I'd just like to say here that according to the doctrines of the Christian faith, God is supposed to be the ultimate source of love and justice. Yet, the Hell idea sets him up for failure on both fronts.
His loving heart is too small to grasp that maybe not everyone's going to get it that the only way to heaven is through answering an alter call and "accepting Jesus into your heart." Can you imagine a loving, just Father saying to his kid, "You failed to trust me. Now, I will pour gasoline on your head and light you on fire! May you burn forever!! [insert evil laugh here]"
Even the American justice system doesn't think the worst of offenders deserves to be eternally punished for screwing up royally. It believes in meting out punishments comenserate with the crime. How can any crime commited on the temporal plain merit eternal repercussions? Why don't people pull their heads out of the sand long enough to ask the question, "What kind of Satan have my beliefs made God into?" It's a valid question, and deserves some thought.
The God I believe in is Love, but more than that: Love with a Brain. My God has Logic down just as much as he has conquered things like Peace, Goodness, Mercy and the other classic attributes. But I know some of you out there might be attached to Scripture and think that unless I can prove from a Biblical standpoint that there is no Hell, I've got no argument.
Just to humor you, the concept of Hell as we know it nowadays wasn't present in Biblical times. They had three words for a place where souls go after death: Sheol, Hades, and Tartarus. And there was a fourth word, Gehenna, used a lot by Christ, which referred to a trash heap outside of Jeruselem where they would burn the dead. None of those words can be correctly translated to mean the place of unending torment we picture today, because the concept simply didn't exist at that time. Just like if you read a Biblical translation and found the words "cell phone" you might be suspicious of how valid the translation was, so too should the word "Hell" raise red flags. If you'd like more information on the Bible and the words Sheol, Hades, Tartarus, and Gehenna, here are a few references: Hell Defined I, Hell Defined II, and the documentary, Hellbound?
Belief #5: No Hell doesn't mean there's no point in Christ's sacrifice.
When the concept of not believing in Hell comes up, it hits some people in a weird place where they then conclude, "Well, if there's no Hell, there's no reason for Christ to have died!" Actually, that's not true. Humankind has most definitely fallen from grace. It is not perfect. But we have, deeply seeded within us, this concept that it "should" be perfect. We spend inordinate amounts of time and effort on perfecting ourselves, with our without the help of organized religion to egg us on. Perfection, that elusive human dream, is always just out of reach. But somehow, we think it ought to be ours and feel cheated that it's not.
Perhaps it is a dilemma to have our cake and eat it, too. If we have free will, it stands to reason we might make imperfect choices that would harm us in tangible and intangilbe ways. And finding our way back to wholeness and goodness is apparently impossible. Seems once we fall, unless God stretches out his hand to lift us up, we can't get up. So, He did stretch out his hand. He manifested as Christ on Earth, saved us from our sorry selves, and now waits with infinite patience for reconciliation with us all. He gave us the cake: free will. And let us eat it: perfection, and union with God.
I don't think the lack of a Hell makes Christ's suffering, death and resurrection any less incredible. It makes it MORE incredible. Because it was good news for ALL humankind, and he was the savior of ALL the world. God isn't the head of a heavenly clique, letting in only the Christian elite. He made a path for all of us to follow, and allowed the complete reconciliation with God to be the end of every human journey.
Given what I've just said, you'd think perfection would be a state we reach after death. But, I feel that is only describing the most obvious level of human conciousness. In the egoic mind, we cannot find perfection. In my own experience, exploring the inner self, I've found a place already perfect and whole that nothing can touch. Is it God? Is it me, with God? My intuition tells me this is so. Perhaps what Christ did was more than just a path to eventual perfection. Perhaps his sacrifice was that ultimate and epic anime blast going in all directions, touching the souls of the past, present and future, with the perfection they longed for. Truly making us a perfect race, where sin has lost its sting.
Sure, on a purely egoic level, we can be caught up in sin and our own self-created Hell. But, we are more than inflated egos. We are infinite spirits having a human experience. Watching, learning, growing and maturing, but unable to be touched by it at our deepest, most fundamental level. Some of us catch on to the difference between who we really are and our thoughts, and no longer identify with them, going instead deeper into ourselves. And what we discover is bliss, a true self that needs nothing and is at perfect peace, united to God. That is enlightenment, and those who touch upon it have been enlightened for as long as they stay.
To me, this life is a journey of reaching enlightenment, and then staying with God in your "Holy of Holies", your most inner soul, for longer and longer stretches until it becomes where you always dwell. It is a practice of remaining in the Truth. And being united to God in the inner self was made possible by what Christ accomplished. But, even if you never find it in this life, you are not lost, because of the God-man who came "to seek and save the lost". So, we can be utterly lost in the Hell of our own creation, but not forever. One day, we'll be reborn and remember God, and this Hell will evaporate like fog in the morning.