Philosopher gives one Hell of a talk

On Feb. 12, Catholic philosopher and Central New Jersey native David Hershenov gave a talk to students on Hell.

Hershenov talked about Hell and how it is unfair. Hershenov pointed out the traditional Catholic thinking of Hell, that once you are in, you can’t get out.

David Hershenov discussed his view of hell and his belief in a forgiving, parent-like God.
Adrian Chavez/Staff Photographer

Hershenov’s theory is that God will give you the chance to reconcile. You will be in purgatory for as long as it takes and only sent to Hell if God knows you will not reconcile with him in the afterlife.

Hershenov compared God to a parent and said He wants all of his children to reconcile with Him.

The other part of the lecture was about the line between sin and not. “You don’t get life in prison for stealing a bike, so you shouldn’t get eternity in Hell for it,” Hershenov said.

Hershenov pointed out that the line between what is heaven worthy or Hell worthy is arbitrary.

He also noted that even if a harmful deed failed, that person should still be punished, because the attempt can still be harmful.

Hershenov said punishment is like a debt, and a person only pays off their debt when they reconcile with the victim, or they no longer possess the ill intention they did before, he said. A minor sin, like stealing a bike, can be magnified into something worthy of Hell if the person is never willing to reconcile, he said. Hershenov is open to Hell being lessened if someone improves themselves in the afterlife.

Hershenov became interested in this topic as he got older and thought more about death. Hershenov was excited to give the talk at SHU because he assumed many students, like himself, were uncomfortable with the idea of Hell.

Hershenov usually speaks at secular schools, so he was happy to give the talk to fellow Catholics. Hershenov was also getting asked questions by fellow philosophers and decided it was time to research and develop his own theories of Hell and punishment.

Michael Zamora, a senior economics major and philosophy minor, said that the talk definitely left people thinking.
“I haven’t really thought of heaven or Hell, but I definitely never thought of Hell being unfair,” Zamora said.

Robert Serrano, a senior political science and philosophy double major, also found the talk interesting.

“I thought it was a great way for the department to show the different aspects of studies in philosophy,” Serrano said.

“Gotta say something,” Hershenov said. “Just can’t keep pushing it under the rug and only talk about the nicer aspects of the religion,”

Veronica Gaspa can be reached at

Author: Staff Writer

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