Hitler only tortured people until they died, some people believe in a God infinitely more cruel. Some preachers speak of a God who tortures souls in eternity for mistakes made in this short, painful and confusing lifetime. And those unfortunate damned souls would be tortured for weaknesses and temptations also made by that same God.

There is no blasphemy, however vile, that insults God as much as the traditional doctrine of hell. I am not saying that hell is unreal. It is an important symbol of our alienation from life and from love. So hell is very real, but it is something we create, not God.  And we certainly don’t have to die to get there.

In the creed, when Jesus descends to hell, it is not to mock the people, but to rescue them. The symbol of hell does not mean that God tortures the disobedient. It is a story of a rescue mission. The message is that, however real our fear and pain, they will not have the last word.