Thursday, September 22, 2005

Thoughts on "Hell"

Hi everyone. Andy just sent me the link to this blog, and I see there are already a lot of questions for me. I probably won't have time to answer all of them, so please don't take it personally if your question happens to be one that I skip. I'm going to try to answer some questions that I think might generate an interesting discussion, so in that spirit, I'll start by talking about "Hell is the Absence of God."

Sean asks, "do you believe that all people (in our world) would not strive for salvation in heaven, knowing for sure that it existed?" I'd say that depends on what the alternative is. If the only alternative is eternal torture, then sure, everyone would strive for salvation. In the world of the story, though, the alternative is not anywhere near that bad.

Pope John Paul II once said, "Rather than a physical place, Hell is the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God." One of the interesting things about this conception of Hell is that it makes the search for salvation a real choice. If your only two choices were eternal torture or worshipping a possum cap, you'd probably pick the latter, but that wouldn't constitute a powerful recommendation; anything is better than eternal torture. Your decision to worship someone only becomes meaningful when it's not coerced.

The question then becomes, is God deserving of our worship? I omitted something from my earlier quote from Pope John Paul; the full quote ends with "God, the source of all life and joy." Is God really the source of all life and joy, or are we able to make some on our own? Many people also believe God imposes a lot of suffering on innocent people, so much so that they would rather not worship him.

This leads us into Amanda's comment "I was very saddened by the fact that a rapist was saved by seeing the light of heaven but that the main character was still sent to hell anyway." Is God always just? Some say that whenever misfortune occurs, the victims must have done something to deserve it; some people say New Orleans was hit by hurricane Katrina because of the gay festival held there. I have to admit, this attitude doesn't sit well with me.

Others say that the innocent suffer, but it's a necessary part of God's great and mysterious plan, one which we can't hope to understand. If you can accept that, great. But if that's the case, why should the mystery surrounding God's actions end when this life ends? What if God's treatment of people in the afterlife is just as mysterious as it is in the mortal plane?


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