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Heaven and Hell

One of the problems I’ve always had with the concept of hell is that I can’t imagine who would be in it. On the one hand, I obsess about going to hell over things like calling a ball out. If that really is the kind of thing that would get you into hell, I can’t imagine who would be in heaven.

Still, just to be on the safe side, I always pray to be forgiven for all my sins, intentional and unintentional, just to cover all bases. Just in case I’m sinning but I’m in denial or rationalizing my actions. It’s kind of obsessive, I know, but in case you haven’t noticed, I am obsessive.

At the same time, I have a hard time imagining who would be bad enough to go to hell. I’m sure serial killers are in there, but beyond that I can’t think of anyone who is more bad than good. Perhaps I am too forgiving. Although I’m sure some of my exes would disagree.

I struggle with having other people say with authority what constitutes hell-worthy acts. Because if there’s a judgment day, then it shouldn’t already be predetermined who goes to hell, right? Just like when you commit a crime on earth. You don’t know what the outcome is going to be until the judge or jury makes a decision, even if you think the outcome should be obvious. Like the OJ Simpson case, for example.

Since the terrorist attacks on Paris, I think about all of those suicide bombers who have been told since they were kids that their sacrifice will be rewarded by virgins in the afterlife. On the one hand, all wars involve killing innocent people, so it seems too extreme to say that killing people in the name of war is a sin.

However, it’s difficult for me to imagine that someone’s reward in the afterlife would be an orgy with a bunch of virgins. I’m not trying to criticize their religious beliefs, but I’ve just never heard of a heaven that is described in sexual terms.

In the near death experience book that I always talk about, My Descent Into Death, Howard Storm went to hell–or to the doorstep of hell, at least–before he went to heaven. I actually read the book because I wanted to see what kind of person was bad enough to go to hell.

And I have to say, I would not have pegged him as someone who would be damned for all eternity. He just seemed like an average guy. Just some art history professor with a wife and kids. Granted, he wasn’t religious and was a bit prideful. I think if demons were attacking me and a voice told me to call out God’s name, I would do it, rather than argue about how that was a ridiculous idea like Storm did.

You know what comforted me the most about that book? Even when Storm was on the doorstep of hell, God was still trying to save him. God was still saying, say my name! Ask for help! And as soon as Storm did, he went to heaven. That is more consistent with what I believe to be true about God. That he is someone who is trying to get us to choose heaven, right up until the very end.

That’s how I have reconciled the idea of hell. We can choose it if we want to, because we have free will. We can choose not to ask for help. Not to love or forgive. We can judge ourselves or other people as being lost causes. But God always wants us to say yes to him. So I do.

 

About Christy Barongan

I didn't know it at the time, but I wanted to be a psychologist so that I could figure out how to be normal. I think many people come to counseling for the same reason. What I've come to learn is that feeling good about myself is not about trying to be normal. It's about trying to be me. But it's a constant struggle for me, just like it is for everyone else. So I thought I would approach this task with openness and honesty and use myself as an example for how to practice self-acceptance.

9 responses »

  1. robertwfuller772

    Definitely a debate for the ages. I myself have difficulty with the concepts of heaven, hell, and theology, especially defined in such definite and confident fashions as exists in religious structure. I personally believe there is no such things as heaven or hell but we continue in the current cycle until we have raised our consciousness to elevate to the next level. Amazing article!!

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  2. We will all be in hell if we are judged by our line calls! It is definitely our Catholic upbringing that make us obsessed with heaven and hell / right from wrong! I still haven’t figured it out yet! Interesting blog!!

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  3. Holy Smokes! Bad Line calls — go to hell — umm there would be plenty of tennis players in hell! HA! I think everyone’s destiny is heaven….

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  4. Hi, this is my first comment here, but I hope you don’t mind that it’s a little long.

    I agree that I can’t imagine the type of person that would go to hell. Not anyone, including serial killers. People don’t have a choice in existence, and if even suicide is considered evil enough to send a person to hell, it’s not an option. Making hell seems to me to be evil. Condemning people to it – even with an opt-out – would be unforgivably evil.

    While I think the idea of hell is evil, heaven seems somewhat pointless. You have a life. Why would you get another one after it? Why play some game with two possible outcomes of eternal torture or bliss? Making one life terminate to qualify for your real life seems overly complex, and if eternal torture is a possibility, it also seems evil.

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    • Thanks for your comment. I appreciate you sharing your own musings about heaven and hell. I can’t say hell has been a useful concept for me as an adult, although it was helpful to motivate me to be good as a child. I do find comfort in heaven, though. It makes it a little easier to think about dying and losing people that I love.

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