Universalism is the natural place most Christians with a conscience arrive at….it is impossible for me to comprehend that anyone with even a miniscule amount of compassion could hold to the concept of a loving, merciful God sending people to eternal torment in Hell….it is beyond the pale of my comprehension. Even the most fundamentalist Christian will usually at some point realize the whole concept of Hell is ludicrous to say the least….this idea of people being tormented by demons in a place burning with fire and brimstone because of some 'original sin' is just plain crazy, but it has been a part of human myths for millennia, with one of the earliest accounts called the Epic of Gilgamesh dated around 2000 BC.
No rational human being with an ounce of reasoning would ever consider the perverted idea of any type of eternal punishment for sins committed while in this finite existence as sane, especially the so called sin that is a consequence of being born. Is there anything rational about punishing a finite being for things done in this finite body, by making him eternal so he can be inflicted with everlasting pain and suffering, all because he didn’t confess Jesus as Lord? Talk about overkill, or hasn’t God heard of the punishment fitting the crime? Why would a merciful God punish people by using pain and suffering anyway? Doesn’t that go against the whole idea of grace, mercy and compassion? Even our human justice system tries to rehabilitate people who commit crimes, not torture them. It would be like sentencing a person to life in prison, of solitary confinement, with daily floggings, deprivation of food and water, excessive stifling heat….for the crime of: his neighbor chipping a tooth on a cookie he baked for him! Only a flawed mind could conceive of and believe in the horrors of Hell presented as a just punishment from God, by those who claim to be followers of Christ….kinda makes you wonder?
The only way to truly experience freedom is by bursting out of the cocoon of the Bible that so many Christians are encased in. My quest that led me beyond Universalism, started with many small steps; the first of which was being honest about what the Bible really says. The first big, wake up call I got was when it dawned on me that the concept of Hell used in Scripture comes directly from mythology, so I asked myself: why was Jesus promoting a belief in Greek mythology? The terms Hades and Tartarus used in the Bible as the place of judgment, were common pagan ideas that began centuries before Jesus time in the 1st century. So, I thought to myself: if the concept of Hell presented by Jesus in the Bible was no more than a Greek myth, what other pagan ideas found their way into Scripture? To my shock and utter amazement, practically every idea I had assumed was original to the revelation of God through Jesus Christ, was no more than philosophical and mythological belief systems of various individuals, and cultures throughout history. Now, believe me, this took awhile to sink in….not to mention the big looming question of how could the Bible possibly be redeemed as the Word of God when it appeared to be no more than a compilation of philosophies and myths?
The one thing the Bible does retain though is its historical value as a written record of the progression of man’s thought throughout the centuries, drawing from all the common ideas over a span of 1500 years and presenting them in a somewhat coherent form, and at best developing those ideas in a positive way. Many of the problems arise when people claim that the Bible is the literal word of God and try and force their interpretation of it on others, instead of seeing its humanity. For the time period in which Jesus taught, his ideas on the equality of all peoples were way ahead of their time, and stands as a principle that is true for all times….that one concept of all men being created equal, I believe is the foundation of the teachings of Jesus and secondly the stress given to forgiving others, this is what gives the Bible it real value.