“Hell is just a state of mind, a radical separation from God.” (Marq de Villers, author of ”Hell and Damnation”)
Does Hell exist? This is a question I’ve often pondered in my life, ever since my United Methodist upbringing that introduced to me this fire and brimstone type of place that all terrible sinners end up going to. Many Christians have argued its existence throughout the centuries based upon how they interpret scripture, while many Theologians have profusely debated the very same scriptures and believed it’s something that human beings themselves created the existence of.
Take Theologian Micah J. Stephens, author of “Hell Is Not For Real: Re-Examining What the Scriptures Actually Say About Eternal Torment”. In his book, he writes, “The word hell in the Bible is a very poor translation of the original Hebrew and Greek words that speak of the resting place of the dead (Sheol and Hades) and a literal valley on the south side of Jerusalem (Gehenna) that became symbolic for the judgment via an invading army. We see Jesus in the Gospels speaking of Gehenna while in or around Jerusalem, not long before Rome sacked and destroyed the city in AD 70. Eternal torment of the soul in the afterlife is not a concept that is found in scripture.” On the other hand, take Brian Jones, Christian author of “Hell Is Real (But I Hate To Admit It)”. In his book, he interprets scripture totally different and adamantly states, “The fact of the matter is: Hell is real. Deciding or not hell exists isn’t an intellectual exercise, it’s a matter of eternal life or death.”
The majority of Christians I’ve met over the years have said they’d rather not risk the chance of hell existing, even if it possibly doesn’t exist. They worry about the damnnation of their soul and because of it, they tend to live out their lives in total fear of committing some cardinal sin that may send their soul to that fire and brimstone type of place once they die. And boy, do I know what it feels like to live in that type of fear, oh, so, very, well.
Because of modern day interpretations of the Bible stating homosexuality is a sin (even though the word homosexuality didn’t even exist back in Biblical times), I’ve frequently been told in my life by Christians that I’m either absolutely going to Hell or am risking the possibility of going there once I die because I’m in a gay relationship. Telling me this has never done anything more than leave me in this terrible fear-based cycle of a punishing God who cruelly created me with only an attraction to the same-sex that I’m not even allowed to be with, instead to spend my life in total celibacy, loneliness, or fake heterosexuality.
None of that logic has ever worked for me and I truly mean none of it. It’s never felt right within my own soul. The idea that God made me in his own image, but somehow screwed up in my sexuality, and then is going to send me to some fire and brimstone type of place if I continue to engage in the sexuality he created me with, with a same-sex person I absolutely love just makes no sense.
That’s why I have more of an inclination to believe in what Marq de Villers states in his book, “Hell and Damnation”. In it, he says, “Hell is a state of mind, a radical separation from God.” That computes a lot more with me because living with chronic pain, or formerly in far too many addictions, or all the times I’ve suffered from severe anxiety or depression, feels exactly like being radically separated from God. When you live with a condition that makes your muscles feel like they are burning and on fire for days on end, for years and years, you too might feel that Hell is nothing more than the state of your own pain-based mind.
So, do I believe hell exists? While I may be stoned metaphorically for saying this, what if Hell is right here on Earth, based upon our mindsets? And what if all of us are actually accepted home with God after we die, NO MATTER WHAT TYPE OF SINS WE LIVED IN?
This concept of living out a fear-based existence due to the conception that all chronic sinners go to a fire and brimstone type of place once they die, especially when my sexuality will probably always be thought of as a sin to many Christians, is not indicative of the unconditionally loving God I’ve come to love and worship. Choosing to believe that God picks and chooses who comes home is creation of Hell itself, which is why I choose to believe otherwise, that God loves me just as I am, gay and all.
Dear God, help me to always look to You as an unconditionally loving and accepting Father, who created me just as I am, who will welcome me home in your arms when I die, no matter what.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson