Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Have you ever wondered if Hitler is in Hell? On the surface, this seems like an absurd question. After all, Hitler is responsible for at least eighteen million people in the holocaust, excluding even the war dead. Ironically, it looks like more Soviet citizens were killed (about seven million civilians and another three million prisoners of war), making Jewish people only second in number of dead (about six million). Two million polish citizens were also killed as well as political prisoners, people with disabilities, criminal offenders and more. But, did Hitler end up in Hell?
Let’s explore the concept of Hell before going any further. Not all of my readers are Christian, and I’m certainly no expert, but the concept of Hell is definitely Christian. I don’t believe (and I might be wrong) that any other religion has Hell as a concept. My understanding, for example, is that the Hindu’s believe in reincarnation as a means of spiritual growth and development. My understanding that the Jewish concept of death is that it’s just the end until the rising, in which case you may not be risen, but you won’t end up in a “Hell” if you don’t.
Christianity teaches that there is one life. We either earn the trip to go to Heaven through good deeds and faith, or we end up in Hell. There is no in-between, no second chances except for some Christian groups that do believe in a “Limbo”, somewhere between Heaven and Hell, the purpose of which has always been a question to me. I’m not sure if it’s awaiting final judgment for people “on the fence”, which doesn’t make much sense to me because it implies an uncertainty in the Final Judgment, or it’s to give people who are truly borderline an opportunity to atone for their sins through, I don’t know, waiting?
Like I said, I’m not an expert. But I can tell you that Christianity provides a way out. Basically, it involves accepting Christ as your savior and asking for forgiveness for your sins. Christians believe that Christ dies for our sins, taking the punishment he did so we wouldn’t have to in the afterlife. There are some variations to this belief. For example, Catholics believe that one must atone for sins in confession. I have also heard philosophers argue that hell is our own creation, as we are tormented by our own sins and regrets.
Hitler is easily considered to be one of the most evil people in human history, although I’m wondering if part of this is because of the relative recent history of his atrocities as compared to, say, Genghis Kahn, or Ivan the Terrible, or Demitri the At Least Not As Bad As Ivan. But he was also raised Catholic. He turned his back on Christianity in his teen years, but in his final days, who knows. On top of that, I often wonder if he had any idea of just how bad he really was. I’m betting that he believed that he was doing “the right thing”, simply making the difficult decisions on what has to happen.
So, can a person be forgiven anything in their life, if they believed it was for the greater good, or if they tried to atone for their sins? Is it possible that he asked for forgiveness in the bunker, and if he did, does that mean that he was forgiven? For everything? I mean, literally, everything?
It’s an academic question. None of us will ever know, at least not as we live. Maybe in our afterlife we will, but not while I write this blog, or while you read it. But what a concept, don’t you think? My friend’s attitude is very much like mine as it turns out. Whether or not Hitler belongs in Hell, assuming Hell is indeed in the afterlife, it’s not our place to decide, something for which I will be forever grateful. I guess most faiths have this caveat. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna explained to his best friend Arjuna that it is not Arjuna who decides who lives or dies; that’s a decision for Krishna alone. In the Bible, it’s clearly stated that judgment is reserved for God. In the old Testament, who rises and who doesn’t isn’t our decision to make. A friend of mine once asked me who prays for the Devil. Tolerance, love for others is something that is taught in all faiths. The Bible tells us to hate the sin and love the sinner, something that I fear many of us have forgiven. Is homosexuality a sin? That’s not mine to decide, nor is it anybody’s decision except for God. If it’s truly a sin (I don’t believe it is), that’s not my concern. My job is to love the sinner, not to try to change them, not to decide where they will go. Simple love. Is that really so hard?