KAMPALA – A few days ago, I was clearly suffering from what to do; I then flipped through Christine’s bible with the hope of curing my boredom. Like anyone who has taken ages without reading the bible, I began with the obvious, Genesis 1:1- King James Version.
You could imagine what kind of questions went through my head on learning that hell was not part of the so called story of creation. The verse is very clear in so far as it reads “in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Not convinced, I picked a good news Bible, it combined the use of the word heaven and earth into universe probably to accommodate anything else that could have been left out and yet considered important in covering up the missing links.
I again opened the dictionary to find the definition of universe and this is what I found, the universe is all of space and time and their contents, including planets, stars, galaxies, and all other forms of matter and energy. I was stunned, how could anyone in their right start of mind allow religious leaders to fool all of us with misleading information whose purpose was to instill fear that if you die and mis out on heaven, there is no better place for you, hell. I could not imagine I was part of the bandwagon that believed there was a special place called hell and was a preserve for the evil people to burn for eternity.
I concluded that indeed the best way to hide something from Black people is to put it in a book and leave it on top of the table for all to see. The quote above is something many of us have heard in rhetoric from our educators, politicians, and parents. Such rhetoric center on a need for Black people, particularly young Black people, to pick up a book and read. In this rhetoric lies a belief that Black people do not want to read and possess some personal disposition to prefer ignorance over enlightenment, I tend to agree, it is one of the few areas where both the Christians and the Muslims have a convergent point of compromise.
I am one of those who disagree with the thinking that hell exists anywhere. I have refused to believe that a good God would torture his creatures for eternity. The idea of eternal hell was very much a late comer on the Christian scene, developed decades after Jesus’ death and honed to a fine pitch in the preaching of fire and brimstone that later followers sometimes attributed to Jesus himself. But the torments of hell were not preached by either Jesus or his original Jewish followers; they emerged among later gentile converts who did not hold to the Jewish notion of a future resurrection of the dead. These later Christians came out of Greek culture and its belief that souls were immortal and would survive death.
From at least the time of Socrates, many Greek thinkers had subscribed to the idea of the immortality of the soul. Even though the human body dies, the human soul both will not and cannot. Later Christians who came out of gentile circles adopted this view for themselves, and reasoned that if souls are built to last forever, their ultimate fates will do so as well. It will be either eternal bliss or eternal torment.
I really wanted to know more about this creature called hell and so I looked for a book titled “Heaven and Hell” by Bart D. Ehrman, a distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Reading through his works, I cannot agree more that he is certainly a leading authority on the New Testament and the history of early Christianity.
I got to learn that the concept of hell as a place for eternal punishment is a central theme in both Christianity and Islam. Hell is widely conceived in Christianity and Islam as a place created for punishment in which those who sin against God will go. In Christianity, hell is a place or a state in which the unsaved or those who rejected Jesus will suffer the consequences of sin for eternity- because it is alleged that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. From the Christian perspective, Jesus teaches in the book of Mark 9: 43-49 that If your hand or any other part of your body causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life without it, than, having that party and end up in hell.
By the guidance of Mother Nature, I wondered why the story of Cain and Abel did not bring out the true meaning of heaven and hell. The whole narrative comes out clearly in the book of Genesis 4: 13-16 when Cain killed Abel. God is said to have told Cain. “The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground…” He did not mention the soul or anything else but blood and guess what from the ground and not heaven. Secondly, when it came to giving Cain a punishment, he simply banished him from the Garden of Eden and did not condemn him to hell upon his death. Infact this is the point that we get to learn that the story of creation is fake, that Adam and Eve were not the first people to be created- Genesis 4:14, there other people living in the banished land that Cain feared would kill him.
In Islam, hell- Jjahannam is a place of eternal punishment for unbelievers. Hell is a place of endless punishment: Qur’an 4: 168-169- surely for those who disbelieve and act unjustly, Allah will not forgive them nor guide them to a path. Except the path of hell, to abide in it forever and this is easy to Allah. The truth is from your Lord, so let him who please believe, and let him who please disbelieve; surely We have prepared the iniquitous a fire, the curtains of which shall encompass them about; and if they cry for water, they shall be given water like molten brass which shall scald their faces; evil the drink and ill the resting place (Qur’an 18:29) place of ambush, a resort for the rebellious, a dwelling place for the disbelievers.
They will abide there forever. Therein they taste neither coolness nor any drink save boiling water and a fluid, dark, murky, intensely cold, paralyzing, a dirty wound discharge. The Qur’an 78:21 says such a place- hell is a fitting reward for them-the evil people. I have come to conclude now that Christianity and Islam use this idea of Hell to woe people into their respective religious practices on grounds that this will save them from eternal suffering. Arguing from Biblical citations, this paper challenges the existence of Hell. From Genesis1:1 it is written that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
We find that God has created only two forms, the heaven and the earth and there is no mention of Hell. In Genesis 1: 26:31, we find that man was created on the sixth day, which was also God’s last working day. How then could God have created Hell to punish man who was not in existence? Genesis2:2 informs us that on the Seventh day, God ended his work. Genesis: 3:19. Genesis Chapter 1 informs us of all that God created on each day of his working. None of these days are we informed that God created hell. This clearly shows that Hell is not God’s creation. He ended His work on the sixth day and it would be untenable to suggest that he continued to create when he had finished his work. If therefore we entertain a belief in creation, then Hell does not exist.
Genesis 3: 14-19, talks about punishments that God administered to the Serpent, Eve and Adam for disobedience. At this time, Adam and Eve had sinned, yet they are not sent to Hell or given a promise thereof, but their punishment is given on Earth. Adam’s punishment is netted on him for all his life, till he returned to the ground. God does not give him an everlasting punishment upon returning to the ground. The same criterion applies to the punishment given to Eve and the Serpent. If Hell had been created at this time, then the two would have been sentenced into it. Here doubts are raised on whether Hell was created after the commitment of sin or before.
This could be redundant because we are told that the story of creation lasted 6 days and does not include hell as preached by religious leaders. It is also seen that Hell exists, if so to speak, not on Earth and not in Heaven. So where is it? It can also be seen from this chapter of the Bible that sin is committed after creation is complete. Therefore, if Hell came into being before man, then it implies establishing mechanisms to punish someone whose obedience has not been tested or his existence established. If God created Hell as a place of punishment before thinking of creating man, then Hell is not meant for man. How would God create a place to punish sin without the sinners?
In John 1:3, it is stated that all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. This verse serves to the extent that God made everything and there cannot be anything that He did not make. Given the fact that Hell is not among the places God created, as seen from the book of Genesis 1:1-31, then Hell does exist. Luke 16: 19-31 presents a case in which two people who lived different lives on earth have died, the rich man and Lazarus. On earth Lazarus was a beggar, but situations changed after death. From Luke 16:22 it is written that: So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. Luke 16:23: and being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar, and Lazarus in his bosom.
Luke 16:24 then he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame Luke 16:25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that in your life-time you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things, but now he is comforted and you are tormented. This is a scenario in which a person in Hell (if what the rich man is said to undergo is a representation of a situation in Hell) is having a conversation with those in Heaven. The proximity of the dwellings at this time raises questions on the location of Hell.
How could the rich man have pleaded for a favour from Abraham to have Lazarus give him a drop of water? It appears here that one can just cross from Hell to Heaven and vice-versa. Abraham’s reply indicates that there is a great gulf between the two that hinders movement. Luke 16: 26: And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.
This reply by Abraham indicates that at some point, people in Heaven may want to cross to Hell. This raises questions as to why people who are in eternal happiness would want to cross to the side with eternal suffering. Assuming that probably those in eternal happiness are sympathetic to their loved ones in eternal suffering, then those in Heaven cannot be said to be happy as they are saddened by the experiences of their loved ones in Hell. It is also a wonder as of how the rich man did not notice the great gulf between them until Abraham brings to his attention. It appears from this scenario that Hell is next to Heaven. However, we find from Genesis 1:1 that God created Heaven and no mention of Hell.
How then did Hell get its location? From Genesis 1: 7, we find that after creating the heavens and the earth God made the firmament that divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament and it was so. In Genesis 1:8, God called the firmament, Heaven. There is no mention of the great gulf that divided Heaven and Hell. Neither from the history of creation do we learn that God later partitioned Heaven to have room for Hell after a man committed sin.
When all is said and done, it is evident that some of the scriptures in religious books were inserted for the sake of creating fear. The psychological term for fear of the unknown includes anything or anyone that’s unfamiliar or unknown, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
Mr. Roger Wadada Musaalo, a Lawyer, human rights activist, researcher, and politician