A Christian theologian once said that even if God doesn’t exist, it’s better to believe in God because it makes us live a more responsible and kinder life. I disagree. Lakes of fire do not scare me because I cannot fear something so illogical. 

Let’s imagine a burning lake for a moment. I imagine it would be similar to lava. Suppose there is an enormous lava lake in hell, which makes sense since hell is underground or below heaven, according to most theories. A group of people is condemned to burn in this lake of fire. One by one, they are thrown into the lake. But by whom? I cannot imagine these “evil doers” will cooperate and willingly walk into a lava lake. They’re about to burn alive. There need to be henchmen—executioners if you will. This job can be performed by demons, the fallen angels who follow Lucifer. After all, they are already prominently featured in some scenes of hell in the New Testament. Two demons would grab a sinner at the head of the line, push him into the lava lake, wait a few minutes for the screams and the burning sound effect, and then grab the next sinner.

But how are they keeping these sinners in line for the lava lake? A single file line headed straight into the burning lake isn’t exactly a popular destination, and we humans become quite brave when faced with a certain death. Someone will break from the line and run for her life, and as the demons give chase, several others will break away and run in different directions, and chaos ensues. The Babylonian army faced this same issue when transporting prisoners of war. To avoid having to chase the prisoners, they adapted the system of chaining prisoners to each other. A similar methodology has to be employed for the lakes of fire. The sinners would be chained to each other, visibly or invisibly, making running impossible. Now we have a proper system of prisoner control.

The next thing we need is the allocation of space. One lake of fire is not feasible for millions of sinners. Let’s face it. Who are we kidding? Most of us won’t make it to heaven. According to a survey by Christianity Today, over 95% of Christians do not have the assurance of salvation. And let me tell you, if you’re not sure, you probably aren’t saved. It’s like saying I don’t know if I’ve ever had sex. Once you’ve done it, you know you’ve done it. Some say they were saved once but may have lost it. If this is you, you need to relearn the whole idea of salvation. According to Christian theology, salvation is by grace through faith, not by works. You cannot lose it. You probably never had it in the first place. (More on this in a different post)

The global population in 2022 is estimated at 8 billion. Assuming each lava lake can house 10,000 sinners, we need 800,000 lakes. I didn’t subtract those who made it to heaven because, if I were the architect of hell, I would be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.

Once we have 800,000 lava lakes, we need staffing. At a minimum, we need twelve demons per lake—two at the head of the line to throw the sinner into the fire and ten to supervise the remaining 9999 sinners. Though the sinners are chained to themselves, there is no guarantee that someone will not break his thumb or other parts of his body to free himself. We’re talking about an eternity in fire or breaking a few bones! In fact, I guarantee someone will figure out a way to free himself, and others will follow suit. To monitor and discourage such activity, we would need proper supervision. 

There is also a possibility of sinners’ uprising. We, humans, are not team players except in the case of life and death, and this is definitely life and death. It is not entirely unthinkable that sinners will band together and attack demons. According to the Bible, one angel can slay thousands. But what happens if two thousand sinners gang up against one demon? What if they capture the demon and venture into a hostage negotiation with God? To avoid such embarrassment, we will assign one demon per thousand sinners. Two in charge of systematically throwing sinners into the lake can always come to other demons’ aid if there is an uprising and things get out of control. In total, we would need 9.6 million demons to be adequately staffed for the operation.

So somewhere in hell, there are 800,000 lava lakes supervised by a minimum of 9.6 million demons. A line of sinners connected by heavy chains awaits their fate in fear. One by one, demons unchain a sinner, grab and mercilessly drag him into the lake while the sinner flaps his arms in futility. The fire sears the sinner’s flesh, and the sinner screams in anguish, possibly repenting his transgressions or cursing everyone from his mother to God. Now, how will he burn for eternity?

Our body which makes us fragile and fallible, is also our sweetest escape. You can only torture a person for a short while before he passes out or dies. The fearful anticipation of fire as they wait in line for their turns and the frightful demons that grab and throw the sinners into the lake of fire are gruesome and fantastic. However, once the sinner is thrown into the lake of fire and his flesh hits the burning lava, his wonderful brain will cut off communication, and the sinner will pass out momentarily and die shortly after. This is a merciful death compared to, say, a stabbing in the guts or slowly dying from lung cancer. What makes the lakes of fire fearful is the thought of burning for eternity. 

Some argue that sinners are no longer in their bodies by this point and that their souls suffer eternal fire. That does not make any sense. The lakes of fire hurt because our bodies cannot withstand the high temperature. If we didn’t have physical bodies but were a consciousness floating in the lakes of fire, the temperature would not hurt. To make the lakes of fire an effective punishment, God has to invent a new body that will not be consumed by fire but constantly send pain signals to our brains. This is highly inefficient. An easier way to accomplish the same task would be to eliminate the fire altogether, hook all sinners to an intravenous IV, and pump drugs that would send pain signals to their brains without killing them. And if I can think of this, so can God. God is many things, but he is definitely not inefficient.

If God insists on using fire, we must resort to virtual reality. I remember watching The Matrix and thinking, that’s what the hell would look like. If I were the architect of hell, responsible for the miseries of humanity, I would most certainly adapt the Matrix system. Upon the pronunciation of your judgment, you are promptly led to a skyscraper named “Lakes of Fire 2.1,” which is neatly packed with coffin-like pods. Two demons swiftly assist you into the pods, where you are instantly paralyzed, and a device drills into the back of your skull and connects your consciousness to the virtual reality Lakes of Fire 2.1. Of course, we could do without the drilling, but it does accomplish a certain level of dread and fear. Once connected to VR world, you will find yourself in an unrealistically sizeable burning lake with millions of other sinners, drowning the sound of burning flesh by screaming your head off. Your brain will overload and disconnect, but when you become conscious again, the process will repeat again and again for eternity. While our minds cannot comprehend eternity, we know what it’s like to sit through two and a half hours of the most boring movie and how that felt like it would never end. In place of the film, imagine burning in the lakes of fire for the same duration. Now that’s frightening.

Many people say that God is too loving to do this to people. Are we talking about the same God? The one who wiped clean the whole world with the deluge because it was full of sinners? Some argue that’s the Old Testament God. Look up the word ‘eternal’ and ‘everlasting.’ God does not change. According to His own words, He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Besides, the lakes of fire are in the New Testament, not the Old Testament.

Yet, here is the thing. I don’t see God punishing sinners in the lakes of fire for eternity. Not because He’s too loving but because He is too smart. If we believed in this supreme creator, God would be a marvelous chess player and a magnificent physicist (just like me!). He sees a million moves ahead; he flawlessly orchestrates a million events at the same time. He does not open His mouth without a purpose; He does not lift His hand until it is absolutely the perfect time to smite. Yet, do you mean to tell me that this efficient maestro would do something with no end game? 

What would be the purposes of lakes of fire and sinners burning for eternity? Teach them a lesson? A lesson is for correction. It’s for those who will have a chance to redo it. These sinners are done. They have no chance left. Is it then to punish them for their sins? Isn’t burning once in the lakes of fire enough? For some hardcore sinners, we could repeat it say, hundred times. That would make more sense. Then once most sinners are burnt to death, hell can downsize into a smaller lake reserved for those repeating the death up to 100 times. After the last sinner dies for the 100th time, demons or angels can pack up and join the party in heaven. Maybe the purpose of eternal fire is to separate the sinners from God and from those who are saved. No, that can easily be achieved through permanent and irrevocable death. So why does God want to burn sinners in the lakes of fire for eternity?

Occam’s razor. He doesn’t. The lakes of fire must be imagery, a symbolic place of eternal loss and pain—the oblivion to which the sinners are sentenced. Separated from God and a joyful chorus of angels and saints, experiencing a major FOMO, the sinners submerge into a dark abyss of loneliness and regret. There they slowly die, feeling unbearable pain and self-loathing that can only be compared to burning in the lakes of fire. Now that’s a proper hell.

I don’t think my version of hell is any more comforting than the lakes of fire. One may argue it’s worse. Whether God intends to burn us in the lakes of fire or sink us into oblivion, it would be wise to figure out how to avoid such disposition if one believes in God. 

Christmas Day Musing on Lakes of Fire

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