In my book Hell Is Real (But I Hate To Admit It) I share how I rejected the Bible’s teaching on hell in graduate school, only to dramatically come back to believing in hell again four years later.
I received an email a while ago that posed a question you might have wondered yourself. I thought I’d share it, as well as my response.
Read your book. The question about being born into a religion was one that intrigued me. I was born in the Midwest so, naturally, I grew up in a Christian family. Across the globe, though, people are brought up Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, etc. You mentioned this in your book, but never resolved the question. It was followed by reading more passages in the Bible about Hell. As if, by reading more about Hell, you convinced yourself that there is a hell. I don’t think the prevalence of brimstone passages in the Bible is a reason to believe it, though. How do you justify all those people from all those other tribes and nations going to hell when they die? I’m pretty sure skeptical Hindus and skeptical Muslims feel the same way about their religion that I do about mine.
Here was my response
You know the whole hell thing and how I came back to that belief still intrigues me to this day. I agree with your email, it doesn’t make sense. And I can’t justify it. It does sound like I just read the passages about hell over and over and that experience “convinced” me, which, in and of itself, as you point out, doesn’t really prove anything.
I guess what happened to me was more like finding a shoe box full of unopened letters sent to me from a good friend who was no longer around. While we hung out he used to mention his different beliefs to me, but while we were together I blew those things off. Now gone, I had the chance to measure the impact his relationship had upon me, and his words, newly discovered in those letters, meant much more. They had more poignancy and conviction. I took them more seriously than when he was around.
This, of course, doesn’t prove the existence of hell, but it does prove my allegiance to someone I trust, who I’m confident just might have a clearer grasp on what’s going on in this life than I do. So for the time being I’ll trust that my trust in his beliefs and convictions make more sense than trusting my own.
Keep asking the right questions Zach. Sometimes the best indication that something is true is that it doesn’t make much sense or seem fair.
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