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10 Questions About Hell From an Atheist

by Herb Silverman

by Herb Silverman

When it comes to discussions about heaven and hell, I prefer Mark Twain’s quip: “Go to heaven for the climate, hell for the company.” Since OnFaith has published a few pieces lately from evangelicals on their theologies of hell (see here and here), I figured I’d throw my 10 cents into the ring and ask: What the hell is going on?

There are probably as many ways to think about hell as there are believers in hell. And as an atheist, I think the right way to think about hell is also the right way to think about heaven — both are nonexistent.

All this afterlife theology raises a lot of questions. Here are just 10 of them I’ve wondered about:

1. Why is faith not only important, but perhaps the deciding factor about who winds up in heaven or hell?

Whenever I’m asked what I’d do if I meet Jesus when I die, I say I would then have enough evidence to become a believer. Apparently, though, that would be too late. If a creator god exists, why would she create so many evidence-based humans if she wants us to make faith-based decisions?

2. Why do the last 30 seconds of life matter so much?

If an Adolph Hitler repented on his deathbed for his role in the Holocaust and accepted Jesus, some say he would go to heaven. I think it would be more reasonable (though what’s reason got to do with it?) for a person to be judged on his or her lifetime actions rather than on an end-of-life belief.


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