Even the Pope doesn’t believe in hell so why should we?

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Saturday 31 March 2018 16:34
Five Easter traditions across Europe

Good Friday is for Christians a day to dwell on the dark side of human existence, so it’s ironic that, in 2018, the day saw a debate over Pope Francis’s belief in hell. He was reported by an old journalist friend, Eugenio Scalfari, to have suggested that, at death, sinners simply cease to exist, while those who are saved enjoy eternal life.

As news spread, the Vatican further muddied the waters with a “non-denial denial”, and it looks as if the Pope did endorse the doctrine of “conditional immortality”. The Holy Father is certainly not alone among Christians who believe eternal punishment to be inconsistent with the notion of a just, moral and omni-benevolent God.

Of course there’s no clear indication of an afterlife in the Jewish scriptures, from which Christianity springs, which are more concerned with life in the here and now. It was the Persians who gave us our notions of an afterlife, but their gentle optimism envisaged the dead being purified and living in a joyful new world devoid of evil.

Eastern religions don’t share the West’s notion of hell – instead they offer a release from the illusion and suffering of the present world. In fact, a survey of the Kirk’s attitudes to hell, carried out by St Andrews University, reported that “even a new generation of more theologically conservative ministers find it deeply unattractive”.

Rev Dr John Cameron
St Andrews

Don’t associate Christianity with consumerism

Please can I lodge a protest against the opening line of your science correspondent’s otherwise excellent piece on the excessive packaging of Easter eggs. He opens: “Those concerned about the rampant consumerism of religious holidays...”

There is a clear link being made between the religious basis of the Easter celebration (the resurrection of Jesus) and all that is bad about our consumer society. There is no link. Easter (and Christmas) have been hijacked by companies wanting to sell us their stuff. Unfortunately, today we are far more enamoured with the stuff than the original reason for the holidays. If we shifted our focus back to the original reason we might buy less of the stuff and help save the planet.

Bernard Cudd
Morpeth, Northumberland

Esther McVey, there are not enough ‘Saturday jobs’ for everyone

I’m not sure if work and pensions secretary Esther McVey’s comments about weekend jobs preparing youth for the world of work were made out of ignorance or from being totally out of touch with reality. While so many of the traditional Saturday jobs that she talks about have for a number of years been filled by adults desperate to find any work that will help make ends meet, and with employers helped by zero hours contracts, more recently the collapse in parts of the retail sector has seen large numbers of these jobs just disappear. What a pity she didn’t bother to do some research before making her snappy sound bite, but then again if she had she would have discovered that the school kids she talks about are victims of her government’s years of austerity. But that would be an inconvenient truth.

Steve Lawrence

The silence on Gaza speaks volumes

Yet another excessive use of force by the Israeli army on the borders of Gaza. What comment from the international community, what expulsion of diplomats?

We will hear silence! What awful complacency regarding the imprisonment of a nation and the contempt shown to the United Nations.

Charles Milne
West Linton, Scottish Borders

Views and comments from the Board of Deputies and The Jewish Leadership Council on antisemitism have been prominently aired in all strands of the news media over the last few days, so it would be instructive to hear their reactions to the latest news from Israel (15 Palestinians killed and ‘1,000 injured’ in clashes on border of Gaza Strip on day of protest). If forthcoming, it would help the wider public form a more rounded opinion on their core beliefs.

Eddie Dougall
Bury St Edmunds

Let’s just accept the referendum result and move on

I voted remain but Brexit cannot get reversed as this country would cease to become a democratic country! I would vote to leave next time as I have been disgusted with the behaviour of Blair, Miller, Campbell and so on, as well as the liberal media with all the negativity towards our country.

Martyn Rees
Address supplied

MPs are doing a job, but it’s not to represent our views

John Cushine (letters 31 March) repeats the common mistake of saying that MPs are elected to represent the views of their constituents. No, that would be impossible as their constituents’ views vary so widely. They are elected to make decisions on behalf of their constituents, using their own judgement about what would be in their constituents’ best interests.

John Wilkin
Bury St Edmunds

How is it that we live in a parliamentary democracy and yet so many voters (like John Cushine, letters 30 March) do not understand it? MPs are not delegates, “elected to carry out the views of their constituents”, they are representatives in parliament to use their knowledge, expertise, experience in the best interests of ALL their constituents (many of whom will have not voted for them) and the nation.

It is impossible for a one-off vote that posited more questions than it gave answers to take us forward. So the job of our MPs is to try to provide those answers over time as circumstances change. That’s why we elect them. That’s their job. That’s what they’re doing. Slavishly trying to follow what their constituents want, even if there were a coherent view amongst those constituents, is impossible. That’s why we invented parliamentary democracy in the first place. If you want rule by referenda, move to Switzerland or just surrender yourself to mob rule.

John Daintith
Chew Magna, Somerset

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