Diss Rants

This is the news/ranting forum for Diss (a.k.a. Tom Kercheval), an independent musician. Check here for new music, updates on new music and just random rantings on a variety of subjects. Feel free to leave a comment or four. For Diss' main web site, go to www.dissmusic.com.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

What the Hell?

Okay, I guess this is my first excursion into discussion of a religious nature. It's always tricky, this subject. Because people can be offended, angered, disappointed, or, even worse, they can misconstrue what you say. So, let me get this out of the way first. If I offend anyone's personal beliefs here, please understand that it's not intentional. This is a blog, so it's basically a vehicle for me to vent my own personal feelings, often in a stream-of-consciousness way, so don't hold it to the same standards as a researched or heavily-agonized-over piece of writing. It definitely ain't that.

So, what's with the title for this entry? Well, as many of you no doubt know, a few years ago now, Stuart Adamson of Big Country took his own life in what were very tragic circumstances. It was a huge blow for all of us who were fans, not only of the music, but of the man. What was even harder for me is that, at the same time, I had a long-time friend, also a long-time alcoholic, who took his own life in a similar way. In fact, it happened a mere two weeks after the news of Stuart's passing. Needless to say, it was a very, very tough time.

So, again, why the title...well, I built my new computer recently (Yes, it was a success! Pics next entry, for those who care), and I was going through a bunch of old emails on my old computer. I rarely throw away anything. Anyway, I found a post from someone on a Big Country list shortly after Stuart had died. I'd forgotten about this post, because it angered me then, and it continued to incense me recently when I re-discovered it. Anyway, the gist of the post was the person hoping that Stuart was not "in hell" because of his actions, with so-called Biblical references to the so-called fact that anyone who takes their own life can't make it into heaven and basically spends eternity in torturous misery.

What a repulsive, abhorrent concept this is to me.

First, let me give you some insight into my religious background. At present, I don't know what I would classify myself as religiously, but I certainly come from a distinctly Christian upbringing. My father was, until very recently, a Methodist minister, and from a very early age, I was extremely interested in learning about Christianity, Jesus, etc. I've read the Bible through many times, I used to win Bible trivia contests in Bible school, I watched the PTL Club after school instead of cartoons (believe it or not)...I was a very pious kid. So, be careful if you want to debate me on this subject. I don't speak from ignorance on the subject matter. :-)

But, I have to admit, over the last number of years, I've found myself more questioning than ever about who or what God is, what's true, what doesn't make sense, what the answers are. I don't have them. But I do feel pretty confident about certain things that I absolutely no longer believe in. One of those things is the concept of hell.

Okay, here's a theoretical scenario for you. Let's say you go to your job, hang up your coat, and later in the day find a co-worker reaching into your coat pocket and stealing 50 cents from you so they can buy a drink from the soda machine. You've caught them red-handed. Now, what's the punishment? Do you get them fired? Do you punch them in the face? Do you yell at them and make them give back the money? Or, do you take them down into a room, tie them up and torture them for weeks, months, even years on end, keeping them alive just so they can be fully aware of the pain you're putting them through? Does that last choice sound like something a reasonable person would choose? Does that last choice sound like justice? Hell, no on both counts.

And yet, that is EXACTLY what many Christians believe when it comes to the concept of hell and "everlasting punishment" - that God, in his infinite wisdom and love, will not just punish, but TORTURE people for ALL ETERNITY, not just people who committ murder and other horrible acts, mind you, but people who simply "die in sin" or "refuse to accept Jesus" as their savior. Your dear old grandmother, who never hurt a fly in her life and always did good for everyone, according to this mindset, could be in the midst of unspeakable and eternal torture right now, simply because she chose not to believe something.

I find that entire concept borderline insanity on its own, but then to have someone suggest that a person like Stuart or my friend Chris would suffer that same fate for being so depressed and despondent that they took their own life...sorry, but that's crossing the line of insanity.

I can't speak for what Stuart went through during his last days, but I can speak to what my friend Chris went through, as I was in contact with him for a long period of time leading up to his fateful decision. Chris was such a good person at heart. Talented, funny, brilliant. But he was totally hijacked by alcohol abuse and depression, and it's my belief that his untreated depression really led to the alcohol abuse. His own father had taken his life years before. His family situation had always been a mess. He was a scared guy, in desperate need of help but never knowing how to embrace the help that was available to him. He made bad choices, but not out of malice. He wasn't evil, he wasn't selfish, he was just in tremendous, tremendous pain, a mental agony that I hope no one reading this ever has to know. I loved him as a friend, and I love him still, and for someone to suggest that because he took his life in a fit of despair and panic that "God" is making him suffer now even more...it's just a sickening thought to me that people actually believe this. It's sickening and sad that the human mind can be so weak and susceptible to guilt and controlling influences that it convinces itself that this could be true. And yet there are so many who believe this.

It's also incredibly insulting to the concept of God, or a higher power in the universe. It actually reduces the concept of God, particularly a loving God, to a status lower than an animal, certainly lower than a human. After all, if inflicting that sort of punishment on someone can be viewed as undeserved or unjust by us humans, how can we possibly think that God - whatever God may be - supposedly so much more highly evolved than humanity, would think that such a thing WAS just or deserved. It makes zero sense, no matter how you look at it, and I reject it utterly.

Put it this way - if "I" was God, and someone like my friend Chris passed away like he did, knowing what I knew about his life and what he'd gone through, I would offer him nothing but love, peace and tranquility, I would forgive him for the mistakes he made, I would offer him the grace and peace that he couldn't find in life. And if I, a lowly human, would do that, I absolutely know that something that could be called "God" would do the same if not more.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Sean said...

I couldn`t have put it better myself!

September 01, 2005  
Anonymous Rob said...

> ....simply because she chose not to believe something.

I was told once by a friend that she would pray for me because I was going to go to Hell because I didn't believe in her god.

An entity that banishes people to an eternity of torture is not something I will worship and devote my life to.

September 03, 2005  
Anonymous JAS said...

Is there a place called Hell? I firmly believe so because I believe in a just God and because I believe that the Bible is the word of God (clearly the Bible and Jesus speak of hell). However, God doesn't put anyone in Hell. People choose to go there by their thoughts and deeds. A willful turning away from God is necessary in order to go there. If someone dies in mortal sin without repenting and accepting god's merciful love they will remain separated from him forever by his/her own free choice. Only God, Stuart and your friend know what was in their hearts when they left this earth.

I believe that we start making our own heaven or hell on this earth and depending on our use of free will we decide where we end up. But I don't believe that everyone simply goes to heaven because hell seems too awful.

I recommend reading C.S. Lewis' "The Great Divorce" which has an excellent narrative on how people might choose hell over heaven.

October 01, 2005  
Blogger Diss said...

I appreciate the comments, JAS, but I just don't personally buy it, mainly because, to me, it makes zero sense. I don't think "Just" and "Hell" go together in the slightest. At least not if your definition of Hell is the typical "fire burning forever" definition, which it seems to me it almost has to be if one is going to accept the Biblical definition of Hell to begin with. I know many Christians who believe that Hell is merely a "separation" from God for all eternity (whatever that means), but that seems to be a copout to me to ease their own guilt about the entire dogma of eternal torture that's been forced down people's throats for centuries. It seems to me that if you're going to believe in hell based on what the Bible says, then you have to believe in eternal torture as well, because, as you point out, the Bible clearly speaks of hell as that kind of place. "No rest, day or night," "Where the worm dieth not," etc.

But if someone is willing to step away from the cumulative influence of traditional belief systems just for a moment and look at the whole construct of hell, it should be at LEAST obvious that when thinking of the idea of hell, the punishment does NOT fit the crime. Eternal torture for, at most, 80 or so years of "sin," even if that "sin" is something as simple as choosing not to believe in the Judeo Christian viewpoint of God. The whole concept is completely bizarre to me at this point in my life, and just SCREAMS of human creation. Only a human could come up with something so cruel and inherently illogical.

There are in fact many Christian groups (Seventh Day Adventists is one I can think of offhand) that believe that "hell" is not a place of eternal torture, but simply equates to death, someone simply no longer existing. They have a variety of translations of Biblical texts that they claim proves this. At least that makes a bit more sense, i.e. if a "just" God can't tolerate the presence of someone who didn't believe in him or follow his rules, why would he keep them around forever to torture instead of simply putting them out of their (and his) misery?

Again, I respect your beliefs - in fact, I probably once shared them to some degree. I just don't share them anymore. As I've gotten older and studied things more and more, my personal feelings about Hell as being a place of eternal torture and torment have DEFINITELY changed, and I am pretty certain they aren't going to ever revert. I also realize that this puts me at odds with the Bible itself, and that's something I'm just going to have to try to figure my way through.

Again, I don't even remotely pretend to have the answers about these subjects. At this point in my life, I'm pretty much trying to figure out what I do and don't belive in in broad strokes and going from there, and the Hell concept that I was taught since grade school is going in the bin.

As for what was going through my friend's head when he took his own life, well, I can be pretty certain it was more of the same awful depression and panic disorder that had plagued him since he was a child. This guy really, really suffered. And if there is indeed a "just, loving" God out there, watching this mess called Planet Earth, I firmly believe that my friend is at peace right now. Lord knows the poor guy deserved it after everything he went through in his life. But that's not for a blog.

Anyway, we'll know one day, one way or the other, I suppose, who's right and who's wrong on the matter. Or maybe we won't.

But thanks for the contribution...

October 05, 2005  

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