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What Kind of Christian Are You?

heaven and hell

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

I am often accused of lumping all Christians together.

I’m not like those nasty, hateful, judgmental Christians who comment on your blog, says the Good Christian.

Fair enough.

But, let me ask one question.

When I die, will I go to Heaven or Hell?

Well, that’s up to . . . stop it.

When I die, will I go to Heaven or Hell?

I reject your God, Jesus, salvation, and Bible.

I reject the notion that Jesus was God, was crucified, and resurrected from the dead three days later.

With my whole heart, I reject every teaching that is central to what it means to be Christian.

I reject the Christian concept of sin. I have no need of atonement, redemption, or salvation.

So, I ask again, When I die, will I go to Heaven or Hell?

How you answer this question determines what kind of Christian you are.

The Phelps clan, with all the viciousness of a starving rabid dog, screams that I will go straight to Hell when I die and I will be tortured by God in a place where the worm dies not and the fire is not quenched. 

How about you, Christian friend? What say ye?  When I die, will I go to Heaven or Hell?

You can be the nicest person in the world, but if you believe that non-Christians go to Hell when they die, you are not really any different from the Phelps clan. 

If you answer my question with the word Hell, then you are just like those nasty, hateful Christians you say are “bad” Christians. You may wear fashion designer clothes, smell great, and have the best smile money can buy, but if your answer to my question is “Hell,” then you are no different from the trailer park trash Christians you say aren’t part of your family. 

Virtually every Christian sect believes that eternal punishment awaits atheists. I am an atheist, proudly so. I ask you, again, When I die, will I go to Heaven or Hell?

Your answer tells me all I need to know. 

It really is that simple.

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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20 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Thomas Whitten

    If I could explain God, then God wouldn’t exist. My answer is “I don’t know”. I am still a believer, but I am questioning everything I was brought up with in the lens of culture, family culture…all of it. I can believe in a resurrected Jesus very easily, but the post WW2 and beyond people, who’s interpretation of the Bible and the USA of the 60s and 70’s and it’s beliefs..gives me doubts of a correct Bible teaching. I wonder how I would believe if I was born in Paris in the 1810’s lets say. “I don’t know” is a cop out, but an honest cop out.

    • Avatar
      Appalachian Agnostic

      There is nothing wrong with honestly saying “I don’t know.” It is much better than guessing and hoping that what you believe is correct.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      I don’t know is an OK answer as long as it is sincere. One of the liberating things about being an atheist is that I can say I don’t know. Is there an afterlife? I doubt it, I don’t think so. Am I absolutely certain there is no afterlife? Nope. But I am not absolutely certain about anything. For all I know, our lives and universe might be a mental mind game being played between two Vulcans. 🙂 What is reality?

      • Avatar
        Jada

        ‘For all I know, our lives and universe might be a mental mind game being played between two Vulcans.’

        Well, that’s actually something I could get behind. 😉

        I miss our dear old friend. Nimoy/Spock. 🙁

      • Avatar
        Davie from Glasgow

        Some scientists study quantum physics – which seems to proves that some things only ‘happen’ when they are observed, and that prior to being observed/measures they are in a ‘super position’ of both having happened and not happened. (The famous ‘Schrodinger’s Cat’ thought experiment.) It’s pretty hard to bend your head around it all. But it has occurred to some philosophers that if, say, the whole universe we experience was actually a huge simulation being run on giant computers – and that we, say, were just parts of that programme (‘characters’ in the simulation) – then the creators of that simulation / computer programme might have saved time and effort by only fully coding out those bits of the universe that their ‘characters’ were actually observing. It would explain ‘quantum weirdness’ anyway.

        But then at the end of the day – who really cares? Whatever the universe really ‘is’, I will still get up tomorrow, I will still have to go to work, I will still love my family, and I will still look forward to my evening dram. It doesn’t really make any difference. I’m still just going to try and have the best rest of my life (or simulation!) that I can for both myself and the for people I love. Finding out that the universe ‘really’ is one thing or another wouldn’t really change that one bit. So I kind of think it’s not worth worrying about.

        Amusing and interesting maybe. But not worth worrying about.

  2. Avatar
    Stephanie

    You know, the more I think about it the more repugnant the concept of hell becomes. I just have such a hard time with the cognitive dissonance. have family members that are genuinely kind people who believe in hell. But yet when a family member dies they went to heaven, no questions asked. When my dad died he hadn’t attended church in over a decade and did not profess any specific belief, yet when the funeral came around it was all about heaven! Then again they do believe in “once saved always saved.” I wonder if a lot of Christians have ever thought about what the concept of hell would really mean. To punish someone for eternity with no chance for righting the wrongs is an unthinkable level of depravity. At a certain point you would have to think about the morality of torturing someone. Guess that’s why so many Christians are ok with torturing terrorists. I believe that purposely harming others makes me the morally inferior one.

    Reminds me, I saw a clip the other day with a pastor talking about “American Sniper.” He was actually standing up there talking about how it was wrong to torture people in the way we do war now. I agreed but thing is this guy is a raging fundamentalist. He believes in a literal eternal hell. I could not wrap my mind around it. I guess the rules change when God does it or even allows it? MIND BLOWN.

  3. Avatar
    Appalachian Agnostic

    This is sad but true. It makes me think that Christians, no matter how nice they appear, must have dark, evil hearts. To WORSHIP a god that tortures people is to, in effect, endorse torture. And what’s worse, to endorse torture for people whose crime was getting the answer wrong on a test of beliefs.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Your comment illustrates why I think it is important to ask Christians about what they really believe about hell. Make it personal. I view this same way as I do all the hate talk about gays. It’s interesting how their rhetoric changes once someone in the family or a close friend is gay. It’s one thing to say atheists are going to hell…but much harder to say, Bruce you are going to hell. Why? Because I am a nice guy, kind to others. Love my wife, kids, and grandkids. I am as Christian as most of the Christians they know. There’s a cognitive dissonance between their theology and that theology applied to someone they know.

    • Avatar
      gimpi1

      I think the whole concept of hell can harden people, making them indifferent to the suffering of others. I have even heard some Evangelical Christians say, in effect, that it doesn’t matter if we torture or kill Muslims, since they are “hell-bound” anyway. Who cares if the pain starts a bit early?

      Then I thought, “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!” (Really, that was the justification the Inquisition used in torturing and brutally killing people. They were bound for hell, anyway, so why not start the torment early?) I guess no horrible concept every dies…

  4. Avatar
    Suzanne

    Having been sort of nominally borderline Christian for quite a while and now more just simply spiritual with no real label I have to conclude no one knows even if there is a heaven or hell much less who’s on that guest list.

    As I’ve journeyed on I have to say that the lyrics of the Beatle’s song “Tomorrow Never Knows” written by a tripping on acid John Lennon while reading the Tibetan ‘Book of the Dead’ more reflects what I think about dying and the after life. For years I dismissed the song as just ‘hippie babbling nonsense’ now it seems like some sort of strange wisdom to me. Makes as much sense as a book with talking snakes, a serial killer God and some poor guy dying in the most violent bloody way nailed to a couple of pieces of timber.

  5. Avatar
    Brianv

    I’m a unfairly reasonable fella i think, or a unreasonably fair fella or some kind of reason-able with more a lack than a good belly of knowing…. I was born to a Baptist preacher and my mom was a Baptist preacher’s daughter. I was saved several times early on in my life, the first being as a terrified youngster, still under 10 years. I tried hard: I believe…. help thou my unbelief etc. Over the years, I discovered I enjoyed telling the truth sometimes and that when I told myself I did not really believe, I believed myself. Eventually, I admitted right out of my mouth that I did not believe. There is no God that I can discern but I think a hell of a lot about a blade of grass or a leaf. I stumble wonder my way along in breath. I know depression like my father, like blood, and I know insensible joy that makes me write poetry and sing. I am 62 years old, I expect, give or take a year as you please, and I like the sound of your voice, preacher-man. Be well. Bruce, do you like Martha Wainwright? She wrote a hymn called, Bloody Mother-fucking Asshole. It tells the truth. …best to you and yours.

  6. Avatar
    Tige Gibson

    It wouldn’t be paradise if True Christians were even aware that their “lost” friends and family members were being tortured for eternity. So I’ve been told.

  7. Avatar
    Scott

    I also like to add that:

    -I reject that there is a all encomposing force that connects the rocks, trees and spaceships inadvertently stuck in swamps.

    -I reject that there is a castle called Hogwarts where wizards and witches learn magic. As well as the existence of wizards, witches and magic.

    -I also reject that you can find Neverland by following the 2nd star on the right and travelling until morning.

    However I am holding out for new discoveries in physics that will allow for warp drives and a matter/energy transporter.

    Scott

  8. Avatar
    Becky Wiren

    Serious, literal Christians have to live with contradictions. So they comfort themselves that their “unsaved” family members were probably secretly somehow saved before going to heaven. Or something that makes them feel better. That way, they can still talk about Hell etc without truly examining the horribleness of it. After all, doesn’t everyone want Hitler to go to Hell? Except when you consider the number of people who would be consigned to Hell, who would be tortured FOREVER. Then God turns out to be much worse than Hitler.

    • Avatar
      Karen the rock whisperer

      I don’t want Hitler to go to Hell. He was a terrible person with a fiercely horrible ideology that led to millions of people dying. But it seems to me that even the worst crimes a human being can commit are not worthy of eternal torture.

      Training to be a geologist, one of the things I discovered was how hard it is to really get your mind around the concept of deep time. And that was for people who really want to understand it. We have trouble understanding how long ago the age of the dinosaurs (Mesozoic Era) really was. Hell, we have trouble understanding just the time that people in the genus Homo have been around. Forever? Humans can’t understand forever. Our minds aren’t that deep. People who will happily consign fellow humans to eternal torture either have no concept of what that really means, or are unspeakably evil themselves.

      I want Hitler exactly where he is, returned to the planetary carbon.

  9. Avatar
    Friend

    Bruce, thank you, as always, for not lumping all Christians together. I’m one of those Christians who don’t believe in hell. My theological training is limited, but better Christian thinkers than I have also reached this conclusion.

    But let’s imagine–imagine–a moment in the far distant future, when we’ve all died, and we all have a choice to stand in one of two lines, and we can’t quite see where the lines lead. One line is full of people who spent their lives working to make heaven as small as possible. The other line has Bruce and Polly. I’d rather stand with you.

    (And no, that doesn’t mean that I think you are still secretly Christian.)

  10. Avatar
    BJW

    I pretty much agree with what I previously posted. I was never able to believe in a burning hell, and the denomination I was once part of believed that was incompatible with God’s love. However, people were still going to die and I would’ve gone along, happy even though some of my closest loved ones were no more? I can’t imagine thinking that. If such a belief were true, I think I’d rather die than live without my loved ones. I’m not an atheist, I don’t know what I am anymore. A universalist possibly? Don’t know.

  11. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    I never liked the idea of a hell. And I can’t understand the mindset of anyone who thinks it’s a good thing. It amazes me that there are so many that actually get off on it. They have a cruel streak a mile wide when they do. In the Middle East and places like the Deep South you’d run into that philosophy. Praying for for hell to be shut down doesn’t sound too far fetched. Debunking it successfully is what needs doing.

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