Can Fundamentalist Christianity Do Without Hell?
Posted: 05 July 2012 09:19 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I think most people here will agree with me that the idea of hell is one of the most evil
and poisonous ideas human beings have ever come up with. The idea of Gandhi being
tortured for all eternity simply because he had the wrong beliefs or belonged to the wrong group will immediately strike any decent person as disgusting and totally unjust, and any God that does such things is a monster.   

However, many (most?) fundamentalist Christians continue to believe in hell, or at least
they say they do. I think the main reason for this is that this type of Christianity is
based on what Lakoff calls strict father morality, and so these people just feel that
the idea of hell is essential to keep themselves in check, to make for a good social order, and to scare and threaten people into becoming Christians.

But on the other hand the idea of hell will always put off a large number of people, so that this kind of Christianity will never be universally accepted. So if they really want to
convert everyone, might they not be better off trying to get rid of this idea even though
they find it useful in many ways?

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Posted: 06 July 2012 05:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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You would think so, wouldn’t you? But it seems to me (this is just off the top of my head) that in America at least, churches that have chosen to deny the existence of hell or just not talk about it are the ones in decline. It seems that the threat of punishment is a requirement for a successful religion—in the States anyway.

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Posted: 06 July 2012 08:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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So if they really want to
convert everyone, might they not be better off trying to get rid of this idea even though
they find it useful in many ways?

Fear of consequences can be a powerful tool in such debates. Especially when one is misrepresenting all the other aspects of a creed by way of appealing to prophesies which were supposedly fulfilled even though they really weren’t. The fundi crowd makes a habit of that.

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Posted: 06 July 2012 06:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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In the nineteenth century the Methodists were strongly into hell’s-fire.  There was a split-off who became Universalists, named for their belief in universal salvation.  They believed god was too good to damn anyone to hell.  That sect grew rapidly for close to a hundred years, but most of the other mainstream christian sects recognized the value of downplaying hell so the Universalists no longer had much special to offer.  That’s when they merged with the Unitarians.

It appears that the ones who now buy the hell’s fire stuff are the less educated, more back-woods people who belong to churches with equally uneducated ministers.

Occam

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Posted: 06 July 2012 06:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Here are some more thoughts on the matter:   

Reasons to keep it  

1. According to the Gospels, Jesus seemed to believe in it.   
2. We are all evil sinners who deserve to burn in hell forever, and God cannot look upon sin. So nobody, not even ‘good’ people, can impress God or earn salvation. Jesus is the only way, and everyone else is going to be fried. (Still, it’s not at all clear how believing in sth is meant to protect you anyway!)     
3. It’s very useful, both personally and socially, as I’ve already said, and they can perhaps try to soften it a bit by saying that we really choose it and want to go there etc. 
4. They could use a slippery slope argument. If we get rid of hell, and if we get rid of creationism, then what’s next?

Reasons to get rid of it    

1. These Christians love to appeal to our intuitions when they say there must be objective morality and beauty and free will and moral responsibility, and yet many people’s intuitions will be screaming that hell is unjust (to the say the least). 
2. A supposedly loving and forgiving God suddenly just decides to give up on people. So they’ve had their chance and now that’s it for them. This makes no sense! 
3. It makes it look as though their arguments are not very strong, since they always need to have the threat of hell there in the background to fall back on. 

Anyway, these people are in a difficult situation.

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Posted: 06 July 2012 10:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Anyway, these people are in a difficult situation.

And this is the real trap of religion. Once you’ve accepted certain propositions by faith, you’re really no longer free to judge any of those claims by the evidence.

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Posted: 07 July 2012 05:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Equal Opportunity Curmudgeon - 06 July 2012 10:00 PM

Anyway, these people are in a difficult situation.

And this is the real trap of religion. Once you’ve accepted certain propositions by faith, you’re really no longer free to judge any of those claims by the evidence.

Bingo! So as we learn more about how the natural world really works and as we progress as societies, the ideas get more and more outdated and the mental contortions needed to support them get more and more bizarre.

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Posted: 07 July 2012 05:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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There has to be a hell, Hitler has to have a pineapple shoved up his ass every day for his evil deeds. I’m showing my disdain for musing over a myth. Even the Jews ( and they’re obviously important in a argument concerning biblical analogies) didn’t concern themselves with a hell. And yes they mention Sheol. But that’s not the hell jesus mentions.


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