People leave their Christianity for different reasons. My main reason was simple: it made no sense that good non-Christian folks were going to hell. After finally realizing that, many more problems became clear too. Some Christians don’t have hell in their theology — but they are a minority.
My former Christianity offered me so much in the beginning, that its bizarre Hell doctrine did not stand out clearly. But when I was travelling and living abroad, I ran into hell everywhere. I realized that everyone assigns everyone else to hell. Hell is for everyone! Seeing this deluded thinking, many atheist jestingly embrace hell — and I think this is a great technique to wake up folks from this silly idea.
During my travels, I first ran into Muslim’s who believed in Hell. Well, that is understandable since they are of the same Abrahamic lineage as Christianity. But then I found out that most Hindus and Buddhist also believe in Hell (albeit not eternal like the Abrahamic versions, but just as horrible). And just like Christians, these religions instill the fear of hell in their children too.
The threat of Hell is a great way to make sure your kids stay in the faith and do what you tell them — many cultures have discovered this ugly trick. Abuse a child’s mind when they are young, and even though they later develop an intellect to see through the lie when they are older, their emotions never will fully recover. One part of them may think there is no hell, but other parts just can’t escape the hellacious feelings, the damning thoughts, the guilt and so on.
So how do Christians deal with the same observation that most religions, just like theirs, threaten their children with hell. This insight woke me up. But most Hell-believing Christians see the other hells and think that though the other religions may be right about the reality of hell, they just get everything else wrong. Only Christians know the way out. All nonbelievers are wrong about how to avoid hell. As for me, it is clear that all hell-believers are wrong. I am fortunate — this bizarre concept was not drilled into my vulnerable young mind. (thanks folks!)
In the next post, I will address possible nuances of Universalist/Pluralist Christian’s view of Heaven and Hell.