The bulk of science does not support belief in a deity, or does it? This is an open discussion area to hone your skills at supporting and understanding the various positions. Feel free to post any links of value in this important topic.
So growing up I was told by the SDA church that salvation is uncertain. No one can rest in assurance that they are saved. And once saved always saved sentiment of the southern baptist's was always used a lesson of biblical ignorance, to their superior theological knowledge. We didn't touch on the Calvinist's much.
But the basic idea is that no one knows, and that's why no one can rightfully judge another. God the father alone knows the final judgement. So yes, people in the churches most certainly will be lost and some people outside of the churches could be saved for all anyone knows. And that's the way I looked at it growing up. When people tried judging someone based on appearance, I'd lecture them like a good little boy for jesus quoting verses to the contrary of their judging.
During my junior year at the boarding academy, I was called into administrative counsel and put on the spot for not attending the required evening worship services at the boys dorm chapel. The dean was a pompous, ass. I quit attending worship one evening after he gave some self righteous sermon based on the writings of Ellen White where she spoke of the small minority of people who will be saved. Something like only 1/3 will be saved (taken from the 1/3's given in revelation I assume). So he translated that into 1/3 of the boys sitting in that chapel (or 1/3 of any given group of people) will see the gates of heaven. It was a stupid sermon. And I just quite attending after that. I'd had enough.
So I'm cornered in this administrative counsel and asked why I haven't been attending the required worship services. I got quick witted on the spot (for a kid) and stood up from my seat and pointed my finger at the boys dean. I said something to the effect of, 'The dean has been preaching blasphemous sermons about who will and will not be saved at the second coming! Blasphemous because according to our belief system god the father alone knows the outcome of the final judgement! How then does the dean know how many boys in the chapel will be saved and how many will not?'
The dean was pissed! In fact that started a long tension between the two of us. The principle seeing the potential for embarrassment just wanted to hush it up. So he concluded that I had to be in my assigned seat BUT I was allowed to wear ear plugs or a walkman if I didn't want to hear the dean's sermons. The deans face, I wish I could describe it. I created a life long foe that day. So what did I do? I didn't even attend so much as one chapel after that. And they did all of jack squat in response. They just let it go.
Having said that, another big point here is the question of how blasphemous it is for anyone to claim to know the judgement of another, regardless of anything written in the bible. I see christians try and trump the bit about not judging, or even having the capability to judge by finding some other contrary verses in the bible. But taken altogether I haven't seen how the contrary verses could trump the verses about human's not having the ability to know the final judgement. A bum on the street could get to heaven before some self righteous jack ass for all anyone knows, right? How in the world would these Calvinist elitist's know whether or not THEY are saved without going the direction of blasphemy? If they think that they can know, what then is the final judgement in revelation all about?
If you feel up to taking on the crowd outside of our private debate, here's a good place to try and do so. Forget about deconversion therapy for a moment. What about this theological issue? If you do not feel up to taking on the crown outside of our private debate then I propose that we will include the issue of predestination and free will into our private debate at some point to make sure that the issue get's covered there.
Let me know what you think about it.
I'm open-minded with respect to the existence of unicorns. Just give me a reason to think they exist, and I'll consider it. Give me actual evidence, and I'll be persuaded. That is what having an open mind means. It doesn't mean don't make your mind up; it means be willing to change your mind given sufficient evidence.
I would be inclined to utilize the situation to present an alternative concept and admonish my child that she/he knows that those books are collections of fairly-tales frequently used by controlling rulers to exploit the masses. I would do this loudly and clearly as the "gift" is presented so that all may hear.
I like that blog post...a very similar thing happened to me. Several years ago, my very religious mother gave my young daughter a bible for some occasion or other...I forget which. Anyways, I told my daughter to treat it like any other book of fictional stories. I encouraged her to ask as many questions as she could think up...and boy, did she! I answered all her questions honestly and frankly. She now has a similar attitude towards religion as I do, and I am quite proud of her.
This is pure gold, in my opinion. If you haven’t read Citsonga’s Extimony and ‘Letter to My Christian Parents’, take some time (a good bit of time!) to read them. You won’t find a smarter, more informed, clearly written, heartfelt explanation of why he - and so many of us - became Ex-Christians. It will be time well spent, believe me.
Note: I received no financial compensation, merchandise, sexual favors or any other benefit from Citsonga in exchange for this endorsement. 😎
I'm sorry to hear about your panic attacks. That sort of thing sucks royally. It may be in your best interest to see a professional secular therapist.
In the meantime, it doesn't hurt to look into some of the background of the idea of Hell. The following is an excerpt from a letter I wrote a few years ago. I hope it can help you.
The Lake of Fire
The Bible says that "the beast" and "false prophet" will be "cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone" (Rev 19:20), and that "the devil" will also be "cast into the lake of fire and brimstone" and that they "shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Rev 20:10). After that we read that "death and hell" and "whosoever was not found written in the book of life" will be "cast into the lake of fire," which it also calls "the second death" (Rev 20:14-15). Though it doesn't specify here, one would assume that this implies that everyone thrown into this lake of fire would also be tortured forever, just like it says will happen to the beast, false prophet and devil. Granted, Revelation is highly symbolic, so one could argue that this is not meant literally, especially given the reference to a "second death." For the sake of this writing, though, I will treat it literally, as traditional Christians tend to do.
As a side note, many confuse "hell" with the eternal "lake of fire." However, as can be seen from the statement that "hell" will be "cast into the lake of fire" (Rev 20:14), they are technically not the same thing in the Bible. "Hell" here is the Greek term "Hades," which was used for the grave, the nether world, the realm of the dead. But, since most people think of "Hell" as the lake of fire, from here on out that will be what I am referring to when I use the capitalized word "Hell" in quotes. So, let's move on and take a closer look at the concept of eternal torture and what the Bible has to say about "Hell."
To hear Christians talk, "Hell" is one of the most important topics in Christianity. Indeed, what we supposedly need saving from is "Hell." Yet, if "Hell" is such a hot topic (pun intended), and burning eternally is the final punishment for the wicked, then why is the concept of the lake of fire completely absent from the Old Testament? Sure, the word "hell" is found in the KJV Old Testament, but it is the Hebrew word "Sheol," which means the grave, the underworld, the abode of the dead, a pit. Though there are several places where the Old Testament refers to "fire" symbolically, there is no place in it that says anything about eternal torture in fire (when preachers use Old Testament verses to prove "Hell," a quick look at the context always reveals that they mean something else).
In the Old Testament, the punishment for wickedness is said to be death (Eze 3:18-19; 18:20,24; 33:8-14; Psalm 37:20; Prov 2:22). Beyond that, Isaiah says, "They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise" (Isa 26:14). Daniel contradicts that by saying, "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt" (Dan 12:2), but though it doesn't fit with most of what we see in the Old Testament, even this verse doesn't say anything about torture.
There is a significant Old Testament verse to mention, though. Jeremiah says, "Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that this place shall no more be called Tophet, nor The valley of the son of Hinnom, but The valley of slaughter" (Jer 19:6). In this verse, "The valley of the son of Hinnom" in Hebrew is "gay ben Hinnom," or "gay Hinnom" ("The valley of Hinnom") for short, and is the basis of a later Greek word "Gehenna" that referred to a valley south of Jerusalem where they reportedly burned trash, dead animals and at times the corpses of executed criminals. This "Gehenna" is translated "hell" in the New Testament.
So, for clarification, there are two Greek words commonly translated "hell" in the New Testament. "Hades," as mentioned previously, refers to the grave or the netherworld. "Gehenna," on the other hand, was the city dump where refuse was burned. (The Greek word "tartaroo" is also translated "hell," but it's only used once in the Bible and its meaning is comparable to "Hades.") Now let's look at a few uses of "Gehenna."
When we read, "Whosever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire" (Matt 5:22), that "hell fire" is referring to the burning dump south of Jerusalem. So is the statement, "It is profitable for thee that one of thy members (body parts) should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell" (Matt 5:29-30). When we read, "Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell" (Luke 12:5), that is again using the burning city dump for imagery.
In addition we read, "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:43-44). This is an often cited passage about "Hell," but let's dig deeper. Not only is this using the imagery of "Gehenna" discussed above, but it is based on an Old Testament quote that says, "And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched" (Isaiah 66:24). What is being talked about here is clearly not eternal torture, but simply mounting corpses. The worm not dying out is meant in reference to constantly having rotting corpses to eat on. Whatever "fire" may be referring to here, it is clearly not depicting the "Hell" that Christianity teaches.
Again, if "Hell" was such an important topic, then why would God avoid making mention of it throughout the entire Old Testament? Why repeatedly warn of death as punishment if eternal torture was really the punishment? With the complete absence of "Hell" in the Old Testament, and the idea growing out of the imagery of a burning city dump south of Jerusalem called the Valley of Hinnom in the New Testament, isn't it quite clear that "Hell" is merely a doctrine that evolved over time?
Beyond that, what about the ethics of "Hell"? How can justice be served by inflicting infinite torture as punishment for finite infractions? How is being burned forever a befitting discipline for mere mortals? What loving father would ever do such a thing? Would any good judge ever issue such an unfair sentence?
Jesus supposedly said that "whosever believeth" in God's "only begotten Son" will "have everlasting life," and that "he that believeth not is condemned" (John 3:16,18). In Christian theology, that condemnation is "Hell." However, what about all the people who die having never heard about Jesus? What about people raised in different cultures far removed from Christianity, those who are indoctrinated with other views (through no fault of their own) to the point that that they cannot believe Christianity when presented with it? What about the many, many people throughout the ages who simply never had the opportunity to believe in Jesus?
Some Christians try to weasel out of that dilemma by suggesting that God is just and will deal fairly with those other people. They may even cite the judgment based on deeds that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 25:31-46. While that may seem to be a noble thought, it is flat-out contradicted by the very quote from Jesus listed above, that "he that believeth not is condemned" (John 3:18). If one doesn't believe, then he's condemned, with no recourse. Besides, there are other logical problems with this argument. Since it indicates that belief in Jesus really isn't necessary for salvation, then what's the point in evangelizing and sending out missionaries? That's commanded in the Bible, of course, but it would be rather pointless if it was true that God would judge everyone justly anyway and that believing in Jesus really isn't necessary for salvation!
In addition, what about other people, such as myself, who know the story of Jesus quite well but study Christianity and honestly conclude that it is without merit? With regard to us, as well as the aforementioned people who never heard of Jesus or who were already indoctrinated with another religious view, how could a loving God condemn such people to eternal agony when God himself has refused to show himself? If the all-loving, all-powerful, all-knowing God of evangelical Christianity existed and wanted to have a relationship with every person, then there would be no question that he is real and Christianity is true because he would make it clear! Yet the majority of people in the world have not been convinced of such. Where is this Christian God who is supposedly reaching out to everyone?
Another common Christian response is to bring up the quote, "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20). Thus, it is argued, nobody has an excuse for not knowing, because "the creation" around us is proof. But is it really? If this verse was true and the natural world we see clearly depicted the Christian God, then everyone who looks at nature would automatically be convinced of the Christian God! Yet, throughout the world there are varying cultures with different religious views, and many of those people look at the exact same nature and see evidence of their gods! And other people look at nature and see no evidence of any god at all! How could this be if "creation" was so clear regarding the Christian God? Obviously, this argument from "creation" is simply false.
Think about this. You were raised in a Christian culture that convinced you that Christianity is true, but in the same way people raised in a Muslim culture are convinced that Islam is true, and people raised in a Hindu culture are convinced that Hinduism is true, and so on and so forth. The fact is that people's religious beliefs are primarily dependent upon demographics instead of logic, reason and indisputable evidence.
You cannot believe Islam to be true because you were programmed to believe Christianity. But the opposite is also true: Those who are programmed to believe Islam simply cannot believe Christianity. Put yourself in their shoes. What if you had been raised and indoctrinated with Islam, and therefore you could not believe Christianity? That would be no fault of your own; it would simply be the result of being raised in that culture. Would it then be fair to torture you in "Hell" forever and ever and ever, with no mercy and no relief, simply because you did not believe something that you had no ability to believe? Do you not see the absurdity and injustice in that? Do you really believe that a righteous, loving God would do that to his creation?
You've heard about "cruel and unusual punishment." Indeed, when someone commits a crime, we expect them to be punished, but we expect the punishment to be in accordance with the crime. However, how could any criminal deserve being tortured forever and ever and ever? We are mere mortals with a very limited life-span, so how could anything one does be worthy of unending agony? Such torture would be "cruel and unusual punishment"! And, again, the idea of issuing such punishment for a lack of belief by those who can't believe is even more problematic.
Clearly, any God who would torture people like that would have to be sadistic and unjust, because only a sadistic monster could be so cruel! To call any such God "good" is ridiculous, and is an insult to all that is good.
Given that the unjust nature of the doctrine of "Hell" is incompatible with the idea of a loving and just God, and given the way the Christian doctrine of "Hell" evolved out of the imagery of a burning city dump outside Jerusalem, it becomes quite clear that "Hell" is not something revealed by God, but merely a morbid myth that developed over time and became useful for scaring people throughout the ages.