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In the religious debate thread the topic of hell has come up a couple times. It's certainly relevant to the issue of belief in God since apparent inconsistencies in the character of the biblical God are often highlighted by atheists as a reason for disbelief, eternal torment in hell by a supposed God of love being a common one. However, as the moderator pointed out, a discussion of the religious doctrine and the biblical basis for it is outside the scope of that thread. Fair enough, but I would like to continue the discussion.

As I described in my last post on the subject, I believe that "hell" as used in the Bible refers to the common grave of mankind, to which both righteous and wicked people go. In other words, it's basically the state of being dead, as opposed to being alive. Since individuals in the Bible are described as being brought back to life (i.e., resurrected), it would follow that such a hell is not a permanent state. I also explained that I believe that the scriptures that refer to Gehenna and the "lake of fire" refer to eternal destruction, a judgment which does not have the hope of restoration to life. So an individual who is figuratively thrown into the "lake of fire" is dead for good. End of story. I provided a few scriptures to support those views in that post, but if you would like more, let me know. I'd be happy to oblige.

Obviously, I am well aware that this is not the mainstream Christian view of what "hell" means. However, when I asked people to explain why they believed as they did, nobody actually provided any reasons. One atheist stated that the Bible couldn't serve as a basis for belief, but it shouldn't take long to realize that doesn't make much sense. It's fine if he doesn't accept the Bible as inspired by God, but if a person does, then wrong or not, it's logical for him or her to form beliefs regarding the afterlife based on what the Bible says. What I'm really trying to point out, however, is that most religious people who claim to base their belief on the Bible can't actually use it to explain their beliefs. And further, I believe that this applies not only to individuals but to the great majority of Christian churches. There are so many church doctrines, hellfire included, which are based on church traditions and incorporation of the beliefs of other religions, rather than the Bible. Therefore, just as the thrust of the argument about the existence of God revolved around establishing a logical basis for one's opinions, I would like to see a logical discussion, based on the Bible or otherwise, for why you do or don't believe in Hell, and if so, what you believe it to mean.

Any takers?

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Well, I'm not very religious, but you are accepting alternatives it seems, so here are my thoughts. I'm not an atheist per say; I basically have developed my own theory (which is similar to some other people of course). I put all my faith in logic and reason which does not exclude the possibility of God. My theory is that life itself is God and God is within and among us throughout the universe where ever there is life and that we all contribute our experiences and thoughts to this collective energy that can be called the ubiquitous God.

Now to the point, in my opinion, Hell would have to be some alternate dimension and I see no reason why dying would be the means to get there. Since there is no proof this other dimension exists and is so terrifying that it can labeled Hell I will not accept it as anything but an interesting idea that cannot be proven at this point in time. There may be infinite other dimensions and they may all closely reflect the dimension we are in right now, not Hell.

I think that the typical idea of Hell that some religions offer is a perfect example of cultural terrorism. Driving people through fear to do and say as they preach is how I see Hell being used in a historical and present sense. I am not denouncing any goodness organized religion has to offer, but any threats of this sort are evil on the religion's part. The idea of eternal damnation and torture is very unforgiving, evil, and hypocritical of teachings that are supposed to embrace love, forgiveness and individual and societal peace. The idea Hell is "below" Earth is clearly, to me at least, impossible and utter nonsense. Same goes for the center of the Earth idea. The only other alternative would be another dimension which I already addressed.

Now, for the idea that people have died and witnessed Hell, believe it or not I believe this, in a sense. One of the most powerful hallucinogens, DMT, resides in our brain and is released when we die. Some people who have died and been brought back to life have reported that they were in Heaven or Hell and then were brought back to life. This can logically be interpreted as a very intense hallucination brought about by the DMT released. Psychologically, I would assume whether someone experiences a Heavenly or a Hellish mental adventure would depend on their personalities, memories, any mental illnesses or tendencies, and their overall thoughtful disposition before they briefly died. I assume that the DMT exists within us for this time of our deaths so that our minds have a good buffer between our bodies' extreme states of life and death.

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So, duh puck, you believe that Hell is kinda just another name for penance, except you don't pray for forgiveness or whatever? So it's just a resting place where dead people go before heaven or "the fiery lake"? If so, why do you think that? What evidence do you have etc.? If not, please explain, but still say why.

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Now, for the idea that people have died and witnessed Hell, believe it or not I believe this, in a sense. One of the most powerful hallucinogens, DMT, resides in our brain and is released when we die. Some people who have died and been brought back to life have reported that they were in Heaven or Hell and then were brought back to life. This can logically be interpreted as a very intense hallucination brought about by the DMT released. Psychologically, I would assume whether someone experiences a Heavenly or a Hellish mental adventure would depend on their personalities, memories, any mental illnesses or tendencies, and their overall thoughtful disposition before they briefly died. I assume that the DMT exists within us for this time of our deaths so that our minds have a good buffer between our bodies' extreme states of life and death.

So, kinda like the Matrix? Except after death?

Also, my teacher told me once, that Hell isn't down, and heaven isn't up. They are both "out". up and down are just used to help people comprehend that it is likely hot in Hell, like in the center of the earth; and nice in heaven, like flying above the clouds.

Edited by Sharpie357
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Sorry for not stating this earlier, but, I do believe in Hell. I believe it is the place where "non-believers" go when they die. I believe it is home for Satan. I believe it is full of flames and intense heat. it is not a great place to be. It is a eternal place of suffering.

Now, about being a way to "scare people into believing" or "religious terrorism", i disagree. It is just simply a warning. The people trying to lead you to Christ probably thought that you just couldn't and wouldn't believe that Jesus, God's son, was crucified for our sins, died, was buried, and rose again on the third day. So they decided to try to "scare you to heaven" as a last ditch effort.

This site sums up what I believe about Hell.

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Sorry for not stating this earlier, but, I do believe in Hell. I believe it is the place where "non-believers" go when they die. I believe it is home for Satan. I believe it is full of flames and intense heat. it is not a great place to be. It is a eternal place of suffering.

Out of curiosity, why do you believe all these statements? Why do you believe "non-believers" go to Hell? Why do you believe in Satan? Why do you believe it is full of flames? Why do you believe in Hell at all?

My assumption, which you are completely free and welcome to refute, is that you believe all this because of literary works you have read, what people have told you to believe, and because of a general societal influence to believe in these things. None of these equates to proof and this Hell you describe is such an intense idea you believe to be real that I just find it hard to grasp how you can believe in it without a shred of proof.

Are all the Greeks who worshiped Zeus and Apollo in the Hell you envision? How about all the hominids up until the homo sapien? What about every human who believed something before Christianity was ever created? Are they all in this Hell? and why?

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Just a quick question Duh Puck. I believe that you said that you do believe in the Bible, but don't think the Bible says there is a Hell, is that true?

Correct. I do believe the Bible is God's word, and while it frequently refers to Sheol and Hades (words which are sometimes translated as "hell" in the King James and other Bibles), I believe these refer to the common grave of mankind (I was in the middle of typing up a lengthy reply to Sharpie when another site locked up the browser and I lost it. Arghh ... but I'll try again later when I have time). This does not equate to the usual concept of eternal torment in hellfire as taught by many religions. There are of course several passages which appear to refer to eternal fire, with expressions such as Gehenna, or "lake of fire," but I believe these are symbolic in nature, in most cases referring to eternal destruction rather than eternal torment.

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My theory is that life itself is God and God is within and among us throughout the universe where ever there is life and that we all contribute our experiences and thoughts to this collective energy that can be called the ubiquitous God.

Not to be argumentative, but you stuck it pretty hard to Sharpie for his trivialization of your suggestion, yet I'm not seeing the basis for your theory. If life is God, did God exist before life developed on Earth (or elsewhere, if such is the case)? Is this "God" personal in nature, possessing will and intelligence, or entirely impersonal, as would be implied by your description of a collective energy? Would such a God have any effect on the observable universe, such as designing life, or is it nothing more than an undetectable cosmic ether? Your description sounds similar to some Eastern philosophy regarding the nature of the universe, but from what I've seen, such philosophy generally repudiates the role of logic and reason in substantiating the belief. What observations or evidence has led you to this concept?

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Not to be argumentative, but you stuck it pretty hard to Sharpie for his trivialization of your suggestion, yet I'm not seeing the basis for your theory. If life is God, did God exist before life developed on Earth (or elsewhere, if such is the case)?

Yes. If life is God then wherever there is life there is God. Since there are most likely (more than) millions of places in the Universe with life, Earth should not be singled out. Also, our sun is new compared to most stars so most likely there was plenty of life before Earth got going.

Is this "God" personal in nature, possessing will and intelligence, or entirely impersonal, as would be implied by your description of a collective energy?

Collective means not personal or individual, but does not imply it is devoid of will and intelligence. This is obviously just my belief because nothing of this magnitude can be proven yet, but if life is God, then I would say it must have a strong will and intelligence in its own way in order to have evolved and adapted and keep progressing through such complex stages in order to finally get to a point on Earth or any other livable environment where life can think on a human level and beyond. I'm sure WAY beyond human intelligence in some galaxies.

Would such a God have any effect on the observable universe, such as designing life, or is it nothing more than an undetectable cosmic ether? Your description sounds similar to some Eastern philosophy regarding the nature of the universe, but from what I've seen, such philosophy generally repudiates the role of logic and reason in substantiating the belief. What observations or evidence has led you to this concept?

If we are assuming God is life then I don't see your point in the first question. It is similar to some Eastern thinking. For me, I believe life must have some point or else it wouldn't exist. Neither you, me or anyone on this planet can say what that point is. I've merely stripped away all the fantasy realms like Heaven and Hell and illogical stories like Adam and Eve and Noah. Like I said before, books like the Bible have plenty of great morals and can be used for plenty of good. But they are just stories written by men, very intelligent men they were, but similar enough to you and me. Since I have neither seen nor heard any evidence of anything supernatural or divine intervention I have no reason to believe in it or put my faith in it. The only thing left to ponder, is life itself, which I do have faith in and have a plethora of evidence of its survival, adaptation and evolution. This demonstrates, to me at least, that life has a goal in mind and that goal involves the evolution of thought, discovery, communication and exploration.

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Yes. If life is God then wherever there is life there is God. Since there are most likely (more than) millions of places in the Universe with life, Earth should not be singled out. Also, our sun is new compared to most stars so most likely there was plenty of life before Earth got going.

That's quite the speculation, but I'm not interested in arguing the likelihood of life beyond Earth. My question, which was possibly not worded clearly, was whether or not you believe life/God existed prior to the advent of physical life anywhere in the universe. A slightly different, but related question is: Is this life/God a non-physical, supernatural (i.e., not explainable by measurable natural phenomenon) entity, or is it explainable by science?

... if life is God, then I would say it must have a strong will and intelligence in its own way in order to have evolved and adapted and keep progressing through such complex stages in order to finally get to a point on Earth or any other livable environment where life can think on a human level and beyond.

Why so? Most scientists believe that unguided natural processes are sufficient to explain intelligent life, and if that's true, it would be reasonable to expect that life would likely arise on other planets in a similar fashion, but without any connection whatsoever to life on Earth. Why should all life be connected?

If we are assuming God is life then I don't see your point in the first question.

Ok, then I'll reword it (slightly): Would such a God have any effect on the observable universe, such as guiding the development of lifeforms, or is it nothing more than an undetectable cosmic ether? It's related to the question I asked above about whether or not this life/God is detectable, i.e., whether it leaves evidence of its interaction with our universe.

I believe life must have some point or else it wouldn't exist. Neither you, me or anyone on this planet can say what that point is.

Of course religion is all about giving meaning to life. However, I'm unclear how positing a nebulous God which manifests itself through the development of life throughout the universe would add meaning. Incidentally, while humans may not be able to say what the point is, I would certainly expect an intelligent, will-possessing entity such as you describe to be capable of shedding some light on the subject.

Since I have neither seen nor heard any evidence of anything supernatural or divine intervention I have no reason to believe in it or put my faith in it. The only thing left to ponder, is life itself, which I do have faith in and have a plethora of evidence of its survival, adaptation and evolution. This demonstrates, to me at least, that life has a goal in mind and that goal involves the evolution of thought, discovery, communication and exploration.

How exactly does "life" provide such evidence that is not supernatural or divine? If every manifestation of life is simply a product of natural laws, how do you arrive at this abstract, goal-oriented, intelligent entity in which you have faith?

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So, duh puck, you believe that Hell is kinda just another name for penance, except you don't pray for forgiveness or whatever? So it's just a resting place where dead people go before heaven or "the fiery lake"? If so, why do you think that? What evidence do you have etc.? If not, please explain, but still say why.

No, and I'm not sure what I said that would lead you to believe that, but I'll clarify.

First of all, the use of the word 'hell' is one of the sources of confusion, because the Hebrew and Greek words (Sheol and Hades) that are translated as 'hell' in many Bibles have nothing to do with the mainstream view of a Hell involving eternal fiery torment, presided over by Satan, as elaborately described and expounded on in the Inferno of Dante's Divine Comedy. The page you linked to accurately defines Sheol as "a Hebrew term simply describing 'the grave' or 'death'." The same page says that the Greek word Hades "usually refers to hell – a place of torment." However, Hades is the Greek word used to translate Sheol, and vice versa (at least in many modern Hebrew translations of the New Testament). While it's certainly possible that one word can have more than one usage, we would assume they are the same unless there was something in the usage or context to lead to that conclusion. Of the 10 places in the New Testament where Hades is used, there is only one which might cause the reader to think they are different:

Luke 16:22-24: "Also, the rich man died and was buried. And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, he existing in torments ... So he called and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in anguish in this blazing fire.'"

First of all, was the account to be taken literally, or as a parable? Consider some questions (taking into account the rest of the parable, from Luke 16:19-31):

1. Why was the rich man tormented in Hades? What had he done? All that Jesus said was that the man was rich, dressed well, feasted sumptuously, and lacked compassion for the poor beggar, but does such conduct merit punishment by eternal torment? Had he knowingly rejected Jesus and thus chosen to go to hell, as some have suggested is the way a person ends up in such a situation?

2. Is there anything in the account to lead us to conclude that, if the situation had been reversed, Lazarus would have been a compassionate man? Do we read that Lazarus built up a record of fine works with God, leading to his coming into the “bosom position of Abraham,” that is, a position of divine favor?

3. Is it logical to conclude that all sickly beggars will receive divine blessings at death, whereas all uncompassionate rich men will go to a place of conscious torment?

4. Are those enjoying celestial happiness able to see and speak to those suffering torment in Hades? After all, does not the same account say they are separated by a great chasm?

5. Could a mere drop of water bring relief to one suffering great torments in Hades?

6. Since we are trying to determine whether or not the word Hades used here is the same as Sheol: Does the account clearly show that the torment experienced by the rich man is associated with Hades, while all who go to heaven will be reclining in the "bosom of Abraham"? Notice that verse 22 says that the man was buried, and was then in Hades, which would harmonize with Hades referring to the grave.

Given the above, I think it's reasonable to conclude that Jesus was providing a parable which was to be understood figuratively. As it has been explained to me, the parable undoubtedly illustrated the reversal in condition of a class of people who exalted themselves (the wealthy Pharisees and other Jewish religious leaders) with the humble people they oppressed, many of whom would receive a position of favor as a result of their acceptance of Jesus. In that context, the "torment" experienced by the religious leaders could very well refer to the stinging expose' unleashed by Jesus' disciples, who, like Jesus, boldly exposed the religious leaders as the hypocritical frauds they were. Regardless of the details, it seems like a big stretch to view the account as an explanation of the conditions associated with blissful heavenly life in contrast with the eternal torment experienced by unbelievers. It certainly raises more questions than it answers, especially considering the 74 other uses of Sheol and Hades in the Bible against which this one instance can be compared.

In my post in the religious debate thread, I briefly summarized why I believe Gehenna and the "lake of fire" both refer to eternal destruction rather than eternal torment. I'd be glad to elaborate if it's not clear.

Note: My first post in the thread was actually not accurate to say that Sheol and Hades refer to the condition of the dead. In every case, the terms are used to refer to the place of the dead, the grave. Additionally, this place is figuratively described as being low, or a pit, particularly in relation to heaven, which is always described as above. Since the earth is round, heaven obviously can't be "up" in a literal sense, and neither is Sheol "down", but these descriptions do provide a simple illustrative contrast.

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1. Jesus had not yet come so it could not be a rejection of him but it could be a rejection of the LAW. Jesus stated in Mat 22:39 " LOVE your neighbor as thyself. All the Law and Prophets hang on these two Commandments. By not LOVING the beggar, the rich man rejected the LAW of GOD and therefore GOD himself. The rich man chose to separate himself from God in life. God honors the rich mans wishes to be separate from God.

As you stated earlier in Luke 16:22 the Rich man was in torment but did God cause the TORMENT or was TORMENT caused by the separation. I.e. one in hell having a consuming desire to have made a different choice.

2. One must take these verses as they are. The reason the beggar went to heaven and the rich man didn't isn't the point.

3. See 1

4. Pre Christ crucifixion this may have been possible.

I disagree with you in this story is a literary device for it refers to people by names.

Edited by BoscoRanger
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I believe that People who tried to be good during their life, despite their religion, Go to Heaven.

If they were delibritly VERY bad, they suffer forever in hell.

If they were kind of neutral, they go to purgatory to repent, and eventually go to heaven. :D

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My question, which was possibly not worded clearly, was whether or not you believe life/God existed prior to the advent of physical life anywhere in the universe. A slightly different, but related question is: Is this life/God a non-physical, supernatural (i.e., not explainable by measurable natural phenomenon) entity, or is it explainable by science?

I think you keep missing my point so I'll restate it. I don't believe in a separate God. I believe life is God. It could just as easily be called Tom or Jerry as far as I'm concerned. And also can be stated life is life or God is God. Therefore, God did not exist before life, life before God, life before life, God before God. They are one and the same to me. Life doesn't have to have a name, but if I'm naming it, I'll call it God.

Why so? Most scientists believe that unguided natural processes are sufficient to explain intelligent life, and if that's true, it would be reasonable to expect that life would likely arise on other planets in a similar fashion, but without any connection whatsoever to life on Earth. Why should all life be connected?

I agree with this statement entirely, I think you misread the statement of mine your questioning here. I never mention Earth's life is connected to other planets' life; just that there is life here and there is surely life elsewhere. I do believe though that our intelligence is evolving in a manner that promotes us to eventually make contact with other instances of life around the universe. Perhaps each instance is a different collective intelligence of life and they have yet to meet, like different, yet similar Gods if you will. Any statement like this is obviously speculation, you don't need to point that out. I know you said you're not interested in alien life, saying that's "quite the speculation". Have you studied astronomy at all? I would say it's quite the speculation to assume Earth is the only place in the universe with life.

Ok, then I'll reword it (slightly): Would such a God have any effect on the observable universe, such as guiding the development of lifeforms, or is it nothing more than an undetectable cosmic ether? It's related to the question I asked above about whether or not this life/God is detectable, i.e., whether it leaves evidence of its interaction with our universe.

Like before, I need to restate my concept that life is God. Basically, there is no reason for me to label life God, it's just a name, like the God you in whom you believe. But if I must put the name of God onto anything it would be life. So does life have an effect on the universe? Of course. Does life guide life? That would make no sense if life is God, God is God, etc...

Of course religion is all about giving meaning to life. However, I'm unclear how positing a nebulous God which manifests itself through the development of life throughout the universe would add meaning. Incidentally, while humans may not be able to say what the point is, I would certainly expect an intelligent, will-possessing entity such as you describe to be capable of shedding some light on the subject.

Again, I'm saying life is God. I'm not trying to make life be more than it is. Life is life, and if I'm going to call something God, it's going to be life. Is there more to life than we know? I think so, but of course none of us know.

How exactly does "life" provide such evidence that is not supernatural or divine? If every manifestation of life is simply a product of natural laws, how do you arrive at this abstract, goal-oriented, intelligent entity in which you have faith?

Physical life is inherently not supernatural or divine. It's existence is another matter though. No one has ever been able to explain why it exists or how long it has existed. Evolution of body and mind is fact though and proves that life is goal oriented. I have faith that there is a reason why life exists and it's not just some energetic anomaly. I have faith that evolution is happening for a reason and is also not just some random fluke. Perhaps when all the instances of life around the universe finally meet we will understand more about it.

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"I believe that People who tried to be good during their life, despite their religion, Go to Heaven.

If they were delibritly VERY bad, they suffer forever in hell.

If they were kind of neutral, they go to purgatory to repent, and eventually go to heaven"

Can you express what your belief is based on? :)

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Since this thread is supposed to be about the existence of Hell, here is my original post #2 without the first paragraph which has somehow manifested into everything I have said that is now being put to the question. I would prefer to only talk about the following statements in this thread, but feel free to question my previous post, it's your topic after all ;)

Hell would have to be some alternate dimension and I see no reason why dying would be the means to get there. Since there is no proof this other dimension exists and is so terrifying that it can labeled Hell I will not accept it as anything but an interesting idea that cannot be proven at this point in time. There may be infinite other dimensions and they may all closely reflect the dimension we are in right now, not Hell.

I think that the typical idea of Hell that some religions offer is a perfect example of cultural terrorism. Driving people through fear to do and say as they preach is how I see Hell being used in a historical and present sense. I am not denouncing any goodness organized religion has to offer, but any threats of this sort are evil on the religion's part. The idea of eternal damnation and torture is very unforgiving, evil, and hypocritical of teachings that are supposed to embrace love, forgiveness and individual and societal peace. The idea Hell is "below" Earth is clearly, to me at least, impossible and utter nonsense. Same goes for the center of the Earth idea. The only other alternative would be another dimension which I already addressed.

Now, for the idea that people have died and witnessed Hell, believe it or not I believe this, in a sense. One of the most powerful hallucinogens, DMT, resides in our brain and is released when we die. Some people who have died and been brought back to life have reported that they were in Heaven or Hell and then were brought back to life. This can logically be interpreted as a very intense hallucination brought about by the DMT released. Psychologically, I would assume whether someone experiences a Heavenly or a Hellish mental adventure would depend on their personalities, memories, any mental illnesses or tendencies, and their overall thoughtful disposition before they briefly died. I assume that the DMT exists within us for this time of our deaths so that our minds have a good buffer between our bodies' extreme states of life and death.

Edit: This is in response to Duh Puck just to clarify to whom I am talking.

Edited by itachi-san
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"Hell would have to be some alternate dimension and I see no reason why dying would be the means to get there. Since there is no proof this other dimension exists and is so terrifying that it can labeled Hell I will not accept it as anything but an interesting idea that cannot be proven at this point in time. There may be infinite other dimensions and they may all closely reflect the dimension we are in right now, not Hell".

How do spirit sightings, ghosts, fit in? <_<

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1. Jesus had not yet come so it could not be a rejection of him but it could be a rejection of the LAW. Jesus stated in Mat 22:39 "LOVE your neighbor as thyself. All the Law and Prophets hang on these two Commandments. By not LOVING the beggar, the rich man rejected the LAW of GOD and therefore GOD himself. The rich man chose to separate himself from God in life. God honors the rich mans wishes to be separate from God.

I am partly in agreement with the idea that separation from God, along with its resultant consequences, is by choice. The difference is that I believe the consequence is simply an end to life. You seem to believe it is an eternity of suffering (albeit in the less severe form of internal pain). To me that doesn't jive with what the Bible says about God's just and loving personality. It also doesn't jive with what others scriptures plainly state is the consequence of sin: death.

As you stated earlier in Luke 16:22 the Rich man was in torment but did God cause the TORMENT or was TORMENT caused by the separation. I.e. one in hell having a consuming desire to have made a different choice.

According to the account, he was in blazing fire, which he wished to have cooled by a drop of water on the fingertip of Lazarus. You seem to want to take only the objectionable idea of fire and torment as figurative, but accept the rest as literal. I don't see a basis for that.

2. One must take these verses as they are.

I know. That's what I've been saying from the start, but taking them as they are does not mean accepting them as literal, which you don't do anyway since you don't believe the fire is literal. Jesus frequently spoke in difficult-to-understand illustrations, some of which he explained to his disciples later on, and some of which they would only have understood after time had passed or holy spirit enabled them to understand.

4. Pre Christ crucifixion this may have been possible.

Actually, the scriptures show that prior to Jesus, no man had been in heaven (John 3:13): "Moreover, no man has ascended into heaven but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man."

In further confirmation of this, at Acts 2:29-36, Peter used the fact that David had not ascended to heaven as proof that Psalms 110:1 was prophetic of Jesus ascension.

I disagree with you in this story is a literary device for it refers to people by names.

Well, use of the names of Abraham and Moses doesn't really make that point, given how central they were to the culture and belief of the Jews. The rich man and his brothers were unnamed, so the only named individual was Lazarus, the beggar. Still, your point is valid in that specifying a name for an allegorical character would be a departure from the other parables Jesus told. I really don't have an explanation why he would do so, but perhaps Lazarus was the name of an oppressed beggar in the city where he was preaching, in which case it would be clear that he was talking about people of a certain condition, but that it would be something in the future. That's purely speculation, but in any case, I disagree that this one point is sufficient to view the whole account literally, and as I already noted, you don't take it all literally anyhow.

My purpose in bringing up the topic was to show that there's insufficient reason to conclude from these verses that the use of Hades refers to something different than the meaning of Sheol. Additionally, if there was a state in which the dead would be suffering (whether due to flames or their own conscience), why wouldn't the scriptures provided to the Jews have revealed this? The only word translated as Hell in the old testament is Sheol, and it only has one meaning, the grave. You'd have to have some pretty convincing scriptural backing to show that God had not told the whole story, that there was some punishment for sin other than death which he failed to warn Adam about. His warning was pretty clear, and other scriptures make the same point:

Genesis 2:17 - "but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."

Ezekiel 18:4 - "The soul who sins is the one who will die."

Romans 6:23 - "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

If you don't believe that Gehenna or the "lake of fire" refers to a fiery hell, then your basis for believing in a hell as a place of suffering for the unrighteous is pretty much limited to this one account by Jesus, and your basis for taking it as literal is that it uses a name. Do you really think that's sufficient to support the belief?

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Hell would have to be some alternate dimension and I see no reason why dying would be the means to get there. Since there is no proof this other dimension exists and is so terrifying that it can labeled Hell I will not accept it as anything but an interesting idea that cannot be proven at this point in time.

Many of the questions that religion attempts to address, such as the meaning of life, don't appear to be answerable through scientific observation, such as the discovery of extra dimensions (incidentally, talk of other dimensions is rather nebulous; we currently have 4 observable dimensions, and according to the mathematics of string theory, there are likely 11 dimensions, but I doubt this is what you are referring to, and certainly not what most religious people are talking about when they discuss the "spirit realm," including heaven).

However, if there is an intelligent creator, as the term "God" is used in the traditional monotheistic sense, then he would certainly be capable of revealing answers to the type of questions that you say cannot be answered at this time. In other words, the creator could explain the 'meaning' of life.

I think that the typical idea of Hell that some religions offer is a perfect example of cultural terrorism. Driving people through fear to do and say as they preach is how I see Hell being used in a historical and present sense. I am not denouncing any goodness organized religion has to offer, but any threats of this sort are evil on the religion's part. The idea of eternal damnation and torture is very unforgiving, evil, and hypocritical of teachings that are supposed to embrace love, forgiveness and individual and societal peace.

I basically agree, although I think one should not be too quick to use our innate sense of justice as an infallible guide to what would or wouldn't be just for the creator. Obviously, the creator, if one exists, would have the authority to establish morality, and it would make sense for us to acknowledge our limitations and not completely trust our own judgments in this regard. According to the Bible (Gen 3:1-6), the temptation the devil used to trick Eve was the ability to decide for herself what is right and wrong. He implied that God is unjust and unloving and that humans are better off independently choosing their own morals. If so, our inborn conscience would not always be a reliable guide. Jeremiah 10:23 says regarding man: "To earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step." Nevertheless, I do agree that eternal torment for a short life of sinning simply cannot be reconciled with the qualities that Christians associate with God.

Interestingly, the concept of an immortal soul being tortured after death is far from being novel to so-called Christian religions. For example, check out how variations of the theme appear in most world religions. I was surprised when I recently visited a Buddhist temple in Seoul, Korea, and saw murals on the side of the worship halls that depicted scenes that looked almost identical to the stereotypical Christian Hell, with the exception that Buddha was hovering nearby.

In short, since I believe that most religion is a deception which blinds people to the truth about God, it follows that the fear-inducing notion of a fiery hell would be a common theme which is quite useful for keeping people in submission.

Now, for the idea that people have died and witnessed Hell, believe it or not I believe this, in a sense. One of the most powerful hallucinogens, DMT, resides in our brain and is released when we die. Some people who have died and been brought back to life have reported that they were in Heaven or Hell and then were brought back to life. This can logically be interpreted as a very intense hallucination brought about by the DMT released. Psychologically, I would assume whether someone experiences a Heavenly or a Hellish mental adventure would depend on their personalities, memories, any mental illnesses or tendencies, and their overall thoughtful disposition before they briefly died. I assume that the DMT exists within us for this time of our deaths so that our minds have a good buffer between our bodies' extreme states of life and death.

Interesting theory. That seems reasonable to me. Of course, since I don't believe the Bible teaches that we have an immortal soul, I'm already biased against the notion that a person would ascend to heaven, only to turn around because they weren't quite dead yet. Wouldn't God know to wait until it was truly game over?

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Actually, the scriptures show that prior to Jesus, no man had been in heaven (John 3:13): "Moreover, no man has ascended into heaven but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man."

In further confirmation of this, at Acts 2:29-36, Peter used the fact that David had not ascended to heaven as proof that Psalms 110:1 was prophetic of Jesus ascension.

Interesting theory. That seems reasonable to me. Of course, since I don't believe the Bible teaches that we have an immortal soul, I'm already biased against the notion that a person would ascend to heaven, only to turn around because they weren't quite dead yet. Wouldn't God know to wait until it was truly game over?

That verse in John is very interesting. It is slightly hard to tell, but it could very easily be interprted that no one has come from heaven except the son of man, given the context. David wasn't dead when he prophesied so I wouldn't think he had gone to heaven. Also, where do you think that Moses and Elijah came from when they appeared with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration?

And where do you get your support for men not having souls?

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Don't forget God is a just God, Isaiah 45:21 speaks of this. Don't misunderstand me. If we look at your example using Adam, God said "you shall surely die" and eventually Adams physical body did die. But there is a seconded death Rev 20:14. The second death is final.

No I'm really not addressing the fire at all. But I will address it in another post.

John 3:13 does state no man has gone into heaven except Jesus. It is my belief that when Jesus was stating this the overall conversation was about believed him when he spoke of heavenly things. I also believe that heaven and paradise are two different places. When Jesus was on the cross, he said to the thief who repented, this day you shall be with me in paradise Luke 23:43. After Jesus sacrifice then those who die, in Christ are allowed to heaven.

I think we have a difference in views of soul, spirit and body. That's ok. Look at Mat 10:28 and if it's off topic PM me.

Edited by BoscoRanger
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I was debating whether or not to start a new topic regarding the immortality of the soul, but concluded it would lead to too much cross-posting. I'm ok with a little divergence from the main topic of the thread. The nature of the soul is obviously closely connected with the topic of hell, so let's just go with it. Hopefully it won't get too burdensome for others to follow ...

That verse in John is very interesting. It is slightly hard to tell, but it could very easily be interprted that no one has come from heaven except the son of man, given the context.

It seems fairly clear that Jesus was using his heavenly pre-human existence as a basis for teaching "heavenly things," (vs. 12) which is something no other man could do, since they had not been to heaven. I don't see how you could "very easily" interpret his words as referring specifically to his uniquely descending from heaven.

David wasn't dead when he prophesied so I wouldn't think he had gone to heaven.

Since what you say is self-evident, it seems like it would be a strange thing for Peter to point out: "Oh, by the way, David had not died and gone to heaven at the time he wrote that." Instead, it seems more reasonable that he was making the contrast that David had not ascended to heaven, but Jesus had.

Also, where do you think that Moses and Elijah came from when they appeared with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration?

The transfiguration was a vision, a demonstration of Jesus' "coming in his kingdom." (Matt 16:28) Jesus called it a "vision" at Matt 17:9. One reference work states the following:

"In the transfiguration, evidently Moses and Elijah represented the Law and the Prophets, both of which pointed toward and were fulfilled in Christ. Whereas in the past God had spoken through prophets, he now indicated that he would do so through his Son. ... The transfiguration, it seems, served to fortify Christ for his sufferings and death, while it also comforted his followers and strengthened their faith. It showed that Jesus had God’s approval, and it was a foreview of his future glory and Kingdom power."

Given this explanation, I see no reason to believe that the spirits of the dead Moses and Elijah were present at that occasion.

And where do you get your support for men not having souls?

I'll address that in the next post, since this one is getting kinda long and has a pile of quotes.

Don't forget God is a just God, Isaiah 45:21 speaks of this.

True. I like the way Deut 32:4 makes that point as well. Of course, knowing that there is no injustice with God should factor into our interpretation of what various terms and passages mean, but that doesn't mean that any interpretation, no matter how evil it seems to be, is actually ok because "all his ways are just."

I also believe that heaven and paradise are two different places. When Jesus was on the cross, he said to the thief who repented, this day you shall be with me in paradise Luke 23:43. After Jesus sacrifice then those who die, in Christ are allowed to heaven.

I have seen a number of rather complicated explanations that attempt to reconcile the apparent contradictions by dividing the realms of heaven and hell into various sections, such as depicted here. (Recognize that? ^_^ ) I could study it and try to find scriptures that highlight specific flaws, but it seems much simpler to instead address the topic of the immortal soul. If it can be shown that, according to the Bible, humans do not have an immortal soul, then all the talk about what happens to the soul at death is drastically simplified.

I think we have a difference in views of soul, spirit and body. That's ok. Look at Mat 10:28.

You are absolutely right, and I think it's good to discuss the differences. I'll continue in the next post ...

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Does the Bible teach that humans have an immortal soul, or that part of the individual continues to live after death? I do not believe that it does, and I will attempt to show this from the Bible, as well as respond to a few common objections. Sorry in advance for the length. This is gonna be a long one ...

For the sake of clarity, it’s important to distinguish between two different terms: soul and spirit.

Soul

The original language words translated "soul" in the Bible are ne′phesh (Hebrew) and psy‧khe (Greek), but these have a very different meaning than the common English usage of soul.

Notice how wikipedia describes Nephesh:

"Nephesh is the Hebrew word commonly translated as soul in English. It literally means "animal" though it is usually used in the sense of "living being" (breathing creature). The term nephesh applies variously to humans, to lower animals, and to corpses. The concept of an immaterial soul separate from and surviving the body is common today but was not found in ancient Hebrew beliefs."

The Greek word psy‧khe which the Christian writers used to translate ne′phesh is a bit looser in its common Greek usage (similar to how Hades likewise had different usage than Sheol), but its abundant appearance in the scriptures (105 times in the NT) enables us to see that it is consistent in meaning with its Hebrew counterpart.

First of all, consider the creation of Adam:

Genesis 2:7 - "And Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul."

We see here that the man was a soul, not that he had a soul. This soul was activated by the breath of life from God. Later I'll explain how this correlates to the spirit.

Just as the living being dies, the soul dies. Ezekiel 18:4 says quite plainly: "The soul who sins is the one who will die."

At Rev 8:9 and 16:3, animals are said to have souls (psy‧khe). Matt 10:28 states that God "can destroy both soul [psy‧khen′] and body in Gehenna," indicating that the soul is destructible, not immortal. Many scriptures use the word soul to represent the life of the creature, as described at Matt 6:25: "Stop being anxious about your souls (psy‧khei) as to what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your bodies as to what you will wear." John 12:25 says "He that is fond of his soul destroys it, but he that hates his soul in this world will safeguard it for everlasting life." These scriptures (and many, many others) help us to see that psy‧khe as used in the New Testament refers to the same thing as ne′phesh does in the Old Testament: the living being itself (human or animal), or the life of the being.

Now, with that in mind, let's go back to Matt 10:28:

"Do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Ge‧hen′na."

Another human can kill the body, but they would only temporarily kill the soul, since God can restore that one to life by means of a resurrection. God, on the other hand, can completely destroy the soul in Gehenna, which as I've described earlier refers to eternal destruction, the second death. (Incidentally, to bump back to the Hell topic for a second, does it make sense that God would destroy the soul in Gehenna if the soul were actually to continue to live eternally?)

Spirit

The biblical words are ru′ach (Hebrew) and pneu′ma (Greek), both coming from a root with the meaning "breathe or blow." According to Insight on the Scriptures:

"They can also mean wind; the vital force in living creatures; one’s spirit; spirit persons, including God and his angelic creatures; and God’s active force, or holy spirit. All these meanings have something in common: They all refer to that which is invisible to human sight and which gives evidence of force in motion. Such invisible force is capable of producing visible effects."

It's not hard to see how this correlates to God's breathing life into Adam's nostrils. Adam was inanimate until God's spirit caused him to live, at which point he became a living soul. This spirit, then, is an integral part of a living being. Without the spirit, or breath of life, the soul dies. In several verses, the spirit is said to go out, or even to return to God:

Job 34:14,15: "If it were his intention and he withdrew his spirit and breath, all mankind would perish together and man would return to the dust."

Ps 104:29: "If you take away their spirit, they expire, And back to their dust they go."

Ps 146:4: "His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; In that day his thoughts do perish."

Eccl 12:7: "Then the dust returns to the earth just as it happened to be and the spirit itself returns to the [true] God who gave it."

At Heb 4:12, Paul used bones (or joints) and marrow as a parallel to soul and spirit: "The word of God is alive ... and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and [their] marrow." Just as marrow is within bones, spirit would be a component of the soul. But is it possible that this component that departs at death and returns to God is a conscious entity? Did you notice Ps 146:4, cited above? Man's thoughts perish at death. Similarly:

Eccl 9:5 - "For the living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all."

Eccl 9:10 - "All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power, for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in She′ol, the place to which you are going."

These are just a handful of the scriptures that indicate that the Biblical use of the words 'soul' and 'spirit', while broad in nature, is consistent in both the Old and New Testaments, and never refers to a conscious, immortal entity which is part of a human and separates from the body at death.

Additional Reasoning

If the use of the words are not quite clear enough. Consider some related questions:

1. Was Adam created in heaven, or on earth?—Genesis 1:26-28.

2. Was Adam created mortal, or immortal?—Genesis 2:15-17.

3. If Adam had not been disobedient and sinned, would he have died?—Romans 6:23.

4. Did Adam’s course of action prove he was mortal, or immortal?—Genesis 3:19; 5:5.

5. By his sin, did Adam lose an earthly home, or a heavenly one?—Genesis 1:26-28.

6. If Jesus came to restore that which was lost by Adam’s fall, what will be restored?—Romans 5:18, 19, Ps 37:29

7. Was Adam composed of two distinct parts, the soul and the body?—Genesis 2:7; 1 Corinthians 15:45.

8. If you believe that Adam was a soul and a body, which part sinned, the soul or the body?

9. If you answer, “The soul,” why must the body suffer?

10. If you answer, “The body,” why must the soul be saved?

11. If man gets to heaven by dying, does that not prove that sin and death are a blessing rather than, as the Bible says, a curse, and an enemy?—Romans 5:12; 6:21-23, 1 Cor 15:26.

12. What penalty was imposed on Adam for his sin—death, or continued existence elsewhere?—Genesis 2:16-17; 3:19.

13. Was there one penalty for the body and another for the soul?—Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; Ezekiel 18:4.

14. According to Paul, what are the wages of sin?—Romans 6:23.

15. Does Paul mention everlasting torment in hellfire?—Romans 6:7.

16. What is the true hope for the dead?—John 5:28, 29; 11:23-26; Acts 24:15.

To summarize, I find the Bible's teaching regarding the soul to be rather simple:

God gave Adam the gift of life on Earth. He told Adam the punishment for disobedience was death. Adam disobeyed and died, and all his children inherited sin and died. Through the sacrifice of his Son, God opened the way to release mankind from the curse of sin and death inherited from Adam. Those that died had the hope of resurrection, which means a restoration to life. This life could be back to the Earth, as Jesus did for Lazarus, or it could be to heavenly life, as Jesus promised his disciples. Both righteous and unrighteous would be resurrected during the Last Day, and by the end of Christ's 1000 year reign, the judgment would be complete, and all who rejected God would be eternally dead (lake of fire) and everyone else would receive the gift of eternal life on the basis of faith in Christ (John 3:16).

Nowhere in that summary is there a separation of an individual into component parts (body and soul), where one is a conscious entity that outlives the body. There are only two states: life and death. Life can be on earth (a physical soul) or in heaven as a spirit creature, and death is simply nonexistence, either with or without the prospect of resurrection, depending on God's judgment. It's true that those in heaven are described as receiving immortality, at which point they could be described as immortal spirits, but this does not apply to humans on Earth. The teaching of an immortal soul is not what the early Jews believed, it's not what the Bible teaches, and it introduces incredible and unnecessary complication into church doctrine, not to mention leading to objectionable teachings such as eternal fiery torment as penalty for choosing a short lifetime of sin rather than obedience to God.

In fact, I think we can identify when the lie first originated:

Genesis 3:2-4: "The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'" The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die!"

That false teaching has been perpetuated through religious doctrine ever since.

Edited by Duh Puck
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Wow, that was a lot of stuff. It will take me some time to process it all, but here are some initial things that I would like to bring up.

Do you believe that God is a Spirit in the sense of an immortal, not-physical living entity? If not, what is God? If so, then why do humans not have a spirit? I have always understood that a spirit was one of the main differences between men and animals. If humans can kill the body but can't kill the soul, then there must be some kind of a soul. Also, the majority of the verses you gave to support the soul being immortal have to do with God being able to kill the soul. I would agree that God can most certainly kill the soul since he created it.

A interesting problem with having no Soul or Spirit, if there was nothing immortal in the human body, then when we are raised to life, will we remember life on earth? Will we even be ourselves since no part of ourselves had experienced the things that make us ourselves?

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