The Berlin-Auschwitz Question: Could You Be Happy in Heaven if You Knew What was Going on in Hell?

I don’t think I could. (Or at least I’d like to think that I couldn’t.)

But there are a lot of people who say they believe in hell—that it exists—and yet they are also happy to imagine themselves enjoying heaven.

How is this possible?

I mean think about it. How could you ever truly be happy with your friends and relatives in heaven while you know that huge masses of humanity—the vast majority, in fact—are burning in hell for all eternity?

The proper analogy is this: imagine living in Nazi Germany and enjoying a night on the town in Berlin even as you know what is happening at Auschwitz. This is what hell belief turns heaven into. It makes God Hitler and the saints in heaven complicitous in a torture regime.

Torture (obviously) is never a moral act, and even to endorse its use (while not personally participating yourself) does three things:

  • it brutalizes the psyche;
  • it sears the conscience; and
  • it makes one emotionally callous to the suffering of others.

This is why I say the following: hell belief is wrong.

What say you?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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22 Responses to The Berlin-Auschwitz Question: Could You Be Happy in Heaven if You Knew What was Going on in Hell?

  1. andrewclunn says:

    Depends on what the standards were for getting into heaven. If they’re the typical religious ones, then I’m already going to hell. If they’re one’s I disagree with, even though i’m in heaven, I’ll speak out against them. but if I have no power to change things, then I won’t let other people’s unhappiness deter me from trying to be happy.

  2. When I was a christian I found the idea of hell problematic, as many thoughtful people do.

    I rationalized it several ways. I wondered if perhaps those in heaven would forget about those in hell. But God would still know, and God can surely not be less moral than us. I also came to think that maybe a hell of tortures wasn’t likely. Hell was more like “separation from God”, and the misery of those there was self-inflicted – a sense of loss and loneliness. This would still be moral because God had given them their own choice. I also considered that maybe hell would be a temporary thing; people would suffer for a time and then be annihilated. (It does sometimes seem just that people like Hitler are made to pay for their crimes.)

    Eventually I moved to the position that there is no hell (still within a Christian belief – there are a great many Christians who don’t believe in hell). I cannot conceive of any way for a moral God to be happy while people he cares for are tortured for all eternity.

  3. Christ's Angel says:

    Your arrival at the assumption “the vast majority, in fact” is a fruit of your professed heresy, agnosticism.

  4. Christ's Angel says:

    “Let us turn for a moment, Venerable Brethren, to that most disastrous doctrine of agnosticism. By it every avenue to God on the side of the intellect is barred to man, while a better way is supposed to be opened from the side of a certain sense of the soul and action.”

    from Pascendi Dominici Gregis – On the Doctrine of the Modernists – 8 September 1907

  5. Mike says:

    Your comparison is flawed. The people in Auschwitz did not choose to be there. Salvation is freely offered to everyone, but rejected by those in hell.

    Assume that God is the perfect embodiment of love, truth, justice, and mercy. What should He do with people who refused to submit to His authority and rejected His gift of eternal life?

    Seeing people in hell would make me even more grateful to my savior who took my punishment upon himself. I will know that I deserve that same punishment, but through Jesus’s love for me, I have been forgiven. Humbled and grateful.

  6. As we are all interconnected, what affects one affects all and everything.
    Considering that some who believe in hell, are already there, our perception of reality is influenced by their probably self hating neurotic world view in a more or less conscious or unconscious way. As much as them by each of us.

  7. Christ's Angel says:

    When one considers the prophecies of Fatima and their content, specifically, that, given in 1917 during World War I, men were to amend their lives to stop a worse war, it is evident that a careful heeding was not given to avert the rise of the Nazi machine. As the cases of old, epitomized in the Scripture “a prophet is not without honor save in his own family and country”, the private revelation from Heaven given to three shepherd children was treated poorly, in ways, by some, even to this day. Heaven did well in choosing those three children in an area of centuries of conflict that included struggle for control of the Holy Land. Heaven was basically stating that all land is holy, treat the earth as such. So, in the days of the Old Testament, where prophecy and the syndrome of reaction centered upon one people and nation, the Fatima prophecies called for a response from all peoples and nations.

    When one looks at the horrific events of World War II, though they came as a result of disobedience to Heaven’s plea, it is hard not to equate their immanent effect as that of “hell unleashed”, if not for an eternity, at least for a few devastating years. The message of the Gospel includes the admonition to fear Him, who after unleashing a fury of war, can make such a chastisement everlasting.

    Whether we like Heaven and/or Hell is moot in this regard, as the agencies of both places are controlled by the One God who also blesses and curses as He pleases.

  8. I wished sometimes zealot pious had a closer look to historical dates , not in the way it confirms their believe system but how so called inspiring events are strangely happening in times where very worldly clergy power aims create the conceptual soil for those kind of seed to grow and impact the masses in the sense wished by those forces.

    I think that the division between heaven and hell is connected to the soul/body neoplatonist splitting, the churches have take over, also as confirmation of hierarchical superiority s of the head, the elite over the lower nature. As this disdain is bound to create neurotic troubles in the individual and social discord in society, hell can be seen as the missing of self acceptance and the disconnection from a supportive nature in oneself and in touch with the world.
    Abusive clergy’s, can be seen in their need to perpetuate their own bureaucracy’s, as fire starting fire workers , creating first the guilt and shame they pretend to solve through the elevation of the soul through the unquestioning obedience of the humble follower. As this can only create a sense of humiliation about the own nature, the reaction to patronise other to follow those rules up to obsessive bigotery, can be seen as the unconscious attempt to confirm them again to oneself, and an elevation of the own artificially immature ego through participation to the omnipotence fantasy through association with the Oedipal projection.

    Humans grounded in themselves experience naturally a spiritual interconnection with others and nature. In the moment they step out of this flow, the troubles starts.

    Instead of projecting enlightenment on few elected, it is high time for our planet to regain our own insight fullness .
    Our specie surviving optimum, was, is, and will always be collaboration and compassion. All the depiction of the evilness of humans who have to be educated to love, points only to dehumanised society structures.
    The actual driven speculative madness, who neglects our real basic needs for a disastrous resource abuse willing to drive us all into some megalomaniac furry shows clearly how we should truly study history to see how religious concepts are not falling from the sky.

  9. They are moment when I hope philosophical reflection would be teach in school outside France too! I love living in an environment welcoming argumentation over dogmas. I suppose it must be hard to question a paradigm, when one is bathing in it like an indoctrinated fish in a conceptual fish bowl water. But it is worth it!It might feel like freedom!

  10. Maybe your ability to understand me, and the sense my text makes, are not the same.

    • andrewclunn says:

      Okay, let’s try this first then. There is a link bellow posts that says “Reply” When you want to respond to a specific comment use that, so it’s clear who you are responding to.

      Next, when you wrote this, “I think that the division between heaven and hell is connected to the soul/body neoplatonist splitting, the churches have take over, also as confirmation of hierarchical superiority s of the head, the elite over the lower nature. As this disdain is bound to create neurotic troubles in the individual and social discord in society, hell can be seen as the missing of self acceptance and the disconnection from a supportive nature in oneself and in touch with the world.” I think everyone here did a collective, “what?”

      Run on sentence and grammar issues aside, you are conflating the good evil dichotomy with mind / body dualism. Also, it seems like you’re conflating Neoplatonism with Christianity and you even threw in passing references to psychology and compared hell to various points on maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This is what most sane people refer to as post-modern rambling. Thanks for the condescension there with your last post though. It gave me the freedom to call it as I saw it without feeling like I was being an ass.

  11. It looks more like if you need a condescending attitude towards me, to not question “what most sane people” would think. Some thought phobias likes to appear superior.

  12. And if anything could be named post-modern rambling, than for sure the deconstruction of a text covering the direct affirmation of the own opinion.

  13. It must be that!
    Everything else would maybe suppose you don’t want to understand me!

  14. Anonymous says:

    antiphonsgarden, you’re seriously not making sense.

  15. john says:

    I love religion and the effect it has on people but laugh at so many religious nutters who speak crap as if they have had some personal devine revelation.
    RCB is what i call it. Religious Crypto Babble. It suggests its religious it doesn’t make sense and it goes on and on and on and on. RCB is for those who are not sure so put up a smokescreen of confusion.

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