Last week Christopher Hitchens passed away. Prior to his death, Mr. Hitchens foresaw a couple of things happening when his time was to come. Firstly, he predicted that there would be those who claimed he had a last minute death bed conversion to Christianity. Secondly, he predicted that there would be those who claimed, as soon as he died, that he is now in hell. The second of these has happened, though I won't be referring to the specific people who have done so - they don't deserve the publicity.
But, more importantly, these types of claims give us the opportunity to pause and really consider their utter absurdity. Consider for a moment the idea of a hell. Most people will traditionally think of hell as a place where there is eternal suffering and pain at the hands of the Devil. Many modern religious believers will have long since given up the notion of a goat-hooved caricature of the Devil, but many undoubtedly still believe that hell consists of horrific suffering as a result of being tortured by the Devil and his demons. I always like to consider things a bit literally and see where it takes me, so consider that version of hell for a moment. The Devil is God's enemy. God will undoubtedly do one of two things to his mortal enemy of the ages: either destroy him once and for all, or punish him forever. Now, if the Devil is the sort of character who gets off on torturing people to begin with, then spending an eternity in hell torturing unbelievers is probably what the Devil wants to do for an eternity. That would be like heaven for the Devil, wouldn't it? So, if God is just and can't stand evil, then he must either completely destroy the Devil, or make him suffer endless torture alongside all the unbelievers. Either way, hell most certainly does not consist of suffering at the hands of the Devil as that would bring pleasure to the Devil, which surely God wouldn't allow. Why would God reward the Devil with what he wants at the end of the world?
So, many more modern Christians might shun the idea of a Devil-centred hell then. Perhaps they espouse the popular "eternal isolation from God" version of hell. But would that be hell? Suppose you weren't being tortured. Suppose you were alive and pain free for eternity, but were separated from God. Wouldn't that be a version of heaven for an atheist? We're going around in circles here. I just can't find a decent hell.
Then, of course, there is the scientific problems associated with an afterlife of any sort, let alone hell. We know that our personalities are the result of cerebral structures. Give someone a degenerative brain condition and their personality literally changes. They are no longer the same person. Tragically this happens all to often in old age with the onset of Alzheimer's and other debilitating diseases. So once the brain is dead and creamated, the personality of the deceased no longer exists. The memories, language, intellect, are all gone never to exist again. Would God really re-establish that person physically (by somehow magically re-creating their brain physically) just so that he could show them he is right after all and to punish them by separating them from him for an eternity? We know the God of the Bible is petty, but that takes it to a whole new level.
So, if you are one of those Christians who are still struggling with the whole issue of fear of hell, or if you are one of those newish atheists who still occasionally feel the tug of Pascal's Wager out of fear of being wrong after all, then relax. Think it through. There is no hell. The whole concept makes absolutely no sense at all. It is not at all reasonable.
Instead, go have a glass of Johnnie Walker (no ice), sit down with a good bit of writing by Christopher Hitchens, and enjoy what he had to offer the world. His writings are immortal and heavenly.