|Osama Eisa, fourth year Political Science major, represented the Muslim viewpoint during the discussion.
“I suppose it would be very much like sitting in class.” That was how Steve Lawson, a fourth year Film and Animation major as well as Roman Catholic, described his view of purgatory. “Personally, I wouldn’t perceive this place of spiritual cleansing to be painful, but more uncomfortable — not necessarily fire and brimstone,” he clarified.
Lawson was one of the five student representatives in the discussion panel entitled “Are You Going to Hell?” held at the Xerox Auditorium December 17. The event was arranged by the Interfaith Student Council, a group of students from various religions that aim to encourage interfaith understanding and cooperation.
With Lawson were Ethan Heilicher, a Jewish second year Electrical Engineering major, Alex Koroleski, a Lutheran fourth year Applied Networking and Systems Administration major, Osama Eisa, a Muslim fourth year Political Science major, and Nathan Haseley, a Christian fourth year Bioinformatics major. Each panelist was given a few minutes to present their views regarding one’s fate after death based on their religious affiliations. Afterwards, the floor was opened for questions and clarifications.
The discussion covered the different perceptions of heaven, hell and purgatory, the factors which decide where you go, and what happens when you die. In his speech, Lawson described hell as the absence of God and a life without God as essentially being hell on Earth. He concluded, “Hell, heaven and purgatory are not punishments or rewards. Rather, they are treatments for the state of our souls at death.”
One interesting moment occurred when Eisa lightheartedly attempted to explain the Islamic belief of being promised 72 virgins in paradise if one died as a religious martyr. “I have no idea where they came up with that number,” he said. “I guess the Bedouin tribe just really wanted 72 virgins — dates, water and 72 virgins were hot on the list there. Maybe that’s just how much camels can carry and 73 would have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
All jokes aside, the panelists generally agreed that one’s post-death experience is the ultimate judgment and, in the words of Eisa, “God alone determines who is going to heaven or hell.” The reason behind this is that all the panelists were representatives of the Abrahamic religions. “We share common beliefs and … we basically have the same God. Therefore, there are groups here that have not been represented,” explained Koroleski.
There was a general consensus from the audience that there be a more diverse panel in the future. “I think they could have done a lot better than three Christians, a Muslim, and a Jew. If they could have three different types of Christians, then we could have different types of the other religions,” said Matthew Breski, a third year Public Policy major, after suggesting the inclusion of a more conservative Jew. Other possible additions include atheists, agnostics, Buddhists and Hindus.
Nearing the end, the moderator and director of the Center for Religious Life, Jeffrey Hering, requested that questions and topic suggestions for future discussions be submitted to the panelists or the Interfaith Student Council’s supervisor, Dr. Larraine Frampton. Nothing has been scheduled as of yet, but one idea came from Koroleski while responding to an audience member’s question. “Stay tuned for our next discussion: There’s Something About Mary,” Koroleski joked.
For more information, visit the Center for Religious Life’s website at