Belief in an afterlife did not emerge until nearly the end of the writing of the Hebrew Bible

Did the ancient Hebrews believe there was a heaven and hell? Most likely not.

Most biblical scholars say they did not (this coincides with the fact that the Sadducees during the period of Jesus, which included all the Jewish temple priests, did not believe in a Resurrection).

Marcus Borg writes:

“For a long time now, mainstream biblical and theological scholarship has recognized that the belief in an afterlife did not emerge until nearly the end of the writing of the Hebrew Bible. The first unambiguous reference occurs in the last chapter of Daniel, seen by most scholars as the latest document of the Hebrew Bible, written around 165 BCE. Though the authors of the Psalms and other books often pray for deliverance from death, there is no clear affirmation of an afterlife until Daniel.This means that for all the previous centuries of the biblical period, people in ancient Israel didn’t believe in life after death. To state the obvious, “going to heaven” could not have been their motive for taking God seriously.”borg marcus


How can you be perfectly happy knowing your loved ones are being tortured in hell/

How can you be perfectly happy in Heaven if you know that some of your family and friends, whom you love very dearly, are being eternally tormented by the flames of hell?

how can you be happy in heaven

(This is a very weighty topic, and it may help you to watch this video of a Jordanian Pilot being burned by ISIS, and gauge your reaction towards a stranger feeling just seconds of hell, before answering hastily and carelessly
http://video.foxnews.com/v/4030583977001/ ).



You will be so enthralled by the tantalizing pleasure of being with God, that you will stop caring about the suffering of others. The enjoyment gained from being with God will completely annul the sorrow and empathy for your family/friends who are lingering in incomprehensible anguish.

(The downside of this theory is that it seems to be centered wholly on selfishness, you ignore the suffering of others because you are enjoying something amazing; an idea antithetical to the Christian ideal.)



You will become so enraptured by God, and so moved by the desire for his interests that you will actually rejoice as you see the torture of sinners who did not obey God, even if those people are your own children, parents, wife, or husband. Seeing what you believe is justice which honors God, will give you more happiness than seeing your family members saved from infernal torment.

(The downside of this theory, which indeed was held by many Protestants in the 15th-19th centuries, is that it appeals to our senses as downright cruel and frightening. It also exhibits the action of betrayal, an action that is not noble, in that one “betrays” his love for his earthly family, and instead rejoices at their painful and never-ending agony.)



Some part of your mind will be erased and you will no longer retain any memories of your loved ones and family members; their very existence will be wiped from your mind.

(The downside of this theory is that it appears to make humans playthings for God, who brain-wipes them against their will, in some sense making them slaves/robots).



Your mind will be “reprogrammed” and all the emotion and feelings that you now have towards earthly loved ones will extracted, and then redirected towards members of your heavenly family. Simply put, God will take away your feelings towards your loved ones.

(The downside of this theory is that it appears to make humans playthings for God, who brain-wipes them against their will, in some sense making them slaves/robots).

What is more frightening – infinite torture for most people or finite existence for all?

hell_forever_and_ever (1)

Which of these two options* is more frightening and shows a universe with “no purpose for existence” to most people?

A. Traditional Orthodoxy – The vast majority of the human race (Matthew 7:13-14) will have lived their lives only to end up being tortured in fire for all eternity. Regardless of their begging, they cannot be liberated from the most painful, excruciating, horrendous torment imaginable. This is their only destiny… to scream and wither in dreadful pain, forever… and ever.

B. Ontological Naturalism – All of the human race will have lived their lives, enjoying finite pleasures and finite meaning, but will ultimately cease to exist, and trillions of years (instead of most burning in hell) everyone will have passed into oblivion.

If you had the choice, would you rather allow:

(a) where you personally can be in heaven while many billions of people, who had hopes/dreams/ambitions and existential yearnings like you, spend forever in infinite agony? Or would you rather
(b) save those billions from burning forever, by ending eternal life for everyone who exists, robbing heaven from a minority, including yourself?


*Note this question is merely a thought experiment to get us to think about two dichotomous choices we often juxtapose. This experiment doesn’t prove anything, nor does it reflect the only choices we have.

Would God torture and condemn the “open hearted agnostic”?

I know many people who say “I would obey and respect God if I had evidence of his/her existence. I’ve tried praying many times, but it’s done nothing for me. If at any time in the future, God would supernaturally reveal himself to me, so I could be sure that God is real, I would certainly obey whatever rules he had, but without this certainty, I see no point in just picking one of the hundreds of religions/gods.”

Is God going to send such an “open hearted agnostic/atheist” to hell?

a. If yes, then *why* should a God desire to torture and torment people who are not evil rebels, but simply need to be convinced? (The stories of St. Thomas and St. Paul portray Jesus as using hard evidence to convince doubters).

b. If no, then *why* should anyone be urged to join one of the hundreds of religions, instead of simply waiting for God to reveal himself supernaturally?

c. If “we don’t know, God will judge” then why do we strongly urge and plead such people to join our religion? If we don’t know these things, then we should stop claiming that we do, right?

Why do most peoples depictions of God show him as utterly violent and vindictive?

Why does that make sense?

There are stories where God supposedly says he will force people to eat their children if they don’t obey him, or where he kills all of humanity by drowning men, women, children, and babies, as well as plenty of tales of God commanding one small tribe to kill the adults/children/infants of another small tribe.

There is so much vengeance and retribution ascribed to God, but why would God even WANT to be so angry, vindictive, vengeful, and pernicious? Sure, we humans want vengeance, because have been harmed and want to make the other person pay, but why would God want that?

Why would God WANT to kill, murder, destroy, and torture people in hell forever?

Common answers that don’t really work

#1 – But we deserve it. First off, it’s hard to prove those babies really deserved it, but that’s another matter. The real issue is “so what?” Even if we did deserve to be beat up and tortured, why would God want to do that as opposed to forgiving everyone? Even if the Amalekite babies deserved to die, why would God wan’t to give them what they deserve as opposed to love?

#2 – God doesn’t want to but we choose our own destiny, we suffer by choice.
The Bible clearly depicts that God is doing the commanding shows him in charge. If you look at every Old Testament story that shows a vengeful God, in each one the story very clearly shows God is forcing the act of violence to happen. Surely God could have easily said told the Israelite soldiers to “forgive people” rather than “kill people.” Surely God could easily throw people onto a nice eternal island rather than a lake of fire.

#3 – God isn’t vengeful, youre just interpreting the Bible wrong.
“God of vengeance” Psalm 94:1 and “A jealous and avenging God is the LORD; The LORD is avenging and wrathful”” Nahum 1:2

Why is blind faith in an invisible God the means of salvation from eternal torture?

Why is blind faith in the existence of a hidden God, the saving factor that frees one from eternal torture in hell?

Why not require something that better reflects character, like obedience, respect, worship, friendship, or a trusting relationship with a God we can all see, rather than blind faith in an invisible being out of hundreds of also-invisible options?

As we think about this difficult question, keep in mind the common answers are rather dull:

  • Objection 1 – “This is the best way to test our heart” – Billions of people don’t believe in the right God *because* of where they were born. If God so obviously revealed himself that 100% of people agreed on his identity and on what he wanted, they could be judged based on (a) being obedient, (b) being friends with, (c) or being reverent to God. All these are better judges of character than blind faith in the invisible, for there are many kind people that have passionate faith in the wrong gods by error, if they knew the right God, they would worship him as passionately.
  • Objection 2 – “If God revealed himself clearly this would ruin our free will” – Demons purportedly know that God exists, yet still reject him, so knowing that God exists is clearly not an issue that prevents free will. The devil knows God exists, yet still gets to choose to be evil. In addition, in the ancient writings of every religions their gods all perform clear and visible miracles, like bringing down miraculous fire from the sky, to prove they are the real. Why did this change?
  • Objection 3 – “Faith is not believing that God exist, but trusting him as a person” – Most people confuse “propositional faith” with “relational faith.” The former, faith in a particular idea without good evidence is a test of gullibility, not trust in a person. If God first revealed himself very clearly, and then asked people to *trust* him as a person, this would be “relational faith.” A wife who trusts her husband has “relational faith” in him, but she already clearly knows that he exists, however, a woman who believes that she has a husband, but has never seen him because he is invisible, is showing her gullibility, not her trust. So why is gullibility more important than trust?
  • Objection 4 – “Blessed are those who believe and have not seen” – 
    Well, why is that true? Simply asserting it doesn’t make it so. (Besides, lets be honest, who thinks they are *more* blessed than the apostles because they haven’t seen Jesus?) Also, if such people are more blessed, why can’t the “less blessed” at least be given a Thomas the Doubter experience where to see God in the flesh. They may be less blessed, but at least be saved from eternal torture in hell.

Why are children born as sinners who instantly deserve death and torture?

When defending the genocides of the Old Testament, the most common approach is to say that the children/infants who were killed were born sinners, and therefore deserved death, and in fact we all share that condemnation, thus we should be glad God is not killing or torturing us this very second.

But why?

Why is every child that is born already sinful, apart from doing anything?

Why are all people sinful?

Who made them that way?

Where does that sinfulness come from?

Is it fair for children to be born with guilt for something they may not want?