On the Damnation of Non-Believers

A doctrinal belief of Christianity is that (technically) non-Christians are doomed to eternal damnation. I like to think that this is not the central core of their religion which relates to the divinity of Christ and the sanctity of his mission to save humanity from its moral transgressions. I am quite sure that most normal Christians (today), while they pray and act and share, are not obsessed with the idea of eternal damnation for non-Christians. They may refer to it in discussions, or some evangelists even threaten some simple souls in their (genuinely well-motivated) effort to convert, but this is not the every-day concern of the majority of Christians. Some of them may even be genuinely troubled by it and are working hard within themselves to reconcile that doctrine with the nobler and more charitable tenets of Christianity.
This is not an issue that must bother non-Christians, unless there is coercion and persecution on this basis. I have always felt that it is important not to judge the (harmless) religious beliefs of other faiths. There is so much goodness in every religion, why should an outsider keep slinging mud at it when we can learn from its positive aspects? It is surely not difficult to win an argument against specific doctrines of any religion, and to show by reasoning that the another person is wrong or stupid or misguided. But what is gained by that? I am convinced, for example, that no matter what his church proclaims, the average Christian in our own times doesn’t think of me only as a potential permanent resident of Hell. At the very least, I would expect him to leave the decision on this matter to God.
But there is a sense in which I too subscribe to this doctrine. Accepting Christ is (for me) the equivalent of living by a moral code that respects life, that has reverence for humanity, and that recognizes the bond between our individual selves (souls) and the Cosmic Mystery (God). Those who reject such a code are likely to be intrinsically unhappy (the Hell-state) for as long as they live, just as those who embrace it will find an inner peace (Heaven-state) that eludes the others. I can see considerable psychological insight in such a thesis.The post-mortem continuation of such states is what constitutes eternal redemption and eternal damnation, and about this I have no idea.
It is to be noted that similar beliefs are formulated in the traditional religious dogmas of others religions as well: e.g. Islam and Vishnavism. In the first instance, it is very much a living conviction among the activists; in the second case, it is only part of a medieval doctrine which no sensible Vaishnava takes seriously in our own times.


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