This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← The fires of Hell are real and eternal, Pope warns

The fires of Hell are real and eternal, Pope warns - Comments

Inside centre's Avatar Comment 1 by Inside centre

Not imposed my arse! Tell that to the thousands if not millions of children who have been baptised into this despicable faith.



Mon, 22 Feb 2010 12:39:00 UTC | #443075

bruceeverett's Avatar Comment 2 by bruceeverett

And all those progressive Catholics who told us that Hell isn't a concept in their religion. I trust that they'll reject the Pope now, for this, an obvious error in theology.

*Sound of apologists' hands wringing*

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 12:46:00 UTC | #443081

Luke_B's Avatar Comment 3 by Luke_B

Make sure I'm buried with some marshmallows then!

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 12:48:00 UTC | #443082

mixmastergaz's Avatar Comment 4 by mixmastergaz

So limbo is only "a theological hypothesis", but hell is definitely real?

How is hell not a theological hypothesis? What evidence elevated it from the level of mere hypothesis to theory?

Oh that's right - the Pope's infallible...

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 12:49:00 UTC | #443083

Enders's Avatar Comment 5 by Enders

@bruceeverett: Exactly my first thought. All those liberal, moderate Catholic believers got a well deserved punch in the face. Hopefully they know realize they don't actually are Catholics.

BTW: "Hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy" That is cool. "Hell" = "Living as an atheist". And we all know that live as an atheist is not Hell. Pun intended, even though it is bad. But the whole article seems to contradict itself on the topic of what Hell is.

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 12:51:00 UTC | #443084

geckoman's Avatar Comment 6 by geckoman

The consequences of child abuse by members of the Catholic clergy are real and eternal. The consequences of nazism on its enemies are real and eternal. Prick.

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 12:52:00 UTC | #443085

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 7 by Jos Gibbons

When an idea goes all the way back to ancient Egypt, how Christian, or trustworthy, is it? And why do two consecutive infallible popes lack agreement on the pretty simple question of whether Hell is a place? And why does Benedict XVI seek to enforce a catechism by saying something that seems pretty much the opposite to me? Perhaps the dear professor of an unnamed discipline can enlighten us on how much of all this confusion is down to the beliefs of Catholics, rather than the journalist. But let's be honest, he won't.

The phrase "you can't make it up" has a long pedigree. It is flatly wrong to suggest this of a specific religious doctrine; it was made up. What you can't make up is people believing such stuff, or professing it, or evangelizing it, or being angry that others have rejected, failed to accept, ignored, forgotten or marginalized it, as has the latest pope.

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 12:53:00 UTC | #443086

NewEnglandBob's Avatar Comment 8 by NewEnglandBob

Ratzi is off his rocker.

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 12:53:00 UTC | #443087

coatesj's Avatar Comment 9 by coatesj


Mon, 22 Feb 2010 13:04:00 UTC | #443092

quiddian's Avatar Comment 11 by quiddian

It's not enough to reject the lie. It must be despised as well.

How easy is it to forget that these people invade our families and the most private and personal parts of our lives as children--who's state of mind is utterly incapable of mounting a proper defense, and scaring the living shit out of us through our parents--the one set of people we should be able to look to to defend us against mind games. Through our protectors, they disregarded our innocence, and forced on our young minds the guilt of torture and murder of an innocent and loving "father." There can be no crime greater than this--unless this is compounded by trying to process the death of your actual father, and opportunists exploit that tragedy as well. Of course, after they screw up your head, the priests are going to encourage you to call them "father" as well, so if sheer dumb luck has left your childhood with any sense of identity left, it's immediately and covertly hijacked in this way by the corporation.

I once had a priest say "call me 'Father,'" to which I replied, "No. It's disrespectful to my actual father. Besides, you remind me more of a creepy Uncle, so I'll just call you that." To this day, the few conversations I've had with priests have been cut short by calling them "Creepy Uncle."

At least non-religious child-molesters usually stop with the body.

War with Islam is inevitable. As a veteran, how reassuring it is that it's primarily the xians and catholics that will die killing the bomb-throwers. For all their judgement of eachother, notice that nobody ever argues over the "true" meaning of a bullet--religious or otherwise. It's the one self-fulfilling solution to religion.

I celebrate my enemies staggering to eachother's doom. One problem kills another--and with much more honesty than they show to their own children.

Want to bring about true "salvation?"

Line em up and kill em all--by pitting them against eachother.

It's a mercy killing--for them and those children they'd destroy by "saving."

Rabid dogs are put down when their disease becomes dangerous, and they are in much more need of help than the xian who conveniently froths at the mouth whenever it will further his agenda.

This can be the only worthwhile approach to them. Petty arguments over which point in their bullshit doesn't make sense only works to their purpose. They point is to be whole-hearted about our position--and not allow them to lull us into intellectualizing at the moment of truth.

Put simply, our position must be very simple...

1) Refuse to negotiate--or allow them to masquerade their negotiation as debate.

2) Refuse to recognize them as moral. They are not.

3) Refuse them the exercise of ownership over what is not theirs: "THIS DOES NOT BELONG TO YOU."

They will enter our private lives by penetrating our preschools, libraries, music collections, movie collections, doctors offices, wedding chapels, bedrooms, and worst of all government, in order to have their way with our personal lives.


Mon, 22 Feb 2010 13:08:00 UTC | #443096

Ygern's Avatar Comment 10 by Ygern

The rationale behind the Catholic hierarchy coming out and reaffirming their more primitive traditions always puzzles me. It is usually a bit of cage-rattling intended to smack down those uppity "enlightened, moderate" Catholics with their dangerous notions of metaphorical interpretations and liberal tendencies. I'm not sure it does much good though, if anything it shocks and further alienates the moderates as they are rudely reminded that their fuzzy, rose-tinted view of their faith is completely at odds with the faith preached by the Vatican.

The sad thing is that many of them will try to rationalise this, or just pretend it didn't happen.

What I would love to know is whether he REALLY believes this, or whether this is an act of pure cynicism.

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 13:08:00 UTC | #443095

Peacebeuponme's Avatar Comment 12 by Peacebeuponme

Why fire though? Are these people so thick they can't see how boringly human these punishments are?

Yes, I can comprehend how fire will be painful to my human skin, but how does this concept transfer to my soul when I enter hell? Surely there will be different ways to distress my consciousness then?

In fact, I have trouble conceptualising how any pain can occur to an immortal soul, which cannot die again, and which doesn't have a flesh-and-blood body. Pain wouldn't have any meaning.

Could it be that these things were made up by men with very little imagination?

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 13:09:00 UTC | #443097

UncleVanya's Avatar Comment 13 by UncleVanya

I may be slow today (or indeed every day), but even this short pronouncement seems to have an internal contradiction.

Darth Ratzi says that people risk “eternal damnation — the Inferno”, which sounds like real flames to me, and that interpretation is backed up by the title of the article.

However, then he goes on to say Hell is a “state of eternal separation from God”, to be understood “symbolically rather than physically”.

If you are actually on fire than that sounds physical, rather than symbolic, to me. He also says Hell "really exists and is eternal", and once again that is completely different from being symbolic...

I guess picking holes in the small details of something based on empty wish-thinking is a fairly futile exercise from the outset.

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 13:16:00 UTC | #443098

Ygern's Avatar Comment 14 by Ygern

Uncle Vanya

You're right, Inferno is exactly the medieval concept of hell, not at all symbolic. It's a curious attempt to play both sides of the fence, although this obfuscation may be due to poor reporting or translation by the press.

However this ploy of having it both ways is classic Catholicism. For example, they have Jesus 100% God and 100% man at the same time and proud of it.

In comparison, his predecessor said this about hell: "neither an abstraction nor a physical place" (quote from same article) without any hint of bashfulness.

The more it doesn't make any sense the more they can use the old "You can't expect to understand the ways of God" as a get out of jail free card to defend any inconsistency or nonsense.

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 13:30:00 UTC | #443104

Oromasdes1978's Avatar Comment 15 by Oromasdes1978

I am glad Darth is spreading the love as per usual!

He recalled that Jesus had forgiven the “woman taken in adultery” and prevented her from being stoned to death, observing: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

I wonder if quoting the Bible back at Darth would have any effect whatsoever?

In John 8 it may very well have Jesus contradicting the law of Moses and openly so

But in Matthew 5 Jesus is seen to be laying down the law pretty thick indeed.

I'm guessing Darth doesn't read his Bible much!

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 13:32:00 UTC | #443107

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 16 by Tyler Durden

The Pope, who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was head of Catholic doctrine, noted that “forgiveness of sins” for those who repent was a cornerstone of Christian belief. He recalled that Jesus had forgiven the “woman taken in adultery” and prevented her from being stoned to death, observing: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
How curious holy Joe chose that particular example as biblical scholars reckon this event never actually took place and later authors added it to the gospel of John in order to make Jebus look more "profound".

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 13:33:00 UTC | #443108

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 17 by Tyler Durden

15. Comment #462855 by Philip1978

I wonder if quoting the Bible back at Darth would have any effect whatsoever?
I wonder if throwing the Bible back at Darth would have any effect whatsoever :)

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 13:36:00 UTC | #443109

Michael Dudley's Avatar Comment 18 by Michael Dudley

I have emailed Ratzinger at "" to whit:

"Dear Mr Ratzinger,

I see from THIS web page that you claim Hell to be a real place that actually exists and not just a "bogey-man" story designed to coerce the ignorant into accepting your particular brand of religious dogma, as had been previously thought.

That is very interesting. Can you please inform us as to it's location so that observation and an investigation of it's properties can be organised?"

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 13:37:00 UTC | #443110

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Comment 19 by Chrysippus_Maximus

the Inferno

So not only evangelical creationist nutbags think The Flinstones is a documentary, the head of the Catholic church is confusing Dante's imagination with reality.

What a planet.

On Earth, imagination uses you!

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 13:43:00 UTC | #443111

Absinthius's Avatar Comment 20 by Absinthius

Ah Michael Dudley, do you still not understand?! Hell is a place outside of time and space. So it is both timeless and eternal, as well as spaceless yet a place!

I wonder if and how Darth Ratzinger is going to slither himself out of this nonsensical statement.

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 13:44:00 UTC | #443112

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 21 by Cartomancer

Peacebeuponme, Comment #12,

You are far from the first to wonder this. It was a classic point of medieval scholastic disputation, following Peter Lombard (Sentences, 4.44) and ultimately Gregory the Great's Moralia in Iob (6.16). A typical solution to the problem would posit that it was the psychological distress of being burned that the disembodied soul would suffer in the hereafter, rather than actual physical fire per se, and that this distress would be transferred via a method other than usual sense perception through the organs of the physical body.

However, it must be noted that the orthodox theological line on bodies and souls would have it that the body and the soul would be reunited at the end of time, and thus there would be an actual body present to suffer eternal torments for the eternity after the day of judgment. Thus the problem of sensation in the disembodied soul was at most a temporary problem. It was often remarked that the "fire that burns eternally and the worm that never dies" of Mark 9.48 were to be understood as the physical and perceptual aspects of the same thing.

It really surprises me, to be honest, that Ratty can come out with a bald statement that "hell is a real, physical place, with real physical fire" when, as a doctor of theology who studied in the catholic tradition, he must surely be very well aware of the immensely subtle and sophisticated musings on the subject of the corporeality of the hereafter that were engaged in by medieval scholars. Likewise this pet historian of theirs - how on earth can somebody who has studied the very human scholarship of past theologians, scholarship that develops and changes in exactly the same way as any other kind scholarship, consider that modern catholic theology has any special direct line to the truth at all? I would expect that a detailed knowledge of the history of ideas would be one of the strongest antidotes to catholic pretensions of specialness and unique validity.

I am forced to conclude, therefore, that Richard is right when he says that sophisticated theologians will say one thing to the congregations and another to a learned audience. Either that or Ratty has a cognitive dissonance of truly universal proportions.

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 13:50:00 UTC | #443114

cornbread_r2's Avatar Comment 22 by cornbread_r2

Hell is a place where sinners really do burn in an everlasting fire, and not just a religious symbol designed to galvanise the faithful, the Pope has said. [...]

He had wanted to reinforce the new Catholic catechism, which holds that Hell is a “state of eternal separation from God”, to be understood “symbolically rather than physically”.

So it's not just a religious symbol, but it's to be understood symbolically???

It had been misused in the Middle Ages to scare the impressionable with “horrific visions” of damnation, as described in Dante’s Inferno.

I'm no spring chicken, but I can assure the Pope that it was "misused" in the 1950s too to scare the shit out of me and tens of millions of other Catholics.

“The problem is not only that our sense of sin has declined, but also that the world wars and totalitarianisms of the 20th century created a Hell on Earth as bad as anything we can imagine in the afterlife,” Professor Bagliani said.

Unlike the horrors of WWII, which eventually ended, Hell's torture never ends and that's something I can't even begin to imagine.

In 1999 Pope John Paul II declared that Heaven was “neither an abstraction nor a physical place in the clouds, but that fullness of communion with God which is the goal of human life.” Hell, by contrast, was “the ultimate consequence of sin itself . . . Rather than a place, Hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy”.

The Church teaches that Jesus, Mary and Elijah all went to Heaven with their physical bodies. How can Heaven not be a physical place now? It also teaches that at the final judgment everyone will be reunited with their physical bodies. How will Hell not be a physical place then?

In October the Pope indicated that limbo, supposed since medieval times to be a 'halfway house' between Heaven and Hell, inhabited by unbaptized infants and holy men and women who lived before Christ, was 'only a theological hypothesis' and not a 'definitive truth of the faith'.

So Catholics are also permitted to believe that unbaptized infants actually go to Hell, as Augustine of Hippo thought?

If one accepts the "halfway house" view of a post-final judgment Limbo, it's a place comprised of zygotes, fetuses in various degrees of development, newborns, cavemen (including Neanderthals), any modern humans who simply hasn't had the opportunity to hear the Gospel and whatever intelligent alien life forms which may or may have ever existed which also didn't have that opportunity. A very interesting place.

What I'd ask the Pope if given the chance: What's the youngest a person could be to experience the infinite love of God while also frying like bacon in the Hell he created and sustains for them?

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 13:54:00 UTC | #443115

wthorlay's Avatar Comment 23 by wthorlay

God had given men and women free will to choose whether “spontaneously to accept salvation . . . the Christian faith is not imposed on anyone, it is a gift, an offer to mankind”.

But, if don't accept salvation, you go to hell!!!!

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 13:55:00 UTC | #443116

apaeter's Avatar Comment 24 by apaeter

I don't understand that article. I know this issue has been brought up, but I'm still confused. The author, in the headline and first couple of paragraphs, tells me that the pope wants to remind everybody that hell is real and not 'only' symbolic, but then he quotes the cleric as saying "He had wanted to reinforce the new Catholic catechism, which holds that Hell is a “state of eternal separation from God”, to be understood “symbolically rather than physically”."

I know that the Catholic church is inherently contradictory, but that's just horrible writing on the article's author's part. This might be the least helpful news item I've read in a while. :)

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 13:57:00 UTC | #443117

Notstrident's Avatar Comment 25 by Notstrident

It says he was speaking to a "parish gathering" using "straghtforward language like a parish priest...." So it seems he was addressing Italians. Was he speaking to them in their own tongue? He is German and studied Latin, but if he is able to address a crowd in another vernacular, I'd give the despicable rat credit at least for that much.

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 14:05:00 UTC | #443119

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 26 by Bonzai

Hell “really exists and is eternal, even if nobody talks about it much any more”, he said.

How does he know?

This beautifully illustrates the religious way of 'knowing'. They don't need to back up their claims with any evidence, all they need is to cite some authority or rather people whom they declare to be authority. Basically they just make up shit as they go along, somehow it becomes respectable because history has a way to lend credibility to something simply because it is old.

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 14:08:00 UTC | #443120

Yorker's Avatar Comment 27 by Yorker

Just another example that confirms what I've said a few times before; religion is dying for the simple reason that its static doctrine is unable to survive in this dynamic "change or die" universe.

Religion must remain static so it is therefore doomed, it's just a matter of time.

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 14:10:00 UTC | #443121

hi2horny's Avatar Comment 28 by hi2horny

whata wanker!

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 14:11:00 UTC | #443122

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 29 by Tyler Durden

I think maybe Hitchens may have made this point in a recent debate/interview, but, what crime/action would one have to have commited as a human being in our short time on this planet, in one's lifetime, in order to be physically subjected to eternal damnation in a lake of fire ('the Inferno') etc. if such a place "really exists" as Darth threatens?

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 14:12:00 UTC | #443123

cornbread_r2's Avatar Comment 30 by cornbread_r2

IIRC, Augustine speculated that after the final judgment people would be reunited with not only the form of their physical bodies at the times of their deaths, but would also have any lost limbs restored to them. In the case of those whose souls were already in Hell, this was so they could experience even more pain and suffering.

Mon, 22 Feb 2010 14:13:00 UTC | #443124