John Steinbeck, in his novel East of Eden, dealt with the timeless question of how some women could so foolishly enter a life of prostitution. Couldn’t they see that when they became old they would no longer be desirable to men? That then they would be turned out of the whorehouses? That many of them would become alcoholics and that some would commit suicide? No, they did not worry about these consequences because, “No one who is young is ever going to be old,” wrote the great author.
Along the same lines, I once overheard a priest say something that I will never forget, “People know they are going to die, but they don’t believe it.”
This fatal flaw of human nature, ties in well with the whole question of damnation. How can people who have been warned over and over about the reality of hell persist in sin? To a large degree, I’ve already answered that question, but there are other reasons:
“I don’t believe in hell,” many people will say. This is completely false logic. If one does not believe a truth, that in no way disproves that truth. The reality of hell was taught by Jesus many times. It was taught by the great fathers of the faith, the great saints, and has always been taught by the Catholic Church.
People often “don’t believe in hell” because they can’t accept that a loving God would allow such suffering. However, how do they then explain the great suffering we witness and experience in this life? God loves each of us and yet he allows all of us to suffer, to a lesser or greater degree. God is not only a loving God, but also a God of justice. It would be unjust if God did not punish those who are evil and reward those who are good in the next life, which differs from this one in that it is spiritual and eternal.
I think many people believe that they will have time to convert just before they die. However, they should realize that many people die suddenly or are so distraught when they are ill, in pain, and near death that they do not desire to repent.
Finally, it seems, the majority of people love sin too much to give it up. They are so focused on the pleasures the world, materialism, ego gratification and sexual sin that they give little thought to their eternal destiny.
Should we worry about hell now? Many people, including many Catholic priests, would say that we should not. I think we should worry about hell now, turn from sin, and believe the gospel. God promises us forgiveness, but He does not promise us tomorrow.