A recent article in Aeon Magazine (accessed online via aldaily.com, 20 Jul 2014) examines the decline of belief in the existence of hell, not just among those who believe in no god but in believers as well.
In a day in which our advertisers promise us that we can “Have it (y)our way,” it is no surprise that increasing numbers of people are abandoning any idea which suggests we are actually accountable for our choices in life.
What is the difference between a life with no accountability, no responsibility, and a life that is meaningless?
Some people argue that if God is love, he cannot be so cruel as to send anyone to hell. Think for a moment about parenting. Parents who raise children to believe there are no ultimate consequences to our decisions are raising spoiled brats. If God says it does not matter ultimately what we do with our lives, it means we ourselves do not matter ultimately.
Decisions without consequences have no meaning beyond individual preferences. When Frank Sinatra sings, “I did it my way. . .” he simply makes a fool of himself. Doing everything “my way” is ultimately very lonely. We are created for community with one another and with our Creator. the attempt to be our own private god, with no accountability to or responsibility for anyone else, is to live in an extremely tiny, one-person universe.
It is true that we are each responsible for ourselves but it is also true that other people have some responsibility for us, just as we have for them. When we deny the essential importance of the community for the individual, we may think we’re elevating the value of the individual. What we are doing instead is dehumanizing the individual, excluding him or her from the human family.
We must be careful, of course, to reject the world’s distortion of the Christian ideas of heaven and hell. Heaven is not a reward and hell is not a punishment. Heaven is a gift and hell the fruit of rejecting the gift. God sends no one to hell: They choose it for themselves. And God does not randomly pick a few folk here or there to go to heaven: Those who entrust themselves to God have already begun their eternity in heaven. Those who prefer to be their own god have already begun the loneliness of hell.
What’s your choice?