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Saturday, June 24

So Who's In Hell Anyway?

Newsweek recounts a nifty poll taken at beliefnet.com about your prospects of going to hell. And naturally more conservatives think they are not going to hell than liberals. Of course conservatives have a pretty good idea who is going to hell. Conservative christians generally believe that what one believes determines their salvation. Catholics said it was because of a person's immoral actions. It just shows you how people like to play "god". That's pretty much the ongoing beef between protestants and catholics anyway: deeds or faith. It depends on how you interpret that very ambiguous book that God supposedly inspired.

For a moment here, I am going to pretend that I am a christian who believes in the god that we created. The christian god is pretty 'human', you know, yet he is most merciful because after all, he created all of us and he doesn't want his creatures to 'fry'. Not even Jerry Falwell or Osama bin Ladin. Would you want your children to burn in hell? Of course not. You'd want to give them every chance possible to redeem themselves right up until the last second. You'd pretty much give them every opportunity to show some sort of inkling of respect for you before you threw them to the wolves and even then, you'd still probably like to give them another opportunity to change their hearts, take them into your house, albeit a less luxurious room in the back of the house with no view, until they got their act together.

If I were a believer, I'd tend to go along with the Catholic Church's theology concerning hell. Contrary to all the stuff Catholics tell you about going to hell, the church really takes a broader view and you're not going to hell for eating meat on Friday's during lent (unless you really want to). It's really what's in your heart that determines if you will have a happy afterlife.

In Catholicism, you have to absolutely positively reject God consciously when you do something immoral in order to be hell fodder. It has to be pre-meditated too. You have to wake up one morning and tell yourself that you don't care what god thinks and don't care if you ever meet him in heaven because you are going to commit a particular immoral act that day regardless of the consequences and you will never ever think twice about your heinous action or regret it.

Now that's a pretty hard thing to do, isn't it? Most people do terribly immoral things on the spur of the moment and probably don't even think of their afterlife when they're wrapped up in their passion. And according to Catholic theology, god still gives you a chance at your last moment on earth to repent even if you did consciously do something immoral to deliberately set yourself apart from god. If you still reject god's love at the last nanosecond, then you will be separated from god for all eternity. And that's hell. It's YOUR choice. Not God's. The only thing god actually judges is whether or not you really, really have chosen to be separated from him at that moment. God is very sad when you choose to exist without God after your time on earth.

A lot of thinking and theology went into that Catholic doctrine (which I will not go into here) and it pretty much makes sense from a human perspective unless you're really really mad at someone at the moment and you want them to burn for all eternity for hurting you. Luckily it's not other people's judgement that determines your spiritual future. Only God knows what is in your heart and you probably have a good idea of what's in your heart too regardless of what you may project.

And that ends this brief sermonette. Go in Peace.

For more information on the Catholic Church's position on hell, you can read this brief talk given by Pope John Paul II to a general audience on July 28, 1999 where he talks about God's mercy.

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