Narratives On Hell


It is perhaps useful to reflect a bit about the different ways Catholics see hell. This will certainly not be new to any reader, but might be of some use for the non-readers of their acquaintance.

Probably a sizeable minority of baptised Catholics do not believe in hell. They are in most cases not aware that this is contradiction with Christian teaching. Hell is simply not on their radar screen, the priests they occasionally talk to accurately avoids the subject (he is so focused on being “nice”, you know) and, on the rare occasions when they darken the doors of a church, for example for a funeral, Father is so full of implicit heavenly promises the thought would never occur to them that hell really is an option. It is noted that some theologians of fame defend this position by making of hell an empty place – which amounts to the same, plus useless work, and also to saying that Jesus has been lying to us these 2000 years -. One of them was slated, if memory serves, to become Cardinal.

Then there is the “Hitler and Stalin” crowd. Yes, hell exists, but not for me or anyone I know. Normal people, nice guys and lads who are so good at telling jokes, can certainly not go to hell. Look, he invited me to a barbecue! Come on, this is a loving heart, how can he go to hell? These group are hardly pressed to say who goes to hell, because their scarce knowledge of history does not allow them to make even many examples of evil people. What is clear is that they must be seriously, seriously evil. Therefore, in their everyday life hell plays no role whatever, and “fear of The Lord” is to them a very abstract concept. One can be a sodomite suddenly died whilst sodomising his “partner” and they will never have the shadow of a doubt; “love” and all that, you know….

Then there are those who have been properly instructed. They know that Jesus’ insistence on hell can only mean hell is a concrete possibility for everyone of us, and why we cannot know the numbers, we do know the rules: if one dies whilst not in a state of grace, he is doomed. This group have a far more realistic expectation about their danger: they know it is real, and no one of the people they know is exempt from some degree of danger. These people have fear of the Lord, know what it means and teach their children to have the same attitude.

Now we can make a simple game, and try to estimate how many out of 100 baptised Catholics, say, in our country, belong in each group. Then we can go on theorising an abstract level of risk among the categories, obviously considering that those who do not fear hell will have very little fear of the Lord in their daily lives, and those who think hell is a very difficult place to land to will not be much better situated. Lastly, we can think of how the clergy will be situated who have, for an entire lifetime, kept the dangers of hell away from their sheep, or have not believed in hell in the first place.

Suddenly, hell becomes a very concrete possibility.


Posted on May 9, 2013, in Catholicism, Conservative Catholicism, Traditional Catholicism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. quiavideruntoculi

    As a convert from Atheism, I often reflect in horror at the appalling depths of narcissism and depravity that I stooped to in my interior life while living in rebellion to God, the scars of which still afflict me. But everyone I know will say, “What a decent fellow!” Blind fools.

    What disturbs me most about Catholics who do not believe in Hell is the complete apparent lack of instinctual revulsion at and detestation of sin and the workers of sin that invariably accompanies this view. Everyone in mortal sin is an agent of the evil spirit, and purchases for himself God’s wrath; if you aren’t irate at sin, you’re doing something wrong.

    • Beautiful words, and in fact I noticed those who think Hell is no issue in the end think that sin is no issue.

      I have never been an atheist, and do not have the faintest what goes on in the mind of an atheist. If you can expand on the “rebellion to God” I’d be grateful.

      Where I come from people either believe in God or would love to. Militant atheism isn’t really there at least in my experience.


    • quiavideruntoculi,

      As a fellow convert from atheism, let me tell you: I hear you; I hear you.

      The ironic thing is that one only notices the terrible effects of sin – the scars – once he starts trying to lead a good life in conformity with virtue, by which time prevention is no longer an option, while the remedy is hard, painful, and protracted…

  2. quiavideruntoculi

    By rebellion to God, I mean actively mocking and subverting God and His ministers, in the knowledge – which was, by times, anywhere from tacit to quite direct – that He did in fact exist, and that there was a profound and terrifying nobility to those I was persecuting and calling all kinds of names.

    I railed against what I misconstrued to be the ‘evils’ of the Christian religion, and in so far as I persuaded myself that they were evils, there was some virtue at play in that, perhaps; but my characteristic sin was always the sin of intellectual pride, to allow my sophistical theories and rhetoric about what I ignorantly took to be ‘religion’ to carry weight with against my conscience and common sense, which told me that what I was calling evil was in fact good.

    At the time, if you had asked me, do you know that God exists? I think I would have said “of course not”. But my actions gave the lie to this. I often prayed – quite superstitiously, and secretly, and often for evil things – but I prayed nonetheless . A narcissist truly worships himself, you see, and – I don’t know whether you will be able to understand this – even manages to think that that is somehow preferable, even when he has this instinctual awareness that God exists, and must be worshipped.

    Sin is a profound mystery. But militant Atheism is no special mystery; militant Atheism is just transparent narcissism.

    • Thanks for the beautiful words. You have a gift for exposition, I must say.

      I found it most interesting that you knew, in a way, that God exist. I wonder whether this is because of a special grace God has given to you – and which has in the end led to your going back to the fold – or whether this is something most ex-atheist would also agree with: I preferred to rant against God and religion because it was convenient, but something inside me was telling me I was wrong.

      I know atheism only from outside, and being informed that God can be known by reason, I thought atheists simply have a blank where other have the mystical element of faith.


    • quiavideruntoculi

      Praise be to God, who cleansed my intellect, and made it possible for me to write beautifully. Pray for me, that my deeds match up to my words.

      I have an ‘Atheism’ tag on my blog, under which I’ve written some more which you might find interesting in this regard, though it’s less explicitly personal.

    • I will certainly visit your blog, and pray for you.

      You certainly know such “turnarounds” can be seen as a rather strong sign of predestination. Hat off, Sir, for the courage and the strenght to cooperate with God’s plan.


    • quiavideruntoculi

      Thank you for your prayers, and for your own informative writings. I’ve been an avid reader of yours for some time. All power to your elbow, and all glory to God for the great redemption He has been pleased to extend to us both.

      Servus humilis tuus,


  3. Have any of these optimists read the New Testament or heard of the revelations to the children at Fatima? A devout teacher described hell on many occasions to the class I was in at seven years of age. Today she would be sectioned or arrested but, no doubt, I am not the only member of that class still to be practicing the faith over five decades later. I don’t think that I would be able to restrain myself from applauding loudly if some priest used the word ‘hell’ in a homily but I don’t think that it is going to happen.

    • Don’t hold your breath.

      I have actually noticed “devil” is used far more often than “hell”. Talking about the devil without mentioning hell allows the pewsitter to think of him as the chap who tries to keep us away from Jesus, as Wile E. Coyote tries to catch The Road Runner…


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