Three problems with it:
- Hell belief is authoritarian. If it is true that most people go to hell, and it is eternal torture over flames to be there, then the only way to save yourself from such a ridiculous fate is to get with the program pronto and never fall out of line or question too much.
- Because you may doubt your own salvation, hell belief sets up a viscous psychological cycle that drives one into self-recriminations and self-policing, accompanied by cowed submission before the authoritarian Father.
- Capture-bonding. Hell belief tends to drive one into an emotional state akin to the experience of Winston Smith in Orwell’s chilling climax to 1984 (“He loved Big Brother”). It is the Stockholm Syndrome translated into religion (the source of love and hostage-taking is coming from the same source).
Hell belief is great for spreading religion, not so great for supporting the mental balance and critical thinking of converts.
But here’s a point in hell belief’s favor (sort of). In the terror of death and the fear of meaningless–the emotional hell that can accompany atheism–the electric fence of religious hell belief is a fair trade for a lot of people. Just stay within the fence and you’re at least given the hope of eternal life in a pleasant and God-ordered place after death.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if it were so?
Well, not exactly. Because heaven is then like living in Nazi Germany in the 1940s. You might think of yourself as okay personally, for you do not defy der Fuhrer, but how can you really be happy and unhaunted knowing that the bodies of others, at that very same moment, are being shoveled into ovens at Auschwitz? Living content under such circumstances is cognitive dissonance, complacency, conformity, and cowardice before a vast injustice.