...The Pew Center on Religion and Public Life’s 2007 Religious Landscape Survey found that only 60 percent of Catholics believe in hell. While comparable to mainline Protestants (56 percent), that’s far below the 82 percent recorded by evangelical Protestant churches.
Though the discussion of hell as a place to be feared has seemingly disappeared in Catholic parishes, schools, and homes, the debate over hell’s existence, and whether anyone actually goes there, has been reignited among evangelical Christians, most of whom continue to affirm that eternal damnation is the fate of any person who does not make an explicit personal commitment to Christ....
...In his recent book Love Wins (HarperOne), evangelical pastor Rob Bell recalls how his church sponsored an art show on the subject of peacemaking. One artist included a quote from Mahatma Gandhi in her work. Someone attached a piece of paper to it that read, “Reality check: He’s in hell.”
“Really?” writes Bell. “Gandhi’s in hell? He is? We have confirmation of this? Somebody knows this? Without a doubt? And that somebody decided to take the responsibility of letting the rest of us know?”
Sunday, October 16, 2011
First They Came For Limbo...
Really? Hell is a negotiable concept? Who knew? Wonder what -- or who -- is next?
Such arguments reveal the obvious: not only is everyone's faith a distillation, personally brewed to fill the bill; in that regard, all beliefs are the same. People believe adamantly in their own particular recipe, edited and modified unconsciously, while disregarding all those whose faith differs. And vice versa. (Not "disregarding," for far too many: actively hating. Wanting to kill, not rarely.)
So why not just admit it? Your faith works for you, someone else's works for her, and you need to just keep it to yourself. You don't like gay marriage? Fine. Don't marry one. You don't like knowing the earth is billions of years old, don't find it amazing and wondrous that humans evolved from previous primates? Okay. But don't feel the need to make everyone else around you stupid so yours stands out less, okay?
In a recent comment on a religious post I was (I'm pretty sure) chastised for opinionating about that in which I don't have expertise. But here's the thing: when it comes to religion, like the kid looking at the unclothed emperor, I think it takes someone not in the thrall to point out certain things others simply can't -- by definition -- see. If you're a believer in whatever, religionwise, there are certain givens that not only can't be questioned, but the idea of and the tools for that questioning literally don't exist.
And yet, there's the late-breaking news: hell is fungible. (Especially, one might assume, if it's taking a cut of the tithe.) Religious "leaders" discuss how many angels dance on the head of a pin, while religious "scholars" argue whether the pinhead is bigger than you think it is. It's self-fulfilling silliness. Expertise.
I'll never stop saying it: I think religious belief is fine, because I recognize the human need, and the fact that, for whatever reason, most people can't seem to get along without it. In a soulless (which is not to say purposeless) world, in the face of death, it helps. I know it does. It needn't; but it does.
Yet as examples abound of internal inconsistencies, of impossible rationalizations to keep it all going, might it not be possible (answer: no) at least to get to the point where people can accept their own needs as their own, and stop trying to turn the country into an echo chamber?
Wouldn't it be nice?