A couple evenings ago I watched Hell House, an upsetting and depressing movie which follows a church that puts on a haunted house that attempts to scare people into believing in Jesus. It's upsetting because they're using fear to get people to believe in their god, depressing because they thought their god wanted them to do it. Admittedly it's less upsetting than Jesus Camp, which makes me want to throw a fucking brick through my TV every time I watch it.
The premise behind the
Hell House was that if you accept Jesus, then you won't have anything to fear. Of course then I watch this gem, which uses fear to get Christians to proselytize to their non-believing friends because if they don't the people they love will be tortured in Hell. It's a truly sickening video, and the underlying doctrine that motivated both the
Hell House and the video is despicable as well.
I remember a conversation I had with my roommate/Bible study leader as my faith came crashing down a couple years ago. I asked him how a loving god could possibly send my assholish self to heaven while decent people who didn't believe went to Hell. He didn't like the idea any more than I did, but he didn't have a response other than
God will act . Considering the
just actions of God in the Old Testament, I didn't find this reassuring.
My personal opinion is that the Christian dogma Hell as it exists today (Hell is eternal torment, and you go there unless you believe in Jesus) will disappear within 50 years. Perhaps you'll still have Hell as a place where the Stalins and Hitlers of the world go, but I don't think it'll be someplace righteous unbelievers go when they die. Since I'm making predictions already, I predict that annihilationism will become the dominant belief in the next 50 years. I can't really find much fault in the doctrine itself, though I still have some problems with the criteria used to determine who goes to heaven and who gets annihilated. Being a decent person —
Christ-like if you'd like to call it that — seems a much better criteria for receiving heavenly rewards than holding the correct belief. Maybe in 100 years we'll see something closer to universal reconciliation take hold, but I suspect the opposition to such a teaching will take several generations to overcome.
Or who knows; maybe in 100 years the US will be a post-Christian society like Europe (
Common wisdom has it that alcoholics outnumber practicing Christians and that more Czechs believe in UFOs than believe in God...). Hell, there's some research that it's starting to happen already. It'll be interesting to see if that trend continues, how it'll be combated, and what doctrinal changes will be made to combat it.