Then Where is Hell?
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Then Where is Hell? • Posted: Mar 26, 2011 09:42:57Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

That's a question asked of me recently by a friend. He'd been telling me about his researches into ideas of "love" and "relationship" as described in the Bible. I'm not sure why, but he had them all sorted into two main categories, a kind of reductionism some people find useful. I don't. I find reductionism obscures subtleties that allow us to understand the complexity of hidden truths. Gloss over subtle differentiations and you blind yourself to useful insight.

Anyway, his two main categories were "carnal" and "spiritual". I said, "Aren't you leaving something out?" To which he said, "What?" And I said, "The empirical".

He didn't understand. So, I said, "Things like that lamp or that wall over there." To which he said, "Oh, that would be included in carnal, everything worldly." And I said, "No, the word 'carnal' means of the body, appetites and desires prompted by the biological workings of our bodies. Those processes are different from processes that wall or that lamp are going through."

To my mind, he'd obscured a very useful distinction between what we experience and fall victim to as a result of the workings of our own bodies and everything that physically exists outside our own biology. Why did I think that distinction important? Because, to my way of thinking, there are useful lessons to be learned, perspectives to be gained, from observing the workings of the world outside our own carnally prompted human activities. For instance, the way bonobos handle conflict and aggression, the fact that some species mate for life and others do not, that within some species parents cooperatively rear their young and within other species they do not, that few species kill their own kind, etc., etc.

I said to him, "It seems to me that if you believe in God and you want to learn from him, you'd take a look at what he created for you to learn from."

Blinking, he said, "You know, there are passages in the Bible that say something very similar to that."

Then I had a question for him. I said, "Why is it you want to know all this stuff?" And he said, "So I can get into heaven." To which I said, "What makes you think you aren't there already?"

A shocking question? Perhaps. But understanding how we know what we think we know is an important part of learning. I continued, "If you were going to design heaven, what would you include? Would you include opportunity to learn? Opportunity for pleasure? Mysteries to solve and wonder at like stars and snow flakes and all kinds of animals and birds, fishes, insects, and plants? Wouldn't you include magical things like sunsets, wind and rain, gravity and magnetism, electricity and radio waves, ... and birth? I know you'd include opportunity for friendship and caring and love? How about music and art, stories and jokes, good food and games? And wouldn't you include opportunity to make a difference through work you do?"

Now that got him to thinking. He was silent for a bit. Finally, he said, "Then where is hell?"

I smiled. "Well," I said, "I recently heard someone quote Jean Paul Sartre as saying 'Hell is other people'." He grinned. Then I said, "If you ask me, hell would be suffering the consequence of all our arrogant ignorances."

Thursday, February 24th, 2011