Telling Others about Hell

Believers and nonbelievers tend to disagree about whether telling someone that they will be sent to hell constitutes a warning or a threat. Believers, convinced of the truth of their religion, feel that they must share this truth and attempt to save others from an eternity of suffering by warning them of the danger. Nonbelievers, unconvinced of the truth of the believer's claims, sometimes feel threatened, viewing the believers as the ones making the threats, using God as a proxy to express their anger and hatred toward nonbelievers.

Having been on both sides of this issue, I can sympathize with both groups. I know what it's like to be told that I'm going to hell, but I also remember what it's like to honestly believe that others would be damned and that I should at least make some effort to help them avoid that fate. I feel uncomfortable both with simply letting religious fanatics attack all of those who disagree with them while hiding under the veil of piety and with restricting the ability of people to express what they sincerely believe to be true. In the end, I prefer to support full freedom of speech as the law should never enshrine a particular viewpoint by prohibiting others from being expressed and discussed. Cultural conventions generally address issues such as this more effectively than the law, though I must admit that I'm concerned about the sustainability of informal norms in a socially fragmented and ideologically diverse modern society. We cannot, however, let fights over something as absurd as mythical torture chambers erode one of our most treasured freedoms by limiting what those who disagree with us can say.


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