1003. Is the duration of time that the guilty must suffer in a future life governed by any law?
“God never acts on a whim. Everything in the universe is ruled by laws that reveal the Creator’s wisdom and goodness.”
1004. What determines how long a guilty person must atone?
“The length of time required for their betterment. A spirit’s happiness or unhappiness corresponds to their degree of purification. The duration and nature of this suffering depends on the time it takes them to improve. As spirits progress, they refine their views, their torment diminishes and this changes their nature.” Saint Louis
1005. For a suffering spirit, does time appear longer or shorter than when it was on Earth?
“It appears longer as there is no such thing as sleep for it. When spirits attain a certain level of purification time fades away, so to speak, before infinity.” (See no. 240)
1006. Can the duration of a spirit’s suffering be eternal?
“Of course, if it were eternally wicked, meaning, if it were to never repent or atone, it would suffer forever. Nonetheless, God has not created human beings to let them to be victims of immorality forever.
God created them simple and ignorant, and all of them must progress, in due course, according to their will. The determination to advance may arise at any time, as a child’s development may be more or less precocious. However, an irresistible desire to escape a state of inferiority and to be happy stimulates a spirit to do better. The law that regulates the duration of a spirit’s misery is incredibly wise and compassionate, that duration depends on its own efforts. It is never deprived of its free will; however, if it uses it improperly, it must bear the consequences of its errors.” Saint Louis
1007. Are there spirits who never repent?
“There are some whose repentance is delayed for a very long time. Yet, to assume that they will never evolve is contradicting the law of progress, and asserting that a child will never become an adult.” Saint Louis
1008. Does the duration of a spirit’s atonement always depend on its will? Is it ever inflicted on it for a given time period?
“Yes, atonement may be imposed for a fixed time. Still, God wants nothing but the best for creation. God always welcomes repentance and the desire to make amends never remains fruitless.” Saint Louis
1009. It follows then, that the atonements imposed on spirits are never eternal?
“Ask your common sense, your reason, whether perpetual condemnation for a few moments of error would not be a negation of God’s goodness. Indeed, what is the duration of a human life, even if it lasts one hundred years, in relation to eternity? Eternity! Do you understand this word? Never-ending torture, suffering and hopelessness for a few mistakes! Does such an idea not repulse you? Our ancestors viewed God as a terrifying, jealous and vindictive being. This is understandable because in their ignorance they attributed the passions of human beings to God.”
“This is not the God of Christians, who places love, charity, mercy and forgiveness in the ranks of the most important virtues. How can God lack the qualities that creatures are required to have? Is it not an incongruity to attribute both infinite love and infinite vengeance to God? You say that God’s justice is infinite, transcending humanity’s limited ability to understand, however justice does not exclude kindness.
Is it not unkind to subject people to horrible, everlasting punishment? How can God give an obligation to be just without the means to understand it? Sublime justice combined with kindness, makes the duration of atonement contingent on the efforts of the guilty person to improve. There is truth to the well-known verse, ‘To each, according to his or her deeds.’” Saint Augustine
“Combat and eradicate, by every means in your power, the notion of eternal punishment. It is blasphemy against God’s justice and goodness. Additionally, it is the main source of skepticism, materialism and indifference that has pervaded the masses from the time their intelligence began to develop.”
Once a mind has received enlightenment, no matter how minor that enlightenment may be, the appalling injustice of such an idea becomes immediately obvious. Reason rejects it, but unfortunately and mistakenly it also includes in this rejection God to whom they attribute the creation of punishment. This explains the countless worries and problems that appear among you, and for which we provide a remedy. The task that we are pointing out to you will be all the easier because the supporters of this belief avoid backing it with a positive opinion. Neither the Ecumenical Councils nor the Fathers of the Church have definitively answered these serious issues. While Christ, according to the Evangelists and the literal interpretation of his words, threatens the guilty with eternal fire, there is absolutely nothing in his words indicating that they are condemned to remain in that fire for eternity.”
“Poor stray sheep! Behold, the Good Shepherd coming to you, who, instead of driving you away from his presence for eternity, seeks you to lead you back to the flock! Prodigal children! Abandon your voluntary exile and return to the Father’s home! Your Father, with arms wide open to receive you, is ready to celebrate your return home!” Lamennais
“Wars of words! Wars of words! Have you not shed enough blood over words? Should we rekindle the fires that burnt so many at the stakes? Human beings dispute ‘eternal punishments’ and ‘everlasting damnation,’ but do you not realize that what you call eternity, in past eras was not defined in the same manner as it is understood today?
Let theologians consult their sources, and like the rest of you, they will see that in Hebrew texts what Greek, Latin and modern linguists have translated as endless and unpardonable suffering do not have the same meaning. Eternity of anguish corresponds to the eternity of evil. Yes, as long as inequity continues to exist among human beings suffering will continue to exist. It is in this relative context that you should interpret the sacred texts.
An eternity of sorrow, therefore, is not absolute it is relative. When human beings repent and don the robe of innocence, on that day, there will be no more weeping or gnashing of teeth. True, your human reasoning is narrow, but it still is a gift from God. In this context, no one can understand an eternity of sorrow to mean anything else. Eternity of sorrow! How could that be? If we accept the idea of an eternity of penance, then we must also accept an eternity of wickedness. However, only God is eternal and could not have created eternal iniquity without renouncing one of the most magnificent attributes of Divinity, which is God’s sovereign power. A being that creates an element that can destroy its own work is not supremely powerful. Humanity! Humanity! Stop digging to the ends of the Earth in search of punishment and sorrow! Weep, but hope; atone, but take comfort in the thought of a loving God who is absolutely powerful and essentially just.” Plato
“Gravitating towards Divine union is the goal of humanity. Three things are necessary to reach this goal: knowledge, love and justice. Three things conflict with this goal: ignorance, hatred and injustice. You are untrue to these fundamental principles when you compromise the idea of God by exaggerating God’s severity, thereby suggesting that the human being, God’s creation, has more clemency, compassion, love and true justice than you attribute to the Creator. You even destroy the very idea of hell and purgatory by making it as ridiculous and inadmissible, according to your beliefs, as is, by your hearts, the disgusting spectacles of the Middle Ages with its torturers, executioners and burnings at the stake. Do you hope to maintain it as an ideal model when you have eliminated the principle of blind retaliation forever from society’s legislation? Brothers and sisters in God and Jesus Christ, believe me, you must either resign to letting all your doctrines perish at your own hands or modify them. You must revitalize them by opening them to the compassionate action that the good spirits are now providing. The idea of hell full of glowing furnaces and boiling cauldrons might have been admissible during an iron century. In the nineteenth century, however, it is nothing more than empty images. They can scare young children, but these children are no longer frightened when they grow up. By persisting in upholding this terrifying illusion, you generate skepticism, which is the root of every sort of social disorder. I shudder at witnessing the foundations of social order shaken and crumbling into dust, due to the lack of an effective penal sanction. Let all who are driven by a vibrant and passionate faith, the advanced men and women of human enlightenment, join in their efforts to erase antiquated fables and resuscitate the idea of true penal sanctions, in harmony with the values, traditions and insights of your time.”
“Who, in fact, is the guilty? It is the one who, by the soul’s deviation from the right path, has veered from the true goal of creation, which consists of a harmonious worship of the beautiful and good, idealized by the human archetype, the Man-God, through Jesus Christ.”
“What is punishment? The natural consequence of that deviation; the amount of pain necessary to disgust the offender, and which caused his departure from what is right by experiencing the suffering caused by that deviation. Punishment is the stimulus that drives the soul through its affliction to turn towards itself, and to return to the right path. The sole purpose of atonement is rehabilitation and emancipation, and to assume that it lasts forever would be to deny the reason for existing.”
“Honestly, stop trying to establish a parallel of duration between good, the essence of the Creator, and malevolence, the essence of the creature. This establishes a groundless standard of retribution. On the contrary, confirm the gradual decrease of imperfections and atonements through successive lives, and you will reach divine union by reconciling reason with compassion.” Paul, the Apostle
People are inspired to do good and avoid vices if they feel that this course of action will be a rewarding one and keep them from being punished. However, if the threatened punishment appears under conditions that are contrary to reason, not only does it fail its goal but it also leads people to reject everything: both the form and the basis. When the notion of a future is introduced in a rational way, people do not reject it. Spiritism provides this reasonable explanation.
The principle of eternal punishment makes the Supreme Being a merciless and cruel God. Is it rational to say that a ruler is very kind, compassionate and tolerant, and wants nothing but happiness for everyone when, this ruler is jealous, vindictive, relentlessly severe, and punishes three-quarters of the subjects with the most horrific torture for any offense or violation of the laws, even when the violations are the result of simple ignorance of the laws they violate? Is this not a blatant contradiction? Could God be less moral or virtuous than human beings? This doctrine has another contradiction. Since God knows all things, God must have known in creating a spirit that it would disobey Divine laws. Therefore, spirits must have been destined to eternal unhappiness and agony. Is this rational?
With the principle of relative punishment, on the contrary, everything is justified. When God created a given spirit, undoubtedly it was known that it would do wrong. However, it was in God’s design to provide the means for the spirit to become enlightened. The spirit must atone for its sins and make amends for its wrongdoings, so that it may be more firmly set in goodness. Therefore, the door to hope is never closed, and the moment when a spirit is delivered from suffering depends on the effort it channels into achieving this goal. This is something that all can understand and the most meticulous logic can accept. If the concept of future punishment were presented in this manner, there would be a far fewer skeptics.
We often use the word eternal figuratively to designate a long period with no fixed end even though we know that the end, of course, comes at some point in time. For instance, there are “the eternal snows” of mountain peaks and polar ice caps, although, we know that our planet will end one day, and the features of those regions may change due to the natural displacement of the Earth’s axis or by some natural disaster. In this specific case, eternal does not signify that which is infinitely everlasting. When we are sick or suffer from a long-term illness, we say that our suffering is eternal. Is it strange then, that for spirits who have suffered for years, centuries or millenniums to express themselves in the same manner? We must not forget that their inferiority prevents them from seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and they consequently think that they are destined to suffer forever. This belief is a part of their atonement. We borrowed our belief in fire, burning ovens and torture from the pagan Tartarus. This belief has been completely abandoned by many of the most eminent theologians today. Only in certain schools are such fear-mongering allegories still presented as literal truths by some individuals who are more over-zealous than enlightened. This is all very wrong, because young imaginations, once past the terror, will most likely become skeptics. Currently, theology admits that the word fire is used figuratively in the Bible, and is to be understood as meaning moral fire (see no. 974). People, who have observed life and suffering beyond the grave, as communicating spirits explain it, understand how this suffering can be excruciating although it is not of a physical nature. As for the duration of this suffering, many theologians are starting to acknowledge the restriction indicated above, and think that the word eternal may refer to the principle of sorrow itself as the consequence of an absolute law, and not its application to each individual. The day religion accepts this interpretation and other concepts as products of enlightenment, the vast numbers of people who have been led astray will have their faith in God restored.”