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Hell Is Real, But Not Until 2016

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Hell Is Real, But Not Until 2016

Postby Weemaryanne » Fri Jan 30, 2015 12:37 am

[Aside to our sage and under-appreciated admins: I don't think I've ever started a thread in this subforum before. This topic seems to be a good fit, but if I'm wrong then would one of the admins virtually re-file it in a more appropriate place, please and thank you. ---Wee]

The Patheos site just keeps adding bloggers and some of them are amazingly good; I wish I could keep up with all of them. The following title was linked on Hemant Mehta's or Neil Carter's page (can't remember which) and led me to one Kurt Willems, author of The Pangea Blog:

Giving up Hell for a Year: How it could revolutionize our relationships

Willems writes on Patheos' "Progressive Christian Channel," virtually next door to Slacktivist Fred Clark, so I thought 'twould do no harm to read his post. And indeed, I got a laugh out of it, though that wasn't Willems' intention.

Willems begins by asserting that hell is real, and not just at its traditional fire-and-brimstone address. There's also hell-on-earth as manifested in war and pain and deprivation of all kinds. Then there's the hell of dying without god, on which Willems wastes a long paragraph and says -- hold on, let me doublecheck -- yeah, he says pretty much nothing. So that's three hells and one of 'em is even real, which is impressive in a funny way.

Then he grapples with the problem that hell presents for Christians: When they tell non-Christians about it, the message doesn't go over very well. Willems goes on in adorable earnestness for several paras, about how the hell doctrine makes Christians kind of awkward with their non-Christian or "None" friends. Because how can you be friends with someone who's on the highway to hell? You need to warn them, you want to help them, and they just aren't having it. They don't affiliate with a church, they don't subscribe to most tenets of faith, and they don't appreciate being told what miserable sinners they are. No matter how sincerely the Christian may believe in hell or how desperately s/he may wish to save their friend, the relationship is doomed to a certain measure of . . . awkwardness.

Unless -- could they just stop doing that? Is it possible for Christians to live without the doctrine of hell, thereby improving their relationships with the non-Christian community and generally raising the level of happyhappyjoyjoy?

Why, yes. Yes, it is possible, Willems eagerly explains:

What if we are truly missing something? What if the majority of Christians are actually “losing” as they try to “win” by failing to move to deep places of authenticity with nonChristians?

NonChristians are not objects to be targeted by holy agendas.

NonChristians often look more Christlike than many Christians.

NonChristians are often fun, pleasant people to be around.

NonChristians have several gifts to offer us Jesus people.

NonChristians can shape us positively.

Ookaayyy, this is somewhat condescending but no worse than I dish out most days, and I suppose it's a good thing that nonbelievers can contribute to character development/positive self-image in bleevers. I guess. Anyway, Willems burbles on:

And any Christian can have meaningful relationships with nonChristians, but it might mean giving up hell.

What do I mean exactly? I want to invite readers to contemplate giving up hell for a year. For one year of your life, become a practical universalist. Live as though hell doesn’t exist. I dare you.

If every Christian gave up hell for a year, our relationships with nonChristians would be revolutionized. With less reason for agenda, these friendships would become mutually beneficial. We’d laugh. We’d cry. We’d play. We’d serve. We’d be authentic friends.

Shnort. I'm trying to picture the faces of Comfort, Cameron, Ham et al as they try to figure out how this would work. Seems to me it would be like trying to sit on a chair that's missing a leg. But Willems think he's onto something, and he's going to give it a try because he thinks he will still have an advantage over his nonbelieving friends:

Without hell–all we have to offer people is heaven.

And that's where my snort turned into a laugh. Though his intentions are commendable, Kurt Willems is setting out on a dangerous road. Who wants to bet that he'll be an atheist before his year-without-hell is out?

Wee's Nightmare
(by Weemaryanne)

I once woke from a terrible dream,
Trembling at what I hadn't seen:
A gate, tall and black
On which hung a plaque:
That read: "HELL: FOUNDED 2016."
Of course truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense. (Mark Twain)
I try to be cynical, but I just can't keep up. (Lily Tomlin)
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Re: Hell Is Real, But Not Until 2016

Postby Jessica » Sat Mar 14, 2015 3:13 pm

Thanks, Wee. I can't lie, I'm not overly keen on the Patheos site. Getting freethinkers to agree on anything is practically impossible and all our ships must sail in the same direction is just a fond notion. That is what the fundies can't get. Walking in lock step is something they accuse us of doing and when we don't they are lost.
Just because one thinks something is correct it doesn't mean the other chap will. There was a long comments section under a posting from an atheist pro-lifer on one of the blogs a real ding dong of a debate, some were what you might call up to fighting. Given the human condition, you are more likely to get drama and expulsions than a harmonic agree to disagree.
Having stated that, and being part of the human condition, this progressive Christian does seem to be heading towards atheism or at least a loosening of the tight Christian mores that would have him adopting a sort of demi deism without the strict materialistic aspect.
Because once a Christian, no matter how staunch, begins to question the real reality of hell, they start to lose the fear of punishment and that leads to them thinking for themselves. Some of the questions and remarks you kindly set forth are telling me Willems Christian understanding of hell is starting to fade.
But never fear! This does not mean once HELL is no longer a punishment this doesn't mean the newly freed ex-believer will suddenly go out and crash cars and steal toffees from babies or stay up all night watching the telly. It almost always means that the person is thinking for themselves, and start doing random acts of good not out of fear of being punished but because, well, taking a wallet full of money or a lost cat to the address affixed and the response of the person at having their lost returned is more satisfying than any physical reward.
Doing acts of kindness just makes you feel good about yourself. And that is what it's all about.
Infact, no ex-Christian has turned in their faith because they want to sin. Believe me. You can take an ex-Christian's word for it.
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?Then he is not omnipotent.Is he able, but not willing?Then he is malevolent.Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God? (Epicurus circa:300 BC)
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