One of the excuses people make when confronted with sin is that they’d rather go to hell and get to make their own choices than follow God and have to limit their choices. This feeling contains a massive assumption: hell isn’t all that bad. They believe hell is just like earth. Like earth it must have its ups and downs, but they can survive there. To put it more clearly, they believe hell is just an eternal earth. It might not be an eternal paradise, but they could get used to the idea of immortality on earth. There will be ups and downs, but at least with their immortal life, they can work towards having more ups than downs. Unfortunately, there is nothing further from the truth.
If you can remember the worst days of your life, hell is that worst day for all eternity (CCC 1035). Maybe a loved one tragically died from cancer after years of great suffering. Maybe your homeland was under attack, forcing you to leave behind all you knew. Maybe your family and friends wrongly abandoned you, and now you are all alone. I’m sure everyone could think of many more worst days in life. In those horrible days there is no upside. It’s just bad. On earth, we focus on just getting through the bad day, knowing the next day could be much better. Well, in hell the next day is never better. The next day is just as bad as the worst day, and the next day after that too, and so on.
In hell, the suffering and pain never ends (CCC 1034). It is constant. It isn’t just a worst day but worst eternity, a nonstop horrible time. Even more, there is no escape from hell. On earth people sadly commit suicide to “escape” their suffering, but in hell everyone is already dead. You can only die once. There is no second death. After a person receives their particular judgment to be separated from God (CCC 1021-1022), hell is a constant bad dream without the ability to wake up. It becomes worse after the final judgment, when on the last day God will raise all the dead, even those who have already been condemned to hell (CCC 998, 1059). Now in addition to their mental anguish, hell is the worst pain they have ever felt with no end. Many people don’t believe that hell can be this bad, but the reason is simple.
Those in hell are completely separated from God (CCC 1035), but since God is the source of all love and all good comes from love (CCC 1723, 1955), there can be no good whatsoever in hell. Whenever a person does something good, it originated from God. Without God they would be incapable of doing good. So we know all people in hell are completely separated from God and that no love is possible without God. It’s easy to see then that in hell there are no ups and downs. It is just downs constantly, all the time. In fact, even the worst times on earth are better than hell.
Think about the horrible war torn lands on earth, where people are constantly fighting. There is no peace. But even in these horrible parts of the world, many people have families, a spouse, or children that they love. Maybe 99% of the surrounding people are enemies, but 1% are loved ones. In hell, there isn’t even that 1%. There is no family, spouse, or children, and no friends or kind strangers. Everyone is an enemy, everyone looking for their own personal pleasure without a care for anyone else. Not only that, since there is no pleasure in hell, the fruitless effort to find pleasure drives them to madness and anger. In their anger, they go out of their way to harm anyone they come across. From the Catechism, we know God gives man faith, hope, and most of all, love (CCC 1812), so complete separation from God brings the inability to trust (faith), have hope, or love others. Therefore, people in hell are reduced to animals, primitive creatures whose actions are completely bound by the instinct to seek personal pleasure. They are incapable of anything but evil actions.
The truth is hell has nothing good about it. Those in hell are condemned to constant suffering with no escape for all eternity. It is a place that should rightly be feared by all living souls on earth. I hope that in reading this you will see how bad hell really is. A healthy fear of hell can lead to the first step taken towards positive change. We all know the sins we have a weakness for. Focus on one of those, come up with a plan, and make the first small change towards improvement. If you have already started on the path of improvement, let this article motivate you even more to keep up the good work. Whenever you find yourself starting to think a sin isn’t all that bad, come back and read this short article. Understand where that sin will lead and it will keep you on the right path towards holiness.
Our sinful bodies, with the aid of Satan, are constantly trying to keep us in the present. After all, many sins don’t have an immediate consequence, but we must always be thinking about the future. Is my next choice going to lead me to heaven or to hell? What are the long term consequences of this decision I am about to make? Answer these questions well, for your eternal life hangs in the balance. I pray in reading this you will be motivated to do your best to live a good life. There is too much at stake to ignore this.
For those with scruples, this text may have caused great fear in your soul, but remember with scrupulosity you can’t trust your judgment on matters of sin and culpability. It is very likely you are much better than you think you are. To set things straight, I encourage you to go to confession every week for continual assurances from your priest and confessor of where you are at on your path to heaven. Also, really listen to your friends and family when they say you aren’t that bad. Sometimes it is easier to see the truth from the outside (your friends) looking in (at you) than from the inside (yourself) looking out.
May God bless you with his abundant grace,