I have always struggled with the idea that God would punish people in hell for eternity, for perhaps a single misdemeanour. I cannot bear the idea that simply because someone didn’t make a commitment to Jesus Christ (which, after all, would have been a decision that was God’s will, because God is in control of everything that happens), they would suffer agonising torment for billions and billions of years.
Surely, God is not a monster. Christians repeatedly insist God is good, and I believe He is, but this doesn’t chime with the notion that God punishes people dreadfully and endlessly.
Our criminal justice systems on Earth often lead people into a life of crime. People end up so broken by the system that they suffer terribly for the rest of their lives. I’m a big believer in counselling and rehabilitation, because I think anyone can be caught up in circumstances that lead them to break the law. One thing I believe is that counselling should be compulsory in schools from a young age, because it is often things that people experience early in their life that lead them towards misbehaviour.
The law in Western democracies is very much rooted in Christian theology, and the idea that some deeds are righteous and some deeds are wicked. But perhaps we need to be more understanding and recognise that fear itself causes people to commit crimes, and that fear is bound up with religious doctrine that is enshrined in our legal systems.
With less fear of eternal punishment, we might be less judgemental of people who have fallen upon hard times. We shouldn’t dismiss criminals as wicked people — no human being wants to suffer and nearly all crime is committed due to a fear of suffering. For example, someone may steal from a shop because they need money to eat and are afraid of suffering the discomfort of dying of hunger. Arguably, if governments provided everyone with enough money to eat, there would be no stealing.
I think we need societal reform that places more emphasis on the absolute sovereignty of God — that life is God’s grand game and that He is unfolding all events in accordance with His will. Christians nearly always defend the idea of free will, but free will is not something I believe in. I think Christians often contradict themselves when they defend free will, and yet pray for God to unfold their circumstances (or global circumstances) in a particular way. There is a clear contradiction here, and the ultimate truth is that we do not have free will — God is in control.
Without justice systems, would there be anarchy? Or would there simply be less fear, and therefore less reason for people to commit what are considered to be crimes?
I hope this offers some food for thought.