LETTER: A hell of a question for the church

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The Independent Online
From Mr Nicolas Walter

Sir: You point out some of the problems which the Church of England has with the doctrine of Hell ("The Church's empty Hell", 11 January), but you leave out the most serious one.

All the doctrines of Christianity must in the end rest on the teachings of its founder, Jesus, as expressed in its scriptures, the New Testament; and it is clear that these include a belief in a literal and physical Hell, described as "unquenchable fire", "a furnace of fire" in which "there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth", "a lake of fire burning with brimstone", where sinners and unbelievers are tormented with flame "day and night for ever and ever", and so on.

When the Doctrine Commission of the Church of England says that these are "appalling theologies which divide God into a sadistic monster and left searing psychological scars on many", it is only echoing what freethinkers have been saying for several centuries. And when it tries to make sense of Hell as some kind of metaphorical or spiritual annihilation, it is simply making nonsense of Christianity as it has been for nearly 2,000 years.

Yours faithfully,

Nicolas Walter

Rationalist Press Association

London, N1

11 January