Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Why Does God Send People to Hell?

How does a loving God send people to hell (assuming there is a God)? This is a question I’ve been pondering lately. I want to use a judicial framework in this post to get at why there’s such a thing as a hell. Let’s look at the reasons we punish people.

1. Retribution

In the criminal justice system, we punish people for their misdeeds because there was something intrinsically wrong with their action. Now, we might be tempted to think there’s nothing so bad that an eternity spent in hell is a proportionate punishment. But that is from our view as humans, not God’s. Reading through the Bible, you find that God has really a low threshold for what constitutes a sin (at least in human eyes). Christ says that “whosoever looks at woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Divorce is also referred to as adultery. If you have any doubt about how tough God’s standards are, read through the Ten Commandments. Have you ever lied, disobeyed your parents, or been jealous? Remember that God is perfect and sinless. That means that a sinner can’t go to heaven based on his works. In other words, sinners don’t deserve to go to heaven, and the only other place for them is hell.

2. Incapacitation

The logic here is similar to that above. A sinful soul would pollute heaven, which is supposed to be righteous and holy. Now an interesting wrinkle here is the Catholic doctrine of purgatory. Perhaps every soul can be purified, and then go to heaven without polluting it.

3. Deterrence

Hell might be the best deterrent ever thought up. People contemplating doing immoral things will think long and hard. Is an eternity spent burning in hell really worth committing that murder or that theft? What about things people do in private such as committing adultery, lying, or sabotaging other people? The practical result of a hell could be to improve human behavior, and make for a better, more moral society.


  1. Some judicial system!

    So, whenever you hear about places in the world where people are cast into dungeons and subjected to the worst sort of tortures possible, do you callously ponder, "Oh, I can see how that might help people behave better, as a kind of detterent"?

    No, sorry, but your sense of justice is short-circuiting somewhere when it comes to God being far, far worse than the worst we've ever seen in human affairs.

    I've actually written an entire book on this topic--"Hell? No! Why You Can Be Certain There's No Such Place As Hell," (for anyone interested, you can get a free Ecopy of my book at my website: www.ricklannoye.com), but if I may, let me share one of the many points I make in it to show why God could never torture anyone.

    No matter how many bad things a person does, and even if we stoop to the primitive idea that "justice" means getting and eye for an eye, there would come a point when a person so condemned by God to suffer the exact amount of however many pains he caused, the time would be up! Any torture past that moment would be UNJUST.

    But consider also that Jesus rejected the idea of this sort of "justice," which is nothing more than revenge, an endless cycle of people and gods getting back at each other, more and more and more suffering. His view as that the cycle needs to be broken, and to do so by simply forgiving, as he taught, that God does.

    No, this heinous notion was added to Christianity long after Jesus death, probably by Greek Christian converts who imported their belief in Hades.