Thursday, December 09, 2004
Simply Without God
The author, who was brought up a Protestant, can recall a conversation over five decades ago with some Catholic friends from the neighborhood. He was taught in Sunday School that Catholics automatically go to Hell; his friends were taught in separate (parochial) school that all Protestants end up in Hell.
These beliefs have since changed on both sides of the divide, as Christian faith groups have become more accepting of other denominations. Even beliefs about Hell itself have moderated; it is now seen by many religious groups to be simply a place of isolation from God.What really flummoxed me was that last comment: "Hell... is simply a place of isolation from God." Isn't that sufficient torment? Given that the only reason the human race hasn't wiped itself out is the moderating influence of God's spirit, I don't want to be in a place isolated from God.
I was here for the L. A. riots in 1992. I smelled the smoke of burning buildings, watched people like a stream of ants going into stores and coming out with televisions and anything else they could carry. I watched a few years later as "fans" of the Lakers looted and tried to tip over a catering truck. I have seen what happens when the normal societal brakes are off. And people believe that the only thing wrong with Hell is that God won't be there? That's like saying real estate on the Moon is great but for one small problem of air.
I know God's moderating influence in my own life, and wouldn't want to be without that. He helps me keep perspective, and be a little more patient, and this gets better as our relationship becomes stronger.
People who don't believe in God believe in something else. Life runs on beliefs. Right now our world is running partially on God's principles, but somewhere along the line God will withdraw Himself and then things will get really ugly. It will be a foretaste of hell, the major difference being that the period on Earth will end, but Hell won't.
I'm not going to get into big discussions of who's going to Hell and who isn't. That's God's business, not mine. "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." That's all we need to know. Other than the fact that wherever God isn't, you don't want to go there.