Most have probably heard the supposed soldiers' refrain: "When I die I'll go to heaven cause I've spent my time in hell". Certainly, those soldiers who have experienced the horrors of combat have served time in a literal hell, just not the one the church teaches.
For those who know about my vehement rejection of the church's insistence on a future place of eternal torment, it may come as a surprise to hear me say that I believe in hell. Hell exists and it is exactly what the soldier alludes to in the statement above. Hell is a state of our own making. It is a horrible, mind boggling state of real, lasting torment. It's just not a God ordained location of fiery torment to which God condemns large numbers of people eternally. Hell is not a place; it's a state of mind. We are not consigned there by God; we consign ourselves by our attitudes, decisions, and actions. Hell is not eternal; it lasts until we learn how to leave it.
Yes, hell is real; and a wealth of human experience verifies that fact. The church claims to have the message that will allow you to escape a future hell, but in the process of selling that message, they help prolong our exposure to the real hell to which I refer. The church's sponsorship of guilt, condemnation, segregation, manipulation, coercion, and uncritical thinking all predispose us to the hell we know is real and to which the soldiers refer above.
I am convinced that when Jesus introduced the heretofore unknown idea of hell, this is exactly what he meant. Jesus was on earth to reveal to mankind a new mode of living which would address the issue of how to escape this hell. That escape did not require that God change His opinion of mankind. It necessitated that mankind change there opinion of God and in the process transform their entire lives. This transformation brought with it the promise of escape from our longstanding man made hell. Jesus didn't come to keep us out of hell; he came to teach us how to let ourselves out of the hell we already suffered from.
Going back to the introductory comment about the hell of warfare, I am obliged to note that if church theology is correct, then after enduring the hell of combat, most of the soldiers who die in war, then suffer eternal torment at the hands of God. How's that for an inspirational message for those who risk all in our national conflicts. Indeed, that is truly the Ultimate Sacrifice.