getting over hell

Erika, who co-leads a "Science and Spirituality" group with me, recommended the This American Life podcast episode on Carlton Pearson, an evangelical superstar (And Oral Robert's philosophical heir apparent) who had his church dissolved from beneath him when he pivoted to "The Gospel of Inclusion", rejecting the idea that hell was the future for everyone who didn't fly right in the Evangelical Christian sense.

Like the doctrine of hell is kind of awful - the concept that an all-powerful God (arguably with perfect foresight) had allowed to be made a universe where a certain large percentage of beings are destined to be absolutely tormented forever. This is not a story that corresponds with a human sense of love and compassion.

It strikes me that this is either Cosmically True (as in the Christian God is this Lovecraftian being beyond our ken so us mere humans cannot resolve the "superficial" contradiction of a loving God who still allows this to happen) or this is Sociologically True (it's expedient, that it's culturally useful to have a REALLY big threat to keep people in line.)

I mean I have mixed feelings about it. Fear of hellfire - combined with the idiosyncratic life of a preacher's family life (where a church provided for all of our material needs and directed my parents what to do and where to live) - definitely molded me, gave me the idea that my personal preferences were secondary to what was good for the group - and since then I've come to appreciate that as an important framing of moral reality, that striving to conform to a likely guess of what is objectively good is better than only heeding one's own preferences, which are influenced by a mix of compassion and selfishness.

But I still wonder if my life might have been better without that sense of fear, if there was a way to learn what was best by it just being better, the carrot rather than the stick.

Still, the way Pearson lost his church and was scorned and branded a heretic? I guess those people rejecting him feel that he's doing no one any favors my threatening their immortal souls (though honestly the Biblical support for American Folk Christianity's vision of hell isn't all that strong) - but you get the sense that those people are absolutely threatened by the concept of there not being this supra-existential threat to justify all of this noise.

I think I should watch the Netflix special "Come Sunday" that goes into Pearson's story.

All models are wrong, but some are useful.