As we've noted time and again, "On Faith" -- a Washington Post/Newsweek-run religion news and discussion website -- is biased against, if not outright hostile to traditional religious belief, particularly traditional Christian theology.
This weekend's "Discussion" section topic provided more evidence of that.
Examining the controversy over Michigan pastor Rob Bell's book "Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived," editor Sally Quinn asked her panelists, "In this life (and, perhaps, the next) why does what we think about the afterlife matter?"
In their answers, all but one panelist attacked the traditional Christian doctrine of eternal punishment of the wicked, with at least two arguing that a belief in Hell engenders violence and abuse.
"Damning people to hell for their religious beliefs, their sexuality, their reproductive choices and even their political views has enormously negative consequences for human life right now," liberal theologian Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite insisted.
"When I have done Bible studies with battered women, as I have done for years, many of the most religiously conservative are very nervous about asking for help with abuse because they fear they will go to hell for not being “subject” to their husbands. Often they have put up with the physical and psychological abuse for years, fearing not only the judgment of their husbands, but of God," the Chicago Theological Seminary professor added.
"It’s long past time that Christian conservatives foreclosed on hell. I admire Pastor Rob Bell for having the guts to say that when it comes to God, 'Love Wins,'" Brooks Thistlethwaite harumphed.
Rabbi Brad Hirschfield upped the ante, suggesting murder and genocide were linked to a belief in Hell, not just verbal and physical abuse:
At the end of the day, it is far easier to hurt and even to destroy another human being whom one already believes is cursed by God. After all, the hurt done to them in this life is nothing compared to the suffering they will endure in the next life and, so the argument goes, reflects God’s ultimate will and may even cause them to repent of whatever sins they are supposedly guilty.
Over the centuries, millions of people have been subjected to everything from regular degradation to the most horrendous suffering, including mass murder, all because they were outside of some other group’s salvation scheme. That tragic behavior continues to this very day in more places and ways than we can name.
Fellow rabbi David Wolpe took a kinder tack, simple denouncing as "a perverse doctrine" the belief that only those who have faith in Christ as savior will go to heaven.
Atheist Herb Silverman, founder of the Secular Coalition for America started out by scoffing that religious teachings on heaven and hell were mere opinions without the benefit of verifiable fact, yet closed his piece with a loaded swipe at Christians:
It is difficult, though, to believe a claim that a loving and all-powerful god would condemn Mahatma Gandhi to an eternity of torture while the Catholic Adolph Hitler has an eternity of bliss as he looks down at Jews suffering in hell. Now there’s a a notion for all Christians to think about, and discard as nonsense.
Who, exactly, claims that Adolph Hitler is living it up in Heaven, Silverman fails to note.
The lone defender of traditional Christian doctrine in this week's discussion, Jordan Sekulow, took a much more humble approach, actually citing clear-cut Scripture texts on Hell before arguing that:
Each one of us is a flawed human being and it would be foolish for any one person to claim that they alone comprehend the full extent of God’s grace. At the same, why risk the eternal life of others to fulfill our own interpretation of the afterlife? It’s a risk I’m not willing to take.