What if I Love Debating and Bullying People Online? A Strategy for Change

Here is a recent comment from a reader named Rob:

I’m utterly discouraged. I try to turn around and be better so I’ll be on the way to heaven, but I still love things I should not, like bullying people online. I get off on being right and defeating someone in a debate, and I can be very rude and self-righteous. Even if I stay away from political forums, I still want badly to go into the fray, and sometimes I give in. My attitude towards people is very hostile still, and it doesn’t change. How can one not be discouraged? Obviously I care enough to post this and read the articles here and elsewhere, but I wonder if I’m just soothing my conscience. I still want to stand on people’s necks, so to speak. It’s the worst thing about me, but I only fear hell, not the thing itself. And often I just don’t care, especially right after I wake up. I just go right to it.

It seems hopeless, from my point of view.

Yes, it’s very discouraging. But it’s not hopeless.

CyberbullyingWe humans are stubborn beasts. Even after we take a hard look at ourselves and don’t like what we see, we keep right on thinking, feeling, and acting in the same awful way.

This does not mean we are doomed to be jerks forever. It does not mean there is no way off the slippery slope to hell. We can change. But a will to change is not enough. To bring about real and lasting change in our character, we must adopt effective strategies and methods.

It helps to have an understanding of the difference between our inner self and our outer self, and where to begin our attack. Contrary to popular belief, changing ourselves from the inside out is not the most effective strategy.

(Note: This post is a greatly expanded version of my original response to Rob’s comment. You can see his comment and my original reply here.)

Practical steps

Hi Rob,

You have already taken the first two steps, which are recognizing that what you’re doing is wrong, and caring enough to want to do something about it. This puts you ahead of most Internet trolls and “debaters” (really, fighters).

I have two practical suggestions. The first one is straight out of the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772). The second is a method to make the first one stick:

  1. When you feel the desire to attack and defeat people in online debate, and to stand on their necks, say to yourself, “I am thinking about this and I am intending to do it, but because it is a sin, I am not going to do it” (True Christianity #535).
  2. Once you notice the pattern of times and circumstances in which you do it, intentionally establish a different habit and routine to do instead whenever those times and circumstances come around.

The inner message: It is wrong, so I am not going to do it

All intentional change to our character does come from within. We must first recognize that something about us is wrong and needs changing, and we must have some desire to change it.

Recognizing that there is something wrong with ourselves has two basic requirements:

  1. Learning and adopting a moral and spiritual code by which to measure ourselves.
  2. Engaging in self-examination to see where we don’t measure up.

Most of us do grow up with some reasonable moral code that gives us an idea of what is right and wrong. And there is always more to learn about living a moral and spiritual life.

It’s easy to see what’s wrong with other people, and criticize them for it. It is much harder to turn the searchlight of truth in the opposite direction, and recognize where we ourselves don’t measure up.

Effective self-examination involves identifying specific wrong attitudes and actions in ourselves.

“I’m a bad person” isn’t helpful. What can we do with that?

“I enjoy bullying people online” is helpful. It gives us something specific to work on.

As it turns out, Rob has already checked both of these boxes. He has a moral code by which to measure his actions, and he has identified a specific wrong behavior in himself. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, that’s real progress!

What is sin, and why shouldn’t we do it?

What about that “sin” thing in the Swedenborg quote?

“Sin” sounds like a big, bad, old-fashioned word. But on the practical level, sin is quite simple: It is doing something that we know is wrong.

From a spiritual perspective, sin has two basic elements:

  1. It is harmful, destructive, and wrong.
  2. It is against God’s commandments.

As covered on its Wikipedia page, cyberbullying is indeed harmful, destructive, and wrong. Even if all we see is some text and pictures on a screen, there is a real person on the other end. It is especially damaging to the emotional and psychological lives of pre-teens and teenagers, many of whom have not developed the strength and assurance of character required to resist it. But it can cause great emotional distress to adults as well. In some cases it even leads to the victim committing suicide.

Recognizing that we are hurting real people is one way to realize that what we are doing is wrong, and that we must stop doing it.

Cyberbullying is also against God’s commandments.

Okay, there is no commandment in the Bible that says, “Thou shalt not cyberbully.” But there is this commandment:

Thou shalt not kill. (Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17)

If the victim commits suicide, then cyberbullying is killing in a very literal sense. But the deeper, spiritual meaning of this commandment is much broader. It includes killing a person’s reputation and livelihood, killing a person’s psychological and emotional life, killing a person’s faith and spiritual life, and so on. All of these and more are very real deaths, even if they are not physical deaths.

In short, cyberbullying, like in-person bullying, is harmful, destructive, and wrong and it is against God’s commandment not to kill. It is an evil thing to do. And if we know it is evil and against God’s commandments, and we keep on doing it, then it is a sin against God.

All of this is why, once we recognize it in ourselves, we must put an end to it.

That’s the hard part.

The outer action: Putting something better in its place

When it comes time to make real changes, even well-intentioned, self-reflective people often go off the rails in their plans for self-improvement.

One reason for this is the common idea that we have to change ourselves from the inside out. People make enormous efforts to change their motives, their attitudes, their patterns of thinking, and so on.

And then they do the same thing all over again.

And beat themselves up for it.

It is important understand that doing evil is pleasurable. We enjoy it. If we didn’t, why would we do it?

When we decide to take on our wrong behavior, we are fighting our own faulty heart.

Ever since the Fall of Humankind, the standard-issue human heart enjoys lifting itself up by putting other people down. And when it has successfully put other people down, it takes pleasure in their humiliation and pain. As long as we still have that faulty heart beating inside us, hurting other people feels good to us!

It is also important to understand that we are not good at fighting our own feelings. If we pit our will power against our feelings, our feelings and the desires of our heart will almost always win the war.

That’s why we need a different strategy to bring about real and lasting change in ourselves.

A strategy for change

Here is a proven strategy:

Instead of reforming yourself from the inside out, reform yourself from the outside in. Instead of focusing on your motives, attitudes, and patterns of thinking, focus on directly changing the behavior that flows from them.

It’s counter-intuitive. But it works. It makes it possible for our God-given intellect and rationality to do an end-run around our faulty heart. It gets us out of the quagmire of taking on our inner psyche, and onto the solid ground of dealing with our outward actions.

Replace evil behavior with good behavior

Once we have adopted the outside-in strategy, we need specific methods to implement it.

There are many possible methods to combat our wrong behavior. If you find a different one that works better for you, go for it! Meanwhile, here is one that has a solid basis in the Bible, and has proven effective for many people.

First, the general principle:

To change our behavior, we must not only not do the evil thing, but must also replace it with something good. If we manage to will ourselves to stop doing something bad, but don’t replace it with something good, we will end out like the person in Jesus’ Parable of the Empty House:

When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but it finds none. Then it says, “I will return to my house from which I came.” When it comes, it finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first. (Matthew 12:43–45)

The key word is that when the evil spirit returned, it found the house empty.

If we stop doing something bad, but don’t fill that empty space in our life with something better, we will go right back to our old behavior. Only it will be even worse. Why? Because having tried and failed, we will lose hope that it is even possible for us to change. Then we will throw ourselves even harder into our favorite destructive activities.

A method for changing bad behavior in ourselves

Here is a two-step method to avoid falling into that trap. It requires using your thinking and observing mind to purposefully replace bad behavior with good behavior.

  1. Begin by paying attention to the pattern of times and circumstances when you engage in the bad behavior.
  2. Intentionally establish a different habit and routine to do instead whenever those times and circumstances come around.

Spy on yourself

In the first step, you don’t even make any changes. You simply pay attention to the times and circumstances in which you engage in the wrong and destructive behavior. During this time period, you are still allowing your faulty heart to have its way when it prompts you to say and do things that hurt other people, and takes pleasure in it when you do.

Your better self is in a battle with your worse self. This is the intelligence-gathering phase. It happens by stealth. You are spying on the enemy in your own character. You are discovering its patterns, its triggers, its modus operandi.

Change your behavior

Only after you have engaged in this self-observation are you ready to begin your attack. That attack will not be against your inner motives and attitudes. It will be a frontal assault on your outward behavior.

Let’s use Rob’s example. He says:

Often I just don’t care, especially right after I wake up. I just go right to it.

Forget about the “I don’t care” part. That’s the faulty heart that we are not well-equipped to fight.

The strategic part is, “especially right after I wake up.” Now we know something specific about how our faulty heart operates. It gets us right after we wake up. That’s its modus operandi. And that’s where we will plan our attack.

This requires planning and strategy. Then it is time to put our plan into action.

When Rob wakes up in the morning, his faulty heart is roaring for the attack, desiring the pleasure of putting other people down. Rob will therefore create a post-wake-up routine for himself to replace what he would otherwise do at that time: go online and find some hapless human neck to put his foot on.

If your faulty heart hits you when you first wake up, here are some possible morning routines to derail it:

  1. Do half an hour of exercise that you enjoy.
  2. Read a chapter of a good book.
  3. Engage in a hobby that you like.
  4. Cook yourself a delicious breakfast.

There are many other possibilities. Make sure it is something that is both constructive and enjoyable. It could be a combination of two or three different activities. As long as it is simple enough to work for you. It doesn’t have to be a long routine. Just long enough to let the bad impulse pass.

If cyberbullying is your problem, the replacement routine should not be an activity on the computer. That would put you too close to the temptation. Leave the computer (or whatever device you use) off until you finish your new routine. This will give your mind time to get itself onto a different track. It will also give you the satisfaction of starting your day with a good, healthful, and enjoyable activity.

We may not get as much enjoyment out of our new routine at first. But as we persist in it, our pleasure in the bad behavior will gradually fade, and we will come to enjoy the good activities more than the bad ones. This is part of our process of “regeneration” or being “born again,” in which we turn our mind and heart away from evil and toward good.

If you fall off the wagon one morning, all is not lost, so don’t beat yourself up. Start again the next morning. If you wake up and find yourself in the middle of a mental debate about whether to cyberbully on the computer or do your new routine, remind yourself how good you feel when you finish the new activity. Take it one day at a time. Don’t give the enemy any rest. Even after you lose a battle, continue the war until you achieve victory.

Good motives will come later

Notice that this strategy of personal change does a complete end-run around our motives, attitudes, patterns of thinking, and our entire inner self.

This doesn’t mean our inner motives and attitudes don’t have to change. Only that it is much more effective to start our attack where we can see the most clearly, and act the most decisively.

Most of us have a hard time getting a handle on our inner psyche. But we can see very clearly the wrong words and actions that flow from it. It is better to start our attack where we can see clearly and stand on firm ground. The rest will come later.

Reforming ourselves from the outside in denies our faulty heart its expression. It starves out our wrong motives and bad attitudes until God can replace them with better ones from within.

Now let’s talk about motives.

While implementing the outside-in strategy, it is also a good idea to pay attention to your motives. If you are engaging in online debate because you want to prove that you’re right and other people are wrong, and because you want to defeat other people and “stand on their necks” (meaning subjugate them), then you are acting from what Swedenborg calls “love of domination from love of self.” This is what motivates people who build themselves up by putting other people down.

Your motives will ultimately determine who you are, and where you will live to eternity. That’s why it is worth thinking about your motives even while you are keeping your focus on reforming your outer self. (Our outer self is our words and actions, together with the lower part of our thinking mind that deals with our outward behavior.)

Bad and good motives for debating ideas

The proper purpose of conflict and debate is not to prove that you are right, or to elevate yourself above others and subjugate them to your will and your “superior intellect.” The proper purpose of conflict and debate is to stand up for, defend, and help people who are being hurt by evil and falsity of various kinds.

Consider this passage from Isaiah, in which the Lord is having an argument with the people of Israel about their wrong behavior:

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your doings
    from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
    learn to do good;
seek justice,
    rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
    plead for the widow.

Come now, let us argue it out,
    says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be like snow;
though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool.
                        Isaiah 1:16–18

In this argument, the Lord is not concerned about being right. Rather, the Lord is concerned to establish that people should “cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” If your purpose in arguing and debating is to prove people wrong, then you are engaging in it for the wrong reason. But if you see injustice being intellectually justified and excused, and you want to stand up for those who are being oppressed by injustice, or are not receiving justice, then you will approach argument and debate in a completely different way.

Having said that, I would suggest that initially you cease the online debating altogether. It will be too hard not to fall back into your old patterns of seeking to annihilate other people. When you feel yourself ready to argue, tell yourself that it is wrong because your motive is to subjugate and destroy another person. Then engage in whatever good and positive replacement routine you have created for yourself.

Tackling evil from the inside, in our motives, is far more difficult than tackling it from the outside, in our behavior. That is why I recommend that you not try to change your motives as your primary strategy for changing wrong behavior. Instead, attack and change the behavior itself using practical approaches such as the one outlined above. This will establish a foundation of good behavior. Over time, with God’s help, you can build a psychological superstructure of better motives on top of that foundation of good actions.

It takes time

This is not a theoretical issue for me. When I was in my teens and early twenties, I delighted in argument and debate. But it was not for the right reasons. I wanted to prove that I was right and they were wrong, that I was smarter than everyone else, and that everyone should listen to my brilliant wisdom. When I realized this about myself, I resolved not to engage in any argument and debate at all, or to keep it as short as possible if I couldn’t avoid it altogether. It took years, but simply by not acting upon my desire to prove that I was right, that desire gradually faded into the background.

Several decades later, I again engage in debate from time to time, mostly about religious beliefs and church doctrine. But it is no longer about proving that I’m right and they’re wrong. Rather, I see the damage that false religious teachings do to ordinary people as they struggle through life, and the pain it causes them. My goal is to refute and banish those false teachings because they are hurting people. My goal is to provide better beliefs that are true and biblically sound because they help people.

I say all of this to assure you that you won’t necessarily have to avoid discussion and debate forever. But for you to do it in a healthy and constructive way, your motives will have to change. That could take years of refocusing your mind and heart by creating good habits and behavior patterns to replace your old bad habits and behavior patterns. Meanwhile, it is probably better to avoid the online debate forums. It will only suck you back into your old wrong motives and actions. Keep with your new routine and habit until your desire to put your foot on people’s necks fades into the background.

Let’s give God the last word. It is a word of reassurance and hope:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Isaiah 36:26)

For further reading:


Lee Woofenden is an ordained minister, writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He enjoys taking spiritual insights from the Bible and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and putting them into plain English as guides for everyday life.

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138 comments on “What if I Love Debating and Bullying People Online? A Strategy for Change
  1. I feel that it’s easy to vent pent up anger on those we perceive as weaker or lesser than ourselves. Kicking the dog so to speak. Finding a healthier outlet for anger and frustration would go a long way. The Lord surely understands, but it’s for us to learn humility and self-control.

  2. Rob Skye says:

    The thing is, I don’t view others as weaker or lesser, I see myself that way. My whole life has been an effort to feel welcome in the world, to be accepted. The human race appears to me like a club that doesn’t want me as a member. That is how I see things, and there have been enough events to validate that (for me, anyway). I even have dreams where I am rejected by people. I see others as sources of pain and humiliation.

    I can’t love those who want to hurt me, even if that’s only real in my head. I’m 52 years old now, and this hasn’t changed for me (the way I feel and perceive the world). But even as a child I felt this way. To compound it all, I suffer from an ailment which leaves me tired all the time, so now I wake up fatigued, having to face a world with all its demands. Life to me is a burden, a crushing burden now with the added burden of a fearful eternity.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rob,

      All of this is why, unless you want to pay for expensive therapists, it’s better to deal with these things from the outside in. As you say, your feelings about life and people have not changed since you were young. It is therefore fairly unlikely that you are going to be able to change them in the next decade or two. Not impossible, but unlikely. That’s why I am suggesting you focus on your outward actions, not on your inner feelings.

      I recognize that you were dealt a bad hand. But that doesn’t mean you have to take that hand with you into eternity. Your physical ailment will be gone in the spiritual world. Any mental and emotional conditions that you did not bring upon yourself through willful bad choices will also be gone. And since your negative feelings about people have been with you since childhood, they are not due to willful bad choices on your part.

      You don’t have to love people in the sense of feeling affection for them. Just in the sense of treating them decently. It is love in action, not love in your emotions, that is most important.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rob,

      About viewing yourself as weaker or lesser, this can become a motivation for putting other people down. You want to make yourself feel greater by making other people feel lesser. That’s why you want to attack them and “put your foot on their neck.” It’s not a good motivation. But it is a natural one, which makes sense to our earthly mind.

      Regeneration is about acting from our higher, spiritual mind rather than from our lower, earthly mind. Unfortunately, as covered in the article, people’s attempts to change their inner self directly, such as changing their motives, are usually ineffective. When we start out in life, our earthly mind is firmly in control, and we get our pleasure from acting according to its urgings. And we are not good at fighting our motives, desires, and pleasures directly.

      That is why much of our path of regeneration must be focused on correcting our outward behavior. Even changing our outward behavior is not easy. But it’s easier than changing our motives and our sense of pleasure in doing evil and destructive things. If we adopt strategies of consciously and intentionally compelling ourselves to replace bad behavior with good behavior, and bad habit patterns with good habit patters, we can win the war, even if we don’t win every battle.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rob,

      FYI, the approach taken in this article is based especially on the chapter in Swedenborg’s book Divine Providence titled, “It is a law of divine providence that we should put aside evils in our outer nature, regarding them as sins and doing so in apparent autonomy, and that this is the only way the Lord can put aside the evils in our inner nature and in our outer nature alike.” It covers #100–128 in that book. If you don’t have a copy and you want to read it, you can do so online starting here.

      In this article, I have taken the general principles Swedenborg gives there and put them in a less abstract and more concrete form.

      • Rob Skye says:

        Thanks. That is an interesting quote from Divine Providence. I will think on it and try to work it. Boredom plays a big part in this; I don’t know what to do with myself so I live online. I guess I can watch movies or something.

    • Hello Rob,
      I hope you don’t mind me giving you some ideas or things to think about. I really empathized with what you wrote here. I understand why it feels that you don’t really belong to this world. It’s because we live in a world which really isn’t as natural as it once was; there’s not a balance between man and nature as much anymore, and this is why life can feel burdensome sometimes.

      This doesn’t mean the world is a terrible place of course, but it just means you have to sometimes find time to make a balance for yourself, and find harmony within yourself again.

      I understand what you mean about the added burden of a fearful eternity. This is Lee’s blog, so I won’t take the reins and tell you what to to think, but I can only suggest that you think for yourself and really see if there’s any basis in believing in an eternal hell in the first place. Personally, just speaking for myself, I don’t believe in an eternal hell, because I’ve never found the concept of an eternal hell in the original language of the Bible, and that has helped lessen a lot of stress that I’ve dealt with. I feel that if God is love, He won’t let anyone suffer in an eternal hell, even if it’s self-inflicted. Many near-death experiences have also shown that God can instantly rescue many people from a dark state if they call out to Him.

      But as I said, this is Lee’s blog and I don’t want to take up space, so I’ll pause here. I just wanted to give you a few things to think about, since I really felt for you when I saw what you wrote. Not everyone in this world is mean and out to hurt you; I know it can feel that way, but hopefully this may change your view. You just got total empathy from me, even if I don’t know you personally. And Lee is giving good advice to help you, too.

      • Rob Skye says:

        I wish you were right, but Swedenborg is definitely not a universalist. I agree that the Bible alone can make the case for universal reconciliation and salvation; but I can’t dismiss ES. He’s too compelling in a way I can’t describe. I’m drawn and disturbed, like Ralph Waldo Emerson was.

    • Vitaly says:

      Hi Rob,
      Thank you for the discussion. I often feel like you 🙂
      In other words, sometimes you hate yourself for your behaviour?
      Some people say: we should not hate ourselves – we should love ourselves (?!)
      But according to Swedenborg love of ourself is the root of the evil.
      That is dead end 🙂

      • Lee says:

        Hi Vitaly,

        Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment.

        Just to be clear, what Swedenborg says about loving ourselves is a little more complicated than that. Self-love, he says, is the root of evil only if we put it first in our life. If we consider our own wealth, power, and pleasure to be the most important thing, then our self-love is evil and destructive.

        However if we love God and our neighbor first, love of self can support those more important loves by ensuring that we take care of ourselves and maintain a healthy mind in a healthy body so that we can be in good shape to serve God and our fellow human beings.

        In other words, it’s a matter of priority. As long as we don’t put self-love first, it is a good love, not an evil love. It is not bad, but good to enjoy ourselves and to work for money and even for power, as long as we use them not just for our own benefit, but for the benefit of our fellow human beings as well. Jesus said we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

        • Vitaly says:

          Thank you Lee,
          Maybe the theme about “love” is better to discuss under your previous article “The Logic of Love: Why God became Jesus”. I will write something there.
          With love debating,

  3. Rob Skye says:

    Then God is not love. I never had children, so I have one good thing in my life to feel good about. I never brought a soul into this thresher, to live with the misery of life on earth, and the risk of eternal misery.

    It’s all so dark.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rob,

      Yes, God is love. God is always inviting and welcoming all people to join the angels in heaven, including the worst devils in the lowest levels of hell. The chasm between hell and heaven cannot be crossed, not because God refuses to allow people to cross it, but because the people who have chosen to live in hell have turned their backs on God, and are unwilling to cross over to heaven.

    • Hi Rob,

      I understand how you feel. This is just like the process I went through. I just couldn’t square a loving God with an eternal hell, no matter how I looked at it. For myself, I’d rather just not believe in any one religion than have to believe in an eternal hell. I was even thinking of becoming Jewish, because at least then I wouldn’t have to believe in an eternal hell. 🙂

      It’s a hard process, but ultimately, we have to decide for ourselves what we’re going to believe. Although many people say the parable about Lazarus and the rich man is about hell, other people say there are other ways to interpret the parable, so it’s hard to say that’s evidence of hell.

      You brought up a very good point. The risk of an eternal misery makes you feel it’s more humane to just keep souls in the safety of the afterlife, instead of bringing them to the earth if they have the chance to spend eternity in hell.

      From what near-death experiencers say, our idea of hell being an eternal place of torment is kind of inaccurate. “Hell” is more like a temporary spiritual time-out for people to reflect and work on the darkness in themselves, and God is always there to take them out of this dark state when they’re ready to grow beyond it. But sometimes people have to experience this dark state if they were very bitter or did many cruel things, so they can understand the consequences of their actions.

      However, this dark state is not eternal, and in my humble opinion, it shouldn’t be. If God is truly love, love does what is best for a person. Love doesn’t enable someone to torment themselves and others in hell for all eternity, in my opinion.

      I wouldn’t say that the Bible can’t make the case for a universal salvation of mankind. Just by reading it as it is, it actually makes a pretty strong case for it, when the words are translated correctly. But even if the Bible did say there was an eternal hell, I just don’t think I could believe in that. That’s why it’s hard for me to follow any one religion; I’m always thinking for myself.

      There are many religions and spiritual beliefs around the world which do not have the concept of an eternal hell at all. That’s another reason why I don’t believe in it.

      But everyone is free to believe what he wants to believe. Lee believes in an eternal hell, and that’s fine for him. But we can’t honestly say we know an eternal hell truly exists, and according to many near-death experiences, there may not really be an eternal hell at all.

      Of course, only God knows everything! 🙂

  4. By the way Rob, if this is really becoming a problem in your life, and you are really afraid of an eternal hell, then I would like to humbly offer you this post I wrote about it.

    I write about spiritual experiences I’ve had with a departed musician, and one of my fears was that his beautiful soul was in hell, because he didn’t live a perfect life and he wasn’t a perfect Christian. He was still a very good man, though, with a very gentle, beautiful heart.

    Please note that what I write is based on what the Bible itself says, not on Swedenborg. While I appreciate Swedenborg very much, and I can agree with a lot of his points, other things I don’t agree with, so I try to follow the Bible itself as much as I can.

    Here is the post. I hope Lee won’t mind me sharing it. It’s from a different perspective, but I earnestly hope it can help you out:


    Much blessings to you.💛

    • Lee says:

      Hi Autumn,

      I don’t mind if you link your article here. I understand that you are trying to help, and that you sincerely believe what you say in the article. Eternal hell sounds bad. Kind-hearted people don’t like it. And so they often reject it.

      But hell is not actually what “Christians” say it is. They have gotten it all wrong because have read the Bible’s descriptions of it literally instead of understanding them figuratively and metaphorically. On this, please see:

      Is There Really a Hell? What is it Like?

      Hell is not a place of “eternal conscious torment.” There is no literal hellfire scorching people’s flesh to all eternity. Rather, hell is a place where people who have chosen selfishness, greed, and hate over love and kindness are able to indulge in their sick pleasures as much as possible, but then inevitably feel the painful backlash against their evil actions. This backlash is not inflicted by God, but by themselves and their fellow evil spirits. Hell is a place where the God of Love has mercy on people who have chosen evil over good by giving them as much pleasure as is possible, given the self-limiting and self-punishing nature of their choice to live a selfish and greedy life, and be a selfish and greedy person.

      I know it is hard for people of good will and soft hearts to believe, but people who choose evil over good do so because they enjoy it. If you try to take away their evil pleasures from them, they will angrily lash out at you, and tell you to get out of their way. God would dearly love to bring all of them out of hell and raise them up to himself in heaven. But they are unwilling. Just as the people of Jerusalem were unwilling to allow the Lord to gather them under his wing as a hen gathers her chicks. And God will not force them to turn toward him and love him.

      It is true, as your article says, that there is no teaching of an eternal hell in the Hebrew Bible, aka the Old Testament. There is also no teaching of an eternal heaven in the Old Testament. That’s because there is no teaching about an afterlife at all in the Old Testament. The people of Old Testament times were so physical-minded that they were unable to think of anything beyond this earthly life. And so they were promised rewards for good behavior and threatened with punishments for bad behavior in this life.

      By the time the Lord came, some of that physical-mindedness was beginning to fade. People were then first beginning to be able to think spiritually. That’s why it is only in the New Testament that the Bible begins talking about an afterlife, heaven, and hell.

      To do so, it had to use the words that were available, which mostly came from Greek. Yes, Gehenna was a valley outside of Jerusalem where trash was burned to defile it because of the former practice of human sacrifice there. But that became a metaphor for hell. Jesus speaks in parables and metaphors all the time. If he spoke of Gehenna, he didn’t literally mean Gehenna. He meant the spiritual state that corresponds to Gehenna. And that spiritual state is hell.

      Even our own word “hell” originally came from a Germanic word meaning “to cover,” or basically, a grave, where the body was covered. Does this mean that every time we use the word “hell,” we are really talking about people getting buried in a grave? No, it doesn’t. We have taken a word that originally meant “to cover, to bury,” and have extended its meaning by using it to refer to “the underworld,” or the place in the spiritual world where people of evil hearts go down. Even in the spiritual world, visually hell appears like caverns and fissures in the rock, and underground places, because of this symbolism. But to the people who live there, it appears to be an ordinary environment, albeit a somewhat bleak one.

      It is possible to argue from the New Testament that there is no eternal hell, and even that there is no hell at all. But those arguments are not based on a sound understanding of the progression of belief among the ancient Jews from the times of the Hebrew Bible to New Testament times, and their rather late acceptance of more spiritual ideas that included a spiritual world and an afterlife.

      Even the common interpretation by universalists of the Greek word αἰώνιος (aiōnios) to strictly mean “of an era” or “of an age,” not “eternal,” is not sound linguistically. Yes, that is the original meaning of the word. But once again, words commonly expand beyond their original meanings. The Greek word αἰώνιος expanded from meaning “of an age” to meaning “eternal.” Sometimes it does refer to an age. But sometimes it refers to eternity. Universalists who try to make it always mean “an age,” and never “eternity,” do not understand how language works.

      Ironically, if we insist that that word means only “of an age,” and not “eternal,” then we must argue also that the Bible never says that there is eternal life, or an eternal heaven, because the Bible uses the exact same word for the “eternal” in “eternal life” that it does for the “eternal” in “eternal punishment.”

      You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that the Bible always means “of an age,” or temporary, when it talks about bad stuff, but it means “eternal,” or forever, when it talks about good stuff. Neither language nor life works that way.

      Besides, there are other passages where Jesus does indeed make it quite clear that hell, like heaven, never ends, such as:

      “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—where ‘their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched—where ‘their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire—where ‘their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’” (Mark 9:42–48, italics added)

      Yes, it’s possible to argue that the New Testament does not teach an eternal hell. But only by stretching and compressing its language all out of its natural shape. The clear message of passage after passage is that there is both eternal life, or heaven, and eternal death, or hell.

      That is not because God wants there to be an eternal hell, but because many of us want there to be an eternal hell. And God will not destroy our freedom and our humanity by forcing us to live in a way that we don’t want to live.

      I could say more, but this is enough for now. For a fuller version of why God has to allow us to create an eternal hell (no, God does not create hell) for us even to be human, please go to this article:

      The Bible, Emanuel Swedenborg, and Reincarnation

      and read starting with the section titled, “What’s wrong with reincarnation?”

      • Hi Lee,

        Thanks for being very kind and generous with your response. I read it through because I wanted to see your point of view.

        I understand what you mean about not being able to have it both ways. I wrote an article about that as well. I try to be intellectually honest, so I know that if you say there is no eternal hell in the Bible, you also have to forego eternal life.

        However, this is why I guess it’s hard for me to fit into a certain religion. I don’t take the Bible as the only source of knowledge on what the afterlife is like or could be. I still follow the Bible as closely as I can, but I have other perspectives on the afterlife as well, from other religions and cultures around the world.

        So this is where we would differ, and where it would be hard for us to come to the same conclusion. While I understand you can’t have it both ways, I also understand that it’s beyond us humans to really say that we know everything of what the afterlife is like.

        I do know that the belief in an eternal hell has caused untold amounts of harm and psychological issues to people throughout the centuries, which is one reason I am so against it. It just doesn’t seem like a good concept to hold onto, to be honest.

        I think the pain that the belief in an eternal hell causes is just too great to hold onto. That’s why I don’t believe in it. If I’m wrong, and God gives me a tour of hell on the other side :), well, I’ll eat humble pie. But I’d rather err on the side of mercy, if I had to.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Autumn,

          If God gives you a tour of hell in the afterlife, you will find that it isn’t anything like what traditional “Christians” describe. And you will find that the people who live there do so, not because God is forcing them to live there, but because that is where they want to live.

          For an illustration of this from human literature, I recommend reading the classic play “No Exit,” by Jean-Paul Sartre.

          For a little bit about what hell is and isn’t, please read this article:

          Is There Really a Hell? What is it Like?

          Yes, a wrong and false view of hell has caused untold amounts of psychological harm to people. That’s why the old corrupt “Christian” church must die.

          However, as unpopular as this may be in today’s liberal culture, the fear of hell has also motivated a whale of a lot of people to straighten out and fly right! Take away the fear of hell, and many people will become walking crime waves. I realize this isn’t the best motivation to straighten out one’s life. But for many people who are at a rather low level spiritually, it is the only motivation that has any hope of kicking their butts onto a better path in life.

          Perhaps not very “woke,” but very true. 😛

        • Hey, great little joke there! 😀

          Well, I guess this is where our views differ. I find it hard to believe in an eternal hell, especially when I examine the language. I’ve read some very good articles on the subject, and it seems that every time the word “aion” is used in the Bible, it means an age. If “aion” can also mean eternal, then the question that comes up is this: how do we know when it means eternal and when it means age? Is it the context that matters?

          Also, there is an actual word in the Hebrew and Greek which really means forever, all the time. It’s odd that it wasn’t used in the context of hell (or Sheol rather).

          But that’s where interpretation comes in, and I guess everyone can interpret the Bible differently. Only God has all the real answers.

          About the idea that hell is needed to make people moral, perhaps that would be the case in some societies. But in other societies, there is no concept of hell at all, and it hasn’t seemed to harm people that much. In Taoism, for instance, there is not much of a focus on the afterlife per se, but on how to live life in harmony with the universe. There is no eternal hell in Taoism, yet it’s one of the most peaceful ways of life I’ve ever seen. Of course, not all Taoists are perfect, but you see what I mean.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Autumn,

          I suspect that the articles you have been readings are articles by universalists who are making the argument against an eternal hell. If you read only the articles on one side of the question, and not on the other, you are not going to get a balanced view.

          Consider that the phrase “eternal life” occurs at least two dozen times in the New Testament, and that “eternal” is a translation of the Greek word aionion. It simply doesn’t make sense that in all of these passages, Jesus and the Apostles were saying that we would be blessed with life for an age. If so, what happens after that age? Do we then get life for another age? Or do we have to start all over again to qualify for life in the next age? It simply makes no sense.

          The clear meaning of the term aionion in all of these instances is “eternal.” Jesus and the Apostles are promising us life forever, not life for some undetermined but finite amount of time, after which our fate becomes uncertain.

          Now consider the negative usage of that term, as in “eternal punishment” or “eternal fire.” These occur only a few times compared to many times for “eternal life.” Still, it simply doesn’t make sense that while the New Testament is clearly talking about eternal life, not life for an age, when it talks about eternal punishment or eternal fire, it is talking about a temporary situation, only “for an age.”

          In other words, common sense tells us that in these instances, as in the others, aionion means “eternal,” not “for an age.” Yes, there are other contexts in which aionion means “age.” But these are not among them.

        • Actually, no, not every article I read was by a Universaliist. I always try to look at both sides. At one point, I believed in an eternal hell myself, so I wouldn’t say I never had the view about that.

          Some articles I read were not by Universalists at all. For instance, this article is not by a Universalist per se, but by a man named John Noe who has studied the Bible for over 26 years. He is a Conservative Evangelical Christian who also came to the conclusion that hell is simply not in the Bible.

          This is his article here: https://www.prophecyrefi.org/our-teachings/introduction-2/where-did-hell-come-from/

          Now, this man had no reason to believe in a Uinversal salvation for all mankind, since he wasn’t a Universalist. However, an honest look at the Scripture made him see there was no mention of hell in its original language, which is true.

          Actually, there is a Greek word in ancient Greek which means eternal. It is “aidios”. A link here shows it:

          When you think about it, just speaking scientifically, it actually makes sense in a way that it would be the life of the ages, rather than eternity. Even our universe, which will probably last for billions of years, must come to an end one day. You could see that as the end of the ages, at least that’s how I saw it. Then God could start another Big Bang, and the cycle could begin all over again. But that’s far out tripping! 🙂

        • Lee says:

          Hi Autumn,

          About the article you linked:

          All of the vocabulary that we now use to talk about spiritual things originally came from words for physical things. For example, “heaven” originally just meant “sky.” “Spirit” originally just meant “breath.” And yes, “hell” originally meant something covered up in the ground.

          We wouldn’t say, though, that there is no heaven because the word we use for heaven originally meant “sky.” Nor would we say that there is no such thing as spirituality, because the word “spirit” originally meant “breath.”

          Rather, what has happened is that we have taken words for physical things and expanded their meanings into the spiritual realms.

          This is partly because for thousands of years people were mostly materialistic, and didn’t talk about spiritual things, so they only had words for physical things.

          But it is also because everything in this physical world is an expression of things in the spiritual world, and ultimately an expression of God. Swedenborg called this “correspondences.” “Heaven” doesn’t just mean “sky.” Rather, our sky is a physical expression or manifestation of heaven. Spirit doesn’t just mean “breath.” Rather, our breath is a physical expression or manifestation of the spiritual life within us. And “hell” doesn’t just mean something buried under the ground. It is also a physical expression of the spiritual state of being buried away and hidden from God, which is a state of evil and hell.

          Unfortunately, evangelical Christians tend to be the most materialistic and literalistic of the Christians. This author has gotten stuck on the literal meaning of the word “hell” in its linguistic origins. His mind cannot rise up to the spiritual reality of which that physical reality is a correspondence, or expression.

          Plus, the version of hell he has been taught is wrong. Hell is not eternal conscious torment. Hell is where people who enjoy doing evil things go precisely because they enjoy doing evil things. The people in hell want to be there. God doesn’t want them to be there, but God allows them to be there because that is what they want, and God wants them to be able to enjoy the pleasures they have chosen, even though God knows they would have a much better life if they had chosen good pleasures instead of evil ones.

          I believe that most people who reject an eternal hell do so because they cannot get the old, false, literalistic idea of hell—the one with all the flames and pitchforks and torture—out of their minds. It is too deeply ingrained to change, so they reject hell altogether. But that idea of hell is absolutely wrong.

          Once again, these wrong and false teachings that do so much damage are the reason that the old so-called “Christian” Church must die.

        • Yes, it’s true the Evangelical Christians are the ones who are the most literal. They can be very stuck on the literal words. It’s good to see the tide is changing, though. Progress is slowly being made. 🙂

        • Lee says:

          Hi Autumn,

          I should add that no, there is not some other word in biblical Greek that means “eternal.” That’s why you get long-winded wordings such as “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8). In English we would simply say, “who is the Eternal and the Almighty.” But Greek has only aionios, and the author of Revelation wanted to be crystal clear about his meaning—not to mention using a poetic turn of phrase.

        • Hi Lee,
          Actually, there is a word that means eternal in Biblical greek. The word is aidios, which you can find if you want to look it up for yourself.
          Here is an example here: https://biblehub.com/greek/126.htm

        • Lee says:

          Hi Autumn,

          Good catch. I’ll have to study that word more closely. It is used only two times in the entire New Testament both of them in the Epistles. It doesn’t occur at all in the Gospels or in the book of Revelation. This suggests that it was an unusual word, whereas aionios was a more common word.

          The main point is that in many places aionios just doesn’t make sense if it does not mean “eternal.” That’s why almost all English translations do translate it that way in some contexts, even if the same translations translate it as “an age” in other contexts.

        • Well, you had a good catch with Aristotle. 😀

        • Lee says:

          Hi Autumn,

          Now that I’m back in my study, I am able to look up the Greek word aidios. As I suspected, it is a term used mostly in philosophical contexts. It occurs only once in the Septuagint, whereas aion in its various forms occurs frequently in the Septuagint to translate Hebrew words meaning “age” and “eternity.” Hence aion and aionios are very common in the New Testament, while aidios is rare.

          To return to an earlier question of yours, yes, it is necessary to look at the context to determine whether aion and aionios are referring to “an age” or “eternity.” (It is even more complicated than that, but no need to go into every ramification.) For example, if it is used in reference to God, clearly it means “eternal,” not just “an age.” But if it is used of “this world,” it means something that is very long, but that has a beginning and an end.

          This dual (and more) meaning of these words goes right back into Old Testament times, and was already well-developed before the New Testament was written.

          In short, it simply isn’t sustainable to think that aion and aionios always mean “an age,” not “eternity,” in the New Testament. The context determines the meaning. And since in the expression “eternal life” it clearly means life that goes on forever, the parallel expressions that denote a state of damnation also clearly refer to an eternal state, not a long but temporary one.

          Once again, though, that state is nothing like the hell that traditional Christians believe in. If I thought hell was what the so-called “Christians” say it is, I would also reject the idea of an eternal hell.

        • Well, I will keep doing research and continue to learn the language. It’s very interesting studying the original words and what they mean.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Autumn,

          Yes, some cultures and some people within various cultures do seem to need the threat of hell to motivate them to live a good life instead of an evil life, whereas other cultures and people within various cultures do not.

          Consider that in China, where Taoism originated, it is the religion of only about 10% of the population. The vast majority of people in China follow traditional Chinese folk religions, in which, among other things, there are evil spirits, and there is a hell that bad people go to.

          Taoism is a high-level religion for people who have sufficient spiritual awareness to take a higher view of things. That is why it is very much a minority religion. The common people mostly do not follow Taoism, but follow lower-level religious beliefs and practices that fit their non-intellectual and non-philosophical mindsets.

          Of course, this doesn’t answer the question of whether there actually is a hell, let alone an eternal hell. But just because some educated people who follow philosophical religions don’t need a hell to scare them into being good, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a whole lot more ordinary, not highly educated working-class people who don’t think so philosophically and spiritually, for whom fear of hell can be a real motivator.

        • I don’t know, really. On the one hand, hell seemed to motivate people to not commit crimes, but on the other hand, it caused some people to commit suicide because they were so afraid of going there. I don’t think it had a beneficial effect in the long-term. Controlling religions often use threats of eternal fire and pain after death to keep people in line, but that doesn’t mean it’s right.

        • Are there any actual statistics though that verify people have suicided for fear of going to “Hell”? That seems paradoxical to me. People who have a fear of Hell generally have a fear of dying. People who die from suicide have reached that point due to multi-factored causes. In broad terms, Hell is not uppermost in the minds of so many as to be a cause of overriding consternation. The day to day business of living and survival tends to tip the balance over navel gazing it obsessing over Hell. Suicide just isn’t that simple. There’s a massive amount of research out there that contradicts such simplicity in that regard.

        • Hello,
          I do not have statistics, but I did read about the trouble hell caused for people in, I think the 1800’s. I read it from a document that was written at the time when hellfire teaching was very prevalent, and one man was warning that many people in America at the time were actually taking their own lives because they feared they would sin too much and go to hell. It is a shame that this traditional idea of hell was hurting so much.

          I do not have statistics, but I have read several true accounts of people who expressed their fear of hell was so strong, they could not handle the idea of living on the earth and committing too many sins which would send them to hell. It’s a hard concept to understand, but if you literally believe in hellfire, and believe that if you commit too many sins, you will go to that fiery place, some people feel that taking their lives is a better idea than staying on the earth and committing too many sins.

          But I would agree that this kind of mind-set is not common in society anymore as a whole. Unfortunately, it is very common in literal and traditional Christian groups who preach of how too many sins can send you to hell.

          The reason it sounds so paradoxical to most people is that most people don’t believe in a literal, eternal hell fire. But for those who do, it can cause serious panic attacks and fear.

          Dr. Boyd C. Purcell has written about this on his website, if you would like to learn much better information than what I could give you. He has dealt with cases of people who were fearing hell because of their upbringing in a religious circle, and he has testified that he’s seen many people suffering from this belief, especially the traditional hell fire view.

          I agree though that most people who commit suicide would not do it out of fear of committing too many sins. Many people deal with depression or other things which can make them contemplate leaving this earth, and I do feel for them. It is not easy and there really isn’t a sole answer for why people commit suicide. So I didn’t mean that fear of hell is the only reason people commit suicide, but rather that it is one of many reasons. It’s not the most common reason, but I have read true accounts about people who struggled with this because of their religious beliefs.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Autumn,

          If people have committed suicide due to the type of fears of hell and damnation that you have described, it is indeed based on a false idea of hell.

          In particular, traditional Christians are often fixated on the quantity of sins that will get a person into hell vs. the quantity of good deeds that will get a person into heaven. Faith-alone Protestants commonly use this as an argument against any belief at all in good works or bad works having an influence on our salvation. And yet, they are commonly some of the strictest voices against anything that could possibly be considered to be sinful in some way. It is a complete contradiction.

          However, that whole line of thinking is based on a fallacy. It is not the quantity of our actions, whether good or bad, that determines whether we will go to heaven or hell. The idea that judgment is like a divine balance beam that has our good deeds on one pan and our bad deeds on the other is simply wrong.

          Rather, it is what type of love we have in our heart that determines whether we will go to heaven or to hell. Our deeds have meaning only as they express the loves and intentions behind them. Good deeds can be self-serving, and therefore spiritually bad, if we are doing them only to gain benefit for ourselves. Bad deeds can be done in ignorance, without any intention to harm anyone, in which case they are not judged to be bad deeds spiritually.

          If such suicides have taken place, then the blood of those people is on the hands of the false “Christian” teachers who have filled their heads with wrong and highly damaging ideas about the nature of judgment, the afterlife, and hell.

        • Hello,
          You are absolutely right. That is what I mean. There have been false teachings like these which have caused pain for many. You are right that this whole idea of a divine balance beam is completely incorrect, and it’s this kind of view that has caused people to stress and worry that if they commit too many sins, they’ll go to hell.

          Those are indeed wrong and highly damaging ideas, and sadly, they’re taking a long time to fade away. As you said, what truly matters is what is in your heart, and the motives behind what you do. Sometimes I have good motives to help people, for instance, but it may not always work out or be the right time. I used to be so hard on myself for the times when I made mistakes in the past, because I felt God would judge me. But now my view is totally different – I know that God looks into the heart, not just at what we do. As long as we learn from our mistakes and try our best to come from a place of goodness, we are on a good path.

          No one on the earth is perfect, but we can try to come from goodness and not from self-serving motives all the time. Of course, it’s important to take care of yourself, and have a balance, but it’s good to learn how to look beyond yourself and give to others.

        • Hi,
          I also hope that you will feel better in time, Leannemeredith. I hope you’re blessed and that you will be okay. I hope you find peace in whatever beliefs are right for you.

        • Over all, I just feel that God is too loving to have an eternal hell exist, and it wouldn’t be good for anyone involved. I could see maybe having a dark state in the afterlife that is temporary, to help a soul learn. But eternity is a long, long, time – in fact, it’s outside of time almost! How could God let someone experience that forever? When you really think about it, it just sounds absurd and very illogical. And it does hurt to think about it.

          So I think I’ll pause here, because I just can’t go back to believing in an eternal hell anymore. When I stopped believing in it, I let go of a lot of stress and I don’t need to return to it again.

          I may very well look into Judaism. It has a concept of hell that I can understand. A purifying process to help cleanse the soul, not an eternal place where evil has fun.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Autumn,

          Some people need not to believe in an eternal hell. I understand that. And there’s no real need to debate it. Either there is an eternal hell, or there isn’t one. What we believe about it isn’t going to change that.

          As you said in another comment, the most important thing is learning and living from love for our fellow human beings. If we do that, all of these other less important things will take care of themselves in due time.

        • That is so true. That’s what it’s all about. 🙂

        • By the way, Lee, thank you for the discussion on all these Biblical matters. Even if we have different points of view, it’s good to discuss different perspectives.

      • Hi Lee,

        Just a short point here: I don’t know which Bible you used to point out the verses in hell with them, but it must have been an older translation. In newer translations, including some by very good scholars, the word “hell’ is replaced with the original word, “Gehenna”. So it’s hard to say this is a concrete description of hell here. I will pause here, though, because I’ve got to catch up on some work. 🙂

        • Lee says:

          Hi Autumn,

          Once again, Jesus and the writers of the New Testament had to use the words that were available to them. Since the Hebrew Bible has very little vocabulary that could be used about an afterlife, and many Jews in New Testament times were using a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (the Septuagint) anyway, they had to use words from Greek culture and language such as Hades and Gehenna.

          This does not mean that these words don’t mean “hell.” Only that they are being used with metaphorical rather than literal meanings to refer to the state of evil and darkness after death that comes for those who reject God, goodness, and truth because their heart is evil and selfish.

          And in fact, when the New Testament uses these words, it doesn’t mean hell in the traditional “Christian” sense of a place of literal fire and eternal torment, because no such hell exists. These words and descriptions were being used figuratively, not literally, to refer to a place of evil, jealousy, and hatred among people who freely and persistently choose evil over good during their lifetime here on earth.

  5. Just one last point on aion: I agree with you that to say aion can never mean eternal is not sound linguistically. However, I don’t think all Universalists say that. From what I read and studied, although aion did expand to mean eternal later, this expansion happened long after the New Testament was translated. When studying words, it’s important to look at the period when the word was used to find the proper definition. At the time aion was used in the New Testament, the only definition it had was “an age” or a period of time with a beginning and end. If you look at Aristotle or other Greek writers of the time, they use the word aion in the same way: an age.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Autumn,

      Aristotle lived in the fourth century BC, four hundred years before New Testament times. By the time Jesus came, people’s minds were already opening to eternal life. So the word aionios was already beginning to expand in its meaning. When new ideas come into a culture, sometimes brand new words are coined to articulate those ideas, but more often, the meaning of existing related words are expanded to include the new meanings.

      • Wow, that is interesting. I didn’t know that. I thought Aristotle was closer to New Testament times than that. Well, I will study more etymology and see what comes up. Four hundred years is a pretty big gap, and I would say that is large enough where the word aion could expand to mean eternal.

  6. Rob Skye says:

    God puts us through hell on earth and expects us to live like it’s heaven. Then when we fail, he has designed us so hell becomes our environment. Something about “free will” too, but we didn’t have “free will” to choose whether or not we wanted to take part in his cruel experiment.

    I hope none of this is true. I hope when we die it’s just oblivion, sweet, sweet oblivion.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rob,

      None of that is true.

    • Hi Rob,

      I am sorry you feel so much pain about this. You have some very real concerns here which I can understand.

      I think – just to give you a little idea – that what may be best for you is to just not think about all these things right now. It’s not necessary to have perfect theology to come to God. All God really cares about is your heart, and giving love to others. If you can love God and love others, and love yourself, you’ve found God in your own way, and you’ll be alright. Even if you don’t follow a certain religion, you can still live a good life by showing love to others in whatever way you can.

      That’s the trouble when we get too caught up in being “right” or “wrong” in theology. Don’t get me wrong, theology is pretty important, but it’s nowhere near as meaningful as showing love to others in whatever way you can. Love is the true reality, because God is love. So just try to keep love in your heart, and you will be a-okay, Rob.

      • If you would like to read about God’s love, here’s a few thoughts I wrote about it. I was just blown away by what near-death experiences have shown about how loving God is:

        • I’m no theological expert however, I think it’s a mistake to view God in terms of all soft clouds, rainbows and harp-playing Angels. God is a wrathful God of considerable force and awesome anger. There is very real evil in this realm and one person’s idea of “love” or goodness isnt a sufficient redemptive force. It isn’t enough to sit on the fence and just love God so He will come to us. We are here apparently with purpose in a not very nice place. It sucks here and there is so much evil, wickedness and cruelty going on around us. I have had a NDE and while there was a beautiful peace and power of love, I was sent back with pretty clear instructions that I had stuff to do. This isn’t a passive process. We all have to do stuff and clearly need to get uncomfortable for God. And the truth is, there are religions out there that do have it wrong. That’s just my take away anyhow.

        • Hi,
          You make a very good point here. Although this post I wrote was about God’s love in particular, I agree with you that there is evil in this world. I never deny that in my writings. And if you read the whole post, you can see that I mentioned that we are here on the earth for a purpose, for sure.

          I don’t really see God as wrathful, but maybe we just have different perspectives. It’s an interesting coincidence, but I myself had an experience where I had a near-death vision. I was in a critical condition, but I felt peace and saw my deceased loved ones.

          In other posts, I’ve also written that any religions which encourage hatred or violence are clearly wrong. So I definitely understand the point that you are making here.

          I think God is immensely powerful, but not wrathful. I don’t think He needs to destroy people to help them see the light. I know it’s a hard world, though. I’ve been through abusive situations, and came out on the other side, so I know it’s not easy. But it’s harder to make it in this world when we really get depressed and down about it all the time. We are here to help others and give love as best as we can.

        • I agree with you, too, that we are here to do things and actively help others as best as we can. That’s part of our mission on the planet. By love, I don’t mean just feeling love, but also showing it to others in what we do.

        • By the way, I am so sorry that you lost your son. I personally believe – this is just my belief, based on what the early Christians taught – that even after death, people can find God. They do have a fuller awareness in the afterlife than they did here, so if they made harmful choices here, they can understand more fully what the consequences are of their actions. I believe, without a doubt, that people do have the chance to grow and change their minds in the afterlife.

          I am so sorry about how you are hurting right now. I know it’s hard. I recently experienced a family loss, too. If you need any help, you can read a few thoughts I wrote on salvation after death. I hope it helps you feel better. I wrote this for people who struggle with this same question about whether there’s any hope for a person to find God once he reaches the afterlife.


        • Lee says:

          Hi leeannemeredith,

          I agree that God is not all rainbows and ponies. God is immensely powerful, beyond all our ability to conceive of it. If God created this universe, complete with its supernovas, colliding galaxies, and supermassive black holes slurping up stars for lunch, then God is not just some nice, sweet, bland type of love.

          I do not believe that God has wrath in the usual sense of blazing anger within God’s self. However, to those who are in opposition to God, God’s love does become a blazing, destructive force if they attempt to stand in its presence. That’s because God’s love and wisdom will melt away and destroy evil and falsity in any direct encounter with it. People who are engaged in evil and falsity must be hidden away from the blazing glory of God, because to them, God’s love is experienced as blazing and destructive wrath.

          Even good people cannot stand to be in the direct presence of God’s love and wisdom without various atmospheres, layers, and veils attenuating it to a level that they are able to receive without harm. Getting too close to God would be like getting too close to the sun. We wouldn’t survive the encounter. That’s why Isaiah 45:15 says, “Truly, you are a God who hides himself,” which could also be translated “a God who veils himself.” This is a matter of God’s love and mercy, so that we will not be vaporized by the full force of God’s love.

          For more on the wrath of God, please see:

          What is the Wrath of God? Why was the Old Testament God so Angry, yet Jesus was so Peaceful?

  7. Andy says:

    Hi Lee.
    Since this topic is about cyber activities, I have a conundrum to ask, related to roleplay/sext text chat rooms such as Omegle and Emerald Chat, this also relates to masturbation and pornography, which you covered before. Is this habit of mine healthy at all, is it sinful/destructive most likely, and what would be a good method to change it if the latter is true? It’s not a heavy addiction of mine, as I’ll only ever use them at nighttime, and I never sext with anyone underage. Many times, I use these sites because I’m lonely and enjoy the intimacy, even if it’s virtual intimacy, from whoevers on the other line. However, I’m still worried that by doing this that not only am I sinning, but causing the other person on the line to sin. I do want to get married eventually, but I’m only in my early twenties and at the rate I’m maturing at, that likely won’t happen until I’m about 30, which is still a long ways away. Any advice you’d like to give me?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Andy,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment and question. Rather than talk about this here, where it could pull the discussion a little too far off-topic for the article about cyberbullying, please give this article a read:

      Is Sex Before Marriage Forbidden in the Bible?

      Then we can take up your question in the comments section there, if you like. I know it’s not exactly on topic there either, but it’s closer to on-topic there than here since we’re talking about virtual intimacy with another person. Thanks.

  8. “Any mental and emotional conditions that you did not bring upon yourself through willful choices will also be gone.”

    Hi Lee. In view of your comment above, what might happen with those who have brought on emotional/mental conditions for themselves through bad or sad and desperate choices such as perhaps substance abuse disorders? Bad things that happen to innocent souls? Did Swedenborg perceive no redemptive opportunities after physical death? Are there none? If there is possibly a life review post physical death as the Bible intimates, what is the point of it all? After the loss of a son to suicide, I have begun questioning so much of what I once accepted in faith. I begin to feel God is playing a cruel game with us as toys or play things. Life is such a learning journey, yet can those who have passed not look back over their lifetime with the value of hindsight and bigger picture and choose or achieve redemption? But no. It’s all too late it would seem. Personally, I feel a growing sense of anger at God and His Plans. As a mother, I have seen through my children that we are all born with an equal measure of purity and yet a set store of character and genetic heritage which may only be mediated to an extent by parenting and tempered or exaggerated by circumstances not chosen. Supposedly reincarnation is not a thing, so it’s not a progressive journey of Spiritual growth but an all or nothing end game over a few relatively short years of the human life time. And millions upon millions of “new Spirits” are continually born into this. It seems so futile and in light of all of this, I empathise with Rob’s outlook.
    Your thoughts on these things would be appreciated.

    • Lee says:

      Hi leeannemeredith,

      I am very sorry to hear about the death of your son by his own hand. That is enough to test anyone’s faith. Before saying anything else, I will say that traditional Catholic doctrine to the contrary notwithstanding, suicide does not cause people to go to hell. That is a false, unbiblical, and cruel doctrine.

      I do not know how old your son was when he died, but if he was still a teenager, he wouldn’t be going to hell in any case. People go to hell only if, as self-responsible adults, they consciously and intentionally choose to live from selfishness and greed when they were perfectly capable of choosing to live from love and thoughtfulness toward their fellow human beings instead. Teenagers are still living mostly in reaction to their circumstances, both internal and external. And they are not condemned if they make bad choices under those circumstances.

      Further, even as adults, desperate choices that people make when they feel that their back is against the wall do not condemn them to hell. We go to hell only based on wrong choices that we make in a state of mental freedom, not based on bad choices we make when we are under compulsion. Being in a desperate situation due to mental struggles or physical circumstances is a form of compulsion.

      Most people who get sucked into substance abuse are not making intentional choices to live from selfishness and greed instead of from love and kindness toward their fellow human beings. Most of them are not bad people in their heart. Most often they are facing pressures, abuses, or a sense of emptiness in their life beyond their ability to deal with, and they turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to dull the pain and fill the void.

      If these people die when they are in the throes of this downward spiral, they will not be met with condemnation, but with compassion. They will be put into the care of angels who are loving and compassionate as well as skilled in the complications and illnesses of the human mind and heart. If the new arrival to the spiritual world has a good heart underneath all of the dysfunction, they will reach in, draw that good heart out, and guide the person through the sometimes hard and painful work of breaking the grip of darkness and despair on their life.

      Further, our spiritual growth does not stop when we die. If our heart is good, we will continue to learn and grow as a person to eternity. In fact, we will have far greater opportunities for growth, because we will be living in the warmth and light of the spiritual world, which are God’s love and wisdom.

      I hope this helps. Here is an article that that, while it deals with a different situation, may be helpful for you in wrapping your mind around these tough issues:

      Can Gang Members Go to Heaven? (Is Life Fair?)

      • Hi Lee. My son was 19years and 3 months old at the time of his passing. He had a number of head injuries including as result of multiple punches to the face in an unprovoked assault by a drunken stranger when he was just 14. He subsequently suffered debilitating mental illness and began self-medicsting with marijuana and Xanax/Valium. He had always been an anxious child irrespective. He was not a street thug or junkie. He was trying to cope. The night he passed, he was being tormented online for hours by a girl he thought he loved and who was toying with him. I don’t understand any God who would punish a young person under such circumstances although I can’t say my son was necessarily “saved”. The good Lord puts His beloved children at the whim of evil forces in this world. If I could love and forgive this young man for all that happened, I would expect no less from a God who took away our free will the moment we entered this world without a choice? Thank you for taking the trouble to share your thoughts.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Leeannemeredith,

          That is a very painful story.

          Now that I have heard more of the situation, I can tell you with quite a bit of certainty that your son is not in hell. If he is not already in heaven, he is making the transition from the darkness of his life here to the realms of light. You can get some idea of what he has been experiencing by reading this article:

          What Happens To Us When We Die?

          The reason I am confident that your son is headed for heaven, not hell, is that he was a bit too young to have made an adult decision for hell over heaven, and also, his troubles were largely inflicted upon him from the outside. As you say, he was just trying to cope. I hope the young woman who was toying with him, and drove him over the edge, realizes the magnitude of what she has done. Words can be daggers plunging into people’s heart.

          I do not believe that God was punishing your son. But I do believe that evil is real. We humans perpetrate evil upon one another, causing great pain and anguish. God calls us away from engaging in such destructive words and actions, but many of us simply aren’t listening. The victims of this human evil who lose their lives at its hands are the ones who can finally be at peace. God sends angels to take care of them and bind up the wounds of their heart.

          It is best not to be naive about life, or about God. God does allow many terrible evils to happen. We humans cannot always understand why. Life here on earth is quite horrible for many people. From our house here in Soweto we can see dozens of people living in corrugated iron shacks. There are hundreds more just out of sight, and millions more throughout the country. Children are growing up in these shacks. We see them every day here at the church. And these children and their families are by no means the poorest or worst off people in the world.

          Life here on earth is a struggle. Not everyone makes it through. But spiritually, justice does prevail. And when we move on to our eternal homes in heaven, our time here on earth will be only a fading flicker of shadow.

          This is not the time or the place for a long disquisition on God’s love in the face of human suffering. However, if and when you would like to delve into these questions more deeply, here is the first of a four-part article that I recommend to your reading:

          How can we have Faith when So Many Bad Things happen to So Many Good People? Part 1

        • Thank you Lee for sharing your insight into the issue I’m grappling with. Only through this loss have I discovered Swedenborg’s work and your own website which have helped me a great deal. My faith has never been so shaken although I long ago abandoned religion, I did not abandon my faith. I realise these are tests that will inevitably raise doubts and questions for me. To lose belief would be to lose the hope of being reunited with my beautiful son. He is a very sensitive empath for whom life was very difficult. I’m still struggling to forgive this young woman who has not changed her predatory behaviour in the intervening 18 months and caused yet more problems for other vulnerable young men. However, I must move on and find my own way and I thank you for sharing the articles which I will read. Your experiences in your new home town will hopefully provide for a rich store of new observations about the struggles of life here on earth in future posts. I hope not to continue in my arrogant questioning of God and His ways and am thankful to have been guided this far. Many thanks.

        • Lee says:

          Hi leeannemeredith,

          Yes, losing a child is a very severe test of faith. I am glad you are finding some help here, and in Swedenborg’s writings. I wish I could say that everything will be okay, and in time you will feel better. But realistically, it is more likely that you will have a hole in your heart until the day you are reunited with your son in heaven. Meanwhile, as you say, we just have to struggle along here on earth, and do the work that is in front of us.

          About the young woman who pushed your son over the edge, this saying of Jesus comes to mind:

          Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. (Luke 17:1–2)

          I do hope this young woman eventually sees the light and repents from her predatory behavior. It does not go well in the spiritual world for people who knowingly and persistently cause severe and even deadly harm to other people through enticement and deception.

          And yes, living amid stark contrasts of wealth and poverty here in South Africa is a humbling experience. We may get impatient at all of the practical problems we face here, but all we have to do is look down the hill and see people living in shacks, and we cannot feel sorry for ourselves. We have much to be thankful for.

          About your “arrogant questioning of God,” that is in a long tradition of poets and prophets who shake their fist at God before coming to some understanding and resolution in their mind and heart about the injustice and pain that exists on this earth, under God’s watchful eye. God is big enough that we can shake our fist at God, and God will continue to engage with us and love us, and do everything possible to lead us out of our darkness and toward the light.

      • Rob Skye says:

        If children and teenagers are incapable of making choices in states of mental freedom, then isn’t it the case that they don’t have free will? And aren’t we told that to not have free will is to not really be human (free will being a defining characteristic of being human)?

        If those who don’t have the mental freedom (free will) go to heaven, then can’t we conclude that free will isn’t as important as we are told it is? Will those have free will in heaven? Is it fair to saddle the ones unfortunate to survive childhood with a tendency that can keep them from heaven?

        • Hi Rob.
          Even our legal systems recognise the difference between freedom of choice and actions taken under mental incapacity. I understand your feelings of disgruntlement and anger at being “forced” to live in a world that wasn’t of your choosing. I have pondered this myself and realised it just is what it is. Therefore, I have to find a way to get on with it and try to live as best I can. I’m sure that if I were struggling to find food or shelter or freedom, I would have other things on my mind. Our problems are relative and circumstantial. I look at something as simple as a worker bee or ant and realise that we just are and so we must just do. My anger at God makes no difference to my life, it just embitters me and makes me feel more hopeless. The best we can do is take control and live better. The rest will surely follow.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rob,

          This is a complicated subject, but I’ll do my best to keep to the basics.

          First, there are two key types of freedom:

          1. Freedom of choice
          2. Freedom to live the way we choose

          These may seem almost the same, but they are quite different. Freedom of choice means choosing which thing we want. Freedom to live the way we choose means being able to enjoy what we have chosen.

          To use a simple and perhaps a bit silly example:

          Freedom of choice would be going to an ice cream truck and choosing to have a strawberry ice cream cone. Freedom to live the way we choose would be having the money (and permission, if you’re a child) to buy the strawberry ice cream cone, and then eating it.

          As in that example, freedom of choice is only the initial type of freedom. All it really does is send us in one direction rather than another. The more fundamental freedom is the freedom to live the way we have chosen, which is an ongoing freedom.

          To use a more substantive example, when we are young we may consider various possible careers, and then settle upon one. This is freedom of choice. If we are then able to enter into that career, it becomes a lifelong activity for us. Freedom of choice is only a prelude to the main event of freedom to live as we have chosen.

          By the time we have finished our life on earth, if we have been able to live as an adult for some length of time, we will have made the big choice of which way we want our life to go, up or down. That freedom is only a prelude to the freedom we enjoy to eternity as human beings under God’s love, which is the freedom to live the life that we have chosen.

          Even in heaven (or hell) we do still have the freedom to choose one item or activity over another. So we do still have freedom of choice on a day-to-day and moment-to-moment basis. But we will have already made the big choice of which direction we want to go in life, and we do not revisit and re-litigate that choice. We continue in the direction that we chose on earth.

          Second, it takes time to make a human being. We don’t pop into existence fully formed. Physically, it takes nine months in the womb to form a human body capable of living outside the womb, and another eighteen or twenty years to develop the body to full adult maturity. Our spirit, which lives on after death, can take even longer to form into a fully developed human being. Ideally, we have an entire lifetime on earth to accomplish this.

          Developing our spirit, within our body, to the point at which it is capable of making the big choice of good vs. evil, and the particular direction to go within the general fields of good and evil, takes a couple of decades. Actually making that choice can take a lifetime. We humans are tremendously complex, both physically and spiritually. We require time to develop our full capacities.

          However, at some point before we are fully adult and spiritually self-responsible, we develop a heart, mind, and character that are human. This, under God’s economy, cannot just be snuffed out. Therefore we do not have to wait until full adulthood to have eternal life. We attain to the ability to live eternally some time (I believe) between conception and birth. And it would be terribly unfair and unjust if, in the case that we die before reaching full adulthood, we were condemned to live in hell, even though we had not developed our full human capacities, so that we could have chosen such a course. Therefore God provides that everyone who dies after developing enough humanity to have eternal life, but before reaching adulthood and the full human capacity for freedom of choice, will go to heaven, not to hell.

          Whether we die before adulthood or after, we will have the freedom to live as we choose to eternity. However, if we die before adulthood, in a sense, the big choice of whether to live in heaven or in hell has been made for us by God. We then continue to enjoy the freedom to live as we choose to eternity. Even children raised in heaven are made aware of evil. They simply don’t choose it, but choose good instead.

          I know this is a bit mind-bending. But the fundamental point is that even people who didn’t get a chance to make the big choice for themselves still have freedom in heaven, because they still live according to their own character, desires, and loves.

          Perhaps a better way to express the second type of freedom would be: “Freedom to live the way we love.”

  9. Thank you Lee. I did smile as I have indeed metaphorically shaken my fist at God in recent times. Never before have I questioned Him or felt such anger at His apparent silence, but I guess in a roundabout way, this leads to deeper understandings and perhaps eventually stronger convictions. What I am realising is that I must learn to live alongside this pain as it won’t ever dissipate. I would lay down my life for my son’s if I could bargain with God, but then possibly that would not have solved any of my child’s pain. Mental illness is incredibly complex and sadly in Australia where I live, suicide rates remain steady. As for this young woman, she herself probably has issues. I choose to think this over the possibility of plain, sadistic cruelty. That said, that quote from Luke that you cited perhaps helps us understand that God is not ultimately indifferent to the evils perpetrated in this world. Thank you so much. Your responses throughout this thread have helped immensely.

    • Lee says:

      Hi leeannemeredith,

      You are most welcome. It sounds like you are getting a handle on the situation in your mind, even if the pain remains in your heart. Good can come from evil, but the evil is still evil, and it still hurts. I hope you are right that this young woman is simply acting out her own issues.

      I do believe that God allows us to struggle with the pain and injustice of this life in part because it prompts us to look deeper into the meaning of our life, and to search for answers in a way that we wouldn’t if God just popped into our living room and handed us the answer sheet. The work of searching for understanding and truth, and coming to it through difficult and often painful effort, makes it our own, and part of our soul, in a way that it wouldn’t be if we were given quick and easy answers every time calamity shook up our world.

  10. Rami says:

    Hi Rob,

    I wonder a bit about your framing- you describe it in terms of the pleasure you derive from being right and bullying people into submission, but do you think, perhaps more deeply, this flows from a kind of inferiority complex, where you more resent being told you’re wrong? That is, you resent the idea of an individual or a group of people collectively arguing for not only faults in your arguments, but for faults in *you*, for believing them? This is could be especially true if you’re arguing for an unpopular opinion, which often involves being piled-on by an arrogant mob assured of both their correctness and of your deficiencies.

    In that regard, what you currently think of as proactive bullying could in fact be much more reactive act, where the only recourse you feel toward perceived condescension is to become a much worse, much nastier person so as to inflict upon them what you feel they are attempting to inflict on you.

    I’m of course just spitballing here, but I have enough personal experience with the above to suggest it as something you maybe look into, when trying to better understand what you do and why you’re doing it.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rami,

      FYI, Rob has already talked about this in the comments section above, in this comment.

    • Rob Skye says:

      Yes Rami, you spelled it out exactly how I see it. The only exception I have would be that I don’t have to be initially on the receiving end. I can even take personally things directed at others, if I share their views or see myself in their camp.

      Overall, it does come from a sense of being less than others. I have no doubt about that as an extremely (too me) introspective person who has thought about this for many, many years. I am more likely though to get riled if the other person is being rude or sarcastic. If they post just facts in an informative way, I don’t usually get bent, I’m more likely to get bored. Part of me likes to be attacked since it gives me the opportunity to punch the world in the head (so to speak). Kind of like in traffic, where people take their frustrations with life out on other drivers.

      However, it is also embarrassing to admit that I do this online because it is safer. I wouldn’t talk to people in the real world the way I do online because I would probable get a beat-down. Eric Hoffer said, “Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength,” and that is me, the weak man.

      • Thank you for explaining and teasing this issue out. It helps me to understand a little better the motivations for this behaviour. I have a close relative who behaves in this way also and it has shone a light on possible reasons for this. I had often wondered whether her explosive anger and volatility and seeming victim mentality were perhaps the result of undiagnosed mental disorders. Perhaps if I may offer something to consider without knowing anything of your background? Developmental Trauma can lead to a halt in emotional maturity. Often if there has been an event of some sort in childhood (anything sufficient to cause emotional distress), the brain is altered and emotional growth can halt at that particular age and point in time. If you research this a little, you will learn that it can be treated. However, I may be completely off track in your case. We humans are fragile and sensitive creatures 🙂

      • Rami says:

        Hi Rob,

        I brought this up because what you described sounds suspiciously consistent with the way I might describe myself, though the bullying aspect of things is something I left behind in my mid 20’s (I’m 38 now). For me, there’s nothing more blood boiling than seeing someone on Twitter so arrogantly self-assured of an opinion I know to be wrong condescend- usually with their buddies- to someone else I know to be right, albeit doing a bad job of expressing it. I’m not the one they’re talking to, and I’m not even a part of the conversation, but when I see it, I feel as though they are personally condescending to me as inferior and laughing all the way home, which comes off as an enraging personal sleight against me.

        However, I notice that not all instances necessarily produce this (involuntary) reaction. Not every person who does it necessarily gets me upset, and not every subject necessarily affects me personally. It’s worth asking if there are any subjects or categories of people toward whom you feel a particular animosity when these things happen, and I found in my own personal experience that there are, and the answers to those questions were very revealing, as I suspect it will be for you.

        I should mention that everything I said above isn’t a state of mind that I embrace as part of who I am. These are involuntary reactions, the roots of which go very deep and very far back, so when I describe myself in these ways, I do so as a neutral observer, setting aside judgement for the moment and just detailing what I see happening.

        • Rob Skye says:

          My trigger is politics, news, social issues. In some ways I’m like a rabid sports fan, but my sport is news and current events. I too get triggered with the condescension and arrogance, especially when I read Twitter. Twitter is toxic; I don’t have an account, but I find my way there if a story is linked.

          I realize that I’m not alone in this (getting angry on social media), in fact it’s very common and has become something dangerous for society. When you see only words on a page, maybe with a small picture of the poster, it’s easy to not see the other as a person; they are just the viewpoint that you may disagree with. It’s a lot easier to be nasty towards people in that realm. I’m old enough to remember a time before the internet took off, when people could vehemently disagree yet still be civil or even friends. Now we have a whole generation that has been online since even before they became adults, and have internalized that dehumanizing dynamic of social media. It’s hard to get away from it.

          Earlier today I was fine, I was avoiding certain places on the web to practice repentance, to try to be better, but the administrator of a Facebook group I belong to, a non-political group I will add, went on a political rant, insulting not only the elected and appointed political figures, but all those who support them. The said administrator closed the comments so no one could reply. I was angry, but decided not to try to get a word in. However as the hour went on, my anger didn’t subside but grew. I found myself back on a forum where people are often nasty to each other, but I still made sure to be civil. The anger did subside, but it bothers me that it was only after I engaged in some debate. Resisting the urge to post didn’t work, I had to get it out of my system. How can I win when it’s like this?

          Maybe I should try to be more adept, instead of forgoing online activity, try instead to temper my interaction with calmer, better speech. Sometimes typing out my heated reply then deleting it a few minutes later has also worked. Or maybe I should get a motorcycle.

          Just trying to stay out of hell here.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rob,

          I vote for the motorcycle! But don’t ride when you’re angry. Not good!

        • Rami says:

          Hi Rob,

          It’s funny you mention the old days, because I was regularly chatting and arguing during the AOL days, and I remember the level of vitriol being truly *nasty* back then. Maybe it’s not any or more nasty than it is these days, though back then you couldn’t make your nastiness viral and broadcast it to the whole world.

          Twitter is unfortunately my own personal trigger point, because Twitter can incite a pile-on of condescension and mockery like no other service can. I personally like it when someone disables comments or outright blocks me, because I know that my involvement is both bad for my health and comes from a largely negative place, and being prevented from commenting does for me what I was unable and unwilling to do for myself.

          I get that this kind of thing seems largely unavoidable, and really, the only way to avoid it is to avoid social media. Which is impractical for many people, and sometimes impossible for most.

          What you can do though- what I did, at least- was compose whatever message I wanted to send on my own personal notepad, and never send it. For me, the idea that I *have* a response, and that I *could* respond with it took a lot of the edge off. It was oddly relieving knowing that satisfaction was merely a copy-paste-click away, should I want to do it. After a little while, the anxiety wore off. And that’s what a lot of this is about- anxiety, tension, and the only way to relieve it is to lash out. In this way, what you’re doing is like composing an email you never plan to send.

          One thing I also did when I needed to walk away from social media was to tell myself that I’ve already seen everything. I’ve seen all the arguments, I’ve witnessed all the behaviors, and I know that nothing essentially new is in store for me. I’ve seen enough and read enough to know how I should feel, and I’m ready to close the book on it. And in a way, it’s true: you’re not going to see anything new on social media. Sure, the stories may change, the arguments may change, but most of it is just variations on a theme. You know fundamentally what to expect, and you’re not going to see anything new.

          Maybe this will give you some time and a sense of closure so you can take the necessary distance away from all of this and work on yourself, because I’m sure you know that trying to work on your problems while surrounding yourself with the place where you’re most triggered is like trying to sober up in a bar: it’s just not gonna work.

        • Rami says:

          P.S. Lee: if you find any of my suggestions are counter-productive or harmful, I trust you’ll let me know, because the last thing I would want to do is exacerbate a problem in my attempt to help.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rami,

          Looks good so far! Thanks.

  11. Rami says:

    Hi Lee,

    I wanted to briefly ask you about this idea of evil impulses (or impulses toward evil) flowing from hell, because we once discussed the idea of channeling our destructive impulses into something constructive and positive- in effect, sublimating them. If one feels the impulse to, say, cheat on their spouse, they can instead redirect that energy into something constructive, like exercise, home improvement, or literally anything else. Indeed we often hear about similar ideas when people talk about releasing all their pent up negativity on a punching bag or on a treadmill, or whatever it is that people may want to use for release.

    This whole idea seems to rest on the idea that this ‘energy’ is morally neutral, and is instead a kind of raw material that can instead be used for anything.

    But if these impulses come from hell, and as such are intrinsically evil, does that mean there is no way to constructively redirect this energy because its only purpose is destruction? That this energy is spiritual poison, and there’s no way to add poison to a recipe without the cake also coming out poisonous?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rami,

      This can get as complicated as you want it to. But the simple answer is that evil has no energy of its own. All of its energy is good that has been twisted into evil.

      God’s love is the origin of all the energy in the universe. Even hell is powered by God’s love. However, when God’s love reaches hell, the evil spirits turn it into hate, anger, jealousy, violence, and so on. Swedenborg uses the example of sunlight, which, when it hits a fruit tree, is turned into fruit, but when it hits a dead body, is turned into putrefaction and maggots. It is the recipient that either keeps it good or turns it into evil.

      Energy is intrinsically good, not neutral, but it can be turned into evil by the recipient.

      This also means that everything evil is the twisting and destruction of something good. Adultery, to use your example, takes something good, which is loving, faithful, monogamous marriage, and turns it into evil, which is cheating, deception, and the destruction of a marriage. The physical act is basically the same. But because it involves destroying the love and trust in a marriage, it is evil rather than good.

      In short, no evil that comes from hell has its own independent existence. No evil from hell is something for which there is no good equivalent. Rather, it is always the twisting and destruction of something good.

      When we accept inflow from hell, it is a prompting, not to do or create something new, but to destroy some already existing good. To use another example, robbery does not create any new goods. It only redirects other people’s goods toward oneself. It destroys other people’s wealth and well-being in the process of augmenting one’s own.

      Accepting inflow from heaven instead of hell means doing or creating the good thing instead of tainting or wrecking the good thing.

      “Sublimating” generally involves trying to substitute some entirely different expression for the original prompting. For example, we desire to have a torrid affair, but we write an anguished novel of unrequited love instead. While sublimation may sometimes be necessary, it is generally not a good long-term solution. Our desire for intimacy with another person cannot just be replaced with something else. It is a fundamental element of our character as human beings (for most of us, at least). The only really good long-term solution is to engage in a healthy long-term intimate relationship with another person, instead of engaging in unhealthy ones.

  12. Rob Skye says:

    Yes, I should just avoid those places where I get triggered. I was staying away from the places that get me in trouble, in fact I was studying some of Swedenborg’s writings in George Dole’s ‘A Thoughtful Soul’ (a great book) when I was blind-sided by the post I mentioned above. Not that I’m trying to shift the blame, it was still me that gave in eventually. Now I feel like such a fraud.

    • Rob Skye says:

      I do (sincerely) feel sorry about it, not just my doing it, but sinning against God.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rob,

      It’s not being a fraud. It’s being human. We are not Jesus Christ. We are not going to win every single one of our battles against evil. But as I said in the article, even though we will lose some battles, we must press onward until we win the war. Don’t let yourself get discouraged when you slip up and have an episode of cyberbullying. Pick yourself up and keep moving forward.

      The enemy wants you to get discouraged and give in. The enemy will crow at the slightest win, and try to make you feel like a failure so that you will give up. Don’t fall for it. Dust yourself off and get back onto the path.

      And keep up with the Swedenborg and Bible reading, too. A Thoughtful Soul is now a classic. And there are more where that came from! Annette loves George Dole’s book Freedom and Evil.

  13. Giorgia says:

    Dear Lee,
    Hello, I hope you will see this and answer my questions! Thank you in advance if you do!

    For a while now I have been struggling with anxiety, to the point where it makes daily activity difficult, such as interacting with other people or doing basic tasks. But the saddest thing is I know how my life would be if I wasn’t like this.

    I feel as if I can feel the life God has made for me slip away. I feel and understand how im supposed to be, yet I fail time and time again. I feel as if im a dissapointment to him because I can’t get over my fears, that im not the person he made me to be.

    I really enjoy your website and you’re rather knowledgeable on most things God, so I was wondering.. well many things

    Alot of christians say that you should lay all your anxieties on God and trust him and that will fix everything, but well.. thats easier said then done. I know God loves everybody, I know he loves me, but maybe like I said he’s disspointed in me? How can I make it up to God? Should I pray? I mean, I already do.

    What ARE God opinions on mental illness? Does the bible mention them anywhere?
    Maybe im worrying over noting, I tend to do that haha

    Once again, I hope you see this
    Thank you,

    • Lee says:

      Hi Giorgia,

      Thanks for stopping by and telling your story.

      The first thing to know is that God looks for the good in us, not the bad in us. God looks at us only with love. And God understands the struggles we are going through. God is not disappointed in you. Rather, God looks at your struggles with compassion.

      Yes, laying your anxieties on God sounds good. But as you say, that’s easier said than done. God will not magically fix all of our problems for us. We need to do the work of facing them, learning about them, and taking steps to overcome them, or if they are not fixable, figuring out how to live with them. If it were up to God to do everything for us, the Bible wouldn’t tell us to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).

      About praying vs. working on the problem, please see:

      Pray to God, but Row Away from the Rocks

      In the Bible, what we call mental illness today is called demon possession. Here is the first part of a two-part article that covers some issues related to mental illness, based on a Bible story of demon possession:

      Facing our Demons of Darkness, Depression, and Mental Illness – Part 1

      I hope these thoughts and articles help. Feel free to continue the conversation if you still have thoughts or questions after reading them.

  14. Rob Skye says:

    I just bought the book and have started reading. I already find it compelling, but I also feel again like a fraud. It’s so easy for me to give in to my meaner impulses, and think thoughts of resentment, revenge and control. And it’s the ease in which I do that bothers me. Like I mentioned above, when I wake up I just don’t care about goodness, heaven or hell. For a while at least. This is one of the reasons I say I feel like a fraud, because at best I’m just going through the motions, but my heart still likes things that are evil. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be a loving person, it’s so far and different than what I am. Can’t imagine it. I do pray about it, but I doubt my own sincerity, and feel like a phony.

    I brought some of this up on the Off The Left Eye YouTube channel, and was told that all it takes is “a little turning away from complete self-absorption, a little turning toward following a higher power and wanting to be helpful to others.” I’m skeptical of that; that my meager efforts, and meager concern is enough. More than before, I am seeing hell more now from a perspective that lines up with Swedenborg, that hell is for people that already have chosen it. That makes sense, but for that reason I’m discouraged, since I have so much “love” for the things that would have me in hell. The distance between what I am now and the person I need to be is astronomically wide. I would say my heart’s not in it, but I am here expressing some concern, so I can’t be sure of that.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rob,

      Glad you’re enjoying the book so far. It’s one of the few substantial Swedenborgian books that is entirely devoted to the problem of evil. Of course, Swedenborg’s own Divine Providence is the magnum opus on the problem of evil.

      About feeling like a phony, there’s a saying in AA: “Fake it until you make it.” I.e., it’s going to feel fake and phony at first. But keep at it anyway, until it becomes sincere.

      I would say that the advice you got on offTheLeftEye is fine, but it’s the “lite” version. It is true that all we have to do is turn at least a little toward good instead of toward evil, and that will be sufficient. The problem is, for most people, the evil does not give up without a fight, so that’s easier said than done.

      The full-calorie version is that we are engaged in an all-out war with hell, which has got a firm grip on our soul, and winning that war ain’t gonna be easy, and it ain’t gonna be pretty.

      Though we start out in life innocent, and therefore by default go to heaven rather than hell if we die, we also start out in life completely self-absorbed. Or to put it more plainly, as Swedenborg does, we are “born into evils of every kind.” Because once our innocence wears off, our inborn self-absorption becomes the source of all of our evil desires, thoughts, and actions. We don’t go to hell except for evil things we intentionally do as self-responsible adults. But if we follow the natural arc of our fallen spiritual heredity, we will go to hell, because we will knowingly do evil in order to satisfy our desire for pleasure, possessions, and power.

      And we will enjoy doing that evil. Because our natural, unregenerate heart gets great pleasure from acting out of self-interest and greed. Whether you want to call it self-absorption or selfishness, it amounts to the same thing. People who are all wrapped up in themselves and their own angst are just as tangled in the web of hell as people who spend their days screwing other people for their own pleasure and benefit.

      However, we also have another heart, on the spiritual level of our mind. Our unregenerate heart is on the “natural” level of our mind, but we have an undeveloped spiritual heart that begins to make its presence known some time in our adulthood when we begin to re-evaluate our life and think that maybe the person we are isn’t so great, and needs to change. Then the war begins between our higher and lower self, and the battles start.

      This also means that it is not fake or phony to have the desire to be good and loving, while actually being hateful and spiteful toward other people. Rather, our enjoyment of being hateful and spiteful is the expression of our natural, unregenerate heart, whereas our desire to be loving is the expression of our developing spiritual heart.

      The real question is: Which one will prevail?

      That question will be answered in the course of our life, as God and the angels from above fight against hell and its devils from below for eternal possession of our soul. We are in the middle. And because those forces are balanced, we have freedom to make the decision which way the war will go, and which side will be the victor.

      Think of a tug-of-war in which there are ten strong people on one end of the rope, and ten strong people on the other end of the rope. If you tried to pull against either side all by yourself, you would lose spectacularly! But since there are equally matched teams on both ends of the rope, the rope goes nowhere.

      You are standing in the middle of that rope. Which way will you pull? Whichever way you pull, that’s the direction the rope will go.

      But it won’t go fast or easy. You will have to pull with all your strength, and you will have to keep pulling. The people on each end are dug in. You are going to have to overcome all that resistance in order to get the rope moving.

      If you do keep pulling in the right direction, eventually the rope will move, and you will start making progress, even though your bad heart resists with all its might.

      Now: What is going to be your new morning routine to get you past that limited period of time when you don’t care?

      • Rob Skye says:

        It takes hours for me to wake up. I have treatment resistant sleep apnea, which means I am stuck with a chronic fatigue and can’t do anything about it. I’ve suffered this for over six years now with no end in sight. When I wake up the world comes crashing down on me and I feel despair. I wake up depressed. It’s hard to be good when the world is hostile and demanding.

        I just knew what they told me at OTLE was nonsense, I just knew it! Every time I find a little bit of hope, it’s yanked away. It’s all so dark and gloomy.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rob,

          Not nonsense. Just not as simple as it sounds for many people.

          Honestly, I do not believe you would go to hell even if you died today. You are fighting against the evil in you, working on ejecting it from your life. Even if it seems like a hopeless struggle, the fact that you’re engaging in it means that you have a desire to be a good person, and to go to heaven, not to hell. That will count for something on the other side.

          Even if you main motivation for change right now is to avoid hell, that’s not really a bad thing. It is a force to get you started on the work of regeneration. We have to harness the motivations we have, not the ones we don’t have. And when we start out on the path, our motivations usually aren’t all that virtuous. That’s exactly why we need to walk the path of regeneration in the first place. See:

          Spiritual Growth 101 with Mike Tyson: “The Virtue of Selfishness”

          Some days I wish I were a healer, not a minister—when I see people struggling with health issues that have solutions, but not using current medical approaches. However, I chose decades ago to go into the healing of the spirit rather than the healing of the body, so I mostly just have to stand by on these physical issues. I do hope you will be able to find some solution for your sleep apnea. That condition does make life far more difficult—as you are painfully aware.

          When you do get to the other side, the sleep apnea will be a thing of the past, and you will be able to live a normal life. You also won’t be held responsible for any issues in your life that were a result of your physical condition.

          Even though it won’t be easy, please don’t give up on creating some other morning routine for yourself. It doesn’t have to be any of the things I suggested in the article. Find something that works for you.

  15. Rob Skye says:

    I bristle when you say I have a desire to be a good person, I really do love evil (my own brand anyway). Even a shallow look into my heart reveals this; I really want to attack others, and everything I do is in one way or another selfishness. I think in my heart I hate God, and don’t want to come to the light because my deeds are evil, even if it doesn’t look that way from the outside.

    How do I ever overcome this?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rob,

      Yes, a shallow look into your heart reveals that you love evil. That’s because shallow look sees only your earthly, unregenerate heart, which is selfish in everyone, not just in you. Everything you say about that heart is true.

      But that’s not the only heart you have. You also have a deeper, spiritual heart. It is currently not as well-developed as your earthly heart. But it is there, visible to a deeper look into your heart, and it is currently battling your earthly heart for control of your life. If that were not so, we would not be having this conversation.

      This is why it is not phony or hypocritical to think good thoughts and do good things, even if you then think and do bad things in the next moment. Your two hearts are battling it out. Ultimately, the battle will be decided based on which side you pull for over the long haul (the tug-of-war analogy).

      You overcome it by using practical strategies such as the one suggested in the above article.

      No, it will not be easy. This is a battle for your soul. It will likely be a long, drawn-out battle, aka a war. But it is possible to win that war, with God’s help, and by persisting in taking specific and substantive steps, as directed by your spiritual intellect and understanding, to give your spiritual heart the victory over your earthly heart.

      • Vitaly says:

        Hi Lee,

        1. In my opinion, central point in Swedenborg’s concept about heavens and hell is the principle “similarities attract”, E.g. see “De Coelo et de Inferno” #510: “…he himself casts himself into the hell where those are who are like himself.” (also in #44, #383, #479). In fact, the principle “similarities attract” is more important than existence of the hell. Just in future your spirit will live only with similar spirits, there is no matter whether they are good or bad: if you like living with similar – good, don’t like – bad. And that is enough. I wonder why this principle was not mentioned in the discussion above.

        2. Don’t you think that “self-improvement” is a kind of love to ourself? E.g. see “De Coelo” #558: “…There are evil spirits … who are skilled in the art of leading well-disposed spirits into their nature [proprium] and thus into evils of various kinds. This they do by leading them into thoughts about themselves”. Maybe it is better to say to Rob: “Don’t worry, in current situation things will go itself in the best way”?

        3. Again about “love our neighbor as we love ourselves”. If I don’t love myself, I don’t know how to love my neighbor. If I hate myself, I should hate my neighbor. Hence, love to ourselves is important.

        4. There is an old book “Man Against Himself” by K.A.Menninger. As far as I remember he wrote that the main reason of suicides is a sense of guilt and hate to themselves, not the fear of hell.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Vitaly,

          1. The principle that simiarities attract is precisely why there is a heaven and a hell, and not just an unorganized mass of people of opposite characters all mashed together. People in similar good states gather together in heaven, while people in similar bad states gather together in hell. Both have their enjoyments or pleasures. But those in hell have pain along with their pleasures because their pleasures inevitably result in pain after the pleasure is past.

          2. Certainly self-improvement can be a type of self-love. But according to the principle you lay out in your third point, we are supposed to love ourselves. Just not more than we love God and the neighbor. According to Swedenborg, we should love ourselves so that we will ensure that we have a healthy mind in a healthy body, which enables us to better love and serve our neighbor. Self-improvement is bad only if we are doing it so that we can be better, richer, happier, and/or more powerful than other people. If we are doing it so that we can be of better service to other people, then it is a good thing.

          3. See my answer to your second point.

          4. Yes, it wouldn’t make much sense to commit suicide out of fear of hell, given that traditional Christianity generally teaches that suicide will result in going to hell. I believe that teaching is wrong, however. See:

          Does Suicide Work?

          Incidentally, since Rob is here, you can talk to him directly if you have something to say to him.

      • Vitaly says:

        Shortly, I can accept Rob “as he is” because I am a troll like him.
        But you want him to be better.

        How love is transferred.
        We think: if we love others, others will love us.
        But you know Swedenborg’s theory of “influxus”.
        Similar theory declared Lev Tolstoy in his work “What is art”. He wrote that art is an infection of others with our feelings.

        So, it depends on you and on your state.
        If you are in peace you will influx/infect others with your peace.
        If you are struggling with something you will influx/infect others with struggling with something.
        If you are struggling with yourself you will influx/infect others with struggling with yourself. Or with you? I don’t know 🙂

        • Lee says:

          Hi Vitaly,

          Rob himself wants to be better. At least, some part of him does. Otherwise he wouldn’t be here. Whether or not I want him to be better doesn’t matter. His fate is in his hands, not mine.

          About the rest, there certainly is some truth to what you say. However, people who have regenerated will love you whether or not you love them. It’s just that if you don’t love them, the love is not mutual. Meanwhile, people who are unregenerate won’t love you no matter how much you love them. They may feign love, but inwardly, in their real self, they do not love anyone but themselves. Other people are merely tools to achieve their self-centered goals.

          But yes, the atmosphere we put out from ourselves can and does affect other people—especially other people who are not settled and firm in their own character.

        • Hi Vitaly. I have to take issue with the comments regarding causes of suicide. They are far more complex than a sense of guilt or self-hatred. More pertinent are pain and overwhelming feelings of hurt and hopelessness. It is not necessarily an aim to die but rather to make the pain stop. Even guilt equates overwhelming hopelessness and pain. All of this occurs in the wider milieu of societal and spiritual dysfunction within the family unit and beyond.Until we become better educated about this phenomenon and its complexities, we will never improve our ability to address it meaningfully.

      • Hi Lee. Your response here makes great sense. It puts me in mind of the old proverb about the Good Wolf and the Bad Wolf.
        The two hearts tie in with that concept and reflect the dichotomy of good and evil and the great battle that Christ Himself came to teach about.

  16. Rob Skye says:

    I’m thinking today that this is just too hard. I’ve blocked some websites that trigger me, so it would be a little work to got to them. At least it gives me a moment to reconsider. But I’ve been looking within quite a bit today, and it’s plain that my affections are so far from “heavenly” that I don’t see how the gulf can be crossed. Everyone I have encountered so far who follow Swedenborg’s teaching and revelation are enthusiastic about it. I have yet to encounter those who struggle with it as I do.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rob,

      That sounds like a sensible step.

      What people really struggle with is not so much Swedenborg’s teachings, but bringing about the personal change that Swedenborg teaches, based on Jesus’ teaching about being born again. It’s easy to read about it. It’s easy to give other people advice about it. It’s hard to do it ourselves. Believe me, you are not the only one struggling with this.

      Yes, it’s hard to change ourselves as Jesus, and Swedenborg after him, say we must do if we wish to go to heaven. But the main alternatives have serious problems. You could:

      1. Give up and give in.
      2. Go the Protestant faith-alone route.
      3. Go the Catholic penance route.

      Giving up and giving in just means you’re going down. Even without the threat of hell, you’ll have a bitter and miserable life. You won’t even have much good in this life.

      Just believing that Jesus has saved you won’t change who you are. You’ll still be a miserable person. You’ll just have a deceptive and empty belief that it doesn’t matter because you’ll have pie in the sky when you die.

      Paying for your sins doesn’t get rid of the sins. If you do penance every time you bully someone, you’re still a bully, and you still have a miserable life.

      These are all quick and easy to do, but ultimately ineffective. Engaging in a process of regeneration is hard to do and it takes a long time, but it is ultimately effective.

      The gulf can still be crossed as long as you are living in the material world because even though spirits from hell are influencing you, you’re not actually in hell. Rather, you’re in the lower part of the world of spirits, which is between heaven and hell. This means that in a sense you are in the gulf. The question is, which way will you exit it? Will you exit it upwards, toward heaven, or downwards, towards hell?

      It is only after we die that the chasm becomes unbridgeable, and cannot be crossed. As long as we are still living on earth, we still have a choice which way to go.

      And I still vote for the motorcycle! 😀

  17. Rob Skye says:

    This is just so depressing to me, not just battle to be good, but that existence is ordered this way. It’s like a nightmare I can’t wake from. Born saddled with a nature that is opposed to the God from which all things come into being. I feel sorry for those in hell and see them as victims of birth and existence they didn’t ask for. Why can’t God allow them to pass out of existence instead of eternal misery? Life is a trap.

    I’m taking a break from all this.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rob,

      No one is in hell because of their birth or because of an existence they didn’t ask for. People go to hell only if, as self-responsible adults, they freely choose to go to hell when they could have chosen to go to heaven instead. This doesn’t mean it’s an easy choice. But it is 100% the person’s own choice whether to go to heaven or to hell.

      We are all born saddled with a nature that is opposed to God. That is not held against us. Only choices that we make within our realm of possible choices are considered. You will not go to hell because of your sleep apnea or because of a naturally antisocial personality, or because of any childhood experiences or issues that affected your life and character. All of that is canceled out of the equation. See:

      Can Gang Members Go to Heaven? (Is Life Fair?)

      No one in hell is a victim of a birth and existence that they didn’t ask for. They are all victims of their own bad choices, when they could have chosen something better.

      Your own life of “eternal misery” would likely be more of the same of your current life, only without the sleep apnea. It would be a life of inwardly feeling inferior to other people and outwardly bullying them to try to make yourself greater than they are instead of less than they are. And it would be a life of having other people similar to you bullying you for the same reasons.

      In your hands is the choice of whether you want to continue in that type of life or choose a different life. It won’t be an easy choice. But you do have a choice. You, and only you, are the one who will determine where you will spend eternity.

      As for taking a break, that’s probably not a bad idea. Constant work wears anyone down.

      • Rob Skye says:

        I cannot change how I feel about life, about the world. I’ve been trying to since I was a child, but life affirms to me that I am not welcome, not good enough. I did make a choice long ago to at least fight back, to not totally accept this life’s assessment of me. Even if it is resentment, I at least fight back. It’s the only thing I have and I’m the only one who takes a stand for myself. For me to love others would be to hate myself, to let them walk all over me, to accept that I don’t have a right to live. No one has ever valued me unless I had something they wanted.

        I know I’m not the only one in the world like this, we are many and I understand so called “selfish” people. There’s a reason such people are the way they are, they didn’t “choose” it. Besides, there needs to be people in hell to keep equilibrium. If there aren’t evil spirits, how can those on earth choose between good and evil? It was determined that there would be a balance of influences, good and evil, so there needed to be a hell. If no one ever went to hell, such equilibrium wouldn’t exist. So my wretchedness is a value after all, a “use.”

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rob,

          Good to hear from you.

          Yes, hell does serve a use, including the one you mention: providing a balance between good and evil so that people on earth can have freedom of choice.

          However, that doesn’t mean the people in hell have to be equal in number to the people in heaven. God continually maintains balance between the two by moving communities and regions of heaven and of hell closer to or farther away from the center so that they will always balance each other out, even if there are more on one side than on the other.

          Think of a seesaw. If a father wants to play on the seesaw with his young son, he’ll put the boy on the farthest point on one side, and himself much closer to the center on the other side. This way, even though he weighs several times as much as his son, they can balance each other out and have fun on the seesaw. That’s how God keeps heaven and hell in balance.

          In other words, God doesn’t need you in hell to maintain the balance between heaven and hell that is required for humans on earth to have freedom of choice.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rob,

          I’m glad you put “selfish” in quotes. Because what is commonly thought of as selfish is not really what selfishness is.

          Selfishness isn’t taking care of our own needs before we take care of other people’s needs. There is a very good reason flight attendants tell passengers to put the emergency oxygen mask over their own face before helping other passengers to get their masks on.

          Selfishness isn’t maintaining a decent lifestyle for ourselves even if other people don’t have as much as we do. Jesus said that the poor will always be among us (Matthew 26:11).

          And selfishness certainly isn’t defending ourselves and our own integrity in the face of hostile individuals and an uncaring world. People who make themselves into doormats for others are not being unselfish, but foolish. If some random person tells you to bend over and take it, and you comply, all you are doing is allowing them to engage in their thoughtless and evil desires at your expense. Defending your own person, reputation, character, and integrity is not selfish, but prudent. Jesus told us to “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). For a related article, please see:

          Can Christians be Hardass?

          For what selfishness really is, please see The New Jerusalem (aka The Heavenly City) #65–75.

  18. Pink-December says:

    Hi Lee,

    First of all, thank you very much for all your work and the insights you are sharing on this website (and hello to your wife as well). Every response is oozing knowledge, patience, compassion, and respect for the individual! I enjoy reading your articles and the various comments (and your replies) very much, and this has been helping me a lot on my journey lately. There are so many interesting topics/conundrums to peruse that sometimes it’s a bit difficult to keep up – but I’ll manage! Also, I have a lot of questions.

    For starters, your advice in the article is “Instead of reforming yourself from the inside out, reform yourself from the outside in.” But isn’t that hypocrisy? I thought that being polite on the outside but thinking otherwise on the inside is exactly what one shouldn’t do?

    In general, what I’m pondering about is this: After reading your articles re. afterlife/hell and coming to some conclusions myself, I’m no longer afraid of death per se (yeah), however, since I realized that I’m a bad person with not much love for my neighbors (or none at all, to be honest), my fear re. eternity/my eternal fate has shifted from “definitely going to hell” to “this may not be the case, but what if I don’t have enough time to change my ways so that although I’m trying to become a better person, I may not be able to accomplish that during my time on earth?” (who knows how much time is left to correct my bitterness and resulting anger) Are both realization and intent enough then? God sees what’s in the heart, I know, but what if I’m stuck in the stage of reforming from the outside in and not (yet) really mean what I say when my time comes?

    Last but not least, I wonder about hell being eternal (or not). I came across a statement on this site where I think you said that Swedenborg kind of corrected himself (realized later on that he didn’t understand correctly) so that he first thought that one day, there would be “escape” from hell, but later discovered that this isn’t possible. Could you please explain or provide me with some links to study that further, that would be great.

    Thank you in advance for your reply.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Pink-December,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your kind words. I’m glad you’re finding the articles here helpful and inspirational.

      On your first round of questions, I’m told there is a saying in Alcoholics Anonymous, “Fake it until you make it.” In other words, say and do the right thing outwardly even if you don’t feel it inwardly, until you actually do feel it inwardly. This isn’t hypocrisy, because the intent is to get to where you can do sincerely and from the heart what you know is right.

      Hypocrisy is saying one thing and doing another, or claiming to stand for something and telling other people they should live that way, but not living that way yourself. In general, hypocrisy is pretending to be someone you’re not in order go gain benefits for yourself, such as status, reputation, and money. But if you’re forcing yourself to do the right thing even though you don’t really want to because you know it’s the right thing to do, that’s not hypocrisy. It is doing the difficult work of reforming yourself into a better person.

      In the above article I emphasized changing from the outside in because most people will just get lost if they try to deal with their inner self directly. But the reality is that if you didn’t have some internal part of yourself that wanted to change, you wouldn’t even make the effort to change your outward behavior.

      In other words, the reality is a little more complicated than presented in the article. We are changing from the inside out and from the outside in at the same time, or perhaps alternating between making progress in changing inwardly and making progress in changing outwardly. It’s just that for most people, the inner part happens mostly without their consciously making it happen. A person makes a decision to change (which is an inward thing), but most of the actual work is in changing the outward behavior.

      Meanwhile, as we make that effort, God changes our heart and our thinking from within, “while we are sleeping,” so to speak. Then one day we realize that it’s no longer an effort to do the right thing because that is what we want to do anyway, and our old faulty and selfish ways are no longer appealing to us.

      This leads to your second round of questions. The short answer is that in the afterlife, you will continue traveling in the direction that you were traveling here on earth during the time period of your life that led up to your death.

      There is a difference between conversion and salvation. In ordinary language, “conversion” means “turning around.” Before that point, you were walking in the direction of hell. At the point of your conversion, you then begin walking toward heaven instead.

      Of course, if you turn around and just stand there, and don’t actually start walking in the other direction, then you have a problem: you’re still in the hell that you were walking into. So in answer to your question about whether realization and intent are enough, if your intent is real, you will start the work of walking the steep and rocky path up out of hell. If you say you intend to do something, but you never actually do it, how real is your intent? Our real intentions are shown by our actions.

      In short, the minimum is that you realize you’re going the wrong way, make the choice to turn around—which is the same thing as changing your intentions for your life—and then begin the work of making those changes in your life.

      Don’t get all tangled up in whether you’ve done “enough,” whether you’ve gotten to the point of changing inwardly, and so on. Just keep yourself on the path, putting one foot in front of the other. God will see that you have made the decision to change, and that you are backing up that decision with action. God is loving, compassionate, and merciful. If God sees that you have the least real willingness to be a good and thoughtful person instead of an evil and selfish person, expressed in at least some real action, then God will carry you the rest of the way to heaven when you pass over from this life to the next.

      Even in heaven, no one is perfect. Even in heaven, we continue to learn and grow every day. Even in heaven, we continue to become a better, more loving, more thoughtful person, and this process goes on to all eternity. The important thing here on earth is to get yourself going in the right direction. The important thing is to make good use of whatever time you have left on earth, so that God and the angels can welcome you into heaven with songs of joy.

      About starting out from a position of being selfish and not loving other people, please do read the second article linked in the “for further reading” section at the end of the above article:

      Spiritual Growth 101 with Mike Tyson: “The Virtue of Selfishness”

    • Lee says:

      Hi Pink-December,

      About your final question on Swedenborg’s correction of his apparent early belief that hell is not eternal, here is a note from the New Century Edition of Swedenborg’s Secrets of Heaven (traditionally Arcana Coelestia) that discusses this and provides sections from Swedenborg’s writings for reference. Any section number for which a book is not given is from Secrets of Heaven. The note is on a statement in Secrets of Heaven #967. It was written by Richard Smoley and yours truly.

      Secrets of Heaven volume 2, note 19:

      The idea that the punishments of hell are not necessarily eternal is rare but not unknown in the Christian tradition. It was considered by Origen, who wrote of the possibility that “there is a resurrection of the dead, and there is punishment, but not everlasting. For when the body is punished the soul is gradually purified, and so is restored to its ancient rank * * For all wicked men, and for daemons too, punishment has an end, and both wicked men and daemons shall be restored to their former rank” (Origen On First Principles 2:10 [= Origen 1966, 146]; asterisks indicate a lacuna in the text). Swedenborg’s position on whether a given individual in hell stays there forever or is eventually released appears to change markedly over time. The current section is one of several written early in his theological period in which he seems to incline toward the view that the punishment of the wicked in hell leads eventually to the purging of their evil intentions and actions (see, for example, §955 above), a cleansing that enables them to be raised up out of hell and into heaven. Other notable examples occur in Spiritual Experiences (= Swedenborg 1998–2002) §§228, 2582–2583, 2826–2827, 3489. All of these passages except the last are dated in 1748, the year before the first volume of Secrets of Heaven was published, and the last was written in either 1748 or 1749. However, as early as §1276:1 of the present work Swedenborg states that in the afterlife, “Everyone’s place remains fixed, never changing to eternity.” As Secrets of Heaven progresses, this assertion is applied to the permanency of hell (see, for example, §§7541, 8637, 10596), and near the end of the final volume Swedenborg states categorically that “those who enter hell remain there forever, and those who enter heaven remain there forever” (§10749). This idea is repeated a number of times in his later works—sometimes in the form of a statement that a person’s volition or dominant love, which determines the person’s residency in either heaven or hell, can never be changed to eternity. Examples can be found in Heaven and Hell 480; New Jerusalem 177, 227, 239; Spiritual Experiences (= Swedenborg 1978) §5830; Revelation Explained (= Swedenborg 1994–1997a) §383. For sidelights on this topic, see Spiritual Experiences (= Swedenborg 1998–2002) §2346; Revelation Explained 1164:2. On the movement of angels from one heaven to another, see note 31. [RS, LSW]

      In case you want to look the passages up, Spiritual Experiences is traditionally titled The Spiritual Diary, and Revelation Explained is traditionally titled Apocalypse Explained.

      Based on Swedenborg’s early statements that seem to say that hell is not eternal, historically a few followers of Swedenborg have rejected the idea of an eternal hell. But as covered in the above note, Swedenborg was so clear about the eternity of hell starting fairly early on in his theological writings, and consistently from then on, that there can be no doubt of his settled position on this subject.

      For some articles on this website about hell, and whether or not it is eternal, please see:

      1. Is There Really a Hell? What is it Like?
      2. Response to a Christian Universalist: Is There an Eternal Hell? Wouldn’t an All-Powerful God Save All People?
      3. Pain, Punishment, Prison, and Hell
      4. The Bible, Emanuel Swedenborg, and Reincarnation (Scroll down and start reading at the heading, “What’s wrong with reincarnation?”)

      I hope these will sufficiently answer your final query. If, after reading all this, you still have questions or you want to discuss the issue further, feel free to leave a comment on any of these articles.

  19. Pink-December says:

    Hi Lee,

    Wow, thank you so much for your prompt reply, your explanations, and the links, providing more food for thought.

    “… if you turn around and just stand there …” – I see what you mean. Good works have to follow (even outwardly), otherwise it’s nothing but lip service. I sometimes almost feel the presence of a devil and an angel on my shoulders, whispering what I should or shouldn’t do, respectively. Or rather two devils, high-fiving: “See? Told ya so! I knew she would fail, she’s too weak!” (Like this very morning, when I gave someone the finger for not keeping enough distance, plus I was wearing a mask, he didn’t). So I knew it was wrong – before I did it –, and did it anyway!!! (But faith and loving your neighbor cannot be dependent on moods and daily form!) I just don’t know if my intent is really genuine or if I just want to (try to) do good to “save me a place in heaven,” which is definitely the wrong reason.

    I once told a guy who hurt me: “If you reject my love, then you don’t deserve my friendship” (basically his only fault was that he didn’t want what I wanted). Years later I realized that this is what God should be saying to us humans, but then again, God is not unforgiving (like me at that time). However, I can very well understand every person who says “I’d rather be dead (instead of living for all eternity), and I didn’t ask to be born (and having to decide which way to go!) in the first place.”

    Ooookay, read (articles) first, ask questions later. There’s more to come, I’m afraid, but I will be leaving my comments in the appropriate section.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Pink-December,

      You are very welcome. Glad to help!

      If your worst sin is giving someone the finger, you’re probably not as bad off as you think. Yes, it’s good to be polite as a general rule. But even Jesus wasn’t always polite. It all depends on the situation. Sometimes you have to assert yourself to protect yourself from people who would take advantage of you and hurt you.

      Many years ago a church lady told me this story:

      One day when she was driving herself across town on an unfamiliar route she got lost. She was trying to turn around in an abandoned parking lot in a rough section of the city when a gang of thugs surrounded her car, banging on the windows and yelling, “Get out of the car!” Instead of doing that, she let out a string of expletives at the top of her lungs! The general message was that if they didn’t ^&*%$ get the #$%& out of her %&*#@ way, she was going to &@#$% run them all over!

      Boy, did they scatter fast!

      She felt terribly guilty about it afterwards. She was a very sweet and dainty woman. But compared to the sordid scene that would have followed if she had been “nice” and “obedient” and had allowed herself to fall into their dirty hands, resorting to threats and foul language was far and away the lesser of two evils. I admired her chutzpah! There was steel under that velvet!

      Being Christian does not mean being everyone’s doormat. See:

      Can Christians be Hardass?

      The not nice things we sometimes say and do when we feel that our back is against the wall are really rather minor in the larger scheme of things.

      The big thing is what you do or don’t do for other people day in and day out, especially in your job (if you’re of adult age). People commonly think that being Christian means doing all sorts of “charitable deeds” and being especially pious. But the bread and butter of Christian living is engaging in useful service to other people. And the primary place we do that is in our job. That’s where we serve people day in and day out, many hours a day. The rest is frosting on the cake.

      So don’t worry too much about the little things. You’ll have plenty of time to rub some of those rough edges off your character. Focus on doing a good job for people. Or if you’re still in school, focus on preparing yourself to do a good job for people. That’s where the rubber hits the road of true Christian charity—which really means loving other people by engaging in useful service.

      Oh, and about making a deal with God to get into heaven, please read this article:

      What is the History and Importance of Bethel in the Bible?

  20. Pink-December says:

    Hi Lee!

    Great story, and I agree, being nice is sometimes not the best solution! And no, giving someone the finger is definitely not my worst sin (I wish!).

    I’m in my fifties and have a job that I love very much and that I’m really good at (not bragging, just stating the facts). As for changing from the outside in: Times have been hard with a new boss, and I was given the choice to either change or leave. I managed to pull myself together and was able to change course. Many months later, I was told “It’s great that you changed sooo much, you’re almost like a new person!” And I kept thinking that they were wrong, that I was only telling them what they wanted to hear – but maybe although it definitely started that way (hey, I wanted to keep the job!), can it be that that really DID also change the “inner me” a little bit, from the outside in? Not quite sure what happened.

    What always helps (easier said than done, I know) is trying to put oneself in the other person’s shoes (done as you would be done by). Also not immediately hitting the “Send” button after writing a mail (after a heated argument), kind of the “virtual finger!”

    Thank you for the links (came across the “Bethel” article the other day and skipped it, but now I will definitely read it). Yesterday, I studied the “Facing your demons …” two-parter – I thought my head would fall off because I kept on nodding, “yeah, that’s right,” “boy, that’s me,” etc.! It helped a lot (reading, not nodding). I’m really glad I found your website (must’ve been an angel gently pushing me into the right direction). Thanks for listening and for your input!

    • Lee says:

      Hi Pink-December,

      Well then, you’ve been around the block a few times! 🙂 And it sounds like when your new boss came in, God gave you an excellent opportunity for spiritual growth. 😛

      Glad you’re enjoying the articles here! Feel free to ask any questions you may have as you read them.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Hello Lee!
    Recently i’ve been going through a tough time and I decided to revisit this website, because its helped me in the past, also I hope it’s ok that the questions have nothing to do with this post. (If its not ok, feel free to redirect me to another post/way to ask a question)

    I have two questions that I hope you can help me find the answers too.

    I feel great shame when I admit this, but honestly is a virtue right? So I feel like im only doing my part by being honest.

    My first question is if what im experiancing is normal?
    For a while when ever I think about God, I feel extreme feelings of fear and sadness, like im not incontrol of my own life, like nothing is real, that eventually ill loose everything I love and I can’t reach out for help to anyone, because they can’t help me, because they don’t really understand God and have no say in the matter. What I think scares me the most is that theres no set order to things, God could change his mind anytime and we would have no power to stop it.

    I feel really ashamed when I say this, but is loving love the same as loving God?
    I live my life through a very self-centered lense, not in the sense that I don’t care about anyone else, in fact I love helping people smile is one of my greatest joys in life. It’s very hard to explain but when I think about things I always thing about MY life and how things effect ME. (But like I said, not to the point of hurting other people for personal gain)

    In christianity i’ve read that, in life you should think about God first and yourself last, but is that ment to be literal? To me it’s always meant that you should put love first, like the commandments, caring for other people ect. and yourself last aka your own greed/pride. (An example of someone not doing this would be a rich buisness man putting his greed for money above the wellbeing of other people. Putting the love of “yourself” before “God”)

    Essentialy my other question is, do you literally have to love God (literal God) above everything else? Or is living a caring life, being considirate to others and being a decent human being ( or if you belive in God, following his commandments to the best of your understanding ) enough? Because, please belive me, I have nothing against people who do this, but to me thinking about God 24/7 is well… exhausting and it brings me more fear then joy.

    I admit, I think about other things I like more then God, such as shows or games I like and they fill me with such sugry, pure, heart bursting joy that I can’t explain and whenever I feel this way I always make sure to pray and thank God for such blessings and joy, but when I think about God I don’t really feel the love I think im supposed to. (The bast way to describe it is like having a crush on someone and the need for water, the crush is exciting, pure joy but if I had to choose I would obviously pick the water ) The love I feel for God is sort of like a low flame but my love for other things is like fireworks.

    Of course I do regulary think about God, I pray every night and live my life the way I think im meant to.
    On one hand I trust and love God, he has giving me so many blessing that I can’t even count them all and he has shown himself to me and helped me so many times it’s hard to think it’s all a coincidence. I truely am greatfull, but it also terrifies me that at some point, maybe, have to give up everything i’ve ever known, for something I bearly understand.
    I’ve hear that opening your heart to God should be a wonderful, freeing process, but I feel guilt that to me its brought nothing but despair.
    Im very ashamed of myself, I know God loves me and I love God, but not in the way I think im supposed to. In reality I think the reason I do the Godly things I do is because of my selfish want to go to heaven and my fear of hell, and im afraid that when I die my “masks” (as you said in one article) will fall off and reveal a ”true” version of myself that I won’t able to fix in the way I want.

    Am I really being selfish or is what im feeling normal… maybe even good? Is God dissapointed in me? Am I (for a lack of better term) doomed?

    I hope you could understand what im asking, Im very, very sorry that this is so long, but I had no idea where else to go.
    Big thank you in advance if you respond to this!


    • Lee says:

      Hi Anonymous,

      First of all, given all the thought you have put into this, and given the reality that even though you feel like you’re selfish, you actually do live a life of concern for other people and their well-being, I can assure you that God is not ashamed of you. We all start out in life being mostly wrapped up in ourselves and our own concerns. It takes a lifetime of hard work to reorient ourselves toward love and concern for other people, and love for God. Clearly you’re somewhere in the middle of that process. That is a good thing, not a bad thing.

      Loving people (or God) is not the same as having feelings of love for them. Feelings of love are wonderful, but love itself is caring enough about people that you do good things for them. And as the Lord tells us in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, as much as we have done something for the least of the Lord’s brothers and sisters, we have done it for the Lord.

      However, rather than continue on the topic of loving the Lord here, I’ll point you to an article that covers this question in much more detail:

      How do I Love God with my Whole Heart?

      And about feeling that you’re too wrapped up in yourself, here is an article for you:

      Spiritual Growth 101 with Mike Tyson: “The Virtue of Selfishness”

      You may also be interested in some of the articles linked at the end of that one.

      I realize I haven’t answered all of your questions here. If, after reading the linked articles, you still have lingering questions, feel free to fire away at the end of either of these articles.

  22. Pink says:

    Hi Lee,

    Over the last couple of weeks, I read a lot of your posts, very helpful indeed. As for the problem I told you about last year, well, I did it again! This time, I lost my temper, quickly and quite badly! Afterwards, when I analyzed what happened, I wasn’t even sorry. So I’m wondering, can I change at all, to be more loving and kinder to other people? It’s not only that I’m unkind, it’s also pure self-love: I am afraid of the virus (I yelled at a person who didn’t care for distancing, which is crucial right now), I don’t want to get sick, it’s always about me, me, me. Is that the underlying problem? I just happen to be the choleric type, I was born this way. Or blame it on the hormones. 😉 I’m a regular Scrooge, and I definitely don’t like being around other people. What happens is that, one day, I start off asking God for help because I know I cannot do it on my own (that much I know). Then there are days when I don’t think about God at all. Then I’m almost “relieved,” it’s like a pause in trying to be a good person, and I am fine with that. The next day, I think, oh, I have to try harder and don’t lose sight of the goal, walk the talk.

    What am I lacking? Intent, will, perseverance, trust, faith? Am I lamenting too much, do I give up too soon? Maybe a combination of all of that. Or am I playing a dangerous “game” here? Is changing for the better a lifelong process, do I have to do that for the rest of my life on earth? Or is THAT “the secret”? Baby steps, each day. Pray more? What about the fig tree, maybe my chances are all “used up” by now. Everything that is good comes from God, all that is evil/bad comes from hell. Is it really that simple? Is every angry thought from hell?? How do I “let God’s love flow” then? In some comment, you compared the flow of God’s love to water running through a hose, and we just have to open up the valve to let the water/love flow and accept it. But sometimes, even when the valve is open, God’s love doesn’t flow. Why is that, what could be the problem?

    Me, two days later: Oh well, I give up, then I am hell-bound – if that’s what my heart desires, then be it! Isn’t there supposed to be an equilibrium, so technically, there should be the same amount of people in heaven as in hell, and I’m, well, on the “other” team. As for hell being no punishment (but our own choice), when I read stories about evil spirits tormenting each other, then it IS punishment, just not from God but nonetheless. I guess that’s not part of the plan of “the evil people” (I wonder in which hellish community I might end up – will we be giving each other the finger until all eternity??). Also, you say that we all have our free will, even in heaven/hell. But if God (working through the angels) has to sometimes restrain the evil spirits from causing harm, and if that is what the evil spirits want, then I’m sorry, but to me that doesn’t sound like they have their free will. Or am I missing something here? I cannot see the wood for the trees, I’m afraid, so any advice will be appreciated. Thank you (and sorry for rambling on again; you don’t want to know how much I shortened the text)!

    • Lee says:

      Hi Pink,

      Good to hear from you again. And thanks for “shortening” it! 😛

      Yes, changing for the better is a lifelong process. That’s our main job, spiritually speaking, during our lifetime on earth. As for the fig tree, the point at which we’ve used up all of our chance is the day we die. Once that happens, it’s too late! But as long as we’re living and breathing here on this earth, we haven’t used up all our chances.

      Once again, being nice to people is not the same as being a good person. Even Jesus got angry at people who were engaged in bad behavior. And he wasn’t gentle about it!

      Rather, being a good person means especially doing good for people in our job, which is what takes up most of our waking hours. If we do our best to provide good work and good service for people in our daily work, whether paid or volunteer, then God will look the other way if we occasionally lose it and flip the bird at some jerk who’s being rude and inconsiderate.

      Also, protecting oneself from dangers, including diseases such as COVID-19, is not selfish. If we get sick and die, we can’t be much good to anyone anymore, can we? (At least, not on this earth.)

      I could go on, but instead I’ll link a couple more articles that get back to basics on our lifelong process of spiritual rebirth:

      • Pink says:

        Thank you, Lee. Some points you already mentioned earlier (I seem to need to be told at least twice), other points I figured out while reading the “regeneration” posts again, and I “suddenly found” some explanations in your replies to other comments! I really hope your replies helped the people they were addressed to, but some hit me right in the heart and made me cry actually.

        To Rob and all the others struggling with the “war” between the natural, ungenerate heart and the developing spiritual heart: Hang in there, it’s worth the fight! And a little quote I came across the other day: “Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and loved more than you know.”

  23. Josué says:

    Hello Rob.
    It’s not bullying if you’re just fighting the bullies.
    Evil people have to get screwed and it’s not wrong to desire that they get screwed.
    Let’s just stop with this sense of guilt for delivering bullies what they deserve.
    Enough of christian guilt. Expressing some anger is very legitimate and even righteous.
    Don’t let the ego take control of you, that’s ok and I think you have this figured out already. But the ego has its place in our sacred selves. Because without ego, we would all be slaves. We would be like sheep or cattle.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Josué,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment.

      While I don’t entirely disagree with you, please do keep in mind that Jesus commanded us to love our enemies and do good to those who despitefully use us. If we “desire that bullies get screwed” because we think they should get paid back for what they did, then that is not a Christian desire. It is simple revenge. It will only lead to tit-for-tat battles in which nobody wins. Jesus rejected the old “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” practice.

      But if we desire that bullies should be restrained and punished for their actions so that they will not do any more harm to innocent people, then that is a Christian sentiment. It comes from love and concern for their victims. It also, ideally, comes from love and concern for the bullies themselves, because if they continue on their current path, they will come to no good end in eternity.

      For a related article, please see:

      Can Christians be Hardass?

  24. Josué says:

    Hello Lee. I’ve been a reader of your blog for a while and that was my first post.
    So I apologize for not referencing to you in my first post. You do an amazing job in spreading the word about Swedenborg, and you’re a profound expert in Swedenborg’s theology. I respect you for that.
    With that said, well, I don’t see myself as christian. That would be putting limits on myself. Sure, Jesus was a great man, perhaps the greatest one who has ever lived. But I only follow his teachings as long as they feel right within. I trust my gut feeling very much. And I feel like there’s absolutely nothing wrong that you feel good when the bad guy gets burned.
    Politics of course is very complicated subject to deal with because the guy that you feel is a true hero other person may perceive as a tyrant. Trump is not the nicest person on the Earth and everybody knows that, but what the media did to him and his supporters is awful and it makes my blood boil. Yes, I do want to see all these modern day inquisitors and witch hunters get what they deserve in the end. There’s a legitimate oposition to be made and it’s not by picturing your opponent as a modern day Adolf Hitler and presenting yourself as a champion of freedom. I’m longing for the day the masks will fall and everybody will see these clowns in their true uglyness. I don’t attack anyone without provocation, but I sure defend myself when I’m attacked and this is very legitimate. Quotes from Jesus have to be put in perspective. That’s what I think, because Jesus was just trying to show us how to live a good life. Regards….

    • Lee says:

      Hi Josué,

      Thanks for your reply. It’s all good. Rob pops in and out here. I wanted to offer some response in case he doesn’t see your comment.

      The extreme political polarization currently gripping the U.S. is one of the reasons Annette and I weren’t enjoying life there much anymore. People can strongly disagree with one another while still treating each other civilly. But civility has long since flown the coop both on the right and the left. It is now all-out verbal, and sometimes physical, war. This does not bode well for the future of the U.S. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

      • Josué says:

        You’re right Lee, I’m from Brazil and we have a huge political polarization here too. I know right wingers can be as disgusting as left wingers. I think people who are saner just try to stay away from politics, because politics is an arena of egos – so they might take the same decision as you did, move to another place. American healthcare system makes no sense. But left wing lenience towards criminals and wrong doers makes no sense either, as well as hostility towards white heterossexual men. As americans use to say, people are stuck beetween a rock and a hard place.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Josué,

          We’re in for some hard years, I think. I used to be politically active when I was young. Eventually I realized that politics and government are going to keep making things worse, not better, because the bulk of politicians are more interested in money and power than in improving the lives of the people they are supposed to be serving. (This is not to say that everything government does is bad.)

          That’s when I began focusing my life on helping people with their spiritual life. The problems in our world are not political, social, or financial at their roots, but spiritual. Only when people’s spirit, meaning their heart and mind, are going in the right direction will everything else fall into place. That “greatest man who ever lived” said, “Seek God’s kingdom first, and its righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

  25. Josué says:

    You’re absolutelly correct, Lee.

  26. Rob Skye says:

    I just do what I want now. I’m tired of policing myself just so God won’t punish me, and I’m tired of pretending humanity deserves charity from me just because. I know how this will end and it enrages me that I was ever brought into this thresher in the first place.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Rob,

      Contrary to popular belief, God does not punish anyone, ever. It seems to me that you are punishing yourself.

      • Rob Skye says:

        He is the Architect, this entire Universe is his punishment. Our suffering is his food, his pleasure. He is the Maestro, every person is a note in his symphony of suffering.

        I hate him, I have a lifetime of reasons to hate him.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rob,

          You are free to believe what you want to believe. And to punish yourself every day with those wrong beliefs.

  27. When I look around at what’s left of the beautiful natural world we were born into, I can’t agree that God takes pleasure in our suffering or that He is the architect of all this misery. Humans messed it up and humans are the ones who cause the suffering of others. Whether by the structures of greed and enslavement to inequity or outright cruelty and sadism. We are at the heart of our own suffering collectively. We just expect God to sort it and fix it. With regard to the choice of being here, look into the face of a little child before they become schooled in the pain of the world. Pure joy at being alive. We are not born cynical and jaded. Therefore God did not make us that way.

    • Rob Skye says:

      Suffering is built into this world. Animals tear one another apart for food, life feeds on life. Pain, sickness and death are found in abundance. God put us in a world of suffering.

      • Lee says:

        Hi Rob,

        Although we humans seem to focus on the times animals suffer, such as when a predator animal captures and eats a prey animal, really, that is a very short time period compared to the animal’s whole life. In a few minutes, it is all over. But the animal has lived relatively peacefully for months or years or even decades before that. However, that long time of peaceful existence is boring for us, so we pay attention only to the exciting few minutes when the animal’s life comes to an end.

        Further, precisely because of the predator/prey relationship, few wild animals spend any significant amount of time being sick or old. Once they are no longer in the prime of health, they become food for another animal. It may seem cruel to us. But it does mean that the great bulk of an animal’s lifetime consist of being strong and healthy. It is only when animals are domesticated by humans that this pattern no longer holds.

  28. Rob Skye says:

    “You are free to believe what you want to believe. And to punish yourself every day with those wrong beliefs.”

    I tried holding your beliefs and was punished anyway.

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Lee & Annette Woofenden

Lee & Annette Woofenden

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