let me have that, thanks

[cw: religion & the concept of Hell]

Today I found a post that lists “Hell in general” (as in, believing in Hell) as something spiritually abusive.  As in, inherently.  I.e. if you believe in Hell you’re being abusive.

which, mmmmmMMMM is not persuasive enough of an argument for me to give up belief in Hell as a coping mechanism.

This isn’t something I talk much about for good reason, because of how the concept has been weaponized and the fact that it features heavily in a lot of people’s abuse, including for many of the people who read this blog, but as much as I hate the afterlife-as-coping-mechanism narrative, I can still acknowledge that that’s one of the functions it serves for me.

And to call that abusive?  In general?

It’s not abusive to wish punishment on your abusers.

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7 responses to “let me have that, thanks

  • Hezekiah the (meta)pianycist

    The hell in general item on that list combined with “BTW this isn’t exclusive to Christianity or Abrahamic faiths” makes it pretty clear that the person who wrote that list does not understand even the Abrahamic non-Christian concepts of hell. In Jewish theology there is not a place of eternal punishment: there is a place for atoning for one’s sins, but your time there is limited, no matter how bad you were during your lifetime.

    That said…belief in there being a place of (eternal) punishment isn’t an inherently abusive belief to have anyway? Honestly it was more psychologically troubling for me as a kid to be taught stuff like, “He murdered millions of people, but in his last moments, he repented and God forgave him so now he’s in heaven.” (I understand that belief better as an adult, but to a kid, it comes across as “You can literally do whatever you want and feel however you want about it, and God will forgive you as long as you go to confession.”)

    • Sara K.

      I read the thing you linked to, and I do not necessarily think that it means *believing* in hell is spiritually abusive. That is a possible interpretation, but not the only one (this is a fault of the original piece for being unclear about their meaning).

      Two other interpretations:

      – it would spiritually abusive for an omnipotent (or merely super-potent) being to punish mortals with finite lives with something like hell. Believing that this is what is going on is not abusive.
      – the way that hell is used *in religious rhetoric* is spiritually abusive in general, but the belief in it is not, and it is not necessarily abusive in every single instance. In the context of the list, I suspect that this is the meaning which the writer intended, but they did not say it well.

      • Coyote

        “the way that hell is used *in religious rhetoric* is spiritually abusive in general, but the belief in it is not”

        Probably.

        I tend not to anticipate nuance, where criticism of these things is concerned, but I can hope so.

        • Sara K.

          The reason I am inclined to this that this is the intended interpretation is that the other items in the list are about abusive religious rhetoric/teachings, not beliefs, so if that item was about belief, it would be … incongruent.

    • Sara K.

      (Ack, the comment above was supposed to be directed at the post, not at you Hekeziah, but this comment is in response to your comment).

      “The hell in general item on that list combined with “BTW this isn’t exclusive to Christianity or Abrahamic faiths” makes it pretty clear that the person who wrote that list does not understand even the Abrahamic non-Christian concepts of hell.”

      Actually, it does not, because the person who wrote the list (entanglingbriars) is not the same person who wrote the comment “BTW this isn’t exclusive to Christianity or Abrahamic faiths” (princessofbadassery). I agree that princessofbadassery has a limited understanding of non-Christian Abrahamic ideas of hell, but they did not write the list.

    • Calum P Cameron

      While I suspect t’s probably there as convenient shorthand for “Hell as most visibly used by white evangelical Christians”, one could also infer from the wording of “Hell in general” that the author doesn’t actually have a particularly robust understanding of concepts of Hell WITHIN CHRISTIANITY.

      To many Christians, “Hell” is merely the term applied to the state of being separated from God – whether this is conceptualised as complete non-existence or a hard-to-understand state of existence somehow “outside of everywhere” or an existence within some sort of intentionally-separated corner of Creation from which God voluntarily withdraws Their omnipresence or whatever.

      To others, “Hell” is not a place or a state but a rhetorical concept similar to how it is used in secular society – “Go to Hell!” in secular is not usually an order to go to a literal place or state but rather a means of expressing one’s opinion that the target of your words is being evil or harmful and needs to stop; similarly many Christians read Jesus’s talk of a “Gehenna” that callous exclusionary capitalists are destined for or whatever as essentially His way of conveying the message “Fuck that shit” in parable form.

      To yet others, Hell IS a place of intentionally-applied discomfort, but rather than the discomfort of being punished per se it’s the discomfort of being forced to improve as a person in order that one may complete the character development necessary to eventually become saved and enter Heaven or whatever (not wholly unlike the depiction of Hell used in Ibsen’s “Peer Gynt”).

      I’m 100% sure that there are other even more diverse versions of the concept that exist in Christian discourse.

      It’s usually not viewed favourably even so, but the notion of Hell as a place of (eternal, conscious) torment is thoroughly rejected by a vast number of Christians. Obviously all of these interpretations CAN be applied in an abusive way or used as a tool by a cunning abuser, but I don’t think any of them could be described as abusive “in general”.

      Heck, there’s also the semi-popular Christian use of “Hell” (or the linked concepts of damnation and perdition) as just the word for the hypothetical alternative to a salvation that everyone is assumed to eventually receive in some form- i.e. as something that doesn’t actually exist in real terms because God found a better way. I’m not sure I can even think of a way that one could be used for abusive purposes, although I’m willing to believe it’s a possibility.

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