Is Hell Real? | How The Belief in Hell Creates Cognitive Dissonance
In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values.
So if you think about it, you can't really get two more contradictory ideas than the belief that god is unconditional love and the belief that god would send people to hell to be punished and suffer for eternity.
Now I know all the rationalizations - god is a just god, god can’t be in the presence of sin. It has to be this way. His ways are higher than our ways. It’s not for us to understand. Etc. Etc.
But let me explain what happens inside the mind of someone who tries to hold such disturbingly opposite beliefs. In order to hold both of these ideas in our mind, we have to compartmentalize these ideas and essentially wall them off and quarantine them emotionally. Now I know people can calmly speak of both these ideas in the same breath. But to simultaneously engage the ramifications of these concepts emotionally would create such cognitive dissonance that it would cause tremendous psychological pain and discomfort.
We often see this in children grappling with the concept of hell. It hurts their heart to think of God this way - As it should. It goes against our own conscience as humans because we innately know that no truly loving god could or would be this cruel.
Over time, however, children then young adults and adults become conditioned to accept this and the way they manage this emotional conflict is to compartmentalize these two ideas so well that it no longer causes them pain. We essentially learn to suppress our own feelings of love and compassion in order to please our parents and teachers and make their idea of god right and true. This violation of our conscience and heart is a travesty beyond compare.
Once you’ve mastered this level of compartmentalization it becomes easy to apply this skill to other areas. For example, we are told and accept that killing is acceptable as long as it’s to defend our country and flag. Never mind, who declared war or what their motivations were. This same killing is punishable by death or life in prison when the same justification is not applied. However, our hearts know differently and the suffering that this cognitive dissonance creates is a major cause of PTSD.
Another example would be someone who justifies attacking people outside of abortion clinics because they’ve judged what they’re doing as evil.
Hold on, I’m not saying everyone who believes in hell is attacking people outside abortion clinics or going off to war. These are just two examples of how mastering compartmentalization on such a grand scale as agreeing with the necessity of hell makes it easier to maintain other inconsistencies.
Essentially all forms of hypocrisy stem from conflicting parts and our inability or reconcile two opposites in our mind. I’m thinking of a pastor who gets caught having homosexual relations. If we have an emotional need that we cannot meet openly because of our judgments then this dissociated part of us will ‘come out to play’ when it can’t be suppressed any longer. If we could simply accept and love all parts of ourselves instead of judging them and suppressing them then we could live in harmony with ourselves and the world.
Finally, the acceptance of judgment which culminates in the belief in hell is in direct conflict with a belief in Oneness. As long as people are separated into Believer / Non believer, Forgiven / Not forgiven, Accepted / Not accepted then we can never fully love and accept our fellow man or even ourselves. We need to give ourselves permission to question the belief in a god that would be vengeful or vindictive and trust our own hearts on this one. The heart knows the truth of love and Oneness. The mind can easily be misled, programmed and even brain washed to believe anything that’s repeated often enough.
Trust your own heart, Not what you’ve been taught. Start loving and stop judging or believing in a god that does. You feel the truth. You just need to give yourself permission to trust it.