Why Is Hell Such A Popular Place?

The concept of a hell is in religion, but it compliments what we believe outside of religion.  Our culture reinforces the concept of hell.

It is popular today in conservative religious circles to lament the “culture”.  That is, some religious people say the culture pulls people away from the faith and toward sin.  This leads people to an afterlife in hell.

Our culture fits Christianity to a “T”.  Christians are inside the culture.  Ours is a culture of individualism, of succeeding while watching others fail.

A religious concept in which all boats rise would not fit this individualism.  What works is the concept of me winning by being a better Christian than you. Because of that, I get onto heaven and you don’t.

The link below says, Religion is, essentially, anthropology: our religious ideas and ideals are projections of our human nature, writ large.

Some may remember a time when there was no March Madness in college basketball or “National Champions” in college football.  The American sports fan would not stand for it.  Winners and losers had to be determined.

The Apostle Paul called on Christians to win the race.  There must be winners and losers.

At the risk of over generalizing, the cultures of Japan and China are much less about the individual and more about the group’s harmony and success.  The religions of those countries reflect such cultural values.

Parts of the culture are deemphasizing winning.  Within that cultural change is a Christianity that deemphasizes hell.


51 Responses

  1. Wanna B Sure

    In the past, on several occasions, I have mentioned Pietism in a negative light. The author of this link provided is the epitome of the current strain of Pietism, both by his writing, and the institutions he is associated with. His fascination with, and the application of Hell in his self admitted limited understanding of theology is further evidence.
    In context, Paul’s “race”, (1 Cor. 9:24) was not intended to be a contest to win so that another may loose, but to run like a winner, so that all who run may win. To endure. There are several passages mentioning “race”, all with the same theme.

    1. Wanna 1:35 I take it, then, you are convinced religious beliefs have no relationship whatsoever with culture. That is, if you had been born in India with Hindu parents you would today be a Lutheran.

        1. Wanna 3:16 “Did I say that? No. Not even close.”

          I’ve never heard you admit your religious views were something that came from cultural circumstances. I just assumed that since you never acknowledge this obvious thing, you consider it to have no influcence on you whatsoever. If it does have some influence, maybe you could share what it is. (I know you won’t share anything, but I needed to ask.)

          1. Wanna B Sure

            You seem to think I have to admit to something. You don’t have the authority do demand such a thing. But you are wrong in your memory. This was discussed a long while back. Careful with your assuming, and stay away from drinking and dance halls. They may lead to an insatiable craving to raise pigs.

          2. Wanna 12:33 I just thought instead of you accusing me of taking drugs, we could have a rational discussion of the role the broader culture had on your faith. Obviously, that’s not going to happen.

          3. Wanna B Sure

            Only in response to your wildly bizarre and unconnected 3:09. Clearly a “rational discussion” is difficult for you. You simply cannot stay on topic. And then you wonder why I mentioned Leary. He’s been dead for 20? yr, but you could have fooled me.

          4. Wanna B Sure

            Jon; There is not even a hint of your “cultural influence” , (pro or con), agenda in my 1:35, yet you seem to want to inject it (assume) into it. Naaaw, ain’t gonna work. Nice try though.

  2. Henry

    Hollis Phelps:“There are no free rides, and that entails that some—perhaps most—are going to lose.”

    There is a free ride, free to us through the sacrifice of Christ Jesus.

    1. Gwen

      The free ride is what is in your head. Why did god have to punish Jesus? Since god made the judgement, why didn’t he simply overturn his judgement or forgive instead of killing his son?

      1. You’ve hit the nail on the head, Gwen. Many fables contain all sorts of improbable events and conditions that make no sense. Why did the prince insist on having a bride with small feet? (Cinderella). Why did Little Red Riding Hood have to travel through that dark forest? Why didn’t Goldilocks prefer soft beds? Who knows. The same is true for the twists and turns of what the Christian faith believes.

  3. Brad

    Hell is probably the best con game the religion industry has ever invented. They have gotten a lot of mileage out of hell, using it to scare people into doing exactly when they want them to do. In fact, if you counted all the money the religion industry has made off of hell, I think you could pay off the national debt and have enough left over to throw a hell of a party (no pun intended).

    1. Wolfy32

      It really is sad that hell is used by so many people to scare people into giving…

      Somehow you can buy your way out of hell? It would be one thing if the churches would turn around and use the funds to help the community, but, instead the ministers use the money to fund million dollar church expansions. We need bigger churches, bigger buildings, fund more people to go out and scare people into giving more, etc.

      What if all the churches took this extra money and put it into developing housing programs for the poor? Funding food programs? Funding mental health support for community people that need help with drugs and alcohol? and other addictions?

      If they took the billions of dollars they received and invested it in helping communities instead of building new larger buildings… They could use their congregations to voluntarily build new housing developments for the poor, help with social development of adults and children.

      If they wanted to demonstrate christ, they would be out, buying fish and bread to give to those in need. No, maybe the miracle of unlimited fish and bread is not possible, but, billions of dollars could net a lot of fish… Plus, all the congregation could go fishing as a church service and all the fish goes to local food pantries etc. The members could have a bake off to bake endless supplies of bread every week.

      They could package it and box it themselves to coordinate and ship the food to inner cities throughout the US to help people all over.

      Until churches actually demonstrate and act like Christ, hell may be a place we all may visit christian or not.

  4. Wanna B Sure

    Oh my. I think too many people are watching way too many TV preachers, or associations those same preachers are affiliated with. Watch too many murder mysteries, and one may come to believe everyone is a murderer. Another comparison is the TV series “Cops”, or other similar shows. One could easily come to the conclusion that everyone doing crime is black, and selling drugs. We know that isn’t true, but using the same lazy, (and dishonest ) lack of research/study, the conclusion is self evident. So I ask the question; Are all blacks drug taking murders, are all women whores, and do all Christians use hell as a marketing tool to raise money, and build big churches? One must be consistent in arriving at the answer to one and all.

    1. Where are you going with this? The truth is that some black people take drugs and murder, some women are whores and some Christians use hell as a marketing tool to build bigger churches. So now what? Are you actually going to say anything about the topic?

      1. Wanna B Sure

        Congrats. You get my point. “some do”. (most don’t). Spread the word. That is everything about the topic. The title of the topic is; “Why Is Hell Such A Popular Place”? By your own words, not so popular as Jon would imply.

      2. Wanna B Sure

        In Jon’s 2nd paragraph, he uses the term “conservative”. His 3rd and 4th paragraphs fall right in line. I consider myself “conservative”, as do many others. On the other hand, I don’t consider myself a “fundamentalist”. The context of Jon’s blog is more in line with fundamentalism, or radical Fundamentalism, ” as seen on TV”, and elsewhere. If you think TV is scary, listen to short wave radio at night. Some of that stuff will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Perhaps Jon should be more clear, (careful) as to whom he is talking about.

        1. Wanna 10:04 I use the terms “conservative”, “fundamentalism”, “evangelism” more or less interchangeably. For my purposes here, close enough is close enough.

          1. Wanna B Sure

            “For my purposes here,” “close enough is close enough”. Yes, I understand. No honesty, no integrity, no credibility. I’m sure that’s how you graded you students. Even though you knew when they were wrong, and perpetuated their error after graduation.

          2. Wanna B Sure

            Simply understanding the sloppiness of “close enough is close enough”, and how that would be manifested in one’s profession.
            Close enough is close enough after all.

        2. Wolfy32

          I think it would be more poignant to state one’s position than to attack, I do get Wanna’s point. However, I was raised with fire and brimstone preaching most of my life…. The churches I went to (and most of them did it, big or small, they all were of the same doctrine and same need to use Hell) they would hire a drama company that would come in train teens to be part of the “show”, and then simulate how “satan” tempts people into lives of self destruction and shows how God can overcome these self destructive life styles, of sex, drugs, and alcohol. They would use strobe lights and other special effects to drive home the point. Then halfway through the show or at the end they would take donations for their cause to save teens.

          Religion and hell takes away the seriousness of mental health disorders and how important it is to take care of oneself. Addiction is an illness. No different than cancer or heart disease. The body needs something, and motivates us to do whatever it takes for the body to have it’s poison of choice… For me it’s caffeine. I don’t blame God or Satan for my addiction to caffeine. I blame my body. I have horrible headaches, and feel pretty crappy when I skip a day of caffeination. I try to limit it, but, ultimately, it’s something my body makes clear I must have… No one tempted me into it, no one pressured me into it, I made the decision at a young age to do it, and now, I pay the consequences of those decisions.

          Choices are part of life and people make choices that are bad for their health.

          1. Henry

            Wolf: “I have horrible headaches, and feel pretty crappy when I skip a day of caffeination.”

            Been there, done that. At times I choose to go cold turkey. After a day of being on the max dosage of motrin and tylenol, the problem goes away, until I choose to indulge in coffee again.

          2. Henry 3:09 re: coffee

            The topic of coffee and caffine might have a lot to do with me being a Freethinker. I grew up on a farm near a villiage with one church, the Evangelical Swedish Covenant Chruch of America (different name today). We had many relatives around there. One was a semi retired preacher from Sweden, the husband of my Dad’s Anut.

            He was a know-it-all about theology, perhaps like some who post here. He had even written a couple of books back in Sweden on the theology. I don’t think many of the family liked him, nor did many in the village.

            My Dad told the story many times of a prayer meeting where people started discussing what things perhaps should be considered to be sin, even though were common around the community. Someone said, “Maybe drinking too much coffee.” The preacher uncle immediate got annoyed. “Coffee is no sin,” he said. “I like it.”

            My Dad enjoyed telling the story. Thinking back, his message was that religious people make stuff up. Don’t take any of it too seriously.

          3. Wolfy32 “Religion and hell takes away the seriousness of mental health disorders and how important it is to take care of oneself.”

            Great observation. I remember that several years ago, Pat Robertson’s 700 Club featured a beautiful young woman as a regular news cohost. If I recall correctly, she is Scottish and was a prominent singer before doing the 700 Club. Then she disappeared.

            Later, she reappeared as a guest. She explained she had depression and had to leave to get medical help. Up to that time, depression was referred to on the 700 Club as something from the Devil and was to be handled like other sin. I don’t know what happened to her or if she can make a living after going over to the secular side for help.

          4. Wanna B Sure

            Jon; Re. your 3:09; A good example of pietism, from the land of pietism. (Scandinavia). My experience with pietists reveals they have done none or very little comparative theology. Almost always defensive with little back up or substance. It continues today in various forms.

          5. 7:37 Wanna 7:37 “One can lose the faith, but keep the pietism.”

            Your fascination with the difference between faith and pietism is lost on me. I think I can accurately define both of them.

            Pietesm: Things that have been made up recently.

            Faith: Things that were made up a while back.

            Since both consist of things that were made up, there is no important difference.

          6. Wanna B Sure

            In addition re. pietism; Interestingly through (“convergent evolution?”, a term,) A similar movement came out of the CofE, via Wesley, (Holiness movement), in the mid 1700’s. Later associations with the Moravians produced a strain almost identical to the Scandinavians. Both were a well intended response to “deadness”, and lack of spirituality in the scholasticism of the time. In the end, the cure produced unintended consequences almost as bad as what they were intended to resolve.

          7. Wanna B Sure

            Jon; re. your 1:44.
            Your shallowness is noted, and unsurprising. But then it would be difficult for you to recognize it due to your early exposure, and thinking it to be normal, even though you disagree with the results.

          8. Wanna B Sure

            Giving some evidence that for some people, culture does influence what one believes. Your youth was a culture of pietism, and a product of it, even after leaving the faith. It is a philosophy of superiority over all others. Your claim of cultural influence has come full circle for you.

          9. Wanna 2:24 “Your claim of cultural influence has come full circle for you.”

            Interesting how when I bring up a point for philisohpical debate, like my definition of pietism and faith, you don’t debate my definition, you toss something personal at me.

            I would not go so far as to say you are using an old debate trick, “When you are losing an argument, make a personal insult.” You would not resort to that I’m sure. It’s just intersting how it seems to happen.

          10. Wanna B Sure

            What you claim to be a definition of pietism and faith is as shallow as your claim of being the injured party of a “personal insult”. I have pretty well provided the modern historical background of pietism, but the pride and arrogance contained in it as described , goes back to antiquity. Both in matters of belief, or in matters of the colors in a cave painting. For you to claim “personal insult” is a well known debate tactic. primarily used when nothing else is viable, to create a tangent to escape the obvious, or to ” shoot the messenger”. In your case, I suspect all three.
            Pietism, (which is the issue here), is not dependent on a timeline as you wish to imply, nor is it dependent on matters of faith. It only gets interesting to me when it involves faith. It gets really interesting when you carry it over into areas of non-faith from the culture you were raised in, but can’t recognize it. It is part of you. Every bit as much as your Swedish relative and his coffee, just because he likes it.
            It’s not personal, it’s topical. If you take it personally, you lost the debate.

          11. Wanna 11:46 “..but the pride and arrogance contained in it (pietism) in it as decribed, goes back to antiquity.”

            You are no doubt correct about pride and arrogance of pietism going back–I was wrong in decscribing it as recent.

            Pride and arrogance are also a part of “religion” and “faith” and every denomination in Protestantism and Catholicism as well. Without pride and arrogance, there would not be all the divisions that come from opinions people have had about invisible beings. Without pride and arrogance each group would not need to think their views are so correct they need to separate from the original thread of their faith as they have done countless times beginning with the Bible.

          12. Wanna B Sure

            Jon; “… would not be the divisions”… The problem with this opinion is that it is too simplistic, and again shallow. You conflate the “ism” with content. Two entirely subjects. The former is subjective, the later is objective.

          13. Wanna 1:32 “Two entirely (different) subjects. The former is subjective, the later is objective.”

            I don’t understand you at all here. Are you saying pietism is subjective while the various branches of the faith are “objective”? Surely you are not saying this.

          14. Wanna B Sure

            Jon; I won’t ‘splain it any farther, as you are incapable of understanding. I have tried. A meaningful discussion with you is like dancing a waltz, while you do a two step. Actually more like a side-step. I think Charlie Chaplin had a scene similar. Funny.

          15. Wanna 8:15 “A meaningful discussion with you is like dancing a waltz while you are doing a two step.”

            That may be, but it would be helpful if we could at least identify where things go in different directions. I think it is this:

            In economics, we know we cannot make a generalization that applies to all peoples’ behaviors at all times. Yet, the entire discipline exists to help understand economic activity so it is necessary to generalize about human behavior.

            So, we declare upfront the assumptons we are making. The assumptions never represent all peoples’ behaviors. Based on the assumptions, analysis can then be referred to as “objective”, even though the assumptions themselves may have been influenced by subjective values or cultural influences.

            As a example, one common assumption is a firm’s primary motivation is to maximize its profits. Another assumption is that markets are rational. To the extent these assumptions represent the public’s behavior, analysis leads to helpful understanding of the economy. To the extent they are not, things go in the other direction. But, there is at least some level of integrity in that the assumpiton was declared openly at the beginning.

            It seems to me, this logical way of approaching big questions is not followed the same way in religion, or, in some parts of religion. Even though a preacher does not know there is a God, he says there is anyway. Even though he does not know the Bible is “the word of God”, he says it anyway.

            If he would only say, “I’m starting with the assumption there is a God” or “I am assuming the Bible is the word of God” then procede with his message and one could, it seems, call it “objective”. But, when the message starts with “knowing” these things, the entire thing is subjective. Both a carefully thought out theology of a denomination and the fly-by-the-seat-of-pants pietism are both subjective.

            I have to mention, economics is subjected to ridicul at times. There is this old joke that two economists are stranded on an island and one says, “I know what to do, let’s assume a boat.”

          16. Wanna B Sure

            A lot of words, most of which are not relevant to the topic.
            There is an old statement; “Once a pietist,, always a pietist.” (religious or not.). If there ever was evidence of that, you are the poster boy for that. Human nature being what it is, it is very easy to be come a pietist, especially when born into it as you were. On the other hand, it is very difficult to escape it, and again you provide the evidence. As long as it makes you “feel good” about yourself. That is the addictive nature of it all.

          17. Wanna 10:42 ” A lot of words, most of which are not relevant to the topic.”

            I did not raise the words, “objective” and ” subjective”. You were the first to use them. I remain curious as to how you define them and how use of the words fits you views on religion. Because you raised them, I gave you my take on how they are used in my field. I speculated on why use in religion is different, and, incorrect from my point of view. I’m merely asking for you to elaborate on how you use the terms, why you brought them up and how you would find fault with my use of them. Thank you.

          18. Wanna B Sure

            Of course, the closer to home the subject gets to you, the more you squirm, and resist. I understand your situation, but you should know you aren’t the first pietistic secular/atheist I’ve run into. The symptoms are the same. As is the denial. Interesting.

          19. Wanna B Sure

            When one considers “pietism” both in and out of the faith, a little humor at your expense: You are clearly an “un-holy roller”.

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