An instrument of fear
Duke Tufty, Unity Temple on the Plaza, Kansas City, Mo.: Since the beginning of organized religion, there has been some conception of hell.
The descriptions of hell put forth are full of graphic and tortuous imagery. They describe pain beyond comprehension using concrete images such as burning fire, boiling water and bitter cold. Elaborate stories have been told, describing those condemned to hell as being burned, eaten alive, plunged into a pit full of worms or thrown in the path of maddened elephants and trampled.
What kind of a God would do that? The same God that created the beauty of the earth and everything on it?
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The stories about hell have been spun for thousands of years. They are many and varied, but all the stories have one common element, one deeply pre-meditated objective: to instill fear in people so as to control them and get them to obey.
I don’t believe there is a hell of any sort, anywhere. I don’t believe there is a little red man with horns and a pitchfork somewhere in the middle of the earth who tortures people. I do believe the concept of hell is a man-made fabrication that has risen out of an insatiable desire for power and greed. I do believe God is a loving, nurturing and forgiving deity that has only our best interest at heart.
God is the spirit within you. Wherever you are, God is.
A grave consequence
The Rev. Pat Rush, Visitation Catholic Church, Kansas City: It is true that if I speed through a school zone, I may get a traffic ticket, that if I commit fraud, I may go to prison, and that if someone cheats on his wife, she may divorce him.
It is true that choices have consequences, and bad choices generally have negative consequences. Such consequences are generally in place to protect the common good or something else considered sacred. Their intent is to educate and influence us to make constructive and positive choices instead of the opposite. However, we are still free to choose to damage the common good and to destroy things sacred, as is obvious from what goes on in our society and world.
Usually, grave consequences like imprisonment or divorce are not the result of one isolated bad choice. Rather, they are the result of multiple bad choices that, over the course of time, become increasingly damaging.
Earlier bad choices may be freer, while later ones may become less free as they develop into character traits or addictions. At that point, the free decision not to seek help is quite serious and will probably result in grave consequences.
Hell is the ultimate grave consequence. It is the result of multiple free and increasingly serious choices that gravely destroy the sacred and the common good and thus separate us everlastingly from the sacred and good God.