A little word of advice not found in How to Win Friends and Influence People: don't tell people they're going to Hell.
I was recently talking with someone who says they stopped being a Christian because they didn't like hearing about Hell in church. They have decided since to become a Christian again, but only if it's a Christian who does not believe in a Satan or a literal Hell.
And there are many more like it. Believing in Jesus, no problem! Believing in Hell, not a chance in... that place I don't care to mention.
Hell sensitivity training
If you want to know how to ignite someone who claims they don't believe in God and the supernatural, tell them they're going to Hell; but then there's the issue of why it offends so much. Just what is it about Hell that flares tempers?
Regardless of belief, people always invoke Hell when it suits them. "Go to Hell!" a non-believer might yell at you if you cut across them in traffic. "If anyone deserves Hell those paedophilic priests do". That's why Karma was invented; all of the justice for other people, none of the judgement on you.
A lot of non-theists will have an attitude of: "This is why I don't like Christianity or Christians. Nobody can tell me I'm going to Hell". Some even behave like petulant childrenâclaiming someone is being mean or "un-Christian" to them for even insinuating they are less than righteous.
Those who don't get offended mock it up with a: "I'm going to party it up down there". To which I would reply: if you had any inkling of an experience with the demonic at all you would know it is hardly a party. No one who has actually been oppressed by supernatural entities would wish that upon themselves for eternity (one would hope).
Self-righteous, smug bigots
Newsflash atheists. Mr Holier-Than-Thou Christian debating you over Facebook deserves Hell, probably even more than you do. Every one of us actually deserves Hell.
Now doesn't that make you feel better?
A Christian's righteousness is imputed unto us by Jesus, because basically we're like pigs rolling in slime.
Yes, you atheists are right to hate being told you're going to Hell by sinful people who deserve it probably more than you do. I can see the hypocrisyâI empathise with it. It sucks to have some Self-Righteous Simon telling you to repent or else.
Somehow it had a different affect when Jesus said it. Must have been the whole perfect-in-righteousness thing He had going for Him, tends to make you not come off as a flaming hypocrite.
Thou shall not be judgemental (but everything else is okay)
Nobody likes being judged, or to be told they're wrong. It's the running joke marriages only work when the man insists the wife is always right. While some might smile through being wrong, nobody really likes to be reminded of it.
It's even worse being wrong when you've staked your life on a non-belief (or a belief). Hell is a loaded termâloaded with judgement and justiceâand if God is real justice will be the final end of the world.
Justice against what? Since God is love, justice is against anything that is not love. Made someone cry? GUILTY. Been insensitive? GUILTY. Selfish and hedonistic? GUILTY, GUILTY. Exploited women by keeping the porn industry going? GUILTY.
Every action has an opposite reaction.
Hell ought to spark fury because if God is God (i.e. holy and just) then you actually deserve to burn for eternity! Your outrage is completely understandable. Who is this God to send you to Hell and to judge you for the times you've hurt other people and acted selfishly?
The Creator of all things who upholds all life.
The One who gives and takes away.
Bridget Brenton has been researching apologetics, philosophy and the paranormal for years. You can check her apologetic effort out at 101arguments.com
Bridget Brenton's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/bridget-brenton.html