Holy Threats of Hell

The rigidly structured faith systems of man’s invention have collectively subscribed to the notion that the omniscient creator of all the diverse manifestations in the universe had some pressing need to create an external place of punishment for “sinners.”  We are not supposed to ask what beneficial end an omniscient being could have foreseen in creating a fiery region for sadistic torture and eternal vengeance for his wayward beings.  For resentful humans the idea that always chafed spirit was that evil doers are not adequately punished in their matter-life experience. This, not surprisingly, assured that vengeance and infliction of unending torment by the Lord would always be a hard-sell feature of priest-written scripture.

In early Hebrew scriptures the word Sheol referred to “grave” or “pit,” but in theological development Sheol evolved into the dungeon of endless torture.  The Greeks called it Hades. The Muslim hell is known as Jahannum, derived from the Hebrew word Ge’Hinnom, Gehenna.  And the Christians know that pit for barbecuing souls as Hell.

Judaism didn’t seriously recognize the use of hellfire threats for faith merchandising until post-exilic time, and then the self-appointed spiritual shepherds in Jerusalem began elaborating upon an imagined section of the Creator’s setup which was reserved specifically for punishment of sinners.  This is emphasized in 1 Enoch 22:10-11.  The Jewish version of the fiery pit, Sheol, is defined in the book Habakkuk 2:5; and Sheol is used also in Daniel 12:2, and in Isaiah 66:24, etc.  Sheol, like Hades the Greek version of hell, was presented more as a detached sphere of existence, which was generally thought of as being located in the underworld—as in Numbers 16:20 and in Matthew 11:23.   Those deemed “godless” were threatened with destruction in hell by the psalmist and prophets (as in Psalms 9:17, and in 55:15; in Isaiah 5:14, 28:15, and 66:24).  The indirect suggestion seems to be that god must get some voyeuristic stimulant from inflicting punishment, for it is revealed in Psalms 139:8, in Job 11:8 and in Job 26:6 that hell is never hidden from god’s eyes.

Isaiah, as mentioned, contributed to the interpretation of Sheol as being hell, such as in Isaiah 14:15, which concerned the king of Babylon, saying (the king) “…shall be brought down…to the uttermost depths of Sheol…”  That little bit of wishful priestly thinking then gave rise to the concept that Sheol (the pit) was constructed with various depths or levels, each lower level corresponding in relation to the severity of the sinners’ punishments.

Fear tactics are still in common use in the merchandising of all faith systems.  Every man-conceived faith system insists that their dreamed up ceremonies and rites provide the only protection from such a hellish afterlife.  And to promote this assertion, these faith systems routinely resort to passing negative judgments upon the rest of humanity that fails to follow their particular man-invented procedures.  Among Christian sects, for example, personal ego is intentionally appealed to by confusing it with spirit or soul.  Thus we read in verses such as Matthew 7:13-14, “enter ye in the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat…”  The suggestive threat continues, “Because strait is the gate and narrow the way, which leadeth into life, and few there be that find it.”  In other words, the Creator apparently anticipated that his many diverse life expressions would take wayward paths.  Priest authors then interpreted this as god having planned in advance to let most of his favorite life forms function as little more than briquettes for a barbecue pit.  To avoid such divine torture, god’s representatives concocted theatrical routines in which they, of course, held the leading role.

Interestingly, Jesus is presented as having been born in a Roman Empire province, and strangely in his brief ministry he is depicted as talking more about hell than he ever elaborated upon heaven.  In the synoptic Gospels, Jesus is depicted as referring to the place of punishment for sinner after death as Gehenna.  Originally Gehenna was the name of a valley just south of Jerusalem’s southwestern hill, and was a “burning place” for refuse.

The “fathers” of the Roman Catholic Church, who formulated the early sect in the Roman Empire, loved the hierarchical trappings of governing and consequently subdivided the imagined realm of hell into four convenient categorical assignments.  The specifications of hell were, apparently, divinely revealed to them, and it was made up of four levels.  1) The limbo of infants where the unbaptized enjoy bliss but are denied the ecstasy of beholding god: 2) The limbo of the fathers, meaning anyone who died before Christ sacrificed himself for selected people: 3) The cleansing region known as purgatory, where minor breaches of moral conduct are sanitized to permit eventual admittance into heaven: and 4) The realm of Satan himself, where those who die unrepentant of serious sin are to fry eternally.

As noted earlier, god’s indulgence in vengeance and fanning the fires of hell interweave throughout priest-composed scriptures.  For example, god’s vengeance and/or everlasting punishment is stressed repeatedly in such priest-authored holy books as these:

  • Genesis 4:15, which relates the vengeance of god toward Cain; apparently Hell had not been set up yet.
  • Numbers 16:30, “…and they go down quick into the pit.”
  • Deuteronomy 32:35, “To me belongeth vengeance, and recompense…”; and in 32:41. “…I will render vengeance to mine enemies…”  (How could an omniscient Creator have enemies?)
  • Psalms 9:17, “The wicked shall be turned into hell…”; hell is inferred in 31:17; and 55:15 says, “…and let them go down quick into hell…”
  • Isaiah 34:8, “For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion.  More on hell in 5:14, 28:15, 38:18, and 66:24.
  • Daniel 12:2 “…and some (to sleep in) shame and everlasting contempt.”  (No mention of being fried.)
  • Nahum 1:2, “God is jealous, and the Lord is furious; the  Lord revengeth, and is furious; the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.”
  • Habakkuk 2:5, Sheol is mentioned.

Christian Gospels do not shrink from imagining godly vengeance and his favorite den of fiery torture either.  A few examples:

  • Mark 9:43, “…go to hell, where the fire never goes out.”
  • Matthew 5:22,  hell, (Gehenna) is defined.  And in 11:23, “…shalt be brought down to hell…”
  • Luke 3:17,  hell is suggested; 8:31 hell is called “…the bottomless place”, and in 16:23 hell is alluded to, “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments…”
  • Romans 10:7, refers to “…the lower parts”, and in 12:19, “…for it is written vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not god, and that obey not the gospel of Our Lord… (9) Who shall be punished with  everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from his glory and power…”
  • Jude 1:7, refers to “…punishment of eternal fire.”
  • And good old Revelation 14:11 conjures up, “…smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever.”

How could the establishment of such a despicable region for eternal torture be of help to mankind in finding what is claimed to be the only approved path into his higher spiritual potential?  Even more bewildering, how could such a region of endless retribution be of any real benefit to an omniscient (all-knowing) god?  If, as holy writ insists, god is all-knowing, then would “he” not have designed his favorite creatures so they would devise their own methods to curtail detrimental behavior among themselves?  It would be expected by a principled omniscient Creator that mankind would eventually learn that the best path for evolving into his higher potential is to be found in avoidance of infringing upon the personal rights of each other.

Unfortunately, the involvement of energy which transfigures into matter, although temporary, is a mesmerizing state of involvement, and mankind’s slowly evolving minds seek to impose their will upon that of others.  In seeking such “dominion” within the illusion of matter the inventors of faith systems chose to manipulate people’s attention and gain obedience through fear and bribery—the threats of an unproven hell and the bribes of an unconfirmed heaven.

Promoting fear as a devotional incentive is corrupt spiritual guidance, for fear is always the spawning grounds for such things as intolerance, prejudice, fanaticism, bigotry, racism, sexism, preconception and the like, all of which serve as seeds for violence.  So are we to logically regard the use of threats of everlasting punishment to be an ethical or moral form of spiritual clarification?

One Response to “Holy Threats of Hell”

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