A Fear of Burning
By: Robert D Brinsmead
Ayaan Hirst Ali in her book called Infidel, said that she was not free until she totally rejected the Muslim doctrine of hell (which is no different, by the way, than the doctrine of hell in the NT book of Matthew). How many millions of Americans still believe in this awful Christian doctrine of hell? What is this monstrous, sadistic, inhuman, pornographic and demonic teaching doing to the brains of Christian people? It perpetuates a violent, foul mental disease in humanity. It has made more atheists (who are atheists for religious reasons) than any other single factor. Many have to be atheists to preserve their sanity.
I listened to Mohammed Ali go on about the doctrine of a burning hell – like Wesley he contemplated how painful it would be to hold his finger in the fire of a candle for a single minute, then for a whole hour – and then he shuddered to think of the whole body endlessly on fire in unspeakable torments. Of course it is all imaginary, but the point is that it is a reality in the human mind. Ali saw this fear of hell as the main motivation not to do wrong. Any good psychologist today knows that the fear of punishment is not effective even for children. This kind of fear does not promote moral development, but hinders it. God is about setting us genuinely free – and that means being freeing from this monster, threatening ogre in the Sky. All of life and history ought to help teach us that even the true God has to set us free from God to promote true human development.
I remember reading a book on the life of that Vietnamese girl, Kim Phuc – the one depicted in the most notorious picture of the Vietnamese War. A picture of a stark naked, 10 year-old girl running down the road screaming, having being burned by napalm. The story of her life includes how she eventually migrated to Canada and became an evangelical Christian. In this she reflects on how terrible if would to be burned in hell like she was burned as a kid, and puts this forward as some kind of motivation to become a believer as if this was some sort of fire insurance.
In the New Testament, d 2 Peter is a good example of the prediction that the elements are soon to melt with fervent heat and all that apocalyptic terror. Then comes the punch line: in view of this, how then should we live being motived to live in the light of such holy terror. The ones who best handle this are those who hang lose to Christian teaching, not taking any of it too seriously. But again, anybody who takes it seriously has a better chance of seeing that it is a harmful monstrosity.
It was no small thing for me as a young Adventist to stand up and finally say – “all this talk of 1844 and the Investigative Judgment, the prophetic status of Ellen White, the Sabbath and the Mark of the Beast, this special people syndrome of having the message of God for the last days….it is all rubbish” – sending it all up in smoke. What are we then to do now? asked a lot of my friends. My advice: Just put all this religious rubbish in a big dump truck and go join the human race.