Recently I read a faithful atheist remark that she found “some people,” with their talk of eternal damnation, to be incredibly off-putting. The basic attitude seemed to be: Nice try but I ain’t scared of no hell.
One of her, let’s say fellow travelers, sagely enjoined:
I think it is part of their psychological manipulation. To have power and influence you have to have followers, having a handy escape from death and potentially eternal torture is a good way to get the crowds to flock towards you.
While this sounds amazingly enlightened, there is a little problem: I know many, many Christians; and I do not know (on a personal level) a single one who desires "power and influence" over "followers" or who wants "crowds to flock towards" him/her.
I’ve seen the claim in argumentation, I've just never seen it in actuality—not in the Christians I know. All the Christians I know are fairly content to live quiet lives of no distinction—like most everybody else.
I'm sure there are some wackos out there who desire "power, influence, followers and crowds" but this would have nothing whatsoever to do with simply being Christian. To suggest otherwise goes against a world of evidence (hundreds of millions of Christians who desire nothing of the sort).
Her compadre continued: “I've been threatened with hellfire before, but I understand where it's coming from and I dismiss it accordingly.”
This is nothing but a hasty dismissal based upon question begging. I don’t believe he does “understand where it [the threat of hell] is coming from.” He merely assumes that which he has yet to prove, viz. that there is no such place known as hell.
But how can he possibly know such a thing? What evidence can he conjure for the non-existence of hell? By blind faith he believes in no place called hell.
Notice—by faith alone—he considers the “threat of hellfire” to be nothing more than “psychological manipulation.” But what if he’s wrong? What if his faith in no place called hell is misplaced? What if Christians are right and there really is a place called hell?
If hell does indeed exist—and Christians are painfully aware of this—then their warnings of such should not be construed as manipulative threats.
If a young mother warns her child to be good or Santa will bring no gifts; this is a manipulative—though I wouldn’t say evil—threat. If she warns the child to be good or monsters from under his bed will disembowel him while he sleeps; this would be both manipulative and malicious.
However, if that same young mother warns her child to be good or his father is going to spank him later—when she is fully convinced that his father is prepared to do so—this is neither a manipulative nor a malicious threat. She is quite simply, lovingly and truthfully warning him.
If the atheist’s faith is misguided and hell awaits unrepentant sinners, no amount of dismissals or claims of ignorance will suffice.
Christians believe there’s a way to avoid everlasting condemnation but closing the eyes, clicking the heels and claiming the creed, “There’s no place like hell!” isn’t it.