Monday, December 04, 2006

The hell with hell

Today's column is up!

No time to edit so it's longish. Ideas are still evolving on this topic. If you have some to contribute, I'd love it. It's my contention that the danger of most human beliefs is the lack of encounter. If we say we believe something without having been overwhelmed by the genuine experience of it (where you get up-ended in your expectations, assumptions and resources to cope), you have not yet experienced it sufficiently to render a judgment.

A corollary: encounter is what transforms, not information, data, facts or beliefs.


jim said...

Hi Julie,

I really like the basic idea of your article. But I beg to differ on one point....many people do in fact live in hell.

The holocaust, Darfur, (both of which you name), relations of marital abuse; you name it, people are living it.

It is for those who suffer such hells on earth at the hands of others, that the idea of a hell beyond this life may in fact bring some comfort and hope.

The problem, which is the point of your article, comes when those of us who in fact haven't suffered from any real hells in this life, use the idea of hell as a way to judge and condemn others.

julieunplugged said...

You are absolutely right, of course, about living hells. I believe in them, have lived among those living in them. I have not been to Darfur, though, and can only imagine it. My imagination is not nearly as powerful as if I were there though. And that sometimes shames me.

I appreciate your comments and thank you for focusing the article. I need to tweak this one, but I let it out half-formed because I had a hunch you all would have richness to add!


Dave said...

Hmmm, this column kind of goes all over the place, doesn't it? That's cool. I still not really sure if you mean to critique views of the afterlife or the belief that a person needs to be saved (by whatever means, hypothetically speaking, it takes to avoid God's negative judgement) or that a real tangible realm exists that's long been spoken of and "believed in" (i.e. regarded as true) or what exactly. Admittedly, I read through it quickly because I'm about to wrap up work for the day.

So what do you make of people who claim to have had near-death-experiences? Some of them offer vivid descriptions of hell-like or heaven-like places. I have never encountered those people, just read about them! And always was left wondering what kind of psychological baggage is present in that person that I'm not able to ever become aware of.

I will respectfully disagree with the idea that even people in Darfur or the holocaust are living in hell if we think of hell in its "eternal damnation otherworld" use of the term, which to me is where the debate properly belongs. I have a hard time taking that whole concept seriously, when I think about it, but then again, it's such a profound part of our cultural and imaginative inheritance, from across many cultures, that I do wonder just where the idea came from and what to do with it in today's world.

Are you planning to dig further into this topic?

julieunplugged said...

Thank you Dave for your further probing. I see what you mean also about using "hell" to refer to real living hells (perhaps that diminishes the reality somehow or overstates it?).

For me, the issue had more to do with the fact that we often use beliefs or facts to numb us to realities. The example of hell for had more to do with the way we can speak of it so matter of factly, as though it is real without any emotional investment... similar to my knowledge about Saturn or the facts about how the sky makes sunsets or what spices make curry.

These facts don't hit me at any level of emotional engagment. It would be easy to evaluate curry by the combination of spices, thinking I don't like them individually and miss completely the taste of curry!

So when I think about hell, I see how we use our belief in it (absent any experience) to distance ourselves from others, when if it were a reality, how would we behave? I don't know.

In the meantime, we might be missing out on people, thinking we know them through what we read or believe without knowing them either! But they're right here, waiting to be known. I'd rather start there.

(And yes, a bit all over the place. Ugh. :) A work in progress.)

beepbeepitsme said...

RE hell
You Are SO Damned!

Kansas Bob said...

I have had more conversations about hell this year than I ever have had in my life. It has caused me to lose all interest in the topic because it has caused me to enter the world of intellectual hardball where I am compelled to debate satements like this:

If God is a god of Love then Hell cannot exist.

I am so over these "intellectual" conversations where we each argue about something that we know so little about. I guess I am happy any more to just say that I don't know God well enough to explain Him or Hell.