Doubting the doctrine of hell: India disorients a Christian

One of Andrew Sullivan’s blog readers wrote this today:

I’m a Christian . . . I think.

I say, “I think” because a recent trip to India left me stumbling on the foundation of faith laid since my youth. I was raised in the church, by a fundamentalist, Baptist preacher father and an “amen” mother. . . .

What India did is place me squarely at the foot of the cross of Christ to wonder if it was big enough to shadow this whole, big, diverse, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, etc., world. . . .

For the first time in such a visceral way, the morality of eternal hell – a cornerstone in the Christian faith – struck me as severely lacking. I returned from India angry, incredulous, and disoriented in and about the faith that I had for years prior really made the compass of my life and work (yes, I work in a church).


This person might just as well have come to Los Angeles for a similar experience. Below is an image I took from my car window passing down Santa Monica Blvd. yesterday (near Koreatown, around 4:40 in the afternoon). The “other” is everywhere. And news today suggests that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is ending in the U.S. military. And we have a black president. And the terms “atheist” and “evolution” can be Googled any time of the night or day. It’s harder to keep things (and people) demonized, out of view, and in a closet nowadays, isn’t it?:


Of course, the road is open in all ways, which means that the feminist, atheist, Muslim, environmentalist, or Buddhist who wishes the fundamentalist Christian would go away—and could be locked out of consciousness and collective civic culture—is out of luck as well. Welcome to our 21st century intersection.

In Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead  Howard Roark is asked what he thinks of those who don’t share his vision and values. As I recall, Roark replies:

I don’t think of them.

This strikes me as psychologically false. Roark is depicted in the novel as living in New York City, amidst masses of people he despises (for their altruism and irrationality), and he says he doesn’t think of them. Of course, he needs  them for labor in the building of his sky scrapers, yet he doesn’t think  of them.

But the “other” is not so easily dispensed, even with the assistance of Fox News blaring at all times from your television, or reading only Ayn Rand novels. At some point, the closet door opens.

This is clever:

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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