Avoidance of hell

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"If you don't believe in God, you'll go to hell after you die."

The threat of hellfire is most effective against those who already believe in heaven and hell, such as theists who are angry with God. Its common use against nonbelievers is puzzling - because to threaten someone with something that they don't believe in is utterly ineffective.

Counter apologetics

The threat of eternal damnation and torment is an ever-popular argument of fundamentalists and presuppositionalists. It is simply an argumentum ad baculum, even though the person making the argument does not claim to be the one to carry it out.

An effective counter apologetic would be to ask for proof of hell, or to threaten them with another religion's hell, and point out the similarity. The threat of hell differs from Pascal's wager in several key respects:

  • Pascal's wager is an intellectual argument. The threat of hell is purely emotional.
  • With the threat of hell, hell is assumed to exist. Pascal's wager treats this as an unknown.
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