Nope.
In a recent column, I explored some obstacles to the embrace of religious faith among young people today, paying special attention to the gulf between the often simplistic way that traditional churches talk about God and the pluralistic complexity of modern life. Here’s another obstacle: The overly literalistic character of so much of American piety. My favorite example is the way that many American Christians think and talk about hell. Jumping off from a handful of Gospel passages in which Jesus Christ speaks about “eternal punishment” for sinners in the afterlife, these believers conjure visions of a cosmic torture chamber in which those who reject God or commit grave sins without repentance are subjected to endless torment as punishment for their transgressions. It is a ghastly analogue to equally crude and comical visions of heaven as a place where the righteous are rewarded with angels’ wings and an eternity of harp lessons. This is very bad theology — because it takes off from a deeply confused, though very commonly held, view of punishment. More