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Pope Francis and the Atheist: What is Hell?

Posted on 23 April 2018, 7:58

Although the Vatican denies that Pope Francis (below) recently told Eugenio Scalfari, an Italian newspaper publisher, that hell doesn’t exist, my guess is that the pope actually beat around the bush on the subject and likely implied that very thing in the private interview, which was not recorded by Scalfari.  I suspect that the pope really does question the reality of hell, at least the hell of orthodox Christianity, and that he would like to see it undergo a complete makeover.


Clearly, the hell of orthodoxy – one of fire and brimstone in which sinners go for eternity – just doesn’t fly with rational people, as it can’t be reconciled with the fair, just and compassionate God the churches have passing judgment on those supposedly cast into that horrific place.  No matter how the churches try to justify their strict biblical interpretations of it all, God still comes out of it as cruel, capricious and vindictive, much like one of the “hanging judges” of the Old West. 

The religious message, though varying among denominations, is that a person will spend eternity in hell if he or she doesn’t choose the right savior, or if he or she doesn’t repent in a very timely manner.  A person might lead a virtuous or “righteous” life, but if he worships the wrong savior or commits a grievous sin just before his death, with no opportunity to repent, his fate in hell is sealed.  On the other hand, a person can lead a very wicked life but can be “saved” on her or his deathbed by “finding” the right God and properly repenting. Much depends on luck or being in the right place at the right time. How just is all that? 

Of course, heaven needs a complete overhaul as well, since floating around on clouds, strumming harps, and praising God 24/7 for eternity simply is not all that appealing.  To many, total extinction seems preferable to such a humdrum existence.  This dichotomous black and white afterlife preached by the churches has to be the biggest obstacle to believing in life after death.  I think the pope realizes all that, but for him to say that the Catholic Church had it wrong so many years is for him to say that all his “infallible” predecessors were actually fallible, and it would undermine the authority and other teachings of the Church.  In effect, he is caught between a rock and a hard place.

In defense of the pope and the horrific hell subscribed to by the Catholic Church and most of Christianity, The Tablet, the International Catholic News Weekly, stated, in a March 31 release, that the pope “is heavily influenced in this regard by a novel featuring the Antichrist,” which confirms the existence of hell.  It is difficult to believe that the pope or Church authorities would let on that a novel influences his thinking, but the article identified the piece of fiction as Lord of the World, authored by Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, (below) the son of a former Archbishop of Canterbury.  Benson was an Anglican vicar who created quite a stir when he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1903.  His novel was published in 1907.


I doubt that the pope knows the rest of the Benson story, that involving Anthony Borgia, a British medium who purportedly recorded many after-death messages from Benson, who died in 1914.  As Benson explains it through Borgia, he found that after his death many of the views he expressed in his books, including The Necromancers, published in 1909,  gave a distorted view of the spirit world, including spirit communication, and he was hoping to set the record straight through Borgia’s mediumship. 

“The whole fantastic doctrine of hell-fire – a fire which burns but never consumes – is one of the most outrageously stupid and ignorant doctrines that has ever been invented by equally stupid and ignorant churchmen,” Benson communicated through Borgia, describing the lower realms as nothing but a cold, dank atmosphere, its inhabitants seemingly listless and lost in the darkness.  They are not being punished by the God they mocked, he reported, but rather they are punishing themselves.

The skeptics and the fundamentalists of religion scoff at the whole idea of such mediumship and claim that it is all fraud, the work of the devil, or perhaps the creation of Borgia’s subconscious mind.  There is no way to prove it came from Benson.  However, it is consistent with scores of messages that have come through various other mediums and mystics since the time of Emanuel Swedenborg, the great scientist turned mystic and clairvoyant, during the 18th century, and it is the same kind of mediumship and mysticism that gave us the Bible in the first place, even if it is more convenient for church authorities to claim it all came from God. (Did God really say to stone adulterers and adulteresses to death as set forth in Leviticus 20:10? Come on!)   

Perhaps the most significant discovery by Swedenborg was the “world of spirits,” a vast intermediate region between the heaven and hell of the Protestant theology he had subscribed to, but unlike the purgatory of Catholicism, which is, or at least was before the Catholic Church backed off the subject a few decades ago, much like hell.  The conditions of the spirit world that Swedenborg explored were very similar to earth, so similar that many newly arrived souls had to be told that they were no longer living on the earth plane. 

Edgar Cayce, the famous American “sleeping prophet” of the last century, also told of taking a tour of many realms during one of his out-of-body experiences.  He described how he encountered a stream of light he knew he must follow.  In the lower or darker realms he saw “forms” that were floundering or lost and seeking the light.  As the light grew stronger and stronger, he arrived at a place where individuals appeared much as they do today. 

Almost without exception, the more modern revelation tells of progressive spheres or realms or planes.  It is often reported that there are seven basic planes, giving some credence to “Seventh Heaven” mythology, but many of the spirits communicating claim they do not know how many planes there are because they know only of the plane on which they exist, and those below.  It is further reported that the souls in the lowest realms, what might be called “hell,” are not there forever.  They are able to progress to higher realms, usually with help from those in higher realms or through the prayers of those still incarnate.  They eventually “see the light.”

The more modern revelation suggests we develop what has been called a “moral specific gravity” in the earth life and that determines the level at which we find ourselves after death.  This moral specific gravity has also been referred to as “spiritual consciousness.” Those who fail to develop any significant spiritual consciousness during the earth life will, it is said, find themselves in the lowest realm of the afterlife and may not even realize they are dead.  They likely will experience a “fire of the mind,” or an ongoing nightmare as they exist in something of a dream world.  It is understandable that this “fire of the mind” became a symbolic physical reality when early artists tried to depict it and that the churches found it the easiest way to explain it all to the uneducated masses and use it as a weapon to keep them in line. 

Those who developed a modicum of spiritual consciousness would, it was reported, find themselves a little higher in the realms and in sort of a stupor, in and out of a dream world, much as a person can be during a light sleep or even while absorbed in a movie.  That person will likely drift in and out of the “dream” while gradually awakening. Some have referred to this second realm as the “borderland.”  Above that realm we reach an existence similar to that we have in the material world, one in which there is much activity, and beyond that it begins to exceed human comprehension.

“Those of us who have returned to earth to tell about our new life are faced with the difficulty of trying to describe in terms of the earth what is essentially of a spirit nature,” Benson communicated. “Our descriptions must fall short of the reality.  It is difficult to conjure up in the mind a state of beauty greater than we have experienced upon earth.  Magnify by one hundred times the beauties that I have told you about, and you would still be far short of a true appraisement.”   

Johannes Greber, (below) a Catholic priest living in Germany during the 1920s, began receiving communication from a spirit speaking through a young peasant boy.  “If you had the complete and unamended text of Christ’s doctrines, many a load imposed by man in the name of religion and Christianity would be taken from your shoulders,” it was communicated to Greber.  “Many a precept which you are expected to believe, even though it seems out of all reason, would be discarded because it would be recognized as being wrong, and you, as God’s children could again breathe freely.”  The same spirit had previously told Greber that the teachings of Christ are no longer to be found in their original purity and clearness, that entire chapters have been omitted and that what we have now are “mutilated copies.” 


And so what can we believe?  Are all these modern day spirits “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” as orthodoxy claims?  Surely we must heed the words of John to “test the spirits to find out if they are of God” (1 John 4:1) as well as those of Paul that we should be “discerning of the spirits” (1 Corinthians 12:10). But neither John nor Paul tells us how to test or discern the spirits.  Seemingly, the best test or best discernment would be to ask if the spirit communication is consistent with an all-loving and all-just Creator.

By going beyond the self-imposed limits of orthodox religion, by testing and discerning the teachings of the spirits, we find a much more logical, more sensible, more appealing environment – one that can be reconciled with a loving and just God.  We discover a Divine plan – one of attainment and attunement, of gradual spiritual growth, of evolution of spirit through progressively “higher” (in vibration) planes.  I believe Pope Francis gets that, but he simply doesn’t know how to correct things.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.

Next blog post:  May 7


Thanks to all for the comments on this post.

Also, thanks for the concern about the current volcano eruption here in Hawaii. It is 250 miles from me on another island, but it is certainly a matter of concern for people living in that area on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Michael Tymn, Mon 7 May, 08:39

Yes, Michael I see that ‘hell’ is busting out all over not too far from where you live.  I hope you are safe. - AOD

Amos Oliver Doyle, Sat 5 May, 16:02

This is surely out of topics, but…
How are thigs there after the quake? Hope you are well.
Many hugs,

Claudio from Italy, Sat 5 May, 12:15

A most excellent and comprehensive article.

I absolutely believe the Pope and many church leaders believe what we do; they just don’t know how to “fix it” so they can continue to still have parishioners and money is definitely involved.

However, many also believe that this SPECIAL SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE is not appropriate for the ignorant masses.

When the spirits communicate that had been priests…that is the argument they always make.  They also admit the Vatican conducts seances.

Yvonne Limoges, Wed 2 May, 19:17

Someone’s name stands for that someone’s self-consciousness of identity. We are told to do things in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Which means doing it in the Self-consciousness of the named persons: that of the original Source and Cause, the Extension of that Source and Cause in human appearance, and the loving Self-recognition of the Source and Cause and Its Extension as one. That divine Self-recognition (knowing again) comes down to no longer identifying with our human appearance without the recognition that it is the One Who gave His Life for us recognizing Himself in us. The Name in that sense is “I Am” or even “I.” Thinking “I Am” to com to the realisation of “I Am”, worded as “I Am that I Am.”
The wrath of “I Am” will be on Itself in us for as long as It identifies Itself with Its human appearance only. In that sense I Am is then still Its own accuser and enemy as a human, and Its anger on Its human self is also called “Satan.”
Seeing how many humans there are and how ungodly they appear before I Am realizes Who It really is disguised as all of them:
“And again the anger of I Am that I Am was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.”
~2Samuel 24:1
“And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.”
~1Chronicles 21:1

Lodewijk Langeweg, Wed 25 Apr, 08:28

Thanks, Daniel.

Jon, Wed 25 Apr, 08:11

A reader, “Adri,” recommends Walsch’s Conversations with God, where one will find the same lie put into the mouth of Pope Francis, namely that evildoers will not go to hell but to heaven. Victor Zammit has a good rebuttal to that ( I am currently reading Judy Laddon’s Beyond the Veil I & II, which backs up Zammit’s argument that evil karma will have to be paid off, specifically mentioning Hitler, and that doing so might take “eons.” I hope someone with connections to the Vatican alerts the Pope to Father Hugh Benson’s post-mortem writings. In response to Jon, Paul probably meant 47 Billion Years of Evolution: A Case Report by Martha Barham, available at Amazon for $2.99. Michael Tymm wrote the forward.

Daniel Kealey, Wed 25 Apr, 03:58

Paul, I Googled it but nothing came up. Do you know the name of the author?

Jon, Tue 24 Apr, 20:37

For the creation of hell, please read “40 Billion Years of Evolution, A Case Study.”  The creation is described by 2 spirits who communicated with the authors for more than a 20 year period.

Paul Hauser, Tue 24 Apr, 19:09

Compared to God’s infinitely great happiness the merely human experience is hell. For God to experience being but a human is the crucifixion. A constantly being tortured to death. And for as long as God believes that He is but a human, and therefore not deserving of the true happiness only someone as infinitely good as God deserves, hell will be experienced as forever by God as that human. For it will seem to God as a human that He will never have the right to be perfectly happy with His human self.

Yet God was willing to undergo it all, this hell, this spiritual death, this not experiencing being Himself, that also the thus created human souls would one day know and enjoy that their true Being is infinitely great, courageous, creative, pure altruistic Charity. That in truth they are the One as Whom they gave their Life for the humans, as God knowing that He would not have His Life back until He would have It as the humans. All to their benefit.

That also the humans would know that it is God reading this now in His human appearance, after having given His Life for this human.

Lodewijk Langeweg, Tue 24 Apr, 02:19

Bravo, Mike. Good, clear explication and appeal to reason.

There is a saying which comes from the ancient rishis of India, which is a guideline for me:  Knowledge is structured in consciousness. To understand the “higher” levels and the communications which come from them, one must have attained a level of consciousness equal to or greater than them. So living people can attain those higher levels and thereby explain or teach with clarity and accuracy about both heaven(s) and hell.

John White, Tue 24 Apr, 01:29

Mike. You say: “Clearly, the hell of orthodoxy – one of fire and brimstone in which sinners go for eternity – just doesn’t fly with rational people, as it can’t be reconciled with the fair, just and compassionate God the churches have passing judgment on those supposedly cast into that horrific place.”

I completely agree with your comment above that “the hell of orthodoxy …. Just doesn’t fly with rational people” and thank God that with modern education today, unlike the days when priests were amongst the few that received some modicum of education; most of us are today well educated and importantly - rational. So, cannot swallow the dogma served up in the past.
It was a joy for me only over the last few years, to find many treasures previously unknown to me amongst esoteric literature which not only shows rationality, but also a coherent masterfully designed plan and future for us all. One was the Borgia books as you mention - where the myth of eternal punishment in hell for our sins is highlighted by showing that the only possible hell that we ever encounter is mild, short-lived and in any case, what we choose for ourselves – whether on earth or in an afterlife. Also, that Satan does not and never existed. How rationally, could this be so when God - our creator, is the prime Creator; created us all and is a God of Love, anyway?
Another point Mike, is that I have found an amazing consistency in esoteric literature (unlike many books of the Bible) and thought that this quote from the channelled book from the “Michael Entity source book “The Michael Handbook” will interest you and others, as it completely supports the Borgia books contention that many religion’s so called “truth’s” are falsities distorted and deliberately manipulated by priests of the time.
“Christianity is a good case in point. Jesus Christ did not seek to leave behind any written teaching. In the centuries that followed the predominantly baby soul society imposed a structure, rites and rituals that Christ himself did not create. The principle of recurrence (reincarnation), for example, was an integral part of Christianity until the leaders decided it made them more powerful to change the doctrine to threaten miscreant followers with hell and damnation in the hereafter. But the Bible and Book of Common Prayer retain the references to “eternal life”.” – The Michael Handbook, Jose Stevens and Warwick-Smith Simon. Kindle edition Loc. 496

Bruce Scott-Hill, Mon 23 Apr, 23:13

I highly recommend Glenda Green’s writings about love and Jesus as well as Neale Donald Walsch insights about God whom he says “we got all wrong.”
The light of unconditional love is available for anyone, and is accessible via the shortcut of unending gratitude and service of love to others, as well as loving oneself in gratitude for who you are, a miracle of existence..
Also, Anita Moorjani’s Dying to be Me, is a great book to read.

adri, Mon 23 Apr, 17:45


Another terrific Article !!! Anthony Borgia channeled ten books, or so, from Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson.  Several are available for free on PDF.  The one that comes to mind is “Life in the World Unseen”.  I would highly recommend each of the books - they seem to “Resonate” for me (whatever that means ...

Thanks and Keep up the good work !!!


Richard Brannon, Mon 23 Apr, 16:33

The Sad Reality of Hell
Dear Mike,

Reality may be bitter and unpalatable- Hell is a sad reality according to Marian apparitions. In the famous Fatima apparition of Mary in 1917 (Portugal), she has reconfirmed the existence of hell. We know very little about our spiritual self, spiritual dimensions and even the terrestrial worlds. It may be premature to interpret the age-old concept of hell as something else. The communicators in mediumship mistake the lower planes of purgatory for hell. There is some recycling in the lowest plane of purgatory where there is hellish suffering and some communicators misinterpret and see it as an opportunity for spiritual evolution and assert that hell is not permanent. Chico Xavier literature mention about dismantlement after a few reincarnations. Some people after reincarnation return worse and after a few repeated lives, they are thrown into the scrapyard or stopped from reincarnating. God does not send anybody to hell, but some people choose to go to that dimension in spite of Heaven’s constant attempt to save them. Hell is not God’s torture camp, but a self-torture chamber. It is supposed to be for ever because those who chose hell want it that way. We do not know the physics involved in these different dimensions-it is their well thought about choice.I do not think or wish that many souls end up in that realm of hatred.

The physics in different parts of the material universe may not be the same. To me, God permits extreme suffering on earth so as to prevent a still worse suffering. There are also the “tempters” who are jealous of human life to mislead the humans into these places of misery.

It was on 13th July 1917 that the apparition of Our Lady at Fatima in Portugal confided the three special messages – or the secrets, as they are popularly known – with the instruction that the visionaries were not to talk about them to anyone at that time. The first secret is a vision of a negative realm and is presented in a symbolic way. It was as if a vision were inserted into a vision. Our Lady uses the symbolic language to explain something profound, but difficult to comprehend easily by the percipient or the message may be even untimely.Sister Lucia, one of the percipients of these Marian apparitions describes it as follows:

“She opened once again her hands, as in the previous two months. It seemed that the reflection penetrated the earth and we saw what seemed an ocean of fire; plunging in this fire were demons and souls like transparent burning coals, black or bronze, with human form, floating in the fire, driven by flames coming out of themselves, together with clouds of smoke falling on all sides, like the sparks falling in great fires, with no weight and no equilibrium, amidst screams and groans of pain and despair that horrified us and made us tremble with fear. Probably it was when I beheld this sight that I uttered that ‘Woe’ people say they heard. The demons were of varied forms, horrible, disgusting and unknown animals, but transparent like black incandescent coals …”

In an interview with a high-ranking member of the church hierarchy, Sister Lucy reaffirmed her vision of hell, but interpreted hell fire as a supernatural fire, not a physical fire, and one that cannot be compared to any fire that burns from wood or coal.  Obviously, a symbolic presentation is hard to interpret in terms that others will find it easy to comprehend. I content that the “hell fire” is symbolic of hatred. Metaphorically the currency of heaven is unconditional love, the currency of hell is hatred. We are in the earth school to learn this unconditional love, collect the heavenly currencies and bank them in heaven and multiply. Mother Mary has also reaffirmed the reality of hell in her apparitions at Kibeho (Rwanda-1981-1989) and Medjugorje (Bosnia-1981 to date).

Pope Francis himself had been to Fatima on 13th May, 2017, the one hundredth anniversary of Fatima apparitions. It is a pity that the church kept a cold silence towards Fatima in the 60s, the beginning of the present spiritual convolution and according to the observers of Fatima the third secret was supposed to be a guidance for the generation of the 60s. The world was more receptive towards mysticism in the sixties and Fatima revelation would have become popular. Remember that the Beatles went to the Maharishi seeking spiritual help in the sixties. The commercialization of contraceptive pills happened in 1960- the beginning of sexual anarchy.
Surprisingly, technically minded priests have been alleged to have denied the existence of hell even in their homily at the chapel of Fatima, the site where apparitions took place!
-Dr James Pandarakalam

Dr James Pandarakalam, Mon 23 Apr, 16:02

thank you for and excellent text Mike but I couldn’t agree more with Keith’s comment! The anthropomorphich God is not only a huge mistake but one that has had tremendously negative implications in human societies.

Anabela, Mon 23 Apr, 15:23

Thank you for your article Michael.

I do question there being a “loving and just god” and a divine plan. I do think there might be a purpose to existence but how it all works I believe points to a natural progression of consciousness with no need for a God. This gives credence to the idea of purpose and yet helps explain the barbarity and cruelness of this world.

Chad W Luter, Mon 23 Apr, 15:23

Rome. Eugenio Scalfari invented the interview with the Pope. At least this is how the Vatican Press Room knows, that with a press release published shortly after 3pm, he denied the contents of what was reported this morning on Repubblica. The founder, 94 years in a few days, had attributed to Francis phrases that - as it seems to understand - the Pope has never pronounced. Some examples: “Bad souls are not punished, those who repent get God’s forgiveness and go among the ranks of souls who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and can not therefore be forgiven disappear. There is no hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls “. And again, according to the reconstruction of Scalfari, Bergoglio would have explained that “the Creator, that is the God in the highest, created the whole universe and above all the energy which is the instrument with which our Lord created the earth, the mountains, the sea, the stars, the galaxies and the living natures and even the particles and atoms and the different species that the divine nature has brought to life. Each species lasts for thousands or perhaps billions of years, but then disappears. Energy has exploded the universe that changes from time to time “.
(Translated by Goggle) Original link:

Claudio, Mon 23 Apr, 14:22

An excellent piece, Mike, thank you. But I’m not sure I go along with a father-god, Lord-almighty anthropomorphic personality. That there is intelligent design in the universe seems demonstrable. The intelligence and creative force we detect and the way it works is unfathomable, and I suspect it should not be referred to in ‘personal’ terms and especially not as ‘He’. I confirm that my view is only a theory. But it seems to me that creating a God in anthropomorphic terms is the ‘big mistake’ of the whole of mankind; not just the Roman Catholic Church.

Keith P in England, Mon 23 Apr, 10:05

I am a huge fan of the “Lucifer” TV series, in which the devil, who never wanted the job of running hell to begin with, has cut loose and taken up residence in Los Angeles.  Although his job for thousands of years was to punish sinners, his main concern is not so much punishment as justice, so he has established a partnership with an LAPD detective and helps to catch murderers.  Which strangely enough works as a basis for stories.

In one of the episodes we see a character who refuses to let go of his delusions end up in hell, still locked into the pattern of thoughts that led to his death.  Lucifer mentions that no one is actually confined to hell, that they can leave at any time—but no one ever does.  It’s a very modern understanding of hell as a state in which we are imprisoned by our own misapprehensions of reality and unwillingness to develop beyond them, and despite the mythological trappings it seems quite close to what the spirit beings describe.

Elene Gusch, Mon 23 Apr, 09:48

A good blog. I think that the Pope does know that a lot of old ideas are wrong, but I imagine that it would be extremely difficult for him to change the doctrine. In the early days religion was used to curb ‘bad behaviour’ in society….and in that there was some sense.

Tricia, Mon 23 Apr, 09:32

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The Only Planet of Choice: Visitations – Many people use the word ‘Alien’ to describe a visitor from outer space. Extra terrestrial is another word, which is rather more user friendly. For the sake of the question and answer format, the word used by the questioner has been left, though even Tom questions our use of‘Alien’. Should we wish to foster openess between all beings of the Universe perhaps we should also look at our vocabulary? In a discussion between Andrew and Tom many years earlier, Andrew had asked Tom about UFOs and whether they were created manifestations. Tom had replied: “Many of the flying things that you call UFOs come from our place, but they come from other places also, and they do come in physical form. But many of them are not physical. They are like your movie screen”. Read here
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