When I was a preacherboy immersed in evangelicalism, I believed as I was taught, reinforced socially, or socioreligiously, that is, about what is really true, notwithstanding what we might contrarily think.
"Being good isn't going to get you to heaven."This was one of the main tenets.
"You could be the most moral, upstanding human being in the world, but if you don't believe that Jesus Christ is the son of god, you are going to hell."Those of you who have been exposed to this kind of background (or are still in it) will know what I'm talking about. So the apologetic dogma goes as follows:
"If you do not believe that Jesus Christ is the son of god, no matter how good you are, no matter who you are, you will go to hell for all eternity."This is the derived conclusion from evangelical bible studies which the church embraced, espoused, proclaimed, and reinforced. And the church is a mainstream church, with several affiliated universities throughout the nation. And it's no surprise that the above dogma is the very foundation of evangelicalism, all across the board. If the tenet weren't true, what's the point of spreading the gospel? The gospel is for saving souls, for without the gospel --- whose soteriological kerygma (though they never would use such fancy words) is encapsulated in the confession that Jesus is the son of god, which is the cornerstone ("Upon this rock I shall build my church") of the evangelical mission to christianize the world --- all souls are damned for all eternity. (Which by the way is still bullshit because that's just the tip of the bait and switch iceberg; eventually you're forced to believe the infallibility of the bible, and a whole lot more)
Now just imagine the infinitude of the concept of unending eternal, quantitative time. As if one human lifetime at its inception, which lasts, say, 100 years, would be damned for all eternity because Joe Blow didn't believe that Jesus Christ is the son of god. He might have been a good family man, lived an authentic life. Too bad. Off to hell he goes forever. After, say, one googolplex of years (which won't even equal a split microsecond compared to the infinity of time to follow) spent frying in Dante's inferno, he doesn't even know why the hell (so to speak) he's even there. He can't even remember what the first 100 years of his existence was like, hell, he doesn't even remember ever being a human in a human body.
But no. They will be made to remember and regret for all eternity their decision to not believe that Jesus Christ is the son of god, and the holy saints in heaven will bear witness to their agony, their suffering, and gnashing of teeth.
My my. But I bought it. It made sense. Because if that weren't the case, what's the point of spreading the gospel? It would simply be a lifestyle and world-view option instead. No, brethren, it's not an option.
I was in discussions about this more than once.
"You could be Gandhi, and you'll go to hell."According to this soteriological scheme I was taught, all white Republican conservatives were automatically going to heaven because they were lucky enough to be born in a christian country and raised in christian homes, and were christians by default. As for the rest of the scraggly world, they must be saved. I remember wondering why no one addressed the Third Reich's holocaust at all when they would speak of saving the Jews. Although no one said it outright to me, I sensed a prevailing attitude about antisemitism as acceptable, as Jews were not christians, and had brought it upon themselves.
"Did Gandhi go to hell?"
"He wasn't a christian, so yes."
"What about Jewish people, Hindus, Buddhists?"
"They're all going to hell. That's what the bible says."
And finally, according to this soteriological scheme, heaven would be full of the likes of P. Robertson, Falwell, F. Phelps, T. Haggard, R. Limbaugh, Hitler, CEOs of important global economy corporations, while hell would be full of the likes of Gandhi, Oscar Wilde, Albert Einstein, Betty Friedan, John Lennon, and so on, because they weren't christian (there are other reasons too I was led to believe why even Mother Theresa wouldn't go to heaven, but I won't get into that here).