Do people believe in God mostly because they are afraid of hell? (spin-off topic)

If it weren’t for (the doctrine of) hell, very few people would believe in Gods today. At best, the arguments made by Aquinas, et al are an arguments for Deism, not some sorts of personal Gods.

On the contrary Scotus argument in his Treatise on God and First Principle relates the First Cause and Final causes to God who is also Trinity and that the causing arises for the sake of the Beloved (which is Christ). That is not Deism that is Trinitarian love and Scotus goes on to link The First Cause with arguments as to why God is Trinity and Being in relation to love.

Secondly if people don’t find arguments for God in any way compelling then the the devil and heli is also laughable.

For me God is first and foremost relational in love, which is what we need. Scotus arguments about God are all about a loving will that acts and not deism that just starts things and then does nothing. It may be that taken in isolation an arguments for God’s existence may be taken as deist but only if they are used in isolation from the rest of a defence of Christian doctrine.

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Minor editing and removal of some items that refer to the former topic.

Super, You are right that the doctrine of hell has a huge impact!

Barna and other Christian researchers have noted that the preaching on “hell” as part of the “salvation” preaching tool is at the bottom of the list since the 1960’s. The emphasis has been on the “internal distress” people “feel”. The feeling of being at odds with the world and themselves is what drives conversions. The threat of hell is a non-existential threat of little meaning to almost all post-baby boomer generations. Most Christian avoid speaking of hell because it "just doesn’t seem “right” to them. (I know because I ask!)

I personally believe there will be no “eternal hell” which is two misnomers for the price of one. This is a brief summary of Annihilationism which does not cover all the issues. I came to this conclusion while John Stott stayed in the same house I was living in Mussoorie, India, (a L’Abri adjunct house) in the summer of 1972.

Therefore I believe in Annihilationism which means those who are judged as sinners will be consumed in a fire, and when it is done they are gone. No everlasting torture, not levels of Hell. No ugly unforgiving God who “delights in the burning of ever-living beings”.
That is such a perversion of a God who “created” (however that occured) human beings to love and be loved for an everlasting life! That is the God I believe in!

Hells is the creation of the Evil One!.

It has poisoned Christian theology to the place where that is one of the prime reasons atheists point at Christianity as being “illogical and senseless.”

So many atheists believe that after death there is nothing. Well, I believe, this is what the Bible teaches.

:Ray :sunglasses:

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{A moderator may want to move this topic to its own thread. I’ve followed the instructions many times but the menu options cited have never popped up. I must have a browser issue.}

It has been many years since I’ve read Stott on this topic and I can’t remember how he commented on these passages. I think there are many readers who would appreciate an overview—which you have actually begun!

{I am including the contexts for the benefit of those readers who appreciate more detail.}

(1) The story of the rich man and the poor beggar, Lazarus, who both die:

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire."

(2) Matthew 13:50

“50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” [Weeping doesn’t happen during immediate incineration.]

(3) Revelation 14:10-11 sounds like a continuous process of torment. Otherwise, a series of sinners thrown into an incinerator would be immediately destroyed and there would be no torment. Torment implies the passage of time while an individual suffers. Thus:

“will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night” (Rev. 14:10–11).

I would cite some other traditional passages, but most of them are well addressed by what you already explained.

I so appreciate your posts and I’m curious to see how various participants will reflect on the annihilationist view.

Well said @RLBailey! This is a much more sensible and just doctrine!

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Thanks @gbrooks9 for a succinct restatement. Appreciates.

Ray :sunglasses:

One of the first refutations of the doctrine of Annihilation is:

Bolding and Italics Mine

The premise is that humans are automatically imbued with everlasting life from birth.
How does that square with the need for a “Tree of Life” which is clearly a “spiritual tree” (as discussed in The Troublesome Tree of Life.

It seems to me that “It seems that the unsaved are resurrected with a body prepared for eternity just as the saved are” is a pretty big assumption to make for the “Eternal Burning of Ever Living Souls”.


Well, some people may but I certainly don’t. I don’t even believe in an eternal hell! I disagree that very few people would believe in God without hell. Most people I’ve met believe in (The Christian) God because 1. they’ve had personal life altering encounters with Jesus or 2. they find good evidence in nature to support God’s existence. I come from camp #1, as I don’t think the universe by itself provides very much compelling evidence for God. I am a Christian because of the life changing effects my walk with Christ has had.

I don’t take very kindly to preachers who use a “believe this or go to hell!” approach. Neither Jesus nor any of the apostles every described the Christian faith as a fear based faith. The fact that some try to scare people to Christ is terrible and un-Christlike in my opinion.


If you are right then it isn’t fear of a future event. If I am born alone… and die alone… then I also lived alone. Going to hell wouldn’t mean anything if I am already there.

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Well, you’ve joined the club here! The issue I struggle with is how many people seem to agree with Annihilationism, yet stand firm by their church’s Doctrine of a traditional Hell. How do we address the overwhelming burden of a past tradition that so shackles the Church’s ability to offer a loving Salvaion message?

I want the scholars and Lay Leaders, and the Pastors of denominations to make a stink about this and change the church’s mind that is set in concrete. Too many Bibles and Too many study guides and too much of the dialog here his shaped by the traditional view.

Perhaps we need a new Forum like BioLogos that focuses on the end time doctrines to match what BioLogos is doing to Genesis and General Revelation!

Any suggestions? "Something catchy… hmmm. Any Suggestions @gbrooks9 ?

Hell-Fire Free?
Gone with the Smoke? (nee Gone with the Wind :grin:)
You Get What You Asked For! (for the Aethists?)

Ray :sunglasses:

“You get what you asked for” is probably my favorite, but if I were to actually name a forum I’d go with “Gone with the Smoke” because it’s catchier and appeals to a wider range of people IMO. Lol

Maybe “The Gates of Hell” referring to the C.S. Lewis quote that “the gates of hell are locked on the inside.”

Citation needed.

I don’t think that is the case for modern Christians. What I find more fascinating is how Hell and eternal rewards seemed to play a much larger role earlier in Christian history. Up until modern history, people didn’t live that long on average. You were lucky if half your children made it to adulthood, and that you survived giving birth to those children. Plagues and famines wiped out entire communities. When you could potentially die at any time, and people are dying all of the time around you, matters of the afterlife probably factor more into your daily life than they do now. The RCC even came up with ways that you could pay your way into heaven, and a lot of people took them up on it.

It is funny that this topic came up because it may be a generational thing. A friend of the family passed away recently after a long and happy life. One of my grandmother’s first responses was “He wasn’t a Christian!”. My father the Christian and me the atheist both kind of shrugged our shoulders and said, “So what?”. I found that to be interesting.

Amen! to that, Quincy. However, have the responders to this thread given much thought that it is impossible to formulate a religious doctrine that is supposed to be a complete guide for a human through all ages of moral development? Most children up to age three respond to: “That’s wrong! If you do that you will be punished!” For them the doctrine of everlasting Hell (or annihilation) makes good sense. A surprising number of people never progress beyond the moral age of three, and so the doctrine of Hell has persisted. In Catholic kindergarten I was taught the Act of Contrition: "Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee, because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell, but most of all, because Thou art all good and worthy of my love." This does not deny what I was taught as a three year old, but it does allow my conscience to mature so that when I choose good over evil, it is because that would be a loving response to my Creator who loves me beyond my ability to comprehend.

How one’s mind conceives of God and God’s Will depends on the maturity of that mind and should change with time. But maturity should demand a stricter, not a looser, conscience. Too often society’s attitude now is: "Well, he/she is an adult, and so its up to them how they behave. Tough Love is hard to live with.
Al Leo

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Citation needed.

Some people still think Pascal’s Wager is the cat’s pajamas of apologetic arguments… :grin:

It might be, were it not for the problem that nobody has solved, which is: how to believe in something just because it is now expedient to do so?!

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As I recall somebody remarking (while in M-Div and Azusa Pacific in CA), “The voice of God starts out sounding like your mother or father (depending upon gender). When older you may hear a trusted adult or teacher. Then you start to hear yourself. After a long period of learning, living, and praying, you finally begin to hear that still small voice that is unmistakably God.”

I’d say that observation is an outworking of the more theological you posted. But the same in intent!

Ray :sunglasses:

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I believe in God because of heaven or living with God. On the other hand when talking to non-believers who reject the concept of Hell, I would defend it because it represents responsibility.
There cannot be freedom without responsibility. If faith leads to heaven, then sin logically leads to hell. Hell or complete separation from God is what we deserve, but heaven is what we received when we confess our sin and accept God’s love through Jesus the Messiah.

Of course non-believers fear that God will send them and others to Hell for unjust reasons. While there are a few obvious candidates for the Lake of Fire that make a good case for its existence, I am very glad that I do not have to make the determination of who actually belongs there. It is clear that not all “Christians” will go to heaven and not all non-Christians will go to hell, but this is God’s decision, even though I believe that people really do make their own choice, one way or the other.

Hellions cannot stand the Truth (hint) and would be very unhappy in heaven. That is why they try to make this world into hell, but they can always change before death. The eternity of hell like heaven is beyond time and change.

Al, I think that what you are suggesting here is that the “moral truths” of a religious doctrine can be established for everyone. The development of that requires adaptation to anyone within one of the particular “stages” of mental/moral growth, be it Piaget’s or Erickson’s (or whoever else). Hence the different response (above) are expressing the various stages of change within the child.

You got it! And many also have never developed beyond being a teenager emotionally, hence arguments ands refusal to to reach beyond “self” in their moral outlook: “Doctrine be damned!”
And as a corollary, God and anybody who says I am not “right” is not worthy of my thoughts, other than for emotional damnation (and probably verbal too!)