, IN ALL CAPS, LOL. The religious person who makes the bible god, instead of God. Who, lives from the tree of knowledge instead of from God. Who does not even know what we are saved from and why. Does not even know what “sin” means. And calls his death a “Price”. Did you ever wonder who the “Price’ was “paid’ to? And if there was a payment then the debt was paid, not forgiven, for you cannot forgive that which is paid. And if God was the recipient of the payment, then we were saved from God, not Satan.. Did any of this even occur to you? Also, if Jesus IS God as you religious people claim. Then it gets even worse… Adam and Eve failed the test, God got angry and punished them and was mad at them until he got payment. So he came down as himself and paid himself so himself would not be angry anymore. You believe this lunacy? Maybe you are the one that need to re-think your interpretation of the bible. For that is all you have. The bible as your god and your knowledge of the bible. Which is nothing more than the knowledge of good and evil printed on paper which is made from a tree. The bible point to God, it is not a god. It would not be so bad if you had got your theology from your own study instead of regurgitating the typical Calvinist nonsense that has only been popular the past 1000 years. Please Wake up!

        • Appreciate your heart…for me,
          post-religion has opened me up to Union,
          and leaving “us and them” behind, and experiencing Life and Love at so many new levels.
          “Your personality (beliefs) determine
          your personal reality”. Namaste

        • I remember being told I wasn’t saved because I didn’t read only the KJV of the bible. Well shucks darn Jesus didn’t have to die in the cross. All he really had to do was write the KJV of the bible. Making your point about the bible being a god for some exactly.

        • I’m not sure I understand, and I would like to. Do you believe in God? What do you believe about the bible. You don’t believe Christ is God, right? What was before the Calvinist nonsense? I think I see more of what you don’t believe then what you do believe? Would you care to explain?

          • John explained that how we demonstrate our love for each other is how people see God in us. That whole part he wrote after prefacing it with “So before I go to Hell…” is what I believe God would have us do with our time here. God is love.

      • The barbarous idea of appeasing an angry God, of propitiating an offended Lord, of winning the favor of Deity through sacrifices and penance and even by the shedding of blood, represents a religion wholly puerile and primitive, a philosophy unworthy of an enlightened age of science and truth. Such beliefs are utterly repulsive to the celestial beings who serve and reign in the universes. It is an affront to God to believe, hold, or teach that innocent blood must be shed in order to win his favor or to divert the fictitious divine wrath.
        The Hebrews believed that “without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sin.” They had not found deliverance from the old and pagan idea that the Gods could not be appeased except by the sight of blood, though Moses did make a distinct advance when he forbade human sacrifices and substituted therefor, in the primitive minds of his childlike Bedouin followers, the ceremonial sacrifice of animals.
        What a travesty upon the infinite character of God! this teaching that his fatherly heart in all its austere coldness and hardness was so untouched by the misfortunes and sorrows of his creatures that his tender mercies were not forthcoming until he saw his blameless Son bleeding and dying upon the cross of Calvary!
        But the inhabitants of our world are to find deliverance from these ancient errors and pagan superstitions respecting the nature of the Universal Father. The revelation of the truth about God is appearing, and the human race is destined to know the Universal Father in all that beauty of character and loveliness of attributes so magnificently portrayed by the Creator Son who sojourned here as the Son of Man and the Son of God.

      • Amen brother,it was and always will be all about what CHRIST has done for us that we could never have done on our own!All He asks of us is to trust Him with every thing in our life’s and know He has I best interests in mind to help us grow into the people He can use for His glory and to reach as many of the lost as possible even if that means only a handful .God help me let there be less of me and more of you in every choice I make.

      • In re Patsy Robison-Shut up. Your screetching is offensive to me, a born again daughter of Christ bearing all the gifts that come with it. From speaking in tongue to a humility that owns guilt to an instinctive recognition of righteous vs self-righteous. Which one are you? If you don’t know, I can enlighten you gracefully with a little food for thought. Who is your worthy judge? Me? Someone else you’re wholeheartedly accepting of placing judgement against you? You lie if you pluck out a name. YOU would NEVER allow it. God is the only one with this burden. So do not make such a heavy load for yourself. It is trivial and graceless to position yourself under the same glow light of our father. The job of judgement is His alone. If you are “new” (and quoting a Sunday school bible verse in all caps to get a very grown up berading across certainly suggests something to that effect), you would do well to gain a little wisdom before tossing blanket and Christianity 101 statements around in deeply layered subject matter. The case you make is unfinished to say the least. In fact, I fumbled around for another page to it. This man is ridden with conviction- good, bad, or otherwise. Do you not realize that your UNCLEAR, nearly nonsensical opposition is the whole half of his dilemma? That is, the very opposition does not provide enlightenment only opposition – period. So, WWJD? If, in fact, John was taking the wrong fork in the road, He’d offer up some real point to help him find the clarity. Not pile on yet ANOTHER reason to confirm he’s been caravaning down clueless highway.

      • Why the yelling and defensiveness Patsy? The teaching of Jesus is simple, really. But the hardest for most to do. Love one another. Maybe reread the article,dear.

      • Transgender teenager Leelah Alcorn was MURDERED by her “christian” parents, and christian sharia law in the usa let them get away with it scott free.

        But yea, tell me how again, how “great” religion is.

      • Patsy, I wonder if you and I are reading the same Bible? The one I’m reading says that God is love, and that the most important commandments are to love God and our neighbors as ourselves, and that we should remove the large stick from our own eye before we start worrying about the speck in our neighbor’s.

  1. I am so sorry I cannot reblog you on my Buddhist blog anymore. You are the only Christian writer that my readers enjoy, and that is because of yoru compassion, which is the cornerstone of Jesus’ belief I was raised with as a Catholic.

  2. Great post, John!
    As an evangelical preacher’s kid, private-Baptist-school educated child, and then, as an adult, a 20-year member of the Orthodox Church of America, and now an open member of the LGBTQ community, let me just lovingly encourage you to go visit an Episcopal Church. You’ll find Christ, love, grace, and social justice in action.
    What a relief for this has been for our family!
    May it be so for yours as well.

    • Amen! The Episcopal Church is putting love into faith and faith into action. For everyone. I couldn’t agree with John’s comments more if I wrote them myself. If doing and believing what you wrote is a one way ticket to hell, then I guess I’m going with you. But the Good News is, I don’t believe it is.

  3. Alleluia! This dance you describe is the one God does all the time –
    Wish i lived closer and could join you – so i’ll just dance where i am in Australia – In the love of the God in whom we live and move and have our being and who loves more than we can imagine
    Well done thou good and faithful servant,
    hilary

  4. I learned (by being in a LIfeGroup with for years) that you belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who came to earth to save us (not judge us), did just that on the cross, died in darkness of the Father’s temporary rejection for us, rose again in defiance of death and sin, empowered His followers to keep the message of grace alive, then descended to the right hand of the One True God and that He will come again for the judgement part. I’m planning to see you in heaven, brother.

    • Karen:
      Help me understand something; you said that the Father temporarily rejected us. Where does it say that in the bible? I thought he always loves us. It’s us who reject Him (according to the bible). Can you please expound on your thoughts?

      Secondly, you stated that Jesus came to save us but not judge us. If we needed saving, then were we not judged unworthy before that? You would think that you would have to be in some sort of danger in order for a saving action to even happen. What do you think? I’ve never seen someone being saved from a safe situation. Have you?

      Thirdly, you stated that Jesus descended to the right hand of the father. I’m assuming that you meant ascended. Am I correct on that?

      • Edward,

        I, who do not know Karen B., will presume to answer for her.

        First, Karen wrote “. . . died in darkness of the Father’s temporary rejection for us. . . .” You interpreted this, apparently, as if it had read “died in darkness of the Father’s temporary rejection *of* us.” In fact, the context Karen created suggests that she meant “. . . died in darkness of the Father’s temporary rejection [of him] for us.” The Father’s temporary rejection here might simply be Karen’s interpretation of “Why hast thou forsaken me?”

        In answer to the second point you raise, Karen probably intends no more than John 3:17, which came right from Jesus’ own mouth: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

        Finally, yes, of course she meant “ascended” instead of “descended.” We all make misteaks. 🙂

        So if you are asking Karen about her positions because you are genuinely confused, more power to you for seeking clarity. But these are the kinds of questions I used to post when I wanted not to seek guidance or offer help, but to show off my perfect theology in a debate setting I created in my own mind.

        Examine yourself carefully, and try to avoid the errors I’ve made.

  5. I so appreciate your very frank and honest writings. I know so many who are so quick to condemn others because of one or two verses they’ve taken out of context. The New Testament tells us we are under grace and not the law. I prefer grace. I prefer to love others whether I agree with their choices or not, nor will I condemn them because their lives have gone in a different direction than mine. Who am I to make that decision? God loves us all, you and me and them. He may shake his head in disappointment at times, but I have trouble believing he’s disappointed in you!

    • A third bite – ‘what about rejoice when the ‘holy’ people persecute you in my name’. Rejoice!
      Pax at bonum
      hilary

  6. Thanks John. I have been following you for a while now and really appreciate your thoughts. As a child of ministers, a minister/pastor myself and father of a gender-fluid child, I have at times found myself getting more fire from my fellow “body of Christ” for standing up fully for LGBTQ rights.

    The love and compassion you share have been touchstones for me during times I think that the whole of Christendom has gone nuts. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  7. Are you sure you aren’t channeling Jesus? Sure sounds like the message he taught – you know – the message about treating others like he would want to be treated.
    The one about entertaining all those who others shunned, or killed or ostracized, yep, I think Jesus must be talking today!

  8. Yep. I’m laying in a big store of sunscreen and personal sprayers.

    And Kate, bravo. Jesus’ message of compassion and Buddha’s message are the same, particularly if you’re a Bodhisattva. Where all this other “thou shalt” stuff came from I haven’t a clue.

  9. As a second generation agnostic (a rarity, I know), I am dubious as to the existence of a deity. I often avoid the writings of out-there Christians, as they often are certain of their variation of their beliefs, and equally often are sure that those who don’t believe as they do are immoral and doomed to brimstone.

    I have maintained that I think if a deity exists, either it accepts me as I am (and if it is indeed, omnipotent, omniscient, and made us as we are, than that being made me unable to take things on faith, and should accept me as I am. If not, it isn’t worthy of worship.)

    I try to live a good life. My guess is that someone like you and someone like me would get along fine, and be okay with differences on faith.

    That is why your blog is one that I actually read. Maybe not every post, but often. When the topic grabs my interest. And as I have a recently (mostly) out transgender child, the fact that you often speak in support of LGBTQ interests heartens me. Thank you for that.

    BTW, if there is truth in the concept of heaven and hell, I can’t imagine someone who is trying to do good in the world would be destined to hell.

    • Jesus says, ‘The ONLY work I have given you to do is to believe in Me.’

      Good deeds have no meaning to God, at all. But from the Faithful, he asks for is obedience.

      • Paul. Jesus does not ask for obedience to the law because the entirety of the Old Testament law (including the ritual law, the moral law, and the 10 commandments) passed away and ceased to exist when Jesus finished his work on Earth and was resurrected. All that is finished and the law is dead forever—and well it should be because it never had the power to give life—-and only had the power to kill. What Jesus requires of us instead is that we learn how to LOVE God and our neighbors (all 7 billion of them). LOVE is something that flows from a human heart. It is not a law and it cannot be turned into a law. Try reading the Book of Galatians carefully. The Christian faith is not about being saved and then reshackling one’s self with the Old Testament law and obedience to it. I know you have been taught that in church, but your Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical religious tradition is only about 100 years old, and it was born here in the United States. It is not now and never has been traditional, Orthodox Christianity as it falsely claims. Instead, it is an American brand of homemade religion. If you will make a study of world Christian history and belief going all the way back to the 1st century A.D., you will find out that your religious leaders have misled you. Some of this misleading was based on an ignorance of Christian history. Others know better but have lied to the people (and continue to do so) to maintain their position of power and high pay in the American fundie churches.

        I do not expect you to believe that because fundies are taught from an early age to disbelieve truth and believe the assorted pieces of nonsense their pastors feed them in its place. However, I do have a responsibility to tell you the truth, and I have done so. Go deal with it.

      • “Good deeds have no meaning to God, at all.”

        Way to completely dismiss Judaism and make absolutely no sense about a benevolent deity in one sentence, Paul.

        What will you be doing for an encore?

  10. I confess to being extremely ambivalent about the subject of Hell.

    I have had nightmares from childhood about being sent there…and spending a good time in a fundamentalist Baptist church (GARBC) didn’t help….even in Catholic school (grades 5-8) – all the things about mortal/venial sins, Purgatory , etc didn’t help.

    Part of me thinks that Hell is somehow consistent with justice….for all the evil wreaked upon humankind that is not really dealt with in life (Holocaust, Middle Passage, Armenian Genocide, predatory lending, Gulag Archipelago, Trail of Tears, the existence of Satan’s Seasoning also known as the Evil Mayonnaise….)

    Part of me is extremely uncomfortable with the seeming _glee_ that some people would consign others to, as Macbeth’s Ghost put it : “sulfurous and tormenting flames” – so-and-so must have gone to Hell beause he/she did not live according to the dictates of that person’s personal belief system

    I think as non- Eternal, non- omnipotent, non-omniscient, non-omnipresent and non-N-dimensional (where N=infinite) creatures that we should refrain (until we acquire the ability to create ex nihilo) from stamping anyone’s passport for Tartarus….

    • –rather than listen to what others say about hell… it would probably make sense to look at what Jesus said about it. He had quite a lot to say.

        • A better question: what did Jewish tradition before Jesus have to say about it, and what are the chances that hell as we think of it today was heavily influenced by Dante over Scripture? And why doesn’t the Old Trsthabe anything to say about eternal fire and brimstone?

          • Isaiah, Daniel, Psalms, all talk about eternity in hell, where the fire is unquenchable, the shame and disgrace is everlasting. (And worms never die. )

            Jesus talked about hell more than anyone; ‘fear Him who is able to destroy both body & soul in hell’, ‘then they will go away to eternal punishment’ , ‘Anyone not found in the book of Life will be thrown into the lake of fire.’

            • Paul, as briefly as I can, some thoughts to serve as an antidote for yours. In your first paragraph the verses you mentioned are known to be misinterpreted and misunderstood. Worms ‘not dying’ is all about consumption. The worms consume a corpse and don’t die— they become flies. In this case they are allowed to consume and are not prevented until it is all consumed. It’s really very simple. But once everything is consumed it’s over with. It’s a metaphor. It’s probably not really worms but the idea is the same.

              God longs to redeem and finalize His creation and He will do it.

              In terms of hell and the lake of fire. Hell is quite simply the grave; and the lake of fire whether it is a metaphor or real (Revelations is a vision) consumes what has no life.

              It’s true that we live and then we die. It’s enough to realize we are mortal to make us ponder our existence. It is not necessary to create a hell doctrine to coerce people unless you want to control them or keep them obedient. This is not what drew people to Jesus either. Scaring people away from Jesus is not helpful. Preventing people from knowing Jesus is not helpful. So as far as condemnation goes, Jesus did not come to condemn the world.

              And as far as judgement. There is a little used verse in the Bible that goes like this

              “Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.” Perhaps we want to meditate on that a little more.

                  • Kathy:
                    Is the Bible trustworthy in its entirety or not? Is it not consistent with human behavior to love the good parts while attempting to diminish the lesser liked parts, hell being one of them?

                    • Edward, all I can say is my Bible sits on my desk less than an arm’s reach away. I’ve said all I wish to say about hell above. But I will take instruction from Philippians, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Following that advice will give us all peace of mind which is what I wish for you as well.

                • Because Ed. You do not understand it. She talks to you like you are a child because when she talks to you like an adult, you don’t listen. Kathy is the only person on this blog who REALLY has her spiritual act together—and you are about 10,000 miles away from having yours together Ed.

              • Kathy:
                You said in your previous statement “It is not necessary to create a hell doctrine to coerce people unless you want to control them or keep them obedient.”

                Who do you think created hell and for what purpose does it serve? I surely didn’t. It was not created for man but rather for Satan and his angels, as a result of their rebellion against God himself. Now, that being said, your statement about someone using hell as a means for control is all but vanquished for anyone here on earth as no one on earth has that power. That power belongs to God alone. But, he is no respecter of persons and has no qualms about where anyone who rejects him must go, even his own angels (2 Peter 2:4). Do you really believe that Satan could continue to reside in heaven given his disdain for the authority of God?

                Obedience, you hit the nail on the head. Once again, we are not talking about earthly obedience to authority figures (goes without saying). You know very well that your innermost obedience needs to be to God first and foremost. You only have one thing to give him that you own outright, your own self-will. Don’t lie to yourself about this at all. That is the biggest mistake you can make in your life. Satan made it and look where it got him.

                I agree with your statement that we don’t need to create a hell so that others may obey. That’s not our lot in life at all. But, God did have to create a hell to deal with those that did not obey Him knowing full well who he is. If he didn’t deal with the issue of rebellion, then He would have no power or not have a single characteristic that would be worthy of worship. Think about that.

                • Ed. You think a sadomasochist God that is nothing like the Jesus of the New Testament is worthy of worship? What you are really saying is that you worship him because you are afraid of what He might do to you if you don’t because He is a mean, spiteful, straight razor toting God. You need to recall what the Bible says. Those who are FEARFUL will never see the kingdom of God. You need to get your act together bonehead. Do you love God like you love your own child—or are you just scared shitless of him?

                  • Charles:
                    The bible says that God and Jesus are one (John 10:30), unified in character, but different in their perspective works. So how are you going to react to this mean ogre of a god when you meet him in heaven? You do know that he’s going to be there alongside Jesus, right?

                • Edward, I haven’t had much time to respond to your comment. I meant it when I said I have nothing more to say about hell— above. Anyone who has further questions and who seeks the answers has the freedom to do their own research and I am okay with that. But I do want to tell a story.

                  When my daughter was five years old we went to a flea market on a Sunday morning. A young man was selling his pet gerbil because he was a moving across country and couldn’t take the animal with him. The gerbil came with a cage, a running wheel, water dish and enough food and bedding to get us started. My daughter rested her chin on her hands and watch the little brown guy dart around the cage. He dove under some shredded paper, poked his head up and twitched his whiskers. As I watched her watching the gerbil she giggled and said, “I like him”. So we went home with her first pet and her first responsibility for another living being.

                  My daughter was easy to raise. She listened well though she sometimes asked too many questions. But she had a maturity about her and a respect for animals. I felt I could trust her with the gerbil in her room. I allowed her to name it— gave her a few rules— never open the cage on her own; never take the cage off her bureau and never poke her finger in the cage.

                  Over the years her gerbil gave her more joy than I could imagine. When I say years it was two at the most because gerbils don’t live very long. One day my daughter told me her gerbil was not moving as much. He used to shred a cardboard toilet roll insert in half an hour or greedily pull kleenex through the wires on the cage tearing them into small pieces then kicking up a storm would make paper mounds to hide under. He was a chewer and a builder. But on this day he barely touched the new paper roll she gave him and it sat there for days. I told her he was probably getting ready to die.

                  Then one morning she shook me awake and said he wasn’t moving. She thought he was dead and she wanted me to come help. So I went. His eyes were closed but his chest was moving up and down. I said, “ It won’t be long now”. Then I went and got a facecloth. I opened the cage and gingerly picked up his little body and put in on the facecloth. We sat and watched. She took her finger and patted him carefully. We watched him struggling to breath for a long time. I said something along the lines. “Thank you for being a good companion and for all the amazing houses you made. You were a master architect!” Then she said some words. When his chest stopped my daughter put her face in her hands and cried. Then I told her we had to find a place to bury his body. We found a wooded area close to where we lived. I had brought a spade to dig with. Before I began digging I told her some things and it went something like this:

                  “When God created us he made us out of the earth. It says in the Bible, from the dust we were made and to dust we return. So that is why we bury people when they die. Yet we put people in coffins to protect their bodies and bones from being lost and scattered. But with animals when they go back to the ground and they feed it because our bodies are made up of the same thing found in the earth.”

                  She asked, “ But what happens when we die.” I said, “ It says in the Bible we go to sleep.” She asked and pointed at her gerbil, “ Is he sleeping?” I said, “I don’t know for sure. That’s a good question. But I imagine that even if every single animal and person that ever lived were in heaven the universe could hold us all because it is so vast and there is probably more than enough room for everyone.” Then I added, “ But in the Bible it says that in heaven no one is hurt or killed any more; even lions and sheep get along. The Bible also says we will wake up again. So we want to be the kind of person who doesn’t hurt or harm anyone so that when we wake up we can be in heaven right?” she looked at me with wide eyes and nodded her head. Then we buried her gerbil.

                  • Touching story, it really is.

                    I can do all the research in the world but I want to know what you believe on the subject. I want to know how you come to believe what and why you believe. You have been good to answer a lot of my questions so far and I thank you for that.

                    • Edward you said to me, “You know very well that your innermost obedience needs to be to God first and foremost. You only have one thing to give him that you own outright, your own self-will. Don’t lie to yourself about this at all. That is the biggest mistake you can make in your life. Satan made it and look where it got him.”

                      Why should I trust you now?

            • Hell in Judaism is not at all the same as the sadomasochistic “punishment for eternity” variety that Christianity likes to espouse.

              You’re also mistaking books of the Old Testament for those of the New Testament (the “worms” bit is in Mark for example, not any of the books you’ve listed).

        • A collection of books about a young man, who saves us all from torment at the hands of the evil one…sounds like Harry Potter to me.

  11. I thank you, John, for bringing the Kingdom to many, or rather for helping us find it within ourselves at it has been within us all along, as you point out!

    I feel as though all of the Beatitudes completely contradict the venous words people have spewed upon you from the scared sicknesses of their hearts, and surely you must know this. You are a meek peacemaker and you care for creation, and that is a sign that you are counted as the Father’s child. Hell is something quite real, I believe, and it is that place where those who wish to damn others dwell. They are thirsting for the water from the well of Christ’s compassion , and clearly you have found it. I am sorry for them. If only they would look for the Kingdom, the one we believe in, rather than trying to build their own on our torment. I pray they will learn to drink the water of love and thirst no more. They are still worth it, as you point out.

  12. It’s sad that so many people honestly seem to believe that a loving Father in Heaven would condemn the grand majority of His children to such a fiery and eternal death. I’ll definitely try to follow your example and do what good I can on my way – see you down there, brother!

    • HW…God doesn’t send his Children to hell. They belong to Him, and will be with him for Eternity in Heaven. [Even though they sin, their faith in Jesus saves them from being seen as un-righteous.]

      –only those who don’t belong to Him, will be subjected to life without Him, (in Hell). For Eternity.

      I’m surprised that John P is actually contemplating a life in hell and telling us that ‘its worth it’ if he can bring heaven down to earth …is he sure about that?

      • Paul Inbera, it’s not God condemning others; it’s people who are speaking the words out of their own mouth and saying it. Why bring God into it? There is no condemnation in Christ and if you know who is ‘in Christ’ then you are a better person than I . We better treat people as beloved of God, we better do good and not play a double standard with grace. As if ‘we’ being Christians will somehow escape our guilt when we sin. Yes, there is grace but there is also responsibility. Dodging our mess and skipping to heaven is not what grace is about. We need to deal with our faults honestly. Because in the same way Jesus said ” love your neighbours as yourself ” he also said ” do not judge others and you will not be judged” and finally “ The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”

        • God does condemn and He judges. [I’m just talking about those that reject Jesus, the non-believers.] All believers are accepted into Heaven, they escape condemnation, and judgment. Thank you Jesus!

          PS– Knowing Christ does not make me a better person than anyone. In fact, I’m below everyone. The worst.

          • …and that is PRECISELY the megalomaniac cosmic bully of a god that I can no longer believe in. WHAT is it about the belief in hell that makes some people feel entitled to treat the hell-bound like sh**? It is NOT a loving gesture, far from it. The people who need to tell me I’m going to hell do so because they have some arrogant need to assert their (perceived) moral superiority and to PUNISH me for not falling in line with their (perceived) truth. First of all, you do NOT know the mind of God (your own Bible even says so). NOR are you psychic enough to know the content of MY mind/heart/soul and it is the EPITOME of hubris to assert yourself in a relationship that IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. John P was MUCH kinder in his statements than I can be – I for one am [string of expletives deleted] sick of being damned and punished in THIS life by folks who are convinced that their horrible God will damn and punish me in the next.

              • Paul. May I kindly ask what your Church or Christian denomination happens to be and what part of the USA or some other nation you live in? Are you conservative Southern Baptist, IFB, Reformed Calvinist. I think the people here at the very least deserve to know which intestine is creating your droppings.

      • unfortunately there are many Christians that condemn gays to Hell even though millions of them are fellow Christians.

    • Hope,
      The Father is not everyone’s father. In John 1:11,12,13 it is clear:
      “He (Jesus) came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
      If you don’t believe you aren’t his child. Sorry to burst your bubble.

  13. Awesome message, John! It applies to many loving, wonderful people I know who are also ‘going to hell’. My dearest friends, including my amazing minister, will be there so I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else. We will collectively love that place into another heaven! See you in hell, John!

  14. Thank you for expressing so many of my thoughts. And, shame on you for making me so uncomfortable. Keep on. Sincerely,

  15. I would just like to be pedantic and point out that, as well as teh doctrine itself, all Christian artwork depicting Hell is also all wrong.

    Brimstone (the ancient word for sulfur) burns with a blue flame; the orange/yellow/red flames in Hell paintings is just fanciful imagination.

    Oh the joys of being a professional chemist….

    • Right you are. In fact, almost all of our visions of Hell were created in the written and graphic art of Medieval times when yellows, reds, and oranges were popular colors.

  16. That oft quoted phrase “You ‘ll know your true friends will not be the ones who bail you out of jail, but rather will be the ones sitting beside you in the cell.”
    See you in hell, John!
    Love it, love it, love it! Did I say “love it?”

  17. Jesus didn’t come to save us at the end of life, but rather in the midst of life. The kingdom of God isn’t some fairy tale existence where all live happily ever after at the end of our life, but a reality in which we live in life. He spoke about it in opposition to the kingdom of Caesar in his time, which was a kingdom ruled by violence and injustice, where the rich could do as they pleased, and the only way to survive was to be aligned with them and the socio-economic and religious world they controlled. Ours is a bucket list that includes love, mercy and justice – what happens after this life is up to God, not us. The future is entirely in God’s hands. Our attempts to take it from him, to secure “heaven” for ourselves, is just another sign of our sinfulness and lack of faith in God – a breaking of the first commandment, to attempt to take God’s place. Let God worry about heaven – we’ve got plenty to do here.

  18. Great thoughts. I think the religious bigots have all filed out of the room by now though, shaking the dust from their sensible loafers. Are you okay with just preaching to the choir? 😉

  19. JP, this pretty much sums up my life. I will repent of hating someone, condemning someone or mistreating someone but I won’t apologize for loving someone and doing good to everyone I meet. I won’t make people jump through hoops to gain my acceptance or tell them they have no hope. Beautiful words, excellent post

    • Kathy, (and John too!), as a recovering fundamentalist I want to say thanks for modeling a commen sense and gracious way to respond. I don’t yet have the words to explain my new perspective but when I do I hope it will be in the same spirit you’re communicating with here.

  20. I am from the older age group, John. Life has taught me and changed me. Be patient and love those who condemn. I have dear friends who I cannot discuss my gay grandson with because they remind me of hell and all its fury. I choose to still love them the way Jesus loved – with forgiveness. I was once one of them.
    I love your blog – it has put into words so many of my thoughts.

  21. I so needed to read this today. Thank you.

    I’ll bring the graham crackers and chocolate (since another person said something about marshmallows). Let’s make Smores!

  22. John,
    Good stuff brother! As an Army chaplain on a journey of 26 years with 2 to go I understand your thoughts and share many of them. BTW no hell is one of them. I do like the concept of purgatory ????. I wrote a column for the local paper a few years ago “the Bible can be a stumbling block to your faith” and had death threats from some of the faithful! They slid them under the door of my office at the hospital where I was serving a Chief of the department of Pastoral Care And ministry. They need lines like the little boy at the T ball game. A good hit, should have been a double but when he got to first base he kept following the line and when it disappeared he ran in circles yelling “where’s the line”. We are afraid of freedom because with freedom comes responsibility. As a friend once said ” it seams like all the Yu cultural and moral trailblazers were those who spent there whole lives in unmarked places. Jesus couldn’t seem to please his deciples or the Pharisees. They kept pulling him in different directions until he found himself ripped apart on the cross. That tends to happen to people who won’t conform. so we trusting God with all our heart and it knowledge the presence of God even in the unmarked places in every step we take in every move we make trust that we can never step anywhere that will we will be out of the presence of God or God’s willingness and commitment to redeem even our worst steps.”

  23. Darkness is like a void right? It’s empty. It can’t contain the light – so no, I can’t imagine you will be going to Hell- you’ve got too much of God’s light within 🙂

  24. I once had a pastor ask a seemingly difficult question:
    If there was no Heaven, would you still choose to be a Christian? Mind you- he shares the same vision for Christianity as you do, so he didn’t make it about Heaven and Hell. It was about living life on earth as though this is the life we are given, and not about some future paradise.

    Here is what I’ve learned. The more I give of myself, instead of taking for myself- the more I have to give. In return- I have peace and joy. When I take and behave selfishly-the more anxiety and anger I have.

    Thank you for your writing, because it’s from a perspective I can get behind.

    • Excellent thoughts added to John’s—both the pastor’s lesson and your learning. Thank you for sharing, Mark.

    • Mark:
      Your pastor’s question, you do realize that that was a rhetorical question don’t you? Heaven is the location of the very presence of God himself. If there were no heaven, there would be no God, and no reason for anything. Everything would be due to chance, if it exists at all. Christianity surely wouldn’t exist.

      Here is a good question to ask yourself though, if there are some who do reject God, but pastors like John preach that everyone is going to heaven (whether they like it or not), will heaven not be like hell for them? If heaven is filled with the cursing’s of those that don’t want to be there, will heaven be hell for those that do?

  25. Thank you! You said so much of what I am thinking and so much of what I am struggling with in my faith. So often I feel like my evangelical, conservative church is right, and yet so far from how I want to live out my faith walk with Jesus. Mostly feeling trapped right now, but trying to bring more love and grace into the world.

  26. According to the UMC i have been inconsistant with biblical teaching so i get to go to hell first. I have listened to lots of hate spewed by religious leaders. I am still living giving but this is my 50 th year since baptism and confirmation. If the UMC does not get rid of the teaching that homosexualty is inconsistant with biblical teaching…. im done i give up i cant do the christianity thing any more. Im an old man who was raped and molested by the church leadership for 5 years before i quit college and moved away…. at least deliverence from the preditor. But i just dont know where i will go… life without my wesley type of christianity is not worth living. But NO MORE ABUSE EVER.

    • This is a sad thing Mark. You apparently belong to a very conservative UMC. Not all UMC’s are like yours by a long shot. The reason the UMC is holding on to its anti-gay theology is simple. The American UMC leadership wants to get rid of it. The problem is that the overseas UMC missionaries saved millions of people in third world countries—and then ran out on them. The saved people said, “We have all been saved now, but no one is here to teach us how to live our faith.” The Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelical religious organizations overseas stepped in and said, “Ran out on you did they? Stick with us, and we will teach you how to live a life of hating your neighbor as much as you hate yourself—and if you do not hate yourself—then you need to start learning how.” So what you have overseas is a huge number of churches and people who claim the UMC as their home church, but all of their beliefs are basically Independent Fundamental Baptists (IFB). They make up over half of the UMC worldwide now, and they hate LGBTQ people with a perfect hatred. The American UMC leadership is afraid they will split the church into two separate churches if it does not toe the line they insist on with regard to LGBTQ hatred. What do I say? I say go ahead and let the church split. Let the African tribesmen go off and be IFB people if that is the way they want to live their lives. They are in fact not Wesleyan at all and never will be. Split her down the middle and have a UMC church that loves its neighbors as itself.

    • Mark, I don’t know you but want to reach out. I’m a gay man who struggled for many years with the condemnation and malicious ascerbic words spewed out from the pulpit and some (often many) from the congregation. In my search for deliverance from the anguish and pain of not being accepted fully within my Christian community as a gay man, I tried corrective therapy in an attempt to become ‘straight’. Mark, I cannot explain the psychological damage and harm this did to me. It took years to find myself again. One day I woke up spiritually, (praise be to God!), and the following words came to me, ” Sean, you can’t love me and hate yourself.” From that day I pretty much regarded myself as no more or less worthy of Christ’s love than anyone else. More importantly, I thanked God for my sexuality. I thanked God for making me just the way I was supposed to be made; gay, attracted to other men in a way that makes me feel whole and complete. I thanked God for all my blessings. You see, if I wasn’t gay I wouldn’t be me. Mark, it doesn’t matter what others may say; it really doesn’t. Is it hurtful? Yes, without a shadow of a doubt. But, I have learnt that God does not condemn me for being honest with myself. God won’t condemn me because I’m in love with another man and want to spend the rest of my life with that person. It’s about love in a complete human-to-human sharing way. If a specific branch of a Christian denomination wants to believe that loving another person is sinful and immoral, let them! More the fool them for missing out on God’s unique creation; more the fool them for rejecting your full participation and the love you may bring to the congregation. You are the Church Mark. Let every cell in your body praise God as a congregation would. Then look to be nurtured and fed in a developmental way by a community of Christians that will love you. Look at the fruit a church is bearing; this is a good starting point. Ask God to point you in the right direction. Pray about it. Good luck my freind. X

  27. Although I John 4 may not be speaking specifically to modern LGBTQ issues, it just keeps coming to my mind in light of all the bathroom and wedding cake discussion.

    ” 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

    To my LGBTQ brothers and sisters, may I say that I love you and I’m not afraid of you? I would be honored to do business with you. I would happily welcome you into the neighborhood. In my opinion, the local church or Bible study would be all the richer and more blessed by your presence. And speaking for myself, trans-women, you are welcome in the ladies room. (You have to pee somewhere, right sister?)

    I realize I’m not doing you any favors. I’m sure you have plenty of friends without me. I’m not trying to be benevolent. I’m just trying to be human. In light of the dust up that ensues every time America has a conversation about bathrooms and wedding cakes and the like, I want to extend a hand of friendship.

    Blessings!

  28. Hey John, I’ll bring the weenies if you bring the marshmallows. And I’ve got a committee working on stuff like rolls, mustard, relish, and sauerkraut.

    roflol (><)

  29. Wow, it’s nice to read something about Christianity and the Bible that are positive. Thank you so much John. If only people would take the time to Study the Bible on their own, they would see how so many people are so blind, as in the days of the Pharisees. The whole of Christianity is built on a foundation of love . God is love. If people would really look at the relationship that Jesus had to the Pharisees and others in power, we would see how he emphasized over and over again that love is worth more than sacrifice. What does God desire of us? It says in the Bible that we should act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. That Mercy is to be not just liked but loved. In other words, when we have the chance to forgive someone because of something that we perceive they did or that we both know they did, it is a blessing to us as well. God forgives all of us who come to him and confess their sins and he cleanses them of all unrighteousness. We believe in Jesus and except his atoning sacrifice. He gives us his righteousness and it is no longer dependent on ours to be in the kingdom of heaven. So many people don’t understand the relationship between the moral law, the 10 commandments, and justice. The Commandments were given to us to show us what sin was. And Jesus was given to us to pay for our sins; The wages of sin is death. Oh, how I wish people would read and study the Bible, because it has so many of the answers that we need in our lives today. We should be concentrating on the principles that God gives us and ask the Holy Spirit to help us to include those principles in our lives today. We are to love the sinner and hate the sin. You can love people that are doing the wrong things, you don’t have to support the wrong things, their actions, but you love the person, because they are a child of God, no matter what. Since I have gotten closer to Christ, I have never been so happy, so content, and so much at peace as I am now. I still suffer from clinical depression, but God is the only one that can get me through this challenging and often times, tremendously painful life. I can truly say that the Holy Spirit has granted me a wonderful gift, to love people as my brothers and sisters, even if I don’t know them. I have compassion and love for all people, for all creation as well. I try to see through God’s eyes, so that I will be able to love as He loves. I love you all! have a blessed week! Please forgive the length of this comment, I had no idea it was this long. Thank you for your patience if you’ve read this far.

  30. Good that I won’t be alone “down” there, John. I’ve pretty much volunteered for that eternal domain for where else can I go as a pastor with such awesome opportunity to comfort the afflicted and tell of Jesus’s love for sinners. It seems like the perfect place to plant a church and bear others’ burdens in community. Having given our lives here on earth to healing and helping those hurting the most, who better than us, John, to go to hell and there love the unlovable for Christ’s sake.

  31. Well, if hell exists, then I’m there with you John.

    And maybe it won’t be that bad. At least we’ll be free from the sanctimony of others here on Earth.

  32. Pingback: Things I’m Doing Before Going to Hell | john pavlovitz - Megan's Space

  33. It shows exactly how the image of God is by this narrow minded people. The love of God is dominated by judgement and the Bible is not a book of salvation but of fear and fundamentalistic reading. Jesus was coming not to judge but to save all mankind from their sin. The LBGT- groups are in good company with Jesus, he will hug and love them.

    Capelle aan den IJssel,
    The Netherlands.

  34. My response to Christians of this kind has long been to quote the early lines of Job in which Satan questions whether piety is false — corrupted by the expectation of reward in this life & in the life to come. God’s response is to bring Job into Hell.

    The whole question of whether God, Satan, Heaven, & Hell exist vanishes when one dismisses materialistic interpretations. “I myself am Heaven & Hell”, declares the Soul in the Rubaiyat. Yes, responds my own soul out of its own experience & perception of the world in which we live.

  35. I shall look forward to joining you in the hot place, although, I rather suspect the decision on what we have got right, wrong or misunderstood does not rest with any human agency. In fact, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. Like you, I shall be doing all the things on your list until ‘Der Tag’ arrives.

  36. Pingback: May 13–Belonging: Going to Hell? | Words of Wisdom?

  37. John, thank you for this powerful blog post. I write a regular blog for our Unitarian Universalist community, and today have linked this one to our page–hoping many more read it.

  38. Okay John Pavlovitz. I love your blog. I love what you are doing here. I love you personally. However, I am going to have to leave your blog—and I might not be back. I would just like to say that I am leaving because you allow fundies like Paulinberia to come in here, tear your work apart, accuse you of being a false teacher, and harass the people who come here for nothing more than a little bit of love, comfort, and peace. It is like having a nice, clear glass of water with just a little piece of brown coprolite always floating in the glass. It is not like the people who come here have not been tortured, maimed. and abused by these same people for the better part of their lives—a better part LOST to these people because of them. I made this point when I first showed up here at your blog over one year ago, but you did not take it seriously—so I shall be on my way. If you ever decide to tell the fundies that they are no longer welcome to come here and harass people, please let me know by e-mail (tcbkjbbrown@comcast.net), and I will return and maintain a better mood. I wish you the best in all that you do—and especially in your wonderful ministry. Here is a big (((HUG)))). Good bye.

    • Dove, I am going miss your insights, friend! I know where your frustration comes from and I understand. It’s good to take some time off and hopefully things will evolve— in the meantime ((hugs)) to you as well.

  39. Thank you for putting into words what is in my heart. I left organized religion because I couldn’t take the intolerance and hypocritical beliefs I was surrounded by. I have spent a lifetime trying to see the loving God and not the angry, condemning God. I dare not say I understand what it is like to be LBGTQ, but I do believe that if we are created in the image of God, then He understands. I feel it’s not for me to judge. I don’t want to believe there is a hell and I do hope I won’t end up there. I live my life ever grateful for the great GIFT we have been given, yet I have difficulty accepting Grace because of the thick blanket of guilt that was laid upon me all those years ago sitting in church. If what I do can help to bring Heaven down, I am thankful for the honor of serving. I don’t really want to have a party in hell, but there are people who think I’m headed there, I’m sure. For the meantime, I keep my eyes looking up and struggle to love everyone around me. Some days I fail, some days I do well. I’m human, after all. And God loves me when no one else does.

  40. Oh, how wonderful it will be when humanity gives up these childish notions of a magical fairy man in the sky who grants a few wishes and condemns so many of his ‘children’ to an eternity of torture.

    When we move on from belief in Santa Claus, we can finally begin to have a morality that isn’t forced on us by a group of superstitious simpletons, and we can all live by the code of doing what makes us happy (without harming others).

    Unfortunately, the majority of humans possess neither the intelligence nor the education to give up the Neolithic need to cling to supernatural mythologies. Those of us who believe in rationality and science will have to put up with the cavemen for many more generations, sadly.

    • Breed7:
      How did you arrive at your level of rationality and understanding of science?

      Who will dictate the new morality and what will it be based upon?

  41. I will happily spend an eternity in hell with you and other sinners seeking God than a moment of heaven with his enforcers.

  42. In my opinion…

    Assuming the bible is a spiritual book and the inspired word of God, then to interpret it through earthly means can only lead to humanly constructed ideas not spiritual ones about it. When we discuss heaven and hell, we project human constructs, ideas and beliefs about those places. Perhaps we should not lose sight that thoughts are generated by the mind, ergo, they are human interpretations, not God thoughts.

    Some tension may emerge in acknowledging that the Bible cannot truly be understood through human intellect alone, if the assumption that the writings are the inspired word of God, is upheld. This juxtaposition of wanting to assymilate God truth but not having the capacity to do so, is met with anxiety; what if I get it wrong and my understanding is way off? In an attempt to reduce this discomfort, a framework, belief or theology is adopted that can shepherd us in one direction or another but which ultimately, through its accepted authority, helps to ease the burden of interpretation; in effect we leave complex issues up to the framework to explain for us. However, as there is no perfect framework, an inter-group battle for the holy grail ensues; whose interpretation of God’s, assumed inspired word, is the most accurate?

    Should Christianity really be a battle of interpretations? A Mexican standoff between denominations? An I’m right you’re wrong playground antics? Surely there is much more to Jesus’ life than a relentless squabbling over what something may or may not have meant over two thousand years ago? The bottom line is we were not presented with a ‘How to be a good Christian’ instruction manual by Jesus himself; He could have done this. Furthermore, those who converted to follow Christ after his death and resurrection had no book at all!

    It appears, on the surface at least, that interpretations of the Bible can generate more discord than harmony. Why is this I ask? Why should a book about God and a man who preached love for his entire life generate such friction amongst believers? It doesn’t make any sense to me. It doesn’t make any sense, unless a piece of the jigsaw puzzle is wrong.

    What if Jesus knew that a book would be open for discussion, debate and interpretation? What if He didn’t want to leave a book of instructions but rather a simple message of love. You don’t really need convoluted words for that just an account of his example to us. You see, in my opinion, there is no need to interpret anything. What is important is to understand, nurture and relentlessly proclaim a message of love and peace. Conversely, to tirelessly try and get inside God’s head has led to missing the central point of Jesus’ life, I think; to love one another and give thanks to God – that’s all. That’s what the Bible can be distilled down to.

    So is the Bible important to Christians. Yes, in a similar way that a good reputable history book is important to society. Is the Bible the inspired word of God? It really doesn’t matter if it is or isn’t because either way Jesus remains the Son of God, the Word made flesh and God with us. Personally, I believe it is not the inspired word of God per se, but rather, becomes the inspired word of God within us through a spiritual connection and personal relationship with God. In effect, each of us is fed in a different way and it is this spiritual food that is inspired by and given to us by God. Those who wrote the original accounts I would suggest that they too experienced inspiration from God but that doesn’t make the book itself the inspired word of God.

    So, I try not to get inside God’s head in an attempt to decipher and interpret ancient words. I do however, allow God to get inside mine through meditation and prayer? And, I accept that it is through loving others and nurturing my relationship with the almighty that the Bible attains it’s true purpose. Heaven and Hell become irrelevant to me in the here and now as there is just too much work to do, to ponder over such after life concepts.

  43. Very well put, Sean. A great deal of the Bible is allegoric for precisely the reason you give; God is beyond our understanding, so we are inspired to consider the message in human terms by its writing. Some of it is ‘historical’ in the sense that real events and real people are recounted and discussed, and those parts are supported by archaeology and, perhaps surprisingly to some, many non-Christian writings and sources.

    A Jewish Rabbi taught me more about understanding the New Testament than perhaps all the books and lectures I attended or read on the subject, and gave me perhaps the clearest understanding of God I could need. He told me that you have to understand God as being at the beginning of everything, and at the end of everything, and at every point in between right now. For God there is NO time, he is everywhere, every how and every when.

    As creatures of ‘time’ we are able to live and understand things second by second. We live in this minute, this hour, this day, the past unchangeable, the future unknown. It is only in the hope of the love of God that we can contemplate that, and perhaps ‘heaven’ is to be able to join God in that state and be comfortable with the past we created by our actions. Hell therefore would be to be trapped, separated from God by the burden of that unchangeable past for eternity.

    Regardless of our ‘theology’ or any dispute as to whether the Bible (or the Quran or any other book) is the literal word (I believe the only infallible and literal ‘Word’ is Jesus) the real message of the Bible is to try to live as close a life to that of Jesus himself as possible.

    And we will stumble, we will fail, but we must try. Only then can the true evidence of our faith be seen.

    “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

    • Patrick thanks for your response. I actually got goose bumps when I read it – thank you! Curiously, here’s how my original draft started I later extracted to reduce word count.

      “Imagine the space-time continuum does not exist beyond the grave and that all the laws of physics you had come to hold as truth, become irrelevant in the spiritual realm. Imagine that all the earthly concepts and constructs you had designed here simply become defunct on the other side.”

      Regards,

      Sean

  44. As the Buddha was believed to have said this, according to the Chinese tradition, “If I do not enter hell, who would then?”

    Blessed Vesak Day! ????

  45. I need love, understanding, compassion n humanity.

    I need to live a life according to my ability and circumstances accorded to me.

    I need nobody’s standards or judgement on how to live.

    Last of all, i need no religion especially Jesus or Mohama, Buddha or Krishna. They aĺl preached captivity under the guise of love and lock your mind behind whatever intended agenda called falsehood.

    The only truth are acts of kindness and deeds another human in need inspite of his beliefs. Talk is cheap. Deeds are real

  46. You also need to know you are loved and that’s what comes of embracing the embrace of ‘that which is beyond our understanding and definition’ and in which we live and move and have our being and in which we find ourselves.

  47. So even if God tells you you’re wrong about something you’ll thrust your hand in defiance and step into the abyss? Ok.

    At this point Bible interpretation is irrelevant. In fact, in your hypothetical scenario the Bible can be entirely wrong and Jesus just some guy. All those discussions are irrelevant as well. We’re at some version of judgement day and we encounter God (whatever that may mean, because at that point God is who God is without argument). And we’re not discussing if this being really is God, we’re assuming for argument that question has been settled…then that’s it. There’s not another ultimate and transcendent goodness in all of reality (if there was then that would be God and not this other creature.) So any challenge to God’s goodness is like telling water it’s not watery enough. It’s irrelevant that you think otherwise, and any arguments against God are pointless. If God challenges me on some value or belief I hold strongly then I repent. That’s it. This isn’t even about LGBTQ issues anymore at the level you raised this. You can’t argue you’re only following Christ because if God says you’re wrong then Jesus was too along with the entire Christian religion. I’m following God because I believe it ultimately true, if I discover otherwise my only sane action is to change my mind.

    All I hear is “I’m right, I’ll always be right, and even God can’t tell me I’m wrong!” This also makes all other discussions irrelevant. If God can’t change your mind about something then no one else ever can so maybe this isn’t even worth posting…,

    Or maybe you’d just tell God he’s still wrong. Claim a personal right to judge ultimate goodness apart from God? I don’t care at that point if you think the Bible was written by drunken toddlers, the only thing that matters is the dichotomy of faith vs rebellion. There was already one creature who thought that was a good idea, and if you’d really rather follow Satan in a silly rebellion, and trounce off into the eternal darkness, and refuse to let even God ever correct you on something. Then…..have fun I guess, no one will ever be able to stop you so whatever. I’ll repent if every belief I’ve ever had, serve The Creator (which I hold is Jesus…you know…the King) and move on with eternity. If you really want to be that stubborn don’t let the pearly gates hit you on your way out. Though I wonder if you’ll really have the courage to defy Heaven when judgment actually happens.

  48. Not to worry, John – I’ll have a nice cold beer waiting for you when you get there – or, if you get there first, save one for me! I always shake my head when I read some of the comments about Jesus saving us. All the stuff about him “saving us” so we don’t go to hell. I don’t think he had much interest in hell – certainly not the fixation a lot of Christians have on it. The “saving” he wanted to do, was mostly to save us from our worst self – to live for others, so that we could have “abundant life,” and not worry so much, not fixed on ourselves and what might happen to us – to spend ourselves freely in love of others, and not trying to figure who’s “in” or “out.” Anyway – I’m with you, John!

  49. I think this is one, of my favorite posts of yours. It really spoke to me. Maybe it’s because I can relate to the part about “I may indeed be going to Hell for believing the wrong things or not believing the right things.” For too long I found myself scared to be who God created me to be. I think like so many people, I lived my life, or religious life in fear of a place called hell. I don’t fear it anymore, if it even exists. I “need” to be who I am, who God created me to be, even if that means I don’t get a pass into Heaven.

  50. All conservative vs. liberal garbage aside here is what I find troubling in this.

    Martin Luther says in the Heidelberg Disputation, Thesis #26… “The law says, do this, and it is never done. Grace says, believe in this (Christ’s atonement), and everything is already done.”

    Grace is not something that comes from within, from your own goodness or efforts, it comes from outside of you, from Christ alone, from His atoning death on your behalf, through His resurrection and ascension into heaven.

    This post is about your works and showing your merits, but where are Christ’s works and merits for you and the world?

    If it’s about you, it’s not about Jesus, and if it’s not about Jesus, I fail to see how is truly Christian. In the words of John the Baptizer, I must decrease that He may increase.

    • Craig… It’s not about him, it’s about God. If Jesus showed the way God acts/believes (love thy neighbor, kind deeds, etc.), then a human behaving in loving and kind, etc. ways is actually reflecting God’s love and showing that human’s belief in God.

  51. I’ll be right there in hell with you. I’ve been told that I’m going there since I was six years old, sitting in a Southern Baptist church with my best (and saved) friend. That permanently scared me off of Christianity, but not of my love for Christ’s message. I try my best to live a life of compassion, tolerance, love, and joy. It is OK to be joyous, though so many seem to think otherwise. In any case, I look forward to shaking your hand when we meet in hell.

  52. I know this was published nearly a year ago but I just saw it and I wanted to make this comment.
    Many, many years ago, a very wise friend once said to me, “If Jesus ever did come back, it would take Him three days just to stop puking at all of the vicious, cruel and inhumane things done ‘in His Name’. ”
    Recently, I’ve been following two stories on two different sides of the Atlantic: the discovery of mass graves of infants and toddlers at convent run “mother and baby” homes in Ireland (and the discovery that very few of those deaths were actually “natural”) and the discovery in the US of hundreds of “gay conversion” camps for teens being run by fundamentalist churches. Both of these stories made me sick to my stomach.
    I recently posted about these stories. They point up to me that in nearly every case, humanity’s inhumanity to itself is driven by religion.
    Any religious expression not based in REAL compassion and empathy for the human condition is worse than empty; it’s false and evil in and of itself.
    Keep marching. I think you’re doing it right.

  53. Hell for me would be an eternity spent with all the people who have told me all my life that I’m going to hell and they are, of course, going to heaven. Ergo, we will all end up in the same place.

  54. This reminds me of oen of my favorite quotes from Marcus Aurelius:

    “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

  55. It pains me to see you going through this struggle. I went through it, and it drove me crazy, and I made way too many posts on facebook about it. Finally, I let it go. I now surround myself with reasonable people, not brainwashed, fearful Biblical literalists. This is not a fight you are going to win. You are preaching to the choir. Those outside of the choir will never listen. They are brainwashed, and the catch 22 is that if they should dare to entertain rational thought they will go to hell, and burn forever, so that’s a pretty big deterrent for them. The only way is to get off the train, make some reasonable friends, and forget the rest. I still have to visit my fundamentalist mother and extended family, and so I do it, and we don’t speak of this. If they bring it up, I shut it down immediately by saying that my spiritual beliefs are now private, and I am not going to discuss them. Honestly, i worry about being struck from my mother’s will, but if that’s the case, so be it. I cannot spend my life worrying about it. If you want to be happy, you should probably change professions and hang out with like minded people. I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but my experience has been that it will not work, and it will only make you unhappy, and if you let it affect your physical health, it will. Love to you,

    • Sarah E – If John’s words reach just one person who rethinks their beliefs, the effort is worth it. In fact, his effort is worth it because his words bring comfort to those struggling with their beliefs or against those who believe differently than they do. I know his words have helped me. So I hope he does not stop expressing his beliefs and ideas!

  56. As a liberal Christian who has been loving your writing, I’m very interested to hear what your argument is when defending your stance on Hell. Do you also travel to speak in cities across the US?

  57. I wanted to add: The only thing that has kept religions around for thousands of years is the catch 22 – that if you doubt, then you burn, so you had better not doubt, and the fear that should they give in to a little bit of rational thought, it’s a slippery slope to hell. There are numerous Bible verses to this effect (don’t eat of the tree of knowledge, don’t doubt, or “look back” or you will turn to a salt pillar and/or burn in hell; Gods ways aren’t our ways, in other words, they are not supposed to make sense to man, etc. etc.) and then there is the required belief that “all scripture is God breathed, the Bible is “God’s word.”” So, how CAN they listen to reason? Without these threats, religion would have died out long ago. Can you imagine if no hell were included in religion or the Bible? People would be free to look, rationalize, and research, and come to reasonable conclusions. But the threat of hell, and to a lesser agree, the promise of eternal life in heaven, are the reasons people are stuck in religion. Fear is a huge motivator. So, the bad news is, there is little hope for a lot of change to happen in our lifetimes.

  58. Beautifully written, as always. One of the most important things we can do is be kind to others. Living a life of love is the closest thing we can do to be closer to the divinity of God. I know this as a near-death experiencer. Love and goodness to others is paramount. Keep writing! I’m a fan of yours.

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