Sometimes, when dealing with more moderate Christians, I can forget that although they are often extremely reasonable when it comes to political issues and compassion issues(and are basically completely sane and reasonable overall), their minds can still be affected by the unreason of some particularly scary and damaging religious ideas; Original sin, the scapegoat concept, various unhealthy attitudes about sexuality. The religious mind can also lack a sense of urgency to fix the problems in this world and resolve personal conflicts that might otherwise be felt by a secular person.
I am writing this post because I was reminded of the scourge that religion can be on a human mind very recently, when a community leader that I admire in many ways (and like personally) made a very public statement about the importance of ‘getting right with god’ in order to avoid hellfire.
The threat of eternal damnation coming from respected adult figures can be incredibly scary to a young person (or anyone) who takes religion seriously. It's one thing to warn about dangers that can be substantiated (the dangers of drugs, casual sex, careless driving, treating people poorly), but hell is a threat that can't be substantiated, nestled within a religion whose divine inspiration can't be substantiated, nestled within a concept (the existence of divinity) that also can't be substantiated.
I write this with a certain amount of heartache, because I've spent most of my life trying my hardest to believe in the divine origin of Christian doctrine. While I have intellectually accepted that it's extremely unlikely that Christianity is a divinely inspired religion, I still bear the scars and neurotic remnants of my former religious life. While there are good and beautiful doctrines in Christianity that can be defended and supported via strictly secular means, I hate to think that others are being exposed to, and internalizing, some of the more damnable doctrines of the religion. I think the hell-threat is one of the worst.