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Dear Pastor, Do You Believe in Hell?

hell-is-a-real-place

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Oh, preachers preach about it. Life is short, Hell is real, or so they say. But I am not sure they really believe what they are saying.

Baptists are noted for being hellfire and brimstone preachers. In my Baptist preacher days, I preached hundreds of sermons on Hell. The altar was often lined with sinners fearing Hell. I was a very, very good Hell preacher.

Everyone knows that someday they will die. Many people fear what happens after death. It is the fear of the unknown that leads many people towards religion. Hellfire-and-brimstone preaching is good for the church business. If people fear Hell, they are more likely to buy into the salvation/Heaven scenario. You don’t want to go to Hell, do you? You don’t want to burn in the flames of Hell forever, do you? Scare people right into Heaven, that’s the essence of the gospel preached by many Evangelicals.

I have come to the conclusion that most preachers really don’t believe in Hell. Preach as they might about Hell, when it comes time to put their theology into practice, they cower and refuse to proclaim their Hell belief.

Let me tell you a story about a man named Bob. (Bob is a pseudonym, but all the details that follow are real.) Bob was raised in a Fundamentalist Baptist home. His parents were stern, devout, Christians who helped start several local Baptist churches.

At the age of 17, Bob attended a revival meeting at the local Baptist church. When the invitation was given, Bob walked down the aisle, knelt at the altar, prayed the sinner’s prayer, and at that moment became a born-again Christian.

A short time after his conversion, Bob had a falling-out with his family and moved out of his parents’ home. Bob never attended church another day in his life apart from an occasional funeral or wedding.

Bob lived to be 83 years old. From the time Bob was 17 until he died, he lived a life of sin and infamy. Bob was a child abuser. Bob beat his wife. Bob was a drunk. No woman was safe from Bob’s leering eye and his groping hands.

Bob was a nasty, vulgar kind of drunk.

Bob raped a woman while her 12-year-old son was home from school sick. He was never prosecuted because his victim was a mentally troubled family member.

Bob died recently.

Bob’s funeral was held at the same Baptist church he once attended.  His family still attends the church. The funeral was the first time that Bob had been to church in over 60 years.

The preacher mentioned what an ornery man Bob was. And then the preacher spent the next 20 minutes preaching AT Bob’s friends. The funeral service was not about Bob at all, it was all about Jesus. Maybe that was better because it was probably hard to find much good to say about Bob.

Mercifully, the preacher brought his Jesus talk to a close with an invitation to trust Jesus as savior.

Why? So they too could be in Heaven someday with Bob. The Bob, who at age 17 walked down the aisle, knelt at the altar, prayed the sinner’s prayer, and became a Christian.

Shocking?

Hardly.

I have attended dozens of funerals over the years. I have preached a good number of funeral sermons myself. In every case, the deceased was preached into Heaven. No matter how the person lived, no matter what they did, heaven was their final destination.

Baptists are known for believing in what is commonly called “once saved, always saved.” While I no longer claim to be a professing Christian, and I am quite vocal about my atheism, according to many Christians, I can’t get “unsaved.” Once saved, always saved (also called eternal security or the preservation of the saints). God has me whether I want him or not.

According to the preacher at First Baptist, Bob is safe in the arms of Jesus. Pity all the women he raped, abused, and molested over the years. Pity all those he terrorized when he was drunk. The fire insurance Bob bought at age 17 covered everything he would ever do. This gave him immunity from prosecution for all his debauchery.

It matters not that he did not attend church in the past 60 years. He never prayed; never read the Bible. In fact, he cursed God, hated God, and lived as if there is no God.

But, at age 17 . . . well, you get the gist of the story.

It is time to be honest, preachers. Hell doesn’t really exist, does it? For all your hellfire and brimstone preaching, when it comes right down to it everyone makes it in. Anyone who EVER had a momentary religious experience is safe.

Preachers, if you object to what I have written, why not tell the truth about the Bobs of the world? If your God be true and every man a liar, if your Bible is true, then people like Bob are burning in Hell. It seems you can quite easily tell wonderful stories about people going to Heaven, why not the opposite?

Personally, I do not believe in Hell. If there is any hell at all, it is here and now. But, if you claim to believe the Bible is the Word of God, then speak as if you do. Don’t pollute God’s Heaven by sending any more Bobs there.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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7 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Kittybrat

    Ah, Hell! What a wretched and fearful place. Sort of like a “wait ’till your father gets home” scenario, isn’t it? “You’d better get saved, or you’ll burn forever!” “You’d better do what Mama says, or Daddy will whoop you good when he gets home!”.
    Yet, never any having to be good all the time because, “Once saved, always saved”… yet, a tree is only as good as the fruit it bears, right? If a person is really saved, then they’ll act like it! Oh, wait, that means a person is always saved, but can backslide! Oh, the sermons on backsliding that got the already saved to walk the aisle again and again and again…

    The Burning Hell
    Here’s a little something they used to show at churches and at New Bethany.

  2. Avatar
    Vol-E

    “Soul-saving” is a vile practice. As a new Christian, I was encouraged to try to convert my terminally ill Jewish father to Christianity. I didn’t, and appreciate my good judgment in that case. I heard too many sermons where famous people known for kindness and unselfishness were described as hellbound because they didn’t “confess Jesus.” Deep down, I knew all along it was a pile of b.s. and finally admitted as much to myself. Thanks as always for speaking the truth.

  3. Avatar
    Justin Vollmar

    Don’t forget the insensitive fundamental thought, Bob’s victims shall be tortured in sizzling fire for eternity because they did not accept Jesus into their heart. PTL?

    Thank gosh that the hell is not real. That is one of best thing about my de-conversion. I breathed a breath of relief.

  4. Avatar
    Matilda

    And don’t forget that all those smug fundies are looking forward to spending eternity watching and gloating over the eternal torture of the rest of us in that lake of fire.

  5. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    In my evangelical family, all the unsaved people (supposedly) “got saved” at the end before they died. This includes Uncle John who openly spoke against religion and read books by atheists and philosophers. Uncle John who spent the last several months of his life confused in a state of dementia while his sister and brother-in-law (who was a sexual predator who preyed on several nieces including my mom) got an attorney in to draft a new will for Uncle John making them his sole beneficiaries and executors.

    It also includes Uncle Taylor who was a decades-long alcoholic who spent his last years on kidney dialysis and who hadn’t darkened the door of a church since childhood. Apparently, one of his deacon brothers convinced him to say the “sinner’s prayer” just in case….

    I mean, we couldn’t have everyone thinking these uncles were going to spend eternity in hell, now could we?

  6. Avatar
    John Arthur

    Who’s this monster who tortures people in hell forever for finite sins committed by finite people in finite time? It’s not just nor is it kind? so is God the imaginary Satan?

  7. Avatar
    DougK

    My mother was a professing Christian, though she was the most abusive person I ever knew. She drove out my dad, the best man I ever knew, and spent the last twenty years of her life with an abusive drunk. When I tried to talk to her about sin and whatnot, she always said the same thing: “Even if you lose all rewards, you’re still born again.” Though she never quoted anything, I believe she was referring to 1 Corinthians 3:14-15.

    In the Navy I had a barracks roommate with a Baptist background who said, “I know I’m saved.” Not bragging or anything, just stating it. The trouble was, he was a Don Juan who bedded one girl after another, and I heard he showed nude pictures of his latest conquest to his friends.

    Personally I think “once saved always saved” is one of the worst ideas to happen to Christendom. It’s what incites Christians to harass, pester, torment people etc. etc. to just say the sinner’s prayer, because if you can just get them to do that, they’re set from then on regardless of how they live. Contrast this with the 1st-Century Roman Christians, who put new converts before a whole indoctrination process before baptizing and welcoming them into the fold.

    If someone’s saved, they’ll act like they’re saved and live like they’re saved. I’ve known people like this too. They talk about whatever, don’t even mention Christ or try to “witness” to you, but you can just sense that they’re the real deal. And so I make it my daily goal to be like one of those.

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