We often hear it said that those who end up in Hell are those that really want to go there. If this is true (and in a certain sense it is), we ought to discover how this can be so. It seems to me that no one really wants to go to Hell insofar as Hell is a place of unspeakable torment, pain, anguish, misery, and of every foul, disgusting, terrifying, nauseating thing that mad, demonic minds can devise. If some people do more or less resign themselves to an eternity in Hell or actually look forward to it (having believed the lies of the devil about the power and the excitement they’ll have there), they don’t really see it for what it is. So in that sense, I think people don’t really want to go to Hell, even if they eventually discover that such is the only place they justly belong.
There is, however, a sense in which people do want to go to Hell, or at least find Hell to be the place most conformable to their perpetual state of mind and behavior. You see, there are a lot of people who are habitually filled with anger and hate. Now I would venture to say that the majority of people who are such do not really enjoy being angry and hateful all the time. There’s hope for the salvation of these, because they are likely to try to work against these things and to try to find some healing or at least some way to manage it all so as not to end up as self-isolated sociopaths (which is one of the criteria for eligibility for Hell).
But there are people who seem really to thrive on anger and hate and similar hellish attitudes and behaviors, and these are the ones most likely to “want” to go to Hell. Hell is a place where you can be angry and hateful 24/7 (not that there are 24s or 7s in Hell), and no one will fault you for it. Hey, they’re all more angry and hateful than you are! The problem is that in Hell rage is impotent and only creates frustration, which only creates more rage, etc. And you get to hate all that, and everyone else, and God, and everyone you ever knew who gave you a raw deal in life and, wait a minute, why aren’t they all here? That’ll really make you mad!
I’ll briefly mention the following, at the risk of getting my throat slit, but it’s not only my opinion; I’ve heard it from wiser men than I. Islam is a religion of anger, and they seem to relish being angry, and they are always venting their rage, on the flimsiest of pretexts and trumped-up accusations, usually against Christians. Daily I read in the news from all over the world: “Mob of Angry Muslims Burn Christian Churches”; “Muslims Attack Christian Village, Killing Many;” “Muslims Destroy Christian Homes and Businesses”; “Angry Muslims [fill in the blank: bomb, shoot, stab, burn, hack with machetes, etc] Christians at Worship” etc, etc, etc. I think they want to be angry; I think they want to hate; I think it energizes them somehow, distracts them from a contemplative approach to God that would dispose them to deeper truths about religion than “kill the infidel.” It has been said that one of the reasons for their profound anger is that their god is not a Father, their god is not Love. He simply demands submission, and so they demand it of everyone else in his name, but they are not loved, they have neither Father nor Mother in Heaven to comfort and cherish them. Therefore they envision their “paradise” as nothing more than the fulfillment of human lusts (and if you’re a woman, all you get to do is cater to the lusts of the men.) They also have no Savior; no one takes all their pain and sin into himself, freeing them from the endless cycle of hate-creating rage and rage-creating hate. Their god has not loved them enough to enter and absorb their pain and has not sacrificed himself for them. If my religion had a god like that, I’d be angry, too!
Of course, God is a Father, and He has loved all of us enough to send us his Son as our Savior, to enter our misery, take it upon Himself and lift us up into his everlasting love and into his Heaven, which is the bliss of communion with God and all his holy ones in utter joy and purity and love and peace. This is not to say that Muslims as such are condemned to Hell. But if they thrive on anger and hate and domination and violence, Hell is the only place they’ll fit in. That applies to everyone without exception, you and me, too.
I used to think that, even if we have lived a bad life, once we saw who God really is as we passed from this world to the next, we would embrace any chance He might offer to repent, and we would long to leave our past evil behind, having finally seen the Truth. But the more I read and reflect on the mysteries of life and faith, I see that this is not automatically the case. I do believe, and I pray often for this, that the Lord in his mercy will offer dying sinners a last chance to repent, even as their souls are leaving this world. The hard truth is, though, that at least some of them will obstinately refuse. That is because rage and hate are all they know, and they don’t want peace and fellowship and heavenly sweetness. They want to go on venting their anger forever, and so Hell is just the place to do it!
Did you ever feel like this? You are angry or hurt about something, so you nurse your rage and even get some sort of dark satisfaction out of the fact that you are now making everyone else miserable. Your self-pity increases, and along with that your anger and self-hatred and other-hatred. Then when someone tries to help you or reason with you, you brush them off or snap at them or deliberately say hurtful things to them, because unrighteous anger always hurts others. And all the while you grumble your own self-justifications, your mood gets darker, and even the thought of happiness repels you and you hate it, and you might just as well stay in your rotten mood, because you’ve gotten used to it and it takes a lot of effort and humility to break out of it. You are now in Hell.
That’s what it’s like, and that is why people choose to go there. No one wants to be stabbed with the devils’ pitchforks, but many people seem to want to nurse their wrath and lick their wounds for all eternity. There is a place for these people. God does not want them to go there, and He doesn’t force them to go there. He is the Reconciler, the One who comes to patch things up and to draw out the hateful poison. But some people will have none of it. They prefer the darkness, the rage, the wounded pride, the unrestrained “freedom” to pour out endless streams of invective and blasphemy. So there. Take that, and that. The trouble is, when they find themselves in the place where they can be as selfish and angry and mean as they wish, they discover that no one listens to them. No one cares. Everyone else is shouting the same things, and no one listens to them, either, for Hell is a mad cacophony of hate. And those who may once have loved them are nowhere to be found. These wretched souls are utterly forgotten by everyone, and no one even misses them. Even the perverse satisfaction of causing pain to someone who cares for them is denied them. So they get to be angry about that as well.
It really is true, then, that those who are in Hell got what they wanted. That doesn’t mean they’re happy with it now, for they can’t be happy about anything, for they can’t love anything or anyone anymore.
Jesus had very good reasons for saying everything that He did, especially about loving and forgiving others and refraining from anger and vengeance. The Lord knows that we can become hardened in our negative emotions and resulting behaviors, to the point that we know nothing else and eventually want nothing else. Then, when the gates of Heaven open, we flee, because the light is too bright, and the sweetness burns like acid, and the songs of joy are like the howls of a bad conscience. If that happens, then yes, we do want to go to Hell, just to get away from all that beauty and goodness which condemns us just by being what it is.
So if what we really want is Heaven, we need to start cultivating the heavenly virtues here below. It is harmful to indulge our wrath, and we might just get addicted to it. St Paul says to think about whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, and praiseworthy (see Phil. 4:8). That is the beginning of setting our minds and hearts on things of Heaven. Deep down, we all really do want Heaven, we want God. But it’s also possible to become so twisted and shriveled inside that we choose what is worst for ourselves, almost as if we took pleasure in spiting ourselves. It’s like committing suicide just to hurt someone else, though we are the only losers. God can prevent all this, and if we’ve already gone partway down that path He can rescue and heal us. We have to want Him, though; we have to want what is good. We have to want to bless and to love.
You may think I’m not very loving toward the Muslims, but the truth is that I grieve for them and I pray daily for their enlightenment so they can break free from the wrath they both fear and inflict. Then they can find peace and joy and salvation in Jesus, who loves them, and in the Father, who loves them, and in the Holy Spirit, who loves them. This is the true God and eternal life, as the Apostle says. I pray that all would embrace it and discover that what they really want is to rest in the peace of Christ forever.