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“Last march, a story broke that must have had the sinners of the world praising whatever god they did or didn’t believe in: Pope Francis, leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics, had apparently declared that hell didn’t exist. Atheist journalist Eugenio Scalfari, co-founder and former editor of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, reported that after a private interview, Francis had said that while the souls of repentant sinners “receive the forgiveness of God . . . the souls of those who are unrepentant, and thus cannot be forgiven, disappear.” In other words, it’s game over for those sinners, which is a little depressing, but at least they can expect no post-death punishment. As happens so often with this outspoken pope, however, the Vatican’s communication team quickly stepped in and denied that Francis made the statement at all.
It was not the first time that the idea of hell has been questioned by an influential Christian. Rob Bell, a former evangelical church leader, argued a similar point in his bestselling 2011 book, Love Wins: “Has God created millions of people over tens of thousands of years who are going to spend eternity in anguish?” he asks. “Can God do this, or even allow this, and still claim to be a loving God?” Clearly, the ancient idea, and veracity, of eternal damnation is still up for debate. According to a 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center, only 58 percent of Americans believe in hell, though 72 percent believe in heaven.
Almost all major religions, monotheistic or otherwise, have featured some hierarchy of reward and penalty after death. The specifics are debated—some faiths describe endless torture, others a place for introspection—but the concept of consequences in the afterlife has been a constant. Is our waning attachment to hell, then, a momentary blip, or are believers finally ready for faith that isn’t tied to fear of everlasting agony?”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"Historic buildings and structures dating from the Byzantine era to the 20th century have been subjected to disastrous restorations in recent years here, prompting public outcry and fostering a cynical attitude toward planned projects."
"Fox News, normally the object of presidential praise on Twitter, was subjected to an unusual tweet-lashing over the weekend when the president went after three of its anchors."
"Opinion: I am not willing to cast a ballot for this current crop of scandal-mongers, gossips and PR-obsessed dilettantes who are tearing the country apart - don't we deserve better?"
"Listening to The Joe Rogan Experience is sort of like crashing an intense, intimate dinner party in which the only courses are whiskey and weed."
"At the Jewish Museum in London called “Jews, Money, Myth.” The show explores the ways in which Jews have been associated with money over the past 2,000 years."
"Footage of last week’s massacre in New Zealand, which the shooter streamed in real time via Facebook Live, quickly proliferated. The original 17-minute webcast was viewed fewer than 200 times and wasn’t immediately reported, Facebook says."
"When I hear that Jews are too powerful, my response is, we are not powerful enough. When I hear that AIPAC is too influential a lobby, I say it must become even more influential."
"Lost in migration: When Walter Benjamin fled France in 1940, he took a heavy black suitcase. Did it contain a typescript? Where is it now?"
"Someday my daughter will be asked if she wants to have a bat mitzvah. I’m inclined to let her make up her own mind... It's a lot of work to learn Hebrew, memorize parts of the Torah and prepare for a pressure-packed performance at such a young age."
"Tablet's Unorthodox Podcast: Gail Simmons, Shalom Auslander, Jill Kargman, Gil Hovav, and more on the Jewish foods that mean the most to them."
""Hitting someone is a foundational moral violation," Yale University Psychologist Paul Bloom wrote in a comment to the paper. "Indeed, these sorts of physical infractions are found to be morally wrong by the youngest babies we can test."
" Ilhan Omar in particular has garnered attention for tweets widely viewed by the Jewish community as trafficking in anti-Semitic tropes. The result has been the most media coverage of anti-Semitism in a decade..."