ARE YOU LIVING IN HELL?
If you hang out with religious people, it rarely takes long before someone is speaking of those who fail to live up to the God commandments or the dictates of their religion. Heads often shake as speaker laments how these non-compliant people are surely “destined for Hell.” Or sometimes, instead, they will say that God will separate Himself from these sinners eternally. For most religious people, the fear of hell is the dominant impetus to ‘believe,’ avoid sin, and by and large (at least in public) behave according to the dogma and orthodoxy of their religion.
Shouldn’t we believe and avoid sin and gauge our behavior based on what we Love instead of what we fear?
Whether that place is Hell, Hades, The Chinvat Bridge, or the Bardo – the concept tends to be a form of eternal punishment. In many religions the ‘unrepentant’ is actually engulfed in flames or forced into some mind-numbing punishment for all eternity. In others, the ‘hell’ is ‘merely’ eternal separation from God.
In either scenario, does this seem to you like the afterlife demanded by a “God of Love”? As a parent, would this be the punishment you mete out for your child who fails to do what you want?
Perhaps one of these scenarios is theologically correct. If so, would that change your view of God being Love as First John repeatedly claims?
This makes me wonder if Hinduism has a concept of ‘hell’ that one could reconcile most readily with a God of Love.
In some congregations of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism, there are afterlife scenarios similar to the Monotheistic ideas about Heaven and Hell. However, Eastern religions, on balance, have a dissimilar concept of the afterlife than we generally embrace in the West. Hindus, for instance, usually portray ‘hell’ as a continuation of life on earth. This ‘Samsara,’ is the endless cycle of death and rebirth that is results from ignorance of the ultimate reality of the universe. Samsara means “to wander across,” as in lifetimes, and samsara is the result of actions taken in this life (“karma”) that will determine the nature of one’s rebirth and determines which caste one will be born into in the next life.
As I ponder Samsara, I wonder if some of us in the West might not have fallen into ‘Hell’ already. It doesn’t matter if I am thinking of a Christian, Jew, Muslim, or Atheist. What about anyone who can’t feel? Or can’t speak about their feelings? Or can’t control their emotions in any meaningful way? What of people who can’t form and maintain meaningful friendships. What about folk who never seem to find a calling or purpose? Or those who never seem able to find the Abundant Life? What of those who have lost hope? And those who struggle in the darkness of disappointment, despair and bitterness?
What of those whose actions, if not their words, indicate they believe in rigidly following general commandments rather than becoming ambassadors of hope and givers of mercy? Does anyone else perceive that it is often these same folk who are hypocritical and judgmental — and struggle to find Love, meaning, Joy, and fulfillment in their lives?
Could they already be living in Samsara and just not recognize it?
Remember: Heaven is wherever God is
God is Love,