Thursday, February 08, 2007


Many of the writers of the New Testament may not have conceived of hell as a place of eternal torment. A reader observes:

There is no such place as HELL.

Hell, mentioned even in your bible has NOTHING to do with fire. "Hell fire" mentioned in the KJV is from the Greek word "Gehenna." It is a valley south of Jerusalem. It used to be the city garbage dump. As such it was on fire. As garbage and organic materials were constantly thrown into this fire, the worms there did not die out, but kept on multiplying until there was nothing left to eat. The valley is STILL in Jerusalem, but the fire is OUT and there are no WORMS there.The word "hell" in the KJV is translated from the Greek word "Hades" which means the UNSEEN or etymologically, UN=PERCEIVE or IMPERCEPTIBLE. There can NOT be feelings, torture, pain, etc., in a place that by its very name means to have NO PERCEPTION OF ANYTHING!!

There is NO WORD in either the Hebrew or Greek scriptures that means "eternal" or "everlasting" or "for ever and ever." Since there is NO SUCH WORD IN THE BIBLE, all such translations are WRONG and misleading.

The concept of hell seems to have grown with time.

Gehenna is the name for a valley southwest of Jerusalem, where garbage was thrown. In the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the Romans threw many corpses and much trash into Gehenna. As there was a constant supply of bodies, the worm did not die. As there was a constant flow of trash, the fire did not go out. The gospels say that Jesus warned that people could be thrown into Gehenna (translated as hell in many Bibles) where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. The authors may well have literally been referring to this event, and not to a future destruction of souls. Having the advantage of hindsight--the gospels were probably written after the fall of Jerusalem--the gospel writers could have put these words into the mouth of Jesus, and made it look like he predicted these things. To the Jews, who honored the body and valued a proper burial, the thought that the nation would be destroyed and bodies would be so horribly treated if people did not repent would have been considered a very stern warning.

So one can well make the case that the earthly valley Gehenna is all that Jesus meant by hell. Other verses such as the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus or the book of Revelations may or may not refer to literal eternal torment, or they could have other meanings. It is an interesting study.

See also:
What Does the Bible Teach About Hell?
Jesus' Teaching on Hell

"It's time for me"

Here is an email discussing the implications of new views.

I've been engulfed in your website, it is amazing. I'm on a journey in my life to find if what I've known my whole life is true, that being Christianity..It's been very hard for me, but everything on your site makes perfect sense. Everyone I'm around blindly believes the religion and never questions girlfriend of 4 years has said if I come to the conclusion that atheism is what I believe, then she will leave me. She wants a Christian family, etc. So I have this burden on me, and knowing how crushed my parents would be if they found out I was atheist, keeps me holding on to Christianity. But I'm tired of thinking about other people, it's time for me.

Yes, I agree, it is time for you. I do not mean that in a selfish way. For when you honestly admit what is going on in your mind, only then will you experience the joy of setting your mind free.

I think that many people continue through life as zombies, not believing the things they say they believe, but scared of what people will say if they admit their doubts. Is it like the fairy tale, where many can see that the emperor has no clothes, but nobody wants to face the social consequences of saying so. One can only spend so much time admiring the emperor's clothes when he can see that the man has no clothes. If you and I can see that the emperor has no clothes, then our minds will never really be free until we say what we see. If your faith has "no clothes", then you may well want to say so.

I wish you well, and hope you truly experience the joy of the mind set free.

Should we throw the baby out with the bathwater?

Does opening our mind to questions necessarily lead away from God? Here is an email dealing with that issue:

I have just found your site while researching the question of God without Jesus and The Bible. To be brief, I have been in a questioning mode for the last 5 years after being in church for 55 years. But, God has been too good to me and to interactive in my life, still today, that I can't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Why do so many who begin to question their faith, either go purely agnostic, or atheistic?

I can not deny God. But yes there are many things I have learned and believed over the past 50 years that I now question big time--but as I say--God is far too real in my life. Do you think that one MUST throw the baby out with the bathwater? That one must disbelieve in God altogether if he begins to doubt certain criteria? And like you, after half a century as a student AND teacher of the Bible, I have been strongly startled by this change--but no matter what I question, I just can not delete my personal relationship with God himself --He has been and is far too involved in my life for me to do that. Do you not feel that a man can keep his relationship with God, yet still question and ponder all the other trappings? I'd really love to hear from you, as this really is a strange and heartfelt journey for me.

I know of a Christian turned atheist who was glad to denounce God, but cried because in doing so, he had to leave his best friend ( JESUS ) whom he missed very much. I am questioning the exact opposite..... the total, certain belief in God himself, even if He is not, ultimately, the GOD of The Bible. please respond if you will.

One of the hurdles to questioning the faith is the thought that God is inside of you. Many of us have believed for years that God is literally residing inside our own minds; that he is thoroughly aware of every thought as it occurs; that an open link exists to the very throne of the universe; that communication with the ruler of the universe is only a prayer away; and that God is actively inserting thoughts into our mind to guide and comfort us. Some find it acceptable to question assertions about the Bible, but it becomes very hard to question this inner voice. After all, God supposedly hears every thought, and can supposedly bring trouble to the mind that is not thinking the right thoughts. Is a thought that questions God an allowable thought? If not, then one cannot even ask those questions, for there is no private place where one can retreat to think things through in privacy. A God that is "hearing" every thought eliminates any moment of complete inner privacy.

The idea of this loss of privacy can be enslaving, but many also find it comforting. They like the idea of a constant companion inside the mind, keeping thoughts from going too far astray, and providing peace to the troubled mind when needed.

We find that the writer above does not want to question this relationship with God, for he does not want to think of leaving his best friend behind.

Sidestepping the question of whether a creator God exists--a question I don't usually address--the issue here is whether God is intimately involved in a relationship with people, and whether this relationship should be cultivated.

Being scientifically minded, my natural response is to ask for the evidence that God really is inside your mind communicating with you. Yes, you may find the concept comforting, but others find it comforting to imagine that Abraham Lincoln or some other person is inside communicating with them. That is a technique that helps some people clarify their thought flow when nobody is around to talk to. They simply summon their imaginary friend, and imagine speaking to him, thus helping them to organize their thoughts and to think of other perspectives to the problem. It is not real, but some people find it a helpful technique. Could the same thing be happening in prayer? The fact that you find it comforting does not mean it is based on reality.
What exactly does God say to you? For any real relationship requires two-way communication. Does he provide you with information you would not otherwise know? Does he give you advice that you could not think of yourself? If so, do you claim that people who communicate with God in this way intuitively know things they would not otherwise know, or have a better judgement in moral decisions? Both claims could easily be tested by scientific experiments, but I think we already know what we would find. It is very doubtful that either claim would yield statistically significant results in a controlled study. And if the claims do not stand to scientific scrutiny, can you be sure they are true?

During the years of my "personal relationship with Jesus", I readily whispered a quiet prayer to God many times a day. Many times I thought I heard God directing me. Sometimes I dogmatically followed that inner direction. After all, who was I to question a thought that had been inserted into my mind by God himself? But I no longer whisper prayers, and no longer assume that a thought in my mind must be the direct revelation of God. And I find that my mind is now much more at peace. Perhaps the same will work for you. Or perhaps you will continue to find more peace in life if you assume this direct communication.

You certainly do not need to throw away your belief that a God was somehow behind creation, or even your belief that there is a God inside of you. You do not need to throw out the baby with the bathwater. But I do think you need to ask if there is a baby in the bathwater. If you search and find no baby in the bathwater, then you can throw out the bathwater without fear.

An answer to every question that needs answering

I received this email with an amazing promise, that there is a way to find an answer to every question that needs answering.

Although I do not claim to have all the answers to life's questions, I do know that God has an eternal purpose for everything that is allowed to happen as well as what is not allowed. God loves man, as his creation, yet mans natural body and well-being is not his first concern for man. God's first concern would be for a man's soul, his eternal destination. The Bible says life is but a vapor. The Bible states in 2 Corinthians 4:18, "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." While many times we see tragedy, God, through his Omniscience, sees eternal consequences. He knows how 1 situation, as tragic as it may be, could have a greater impact eternally even more so.

As I have come across & read some of your writings, I can tell you are a very educated and wise man. I know you probably have many more questions of how and why things in this world happen. I am sure you have questions that I have no answers to; however, I know a man who has all the answers, His name is Jesus. If you truly seek a relationship with him I assure you he will answer every question in your mind that needs answered. I did not write this email to anger or upset you, just in obedience to God. I have never responded to anything like this before, I hope you sense God's love this hour.

I can assure this writer that I, and many others, have indeed truly sought a relationship with Jesus, indeed have lived in what we understood to be such a relationship for years, and yet did not find the answer to every question when we needed an answer. It is those unanswered questions that have led us on our journey of discovery and exploration, and have led us beyond the faith we inherited.

The writer seems to be satisfied with the answer that earthly tragedies are acceptable because God knows they bring the best eternal good. I wonder, for instance, how the recent tragic tsunami was for have eternal good. If such tsunamis are the best that could happen for eternal good, why are scientists and engineers working to develop better warning systems to prevent such disasters in the future? If small pox plagues and tsunamis are planned by God for eternal purposes, why are scientists working to eliminate or minimize the consequences of such events? The answer given by this writer--"greater impact eternally"--only increases my questions.

I wonder if the writer has indeed found the answer to every question that his mind needs to have answered. If so, perhaps his mind asks fewer questions than mine does.


Here is an email reviving the old argument that the earth was created young with an appearance of age. This is commonly referred to as the Omphalos argument, after the book by that name that popularized this argument.

I've read your page on 'How Old is the Earth' and I am glad to see that you addressed what I call the 'Apparent Age' theory (ie light from the stars was created enroute as well as other aspects you did not address). It appears that the sum total of your argument against this theory is your subjective characterization of it as being deceptive.

Was it deceptive to create Adam as a fully grown man even though he was only one day old or was it simply a constraint of creating a being who was immediately self-sufficient unlike a day old baby? Was it deceptive to create fully grown trees bearing fruit so that Adam and the other animals had something to eat or was it simply a constraint of creating an environment in which man and animals could immediately survive without having to wait years for a seed to grow into a tree and bear fruit? Was it deceptive to create a star or a supernova AND create the light that would have emanated from it in order to provide light to the earth or was it simply a constraint of needing to provide light to the earth and not wanting or needing to wait millions or billions of years for the light to arrive?

Do you have anything other than a subjective characterization to address this argument? I suspect you don't or you would have already included it in your article. I look forward to hearing back from you.

Well, yes God could have created light en route from the stars at the moment he created the stars. But would that light contain a history of the stars as it arrived at us? As I explain at my site, the arriving starlight shows details of supernova explosions and other stellar activity. The light from SN 1987A even had a built in delay for the reflected light to arrive at earth. Scientists say the delay was caused by the light needing to travel 8 months to the clouds it reflected off of before it came in our direction. I suspect the writer has no answer for this. Why was the reflected light delayed 8 months in reaching us?

For more on this argument, see Omphalos.

"I was a fundamentalist Christian for 27 years"

Here is another email I received:

I was a fundamentalist Christian for 27 years. I became "born again" after joining the Air Force in 1979. I remember reading a bible I had bought and for the first time read what the New Testament said about salvation. I realized that I was a great sinner and needed help. I was upset with the way my life was going and saw no way out. I was in my barracks by myself reading the bible when I came across the passage "If you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved". I bowed my head and repeated this to God and put my trust in him. I felt great release and love flowed into my heart. I started to go to church, go out with Christian friends, sing and witness in the park and of course read my bible day and night.

For a year I was on cloud 9 but then I was sent to an Air Force base in England. At RAF Lakenheath (a nuclear bomber base) I was charged with guarding the various weapons we had and prepare for nuclear war with the Soviet Union. It was an exciting time for me since I truly believed that the Rapture would happen anyday now and was not worried at all about the world situation. In fact the worse it got, the better. But I noticed my spiritual life was leveling out. I found it harder and harder to keep my body from sinning. I struggled with thoughts of sin and battled everyday with unclean thoughts. I was going to a Full Gospel Charasmatic Church in the meantime that believed in all the fruits of the Spirit. I remember watching the healing services and seeing the same people go up week after week with the same complaints. Never did I see someone healed of a major illness, it was always a back problems or cold. I then began to see what power does to people. The pastor was only part time but he wanted to be full time and bullied the members of the church to pay him a full time salary. Anyone who opposed him was cast out of the church, including me. I returned to the United States, still in the Air Force and went to another Full Gospel Church.

I was beginning to see problems with the bible. I saw that there were some very real contradictions that couldn't be explained but I just let it go believing that God had a reason for everything in the bible. One thing that really bothered me was the violence that God used in the Old Testament against various nations. I just couldn't understand how God could order Israel to kill entire cities, including women and small children. I imagined them being lined up for execution, the woman holding onto their children who were crying and then getting a sword run through both of them. It didn't make sense to me at all and I was very upset at this. I imagined myself an Israelite soldier being ordered to kill children. "Would I do it?" I thought. If I didn't I would be disobeying God and would be killed and sent to hell. That thought put terror in my mind and I quickly thought of different things.

I also questioned the idea of an eternal hell. Again I thought how could God send someone to a lake of fire for ever and ever? How about all these people in the world who never heard of Jesus? Were they doomed? The Church was telling me that they were and that God was justified in sending them to hell and in fact one day we would all rejoice at the justice of God for sending those people there.

I also saw the state of the Church itself in two parts. The first was Church history which was terrible! The entire 2000 years since Christ was filled with violence, hatred, greed and powerful Christians doing bad things to others. I saw the Church take over the Roman Empire and turn it into an Empire of Christian horror. People with different opinions were called heritics and hounded out of the cities. When the Empire finally fell and the Church was the only law, things really got out of hand. I don't know how many people were killed in the name of Christ, but it was not a few.

The second part about the Church was what I saw people doing now. I saw very little love in the Church. I saw greed and people seeking power and money. I saw various churches that didn't care one lick about their members except how they could continue to contribute money to the Church. I was amazed that I never found a man or woman that I could say truly lived the life I envisioned a Christian should live. It seemed that the Church as a whole was even worse than the general public. Divorce was rampant, various sexual sins were all the rage and money was the new god.

The straw that broke the camals back for me was Rev Ted Haggard. I didn't know much about him except that he was very big in the Church. When he fell like he did I finally said to myself "THAT IS ENOUGH!" I began to read articles critical of the bible and saw that my past concerns were also the concerns of others. I started reading books about how the bible was written and the various problems with the ressurection accounts. My eyes seemed to be open for the first time. I saw the problems with creation science and began reading books on evolution for the first time with fresh eyes. I felt like I had been in prison for many years and that my learning was very very far behind. I loaded up with science books and read many articles questioning the bible. I read testimonies of former Christians who believed exactly like I did and saw that they truly believed the bible at the time but had the same questions that I did. I also found your web site and read every article and at that point I began to feel a great relief in my very essence.

I then promised myself that I would examine the evidence fully and then decide if the bible is truly the Word of God or not. If it is, then it must be fully followed without question. If not then I cast it away.

Today, December 31st, 2006 I am making the following declaration:

I have studied the evidence and have come to the conclusion that

1. The bible is not the Word of God. It was written by man at various periods.

2. Jesus is not God, or Christ or anything. If he existed he was just a man.

3. God does not exist.

That is my story in short. I plan on writing a much longer version later when I finally get things settled in my mind. I just wanted to declare before the new year starts that I am no longer a Christian in any sense of the word.


Houston, Texas

I am glad that this writer experienced a relief in his very essence. His story is typical of what many have experienced.