Back in October of last year, I made waves among my Christian friends when I announced that I no longer believed in Hell. I was still a believer at that time, but stopped believing sometime between the end of that month and early November. I announced it with a nearly-exhaustive 13,000 word article, which dissected every aspect of the topic, and addressed every single verse used to support the doctrine. I shared the article on Facebook and Twitter; much to the dismay of some family members and friends. The article got the attention of one of my pastors, who even indirectly addressed me during a sermon (most people probably didn’t catch what we going on.) I didn’t have a problem with that (it was good natured;) it was just a weird time for me as I had never been controversial before. One of my two writers left the Christian website I was running immediately after learning of my change in beliefs. I was suddenly labeled as a heretic by some. I think I got more negative reaction from that change in opinion than I got when I announced I was leaving the faith.

Desite the negative reactions, there were a few people who actually changed their mind on the issue after reading the article; including the other writer for my website. Many people weren’t afraid to tell me I was wrong, but no one actually tried to disprove my reasoning. At most people would quote verses to me; all of which I covered in-depth in the article. I think it ended up getting around 600 views (I haven’t checked in a while) and a lot of shares on social media. I was pretty happy about that. I felt it was my calling to get the word out that God was truly good and would simply burn people to death instead of burn them forever (yeah, I know, still sounds evil.)

You can read it here: Why I No Longer Believe The Bible Teaches Hell

I came to this view after following my gut and discovering what the Bible reallys says. I was watching a television show; a sketch comedy called Studio C (the best show on television btw,) and for some reason that night I was trying to reconcile the idea that all of these wonderfully funny and seemingly nice people were most likely on their way to eternal torment in Hell. So after the show I decided to look up different views on Hell and stumbled across some great articles on a view called annihilationism, which I described in my article. I researched the topic for over a month, devoting nearly all of my free time to the study of it. I researched all of the arguments against the view, as well as the Greek and Hebrew words used by the biblical writers. I studied the history of the doctrine, and the views of surrounding religions at the time the Bible was being written.

I’ll go ahead and list the fifteen core points, each of which I explore in detail in the article itself. If you are interested in my reasoning and the evidence, it’s all there. The numbers all correspond in the article so you can examine individual parts of the argument if you choose to. Keep in mind that I had written this from a Christian perspective, not a secular one.

15 Reasons I Stopped Believing In Hell

1. Scripture never once warned people of eternal torment, but always warned of destruction.

2. The English word translated “hell” does not occur in the original manuscripts.

3. The Old Testament contains no teachings on or allusions to eternal misery in the afterlife.

4. The NASB and ESV bibles (the two most popular translations among conservative Christians) both contain a mere 13 occurrences of the word hell; all in the New Testament, translating not one, but three different Greek words.

5. There is no evidence that the apostles ever preached or taught about hell or alluded to a place of eternal misery; and Jesus only spoke of it twice to unbelievers.

6. The doctrine of eternal torment is based on the idea that man possesses an immortal soul; which is never taught in the Bible.

7. Not only is hell built on man’s presumed immortality, but it is also built on the assumption that the soul is always conscious (important when discussing the period of time between death and the final judgment.)

8. The parable of Lazarus and the rich man (used to support hell) cannot be taken literally without creating conflict with the rest of Scripture.

9. Metaphors such as “unquenchable fire” and “worms that never die” clearly refer to the shame of death and destruction as seen in Isaiah 66:15-24; which Jesus alluded to.

10. By the time the lake of fire is introduced in Revelation 20, it is far too late for it to have had any direct influence on the prior meanings of words.

11. The eternal fire is said to have been prepared for Satan and his angels.

12. The lake of fire is to be viewed figuratively.

13. The phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth” can only be understood as figurative language, and therefore does not contradict annihilation.

14. When the Bible refers to things as being eternal, it is referring to effect, rather than process.

15. The lack of common knowledge about even basic aspects of the doctrine of hell lead me to believe that it is not a commonly scrutinized doctrine; nor one that is taught in detail to churchgoers.

Here are a few other articles I had written about this topic, including other aspects of the argument against ECT which you may find interesting as well:

Defining Death

Proportional Punishment

50 Questions For Those Who Believe In Eternal Torment


Image by omar omar via Flickr.com. Used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.

Thank you for considering my perspective. Your opinion matters to me, and I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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47 thoughts on “Hell? No!

  1. I remember that I stopped believing in hell before I stopped believing in heaven. Heaven, of course, seemed more palatable. I believe this live on earth as we know it is it. This belief doesn’t scare me but rather inspires me to make the most of my time and my life now, instead of imaging some future in an afterlife that will not come.

    One of the things that bothers me the most about many conservative evangelical Christians is their lack of love and respect for the earth; they operate on the notion that the earth is temporary is made for man to use up, while they will always have heaven as their future. There is no guarantee of any heaven … only earth as we know it on a daily basis … a real and tangible experience.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting! 🙂

      You wrote: “One of the things that bothers me the most about many conservative evangelical Christians is their lack of love and respect for the earth; they operate on the notion that the earth is temporary is made for man to use up, while they will always have heaven as their future.”

      I agree 100%. It’s one of the most disturbing aspects of religion; that the here and now is not the ultimate focus. The good of humanity and the world now needs to take precedence over any hypothetical afterlife in my opinion. Some do get that, but most believers don’t. I know that I didn’t.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I wanted to comment, but more than any kind of response to the questions, I’m curious… What was it that caused you to walk away from the faith? Did you stop believing in hell and then started doubting everything? Were there no other people who could just listen and discuss these things with you? It is true that most people don’t think about it – let alone study it for themselves – to know what they believe or why about most anything. This is obvious even when discussing something that seems quite clear like the trinity. I guess my final question is whether there is anything that could take place or be said to cause you to reconsider your faith? Or are you pretty well unconvinced – or maybe de-convinced?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      There were a lot of issues that led me to walk away. I wrote about the one issue that was the tipping point here, and in several other articles on here: https://thefreethinkinghuman.wordpress.com/2015/01/18/how-1-enoch-destroyed-my-view-of-biblical-infallibility/

      Ultimately, the Hell issue got me started questioning all of the doctrines and it unraveled from there. I also didn’t identify as well with mainstream Xianity with it’s focus on avoiding Hell.

      I’m pretty convinced, but I am human and fallible; so it’s impossible to say my beliefs can never change. I would say I am not interested in the question of whether Christianity is true or not. That question is pretty much no longer of interest to me. I’m more interested in moving the Humanism movement forward, and increasing positive dialogue between atheists and Christians. I want to see animosity between the groups decrease. I have many friends and family on both sides of the issues who I love dearly.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for this post it is very thoughtful. I have concluded that part of the reason that conservative Christians defend teaching on hell is that once one starts questioning one doctrine it is not long before other doctrines are questioned. This often leads to an unraveling of the whole basis of a persons faith.

    R.C. Sproul argues that God does not send anyone to hell, rather it is choice people make for themselves by not accepting the Gospel. His logic is that there is no other place for people to go. If one accepts this argument (I could argue that a loving God might in his mercy create a slightly less uncomfortable place for those who rejected him), then it still raises the issue of does humanity really have an immortal soul. If God can give life surely he can take it away?

    God’s holiness explains why sinners can’t get into heaven, but justice would imply limited, rather than eternal punishment, and mercy and love would suggest that this should be the worst outcome.

    The references in the Bible to ‘the second death’ and to ‘destruction’ seem to point to annihilation. I expect many Christians in their heart could accept this as fair. It is the eternal conscious punishment and torment that most caring Christians struggle with.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “I have concluded that part of the reason that conservative Christians defend teaching on hell is that once one starts questioning one doctrine it is not long before other doctrines are questioned. This often leads to an unraveling of the whole basis of a persons faith.”

      Yes. Absolutely. It was that way for me. But I actually foresee the conditionalist movement gaining traction. Which ultimately will be fantastic for both Christians and non; as some will eventually leave the faith, and those who stay will have a more humane belief system. I know some of the guys leading the way in the movement, such as Chris Date, and he can make a strong case from the Bible on the issue. His site RethinkingHell is really cool, and he was recently featured in the New York Times.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Is #2 worded correctly? Of course there are no English words in the original manuscripts.
    Still reading… Just wanted to ask before I kept reading and forgot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha yes it is. But I guess the key to that is that the word Hell is English, not Greek or Hebrew, so it’s an arbitrary translation for 4 proper nouns. I go into it more in depth in the article, but I guess I could’ve been more clear on that. haha

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I read most of your article. I’ll try to read the rest soon. Really great stuff. I had never noticed before how Paul doesn’t say much about hell. Thanks for doing so much research and writing it all up!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Can’t remember if I asked you this before… The Greek word translated “destruction” in Matthew 7:13 and Romans 9:22 is Strong’s # 684 (biblehub.com/greek/684.htm). Biblehub specifically says that it does not imply annihilation. What is your take on this word and that interpretation of it’s meaning?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ah yes. Apoleia. I had covered that briefly at one point in the article. I’ll go ahead and paste it here:

        ——–

        “Some may point out that Revelation 17:8 refers to the Beast as “going to destruction”, when in fact he will be tormented forever in the lake of fire. However, the Greek word used for the Beast is the one traditionalists would need in the rest of the Bible. It is the word apóleia .

        HELPS Word-studies elaborates:

        “684/apṓleia (“perdition”) does not imply “annihilation” (see the meaning of the root-verb, 622/apóllymi, “cut off”) but instead “loss of well-being” rather than being (Vine’s Expository Dictionary, 165; cf. Jn 11:50; Ac 5:37; 1 Cor 10:9-10; Jude 11).”

        Notice that this word “does not imply “annihilation””. The fact that this is mentioned proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the intensified word apollumi means annihilation.”

        ——

        In short, those passages (which I had actually never really considered; nor have I heard them used to support ECT,) would be troubling to a conditionalist if there weren’t examples of appolumi which specifically related to what happens in Hell (I’ve never heard a goood ECT interpretation of Matt. 10:28,) and in plenty of other passages.

        I find that apoleia proves appolumi means annihilation; given the distinction between the two. Appolumi is a strong word.

        Hope that helps!

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      3. Yes, that did help. When I had looked up all the hell verses months ago, I had mistakenly concluded that 628 was used everywhere for “destruction” but it is not. 622 (apollumi) is used much more often, including Matthew 10:28, and it means permanent, absolute, destruction.

        Really interesting stuff. Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yeah, you wouldn’t guess from the one-word-fits-all approach of Bible translators huh? That was one of the most troubling aspects of the Bible to me. Very nuanced Greek and Hebrew words were translated to conform to doctrines, not to reflect historical meaning. The words translated as “soul” are a great example. Translators have taken so many liberties with the Hebrew word Nephesh.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I too came to hold an annihilationist view in the time prior to deconversion, though mine was a much slower process, so I held that for couple years. It is one among many issues where it is not difficult to find support for a particular preferable interpretation. But then, at some point, you eventually stand back and realize that all the different interpretations can be supported. And then it strikes you that the best explanation isn’t that one option is correct amongst all the choices but rather that there wasn’t some divine conductor guiding the writings of men. Once that becomes a live option all hell breaks loose – so to speak. So while I agree that under the presumption of inspiration the annihilationist view is the “best” interpretation, the traditional view is not unfounded and the truly best explanation is that there wasn’t a guide behind the text that was causing all of the writers to put forth a coherent, unified perspective. I know you now agree, but it is interesting to look back and see how we completely ignored that option, isn’t it?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Absolutely. I remember as a believer that the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible was SO taken for granted. It’s like the ‘duh, the Bible’s perfect’ mindset allows for so much intellectualizing after that presupposition is accepted as beyond scrutiny. But if you allow yourself to place all of the possible explanations for doctrines and their origin, you will most likely find sociological/historical explanations much more plausible. False dilemma is a major Christian fallacy.

      Thanks for commenting Travis. We think very similarly.

      Like

      1. Travis pretty much said it for me. My guess is that there were differing views of the afterlife that all got into different places in the bible. I do think eternal conscious torment may have been one of them. Do you think that’s entirely wrong?

        Also, I apologize for still not yet reading your 13000 word article (I read this post though 🙂 ), but I was wondering if you covered what the early church fathers wrote about hell. I’ve seen some conservatives claim that the idea of eternal conscious torment can be seen in their writings.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah, I agree that there was probably a lot of ambiguity in the concept (scholars don’t even really know what the word Gehenna even meant when Jesus spoke it.) My guess is that it evolved into ECT, but was only partially there at the time. I’ve heard it said that there was time needed to get from Sheol in the OT as a dark, gloomy, dull underworld to the fiery, Greek/Persian inspired Hell we know now. Hence Jesus spoke of a ‘furnace’ and ‘outer darkness’ and Jude warns of ‘blackest darkness reserved forever’ etc. in contrast to the ‘lake of fire’ in Revelation. It kinda was a mess. There probably was not a uniform view. It’s weird to imagine, because we assumed as Xians that doctrine was pretty well uniform in the church from Jesus to us. But I see it now as a humongous collage of random, evolving ideas thrown in a blender. lol

        I don’t think you have to apologize for not yet reading a frickin’ huge 13,000 word article. haha. I just posted it for anyone who was interested.

        As far as the claim that the church father’s believed in ECT, I definitely do not see that until Tertullian around 200 CE. Here’s a good article on it at Rethinking Hell: http://rethinkinghell.com/2014/10/hell-in-the-times-were-the-early-church-fathers-vague-in-their-support-of-conditional-immortality/

        Thanks for reading and commenting Howie!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Agree with and enjoyed your posting.

    However, I think you’re treading on quicksand on points #12 and #13 because for many believers, nothing in the bible is figurative. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, you are totally correct. Those really sound like cop outs when separated from the article itself. haha. Some of those points could’ve been reworded a little better. I’m just too lazy. 😛

      Thanks for commenting Nan! BTW I got your book. Looking forward to reading it.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Though when pressed they usually accept that the following verse is figurative:

      ‘He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.’ (Psalm 91:4)

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I was recently listening to a talk by N.T. Wright who argued that when Jesus referred to the ‘tower of Siloam’ and the ‘Galileans whose blood Jesus had mixed with their sacrifices’ (Luke 13:1-5) he was referring not to the eternal punishment but the forthcoming destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

    He argued that Jesus’ reference to the fires of Gehenna in Matthew 5:22 should also not be seen a reference to an eternal hell but rather some sort of temporal punishment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would agree with that. It makes a hell of a lot more sense (pardon the pun) to view it that way. In my article I quoted Josephus at length discussing the destruction of the temple. It seems like that was the reference.

      Like

  9. I approach religion from a pragmatic point of view, it’s easy than getting hung up on academia.

    Where on earth (sic) is hell? Where is the space on a rather small plant to have all these sinners burning? And wouldn’t the earth overheat? I know. Not remotely erudite, but there you have it. After 2000 years, hell is going to be awfully busy.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I find the topic of hell interesting. I once believed as Peter mentioned in his comment – that God didn’t send anyone to hell, they chose it. I actually began questioning other doctrines prior to questioning the doctrine of hell. Hell frightened me so much that I was terrified for a time, not knowing which doctrines were right and which ones were wrong, and knowing that it was a matter of life and death – literally. After I did some digging I found that the doctrine of hell was on pretty shaky ground. It seems to me to be a mish-mash of the beliefs of the cultures surrounding Christianity. After all, the Jews still do not believe in hell. In fact they don’t have a clear picture of the afterlife, or even if there is one, at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, you are absolutely correct.

      That belief that ‘sinners choose hell’ is the brainchild of C.S. Lewis. Although I think it mostly grew out of The Great Divorce. I never actually read any Lewis, but from what I’ve heard, his idea of hell in that book was not meant to be a full theological concept but rather just a way of viewing it. Of course, many assume it is a actual theological concept rooted in the Bible. But’s it’s just not. You hear apologists use it all the time, and it pisses me off. lol. There is nothing passive about God’s judgment at all. I wrote about that in Proportional Punishment, one of the articles linked at the bottom.

      Thanks for reading and commenting! 🙂

      Like

      1. Well, yes. It’s a funny old spin to put on the thing, isn’t it. God is good, so he can’t be sending people to the bad, bad place. Clearly by not recognizing God people are choosing an eternity in torment. When all the while it is God who created heaven and hell and good and evil? Yet he has no part in it if people end up in hell? Just doesn’t wash.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. In the preface of The Great Divorce, Lewis wrote,
        “I beg readers to remember this is a fantasy. It has of course – or is intended to have – a moral. But the transmortal conditions are solely an imaginative supposal: they are not even a guess or a speculation at what may actually await us. The last thing I wish is to arouse factual curiosity about the details of the after-world.”

        Liked by 1 person

      3. To me it just shows how clear it is to pretty much everyone that ECT is horrifically immoral. Any concept that can soften it is latched onto and used in apologetics.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Here’s a Devil’s advocate question – literally, I ask as a non-believer, which you know if you recognize my username from WEIT – might not some theologians construe the entire canon as divinely inspired? That is to say, subsequent interpretations and add-ons may not have been written by “prophets,” per se, but isn’t Hell one of many widely-held beliefs which do not come directly from the Bible?

    Descriptions of Heaven are equally abundant and more diverse. In the end, it wasn’t the rejection of the idea of either place that took away my faith (I’d simply never accepted that the creator of this amazing universe, to the extent I believed there was such an entity, would be less judgmental and understanding of human nature than I, a lowly and imperdect mortal) – it was the direction taken by organized religion in the culture wars against alternative sexuality, women’s reproductive health and immigration that ultimately made me feel that no faith, no matter how liberal, was anything I wanted in my life. The idea of it is completely poisoned for me by the attitudes of the majority of the world’s believers.

    Like

    1. Yes, you are correct that it was really subsequent interpretations that solidified the doctrine. I, and many others, including Christian conditionalists, don’t find the Biblical case for ECT convincing. I think it was still in the early stages of development at the time the Bible was written. I also did not leave because of this issue, but it definitely was a catalyst for my departure.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly. I become a conditionalist right before leaving the faith (I believed Hell was not eternal, and that people would be annihilated). I think the lessened fear of hell made it easy for me to leave within two months of that change in doctrine.

      Liked by 1 person

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