HOME  Why its a mistake to give the Catholic Church support via membership or donations

 

DEGREES OF PUNISHMENT IN HELL REFUTED

The Christian religion is a religion of revelation. It teaches that God has to reveal things to us and since God is so intelligent and knows everything, some of these revelations will seem strange to us. One of these strange revelations is that if you die estranged from God by serious sin, you will have to pay for it for all eternity in the torments of Hell and there will be no relief or release.

There is no evidence at all that the doctrine that there is miraculous fire in Hell to torment the people there is a metaphor.  When people are in fire it hardly matters if there are degrees of punishment or not!
 
According to the Church, there are degrees of punishment in Hell. Not all the souls there are punished to the same extent. The person who died in the most sin will suffer more intensely than the one who dies in less sin.
 
That is all the Church says. Perhaps the best person in Hell suffers a tiny bit less than the Devil meaning that practically speaking there is no real difference. It means the Christian has no right to protest if one sees Hell as extreme or near-extreme torment for everybody for the Church says you are only bound to believe what God has revealed and he has revealed nothing about the severity of the punishment.
 
Some Christians protest against the notion that Hell is as cruel as God can possibly make it and claim that no one is punished more than they deserve. Many more love the thought of a cruel Hell. And Jesus encouraged that attitude. Jesus in Matthew 25 says that those humans being sent to everlasting punishment did not do good works. He implies that they did not love God or anybody else but were totally selfish.

Many believers are clear that you do deserve a Hell of extreme and unending torment if you sin. Sin means that you submit to disorder and therefore to what is uncontrollable. You canít want just some evil. To want evil at all is try to open a Pandoraís box. If so, it is your right to receive Hell at its worst because that is what you have deserved or obligated yourself to pay for. God would be contravening your rights and degrading you if he does not punish as much as possible. Religion has a God who cares about virtue more than people when he sends people to Hell so that makes him most likely to care more about your rights than you.
 
The people in Hell are supposed to have chosen it and turn their backs on God and so have everlasting torment inflicted on themselves. If they are to blame for this endless evil then they must deserve extreme torment. They must get it too for Hell is where you go when you have to face your just reward.
 
The differences in punishment levels cannot be believed because Jesus said the greatest sin was failing to love God. So even if a sin seems to be small, the lack of love it expresses is very seriously wrong. So sin is very grave. The damned must suffer for the lack of love of God rather than for the rules they broke. There can't be much difference in their torment.

The worst thing about Hell is how itís everlasting. Cooling the fires of Hell as modern theologians try to do isnít going to do much good. God is the supreme good not people. Therefore the worst part of Hell for Christians is the everlasting offence against God that the damned maintain. They must see that as extremely bad so that it hardly makes sense to worry about the pain and try to persuade people that Hell isnít extreme torture.

If it is a fact that if the souls in Hell donít endure the same agony then some souls arenít as hateful or cruel as others. Christianity teaches that it is possible to be kind and sin in that kindness. For example, when the homosexual has sex with his lover to help console his lover over a bereavement.  So the souls might not be totally hateful but they are totally sinful. If they are not totally sinful then that implies that they cannot sin anymore because their wills are fixed in unrepentance for the sin they had when they died which destined them for Hell. They cannot sin afresh by deliberate unrepentance or new sins. If they were free they could sin as much as is logically possible simply by approving of all the sins that ever happened or could have happened. They would do that if there were no hope for they hate God above all things.

If the souls in Hell really hate God so much that they sin just to offend him then they automatically approve of every sin and wish that nobody ever did anything else then they are totally depraved and are literally capable of anything. They are totally hateful. They are all equally evil and they are all punished the same. If they are free then there are no degrees of punishment for they are equally bad. Sin is infinitely bad so even if God prevents some souls from sinning any more it will not make them any better. You cannot make what is infinitely bad any better or worse.

The doctrine of degrees of punishment presupposes that to sin is not automatically to sanction all possible sin all the sin that could ever be committed.

But to sin IS to approve of every other sin that has ever taken place or will happen. You canít seriously disapprove of the sins of others if you commit murder. You can feel disgusted but that is not disapproval. Disapproval, like approval, is intellectual. If you sin you are blessing evil for it could lead to anything so all sin is seriously irresponsible. To sin is to will evil to happen and if you will evil to happen you will that others sin so sinners condemning sinners is always hypocrisy. The so-called light sinner embraces total evil as much as the heavy sinner.

If a soul would suffer in Hell forever and sin forever to spite God how could it be any more evil? The damned must all be equally evil if they want to be confined to Hell. If the soul hates itself that much that it will not enter Heaven then it will hurt itself to the extreme. So if God does not torment it that much it will torment itself.

Some say that God makes the souls suffer to prevent them committing any more sins so that Hell must be terrible. But God does not need to hurt to force a person to stay the way she or he is. When sin is infinite evil it makes no difference to him how much a person sins. It might on earth where quantity does damage to others but not in Hell. If God uses pain to restrict the sins of the damned then they still want to commit them and still would commit them if it were not the pain so he canít really restrict sin.

Jesus said that the conscience torments you in Hell and that you feel despair there (Matthew 8:12, 13; Mark 9:47, 48; Luke 16:23, 28; Revelation 14:10; 21:8). There would be no reason for people to gnash their teeth and cry unless they were stuck there for good and beyond salvation. Hell is a horrible place and there is no hint of it being mild in Jesusí doctrine at all. When sin deserves infinite loss it deserves the sinner regretting it so much that his whole being is racked in emotional agony.

God alone matters if God exists and we are told to love God and to love our neighbour for the sake of God so the damned will be punished solely for rejecting God. It is not their malice against their victims that God is worried about but himself. To punish them for anything else would be to reward their sin against God. God will make them feel the full force of the pain of losing God. The commandment Jesus and Moses gave to love God with all our powers and strength saying it was the greatest commandment implies that if we do not consecrate our entire selves to God and give him the present and our eternal future then we deserve to rot in Hell racked in extreme pain and suffering forever for we deprive God of so much and offer him only contempt though we may not always see it as contempt.

Serious sin is supposed to deserve infinite torment in Hell because it is turning away from infinite good which is God. The damned then have rejected all good and so must suffer to the extreme.
 
Hell is supposed to consist chiefly of the pain of the loss of God. When we lose our dearest friend we feel more pain than we would if it was just a few pence that we lost. To be with God is to have incredible happiness for it is to have the supreme good, the supremely valuable thing. To be without God then must mean incredible unhappiness. To be without him forever must be the worst of suffering, it must bring one down to the very depths of despair. So, if all the souls in Hell have lost God they must all feel the same amount of pain for their loss is the same, one has lost as much as the other. Hell must be dreadful and its horror beyond our imagination. The doctrine of Hell implies that the loss of God is painful. God will not put souls in Hell to make them more distressed about losing happiness than him. The loss of God does not need to be painful at all. Those who are alive and who hate God do not find their loss of God unbearable or bothersome at all. God is forcing the damned to suffer the pain of losing him. He is going out of his way to do it. He is pumping the loneliness into them.

The souls in Hell regret their sins only because they make them suffer now and not because they want to be restored to the friendship of God. The memory of their sins brings them so much torment for they lost so much for so little. They threw away everlasting happiness for a trifle or trifles. The person who has lost God for one sin will suffer more than the person who has lost him for many. God can miraculously make them feel the same amount of pain. But he might not. He can be as cruel as he likes for justice permits it. Whether he punishes one a little once every billion years forever or has one crying out for mercy forever it is still just for it is still paying the debt of everlasting agony.
 
Suffering for a second every million years forever and ever would still add up to infinite punishment. This is merciful Ė not in the sense that the punishment is reduced but is more humane than it could be - so the damned must suffer terribly all the time. A fine paid by ten pence a week is nothing but one being paid in full on the spot isnít very nice. It hurts. God will exact the price to the extreme when he puts our happiness second to punishing us for sin for Jesus said Hell was terrible. Hell is about revenge not justice.

Hell implies that revenge is right for revenge is not for reforming or determining and proves that mercy is immoral. There is no reforming in Hell. Even if retribution is right it should be done to make the person pay for the sin primarily and secondarily to reform him and deter others. Or perhaps it is better to make the person pay for the sin as much as to try and reform him with the suffering.
 
Christians want to pretend that we make our own Hell and God has nothing to do with it. It's a little stupid fad of theirs. If that is true then why do they believe in the resurrection of the damned? Surely then God is making bodies just for the sake of tormenting them physically?

Jesus agreed with the degrees of punishment doctrine (Matthew 11:22, 24; Luke 12:47, 48; 20:47). He said that the depravity of the damned spirits was not all at the same level, ďWhen the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, it roams through dry [arid] places in search of rest, but it does not find any. Then it says, I will go back to my house from which I came out. And when it arrives, it finds the place unoccupied, swept, put in order, and decorated. Then it goes and brings with it seven spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and make their home there. And the last condition of that man becomes worse than the first. So also shall it be with this wicked generationĒ (Matthew 12:43-45). When he said the generation was influenced by demons and their miracles it does not give us much confidence in what a tiny number of that generation said about him and his miracles and in his Hell dogma.

Jesus said that the religious hypocrites would have the heaviest penalty to pay, ďThey will receive the greater condemnation (the heavier sentence, the severer punishment)Ē (Luke 20:47). Those who have heard the gospel or lived where it was taught will face the worst punishment as will those unsaved people who lived a long time without God (page 22-23, Hell Ė what the Bible Says About It). So when Christians preach the gospel most people will refuse to listen so what they are doing is making sure their Hell will be worse than that for those who have never heard.
 
Pope Francis in 2017 said that the natural disasters in Mexico were a punishment from Satan for its devotion to the Virgin Mary. The Church teaches then that Satan punishes people for doing the allegedly right thing. The Book of Job does the same thing.  Nobody likes the thought that they are punished for fair or unfair it expresses judgement.  And it would feel no different from the punishment really being from a just God.  And if God punishes in Hell then maybe Satan does too!  If God punishes in Hell with fairness it does not follow that he protects the people there from Satan's attacks.  So Hell could be both fair punishment from God and also unfair punishment from Satan.  It would be even worse than a lake of burning sulphur.

Jesus was not a reliable witness to the existence of Hell when he erred concerning the degrees of punishment. Thank goodness! People tend to believe in Hell just in case it exists. Obviously, Hell is made slightly more attractive by the doctrine of the degrees of punishment. But what if there are two gods Ė a bad one and a good one with the bad one torturing people to the extreme in Hell forever? That would mean we should believe that Hell is totally bad and Jesus is a fanatic for trying to persuade us that its fires are cooler at least for some. The fanaticism is more serious that it looks because even a pin-prick of pain is very serious if it is going to last forever. It adds up to an incalculable measure of pain.
 
CONCLUSION
 
The degrees of punishment doctrine in Hell is not much comfort. If there is a God and a Hell, it is a torture chamber filled with unimaginable horror.
 
FURTHER READING

APOLOGETICS AND CATHOLIC DOCTRINE, Most Rev M Sheehan DD, M H Gill & Son, Dublin, 1954
APOLOGETICS FOR THE PULPIT, Aloysius Roche, Burns Oates & Washbourne LTD, London, 1950
ENCHIRIDION SYMBOLORUM ET DEFINITIONUM, Heinrich Joseph Denzinger, Edited by A Schonmetzer, Barcelona, 1963
ĎGOD, THATíS NOT FAIR!í Dick Dowsett, [OMF Books, Overseas Missionary Fellowship, Belmont, The Vine, Sevenoaks, Kent TN13 3TZ] Kent, 1982
HANDBOOK OF CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS, Peter Kreeft & Ronald Tacelli, Monarch, East Sussex, 1994
HAVE WE TO FEAR A DEVIL? Fred Pearce, The Christadelphian Office, Birmingham
HEAVEN AND HELL Dudley Fifield, Christadelphian Publishing Office, Birmingham
HELL Ė WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT IT, John R Rice, Sword of the Lord, Murfreesboro, 1945
JEHOVAH OF THE WATCH-TOWER, Walter Martin and Norman Klann, Bethany House, Minnesota, 1974
LIFE IN CHRIST, PART 3, Fergal McGrath SJ, MH Gill and Son Ltd, Dublin, 1960
RADIO REPLIES VOL 1, Frs Rumble and Carty, Radio Replies Press, St Paul, Minnesota, 1938
REASON AND BELIEF, Bland Blanschard, George Allen & and Unwin Ltd, London, 1974
THE BIBLE TELLS US SO, R B Kuiper, The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1978
THE DEVIL, THE GREAT DECEIVER Peter Watkins, The Christadelphian Birmingham, 1992
THE ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES, Gleason W Archer, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1982
THE FOUR MAJOR CULTS, AA Hoekema, Paternoster Press, Carlisle, 1992
THE KINDNESS OF GOD, EJ Cuskelly MSC, Mercier Press, Cork, 1965
THE LIFE OF ALL LIVING, Fulton J Sheen, Image Books, New York, 1979
THE REAL DEVIL, Alan Hayward, Christadelphian Bible Mission, Birmingham
THE REALITY OF HELL, St Alphonsus Liguori, Augustine Publishing Company, Devon, 1988
THE SERMONS OF ST ALPHONSUS LIGOURI, St Alphonsus Ligouri, TAN, Illinois, 1982
THE TRUTH ABOUT HELL, Dawn Bible Students, East Rutherford, NJ
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT HELL? Radio Bible Class, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1986
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO HEAVEN?, Dave Hunt, Harvest House, Eugene, Oregon, 1988
WHEN CRITICS ASK, Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, Victor Books, Illinois ,1992
WHY DOES GOD? Domenico Grasso SJ, St Paul Publications, Bucks, 1970
 

THE WEB

The Bible Vs the Traditional View of Hell by Babu Ranganathan www.geocities.com/Athens/Oracle/5862/hell2.html This page argues that the wicked will suffer agony for a while in punishment for their sins for a while after their death and then be put out of existence. It says that Matthew 10:28 promises that the wicked will be destroyed body and soul in Gehenna meaning be destroyed entirely.  Then it points to Isaiah 34 where Edom is said to be destroyed by unquenchable fire that has smoke that ascends forever and ever. But you would know from the context that this is only poetry and that it does not entitle us to question if Jesus meant his references to eternal fire literally. Isaiah however says the fire will not be quenched but that does not mean it wonít burn itself out and the smoke could literally ascend forever and ever. The page is full of bad logic. Then it argues that when God said a slave under some conditions is his masterís property forever that when he said the punished of the wicked will be forever he did not mean it literally. But we know that the slave cannot be enslaved forever for he will die one day but no hint in any context is given that forever in relation to eternal punishing is not forever. Then it indicates that when Jesus in the parable about Lazarus said that the rich man was in Hades that he meant the mythical Greek Hell indicating that the story was a myth or parable. But Hades was believed to be a real place among the Greeks and Jesus using this word and not Gehenna actually supports the thesis that it was not a parable. The fact that the Jews were unfamiliar with Hades supports this even more for you cannot say he just used the word Hades to hint that it was a myth. And as for making out that the Book of Revelation is being symbolic when it discusses eternal fire and the eternal punishment it is ridiculous for the whole volume is not symbolism and canít afford to be. Also, when all Christians believed in eternal torment the book could not risk misleading them with a symbolic eternal hell. And even when a symbolic book says suffering lasts forever it must mean it literally for what else could it be? You can get across the horror of eternal loss without going that far. The Book of Revelation never uses exaggeration.