Spoiler alert: No, they’re not.
It’s always nice when the local fellowship keeps in touch.
There’s good news and bad news. First, the good news: Hell doesn’t exist. You can’t go to a place that doesn’t exist.
Next, the bad news; you’re not going to survive your death. Sorry to break it to you like this, but there it is: no-one survives death. Once the physical, chemical and electrical processes in your brain cease then so do you, because that’s what you’re made of. That self you have a sense of – your soul if you want to call it that – is entirely dependent on those electro-chemical processes. It doesn’t exist independently from them. You cease to be once the brain dies and begins to deteriorate*. Everyone who has ever lived and died, including true believers down the ages – from Jesus, Peter, Paul, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to Augustine, Bede, Wilberforce and C. S. Lewis – have all ceased to be, dissipated and obliterated forever, along with their physical brains and bodies.
And why, dear Christian, would you want to survive death? What makes you think that the bundle of petty concerns, loves and hates, neuroses, reactions and habits that you call ‘you’, merit long-term survival? Because that odd little collection of impulses is what you’re talking about when you say you are going to live forever. You may regard yourself as changed into some sort of reflection of Christ, but it’s your essential self that you desperately, and arrogantly, hope will enjoy eternal life. It won’t – and why should it?
So, there’s no you to survive and no Hell, or Heaven, for you to go to. The Bible doesn’t offer Heaven – see my previous posts here and here – but it does talk about Hell. It’s the place the Unrighteous go when the Righteous™ take over the earth (albeit it in the first century). According to Jesus in Mark 7.20-23, the Unrighteous are people like murderers, thieves and the proud, while Paul includes other ‘undesirables’ like homosexuals (1 Corinthians 6.9). This isn’t nearly enough for today’s Christians though**. They want everyone except themselves to be sent to Hell. So if you’re not ‘saved’ according to their magic formula, then you’re certain to go there. Never mind if you’re not a murderer or proud or gay. That’s where the God of Love is going to send you, to be tormented forever.
And where is Hell? Jesus seems to think it’s in the heart of the Earth (Matthew 12.40) and invariably those threatened with Hell go ‘down’ to it. The wingnut who wrote Revelation also implies it’s in the Earth (9.2). You’d think, that being the case, we would have found it by now. But we haven’t because, of course, it doesn’t exist. And you’re not going. And there won’t be a ‘you’ to go in any case.
So don’t waste any time worrying about it or letting Christians persuade you Hell is a real place. Live your one and only life in the here and now as best you can. Enjoy it. It’s not a rehearsal for a better place, and certainly not for a far worse one.
* In The Lazarus Effect, Dr Sam Parnia relates instances of people being revived up to an hour after death, but only in specific circumstances, when the brain remains undamaged. Any longer than an hour and it’s not possible. Such revivals are extreme forms of the rebooting your brain does every morning after sleep; the brain itself and all its neuro-connections must still be capable of functioning for you to be you again after sleep or even apparent death.
** Yes, I acknowledge some Christians don’t accept Hell. American pastor, Rob Bell, suggests in Love Wins that Hell doesn’t make ‘a very good story’, and that God will save everybody. All Hell was let loose in the resulting backlash from true, Bible-believing Christians; a response that was extreme, brutal and frequently sanctimonious. How dare Bell contradict God’s Word, Holy Scripture? Surely he deserves to go to Hell for that.