What is your view of the word "hell" when used as an exclamation.

There is really nothing wrong with it, except that some people are offended and we must consider them.
29% (5 votes)
There is nothing wrong with using it even if someone is offended.
0% (0 votes)
It is vulgar to use "hell" as a figure in our society but not necessarily elsehwere
0% (0 votes)
It is vulgar to use "hell" as a figure in an absolute sense in any culture
29% (5 votes)
It is blasphemous (sacrilegious) to use "hell" as a figure; it is an absolute moral or spiritual issue
18% (3 votes)
Other
24% (4 votes)
Total votes: 17
2186 reads

There are 10 Comments

Ed Vasicek's picture

At SI, we all believe that hell is a real place. I and other pastors frequently discuss hell without reservation.

But why is it considering cursing or vulgar in our society at large?

Your opinions appreciated!

"The Midrash Detective"

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I think to answer that question we have to consider the origins of swearing and cursing. From what I've read, folks used to believe that spoken words had 'power' and could exert influence on individuals and the world around them. Thus the fact that most curse words are derived from either 'sacred' or visceral vocabularies. It is interesting that another way to define cursing is to utter an 'oath'.

It is also notable that scientists who have studied how the brain processes swearing have come to the conclusion that while language is a higher brain function, swearing is actually processed in the lower brain, the seat of our emotions and instincts. Makes you go "Hmmmmmm".

The reason IMO why it is considered vulgar is that the idea of 'hell' is of divine origin, and to use the word as a profanity is to either attempt to channel its power, or make light of its existence. Either way, our hard-wiring acknowledges the impropriety of this, and we have a deep-seated emotional response to the use of swear words. We are explicitly commanded not to take the name of the Lord in vain, but I think we also instinctively know that we should not use 'sacred' words in vain, nor swear by His creation (various biological functions).

ChrisC's picture

i'm not really sure i'd classify its use as "vulgar", but words have more than their denotative meaning. there are certain interjections and intensifiers that are not appropriate for christians to use just because they are taboo.

i disagree with susan about her opinion of why the usage is taboo. i don't think it has anything to do with a divine origin. there are some very similar non-taboo phrases that use "world" instead, and the earth's origin is just as divine as hell's.

strong language keeps its strength because it's taboo, and it continues to be taboo because everyone says so. it has very little to do with the ordinary meaning of the word.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

ChrisC wrote:
I disagree with susan about her opinion of why the usage is taboo. i don't think it has anything to do with a divine origin. there are some very similar non-taboo phrases that use "world" instead, and the earth's origin is just as divine as hell's.

strong language keeps its strength because it's taboo, and it continues to be taboo because everyone says so. it has very little to do with the ordinary meaning of the word.


Of course everything we see is of 'divine' origin, but there are some words and concepts that are considered by humans to be more 'sacred' and 'powerful' than others. Profanity goes waaaay back- many people don't know how full of profanity Shakespeare's writings were, full of euphenisms like "zounds" (God's wounds) and "'sblood" (God's blood). Other languages also have curses that take a swipe at God, from "gadzooks" (God's hooks) to "gorblimey" (God blind me).

We are told in Scripture, however, NOT to swear by things in heaven or earth, because of the relationship between God and His creation. The fact that folks don't find swearing by the sun, moon, and stars taboo doesn't mean that it shouldn't be or isn't by God's standards of sound speech. How often did Samantha in Bewitched say "Oh my stars"? Coincidence?

Hell is most especially a concept that the natural man would wish to either channel for their own use or minimize its reality, and IMO that is why it has its taboo status.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Susan wrote:

Quote:
We are told in Scripture, however, NOT to swear by things in heaven or earth, because of the relationship between God and His creation.

We should not confuse swearing -- in the sense of an oath -- with inappropriate language. Those are two different subjects, IMO.

Heaven is of divine origin and many of us would not be offended by the term, "Good heavens!" or "I felt like I died and went to heaven." But, on the same note, if someone compared war or a horrid time to hell, that would be considered inappropriate. To me, it is sad that the term "Nirvana" is replacing heaven.

To curse someone by wishing that they would be sent to hell has to be one of the worst things a person could wish for another. My theory is that this curse sensitized the culture from the word itself (because they associated it with such a curse).

Still, outside of the fact that in our Christian sub-culture (and the influences of that culture -- at least in the past -- on society at large), it is considered inappropriate speech (and thus must affect what we say), I am still awaiting the logic for it being intrinsically evil to use as a term.

"The Midrash Detective"

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

IMO, to note that even while we differentiate between the terms 'swearing', uttering an 'oath', and 'cursing', these terms are often used interchangeably because they of their taboo nature. I think if we really deconstruct how we use these taboo words, we'd find that we are cussing more often than not. But I'm not sure I understand what you mean when you say "I am still awaiting the logic for it being intrinsically evil to use as a term."

The reason I believe it is inappropriate to use Biblical terms indiscriminately is the seriousness of the concepts themselves. We shouldn't joke about adultery and fornication, or diminish the tragedy of murder, disease, natural disasters, and famine, and do we have any examples of the use of the word 'hell' in the Bible as anything other than serious business? Hell is the ultimate tragedy. James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.-is James being facetious?

The use of the word 'heaven' is probably not considered offensive because its meaning is at the very least pleasant- but I also think be careful when making comparisons to heaven, like chocolate or cheeseburgers... although there might be chocolate and cheeseburgers in heaven... Biggrin

Ed Vasicek's picture

Susan R wrote:
IMO, to note that even while we differentiate between the terms 'swearing', uttering an 'oath', and 'cursing', these terms are often used interchangeably because they of their taboo nature. I think if we really deconstruct how we use these taboo words, we'd find that we are cussing more often than not. But I'm not sure I understand what you mean when you say "I am still awaiting the logic for it being intrinsically evil to use as a term."

The reason I believe it is inappropriate to use Biblical terms indiscriminately is the seriousness of the concepts themselves. We shouldn't joke about adultery and fornication, or diminish the tragedy of murder, disease, natural disasters, and famine, and do we have any examples of the use of the word 'hell' in the Bible as anything other than serious business? Hell is the ultimate tragedy. James 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.-is James being facetious?

The use of the word 'heaven' is probably not considered offensive because its meaning is at the very least pleasant- but I also think be careful when making comparisons to heaven, like chocolate or cheeseburgers... although there might be chocolate and cheeseburgers in heaven... Biggrin

Susan, I hear you, but I still think that inappropriate language and oaths are two different things. If I were called to the witness stand, I would take the oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and ask God's help to do so. I do not believe that to be wrong.

There are commands not to engage in "coarse" and obscene talk, like Ephesians 5:4

Quote:
Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.

But I do not think that covers the idea of exaggeration and comparison, as comparing a negative experience by hyperbole to hell (or a positive one to heaven). That is what I do not understand as being forbidden in Scripture, except as we avoid what is offensive to others (cultural). As a matter of fact, I believe that this is exactly what the Psalmist does in Psalm 88:3-6, which is what got me thinking about this:

Quote:
I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care. You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.

In my view, the Psalmist is saying that his experience is so bad that he feels like he is in hell (the pit) even when still alive.

"The Midrash Detective"

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Ed Vasicek wrote:
Susan, I hear you, but I still think that inappropriate language and oaths are two different things. If I were called to the witness stand, I would take the oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and ask God's help to do so. I do not believe that to be wrong.

I was pointing out the correlation of these words, because one of the things you run into when looking into the history of cursing is that some people believed their profanities had magical power, and thus the reference to profanities as 'oaths' and 'swear words'. The dictionary also includes, as a definition of oath, "an irreverent or careless use of a sacred name". It's just a point of fact that I find interesting when considering this topic, because, as you have pointed out, an oath is a promise, or a call for God to act as witness to one's honesty.

But if I understand that your point is to address comparisons of one's experiences to hell, then I don't see a problem with it if it is not being used simply to shock for effect. If someone is in incredible pain or has experienced a tremendous tragedy, then they are likely not merely being flippant. But an unseasonably warm day is not 'hell'.

Are you also thinking of sarcastic expressions of disbelief like "That'll happen when they start serving ice cream in hell" and "When hell freezes over" or "He charged hell with a squirt gun"?

Daniel's picture

Ed, I am not sure I would be as harsh as any of those options. For me, I don't use it in that way, but only as the proper noun. I won't judge people for using it other ways. However, I think there are great benefits, especially as Christians to be more specific in our word choices. Not to mention one don't sound well schooled when the only way of describing something is by using vulgar terms or if the only interjection is Hell. For me, at least, it says one doesn't have a very large vocabulary.

Regarding specificity of word choice, my wife knows I don't use vulgar words for vulgarity sake; she knows when I use a vulgar word I have chosen that word specifically. This makes that word carry a great deal more weight. For example, when I say so and so is a jerk, it is not an adjective chosen on a whim, and more than likely I am thinking of something very specific that person did. So when I say Hell there is no doubt in her mind that I am speaking specifically of the location and what is to be followed is about that location.

I think as Christians, we need to work on redeeming certain words, and that is one. There are a whole host of other words (and actions) that we really should work on redeeming, love, sex, and hate to name a few. But I suppose that may not be what you were going for in your poll. So, I suppose I would choose other: you don't seem well schooled when that is one of only a few interjections and it is a Biblical word that needs to be redeemed.

FredK's picture

Should not all our words line up with three qualities of speech in Eph 4.29: " impart grace, edify, be apt for the moment?

It goes to attitude, context and motive. When "hell" is used in the same worldly context as say, "Jesus Christ," "Jeez," or "O my God," or toilet bowl terms, our godly sensibilities recoil or bristle.

This is quite different from a preacher I know who says: "Drugs are hell's limo;" "drugs are the Devil's handshake, booze is Hell's front porch."