How many people would deliberately want to burn fellow human beings alive? Who could watch such a horror? In normal civil society, anybody who would want to do such a thing would be considered evil and deranged. Yet, in faith, people who consider themselves very moral support this most unspeakable atrocity.
On some religious websites, there are running meters showing how long certain people have supposedly been burning in hell. While the creators of these sites are some of the most hard core of the faithful, thinking others will burn for all eternity is a mainstream belief for billions of followers of many religions. Do these people really stop and think about what their beliefs mean?
In accidents and wanton acts of cruelty, many people throughout human history have in fact breathed their last in flames. Normally, moral, sane people react in horror to the thought. Anyone who has ever been burned knows the pain they cause, and the idea of being engulfed by flames, skin peeling off in agony, is horrifying and sickening. If they could do anything to rescue a person from such a fate, most people would take extreme measures, even putting their lives in danger, regardless of race or creed.
Considering how utterly horrible death by fire is, imagine the complete and utter horror of sadistic eternal torture in fiery furnaces! The agony would be unimaginable and endless; infinitely more horrible and sadistic than anything even the most evil person in history has ever done to another human being. Yet, people frequently wish hell on others, or at least say that they deserve hell as part of their god’s just and merciful plan. People who make such wishes and comments are often those that have never intentionally hurt another human being. How it is that normally moral people can justify having their fellow human beings sentenced to something for worse than what the most evil people in history have done?
Punishment fits the crime
While it can be argued that some of the worst murderers, etc. in history deserve torture after death, would not even a victim of one of these murderers say enough is enough after a few million or so years of torture? Besides, belief is the single most important factor that decides who gets tortured. Someone can commit the worst crimes and be forgiven by accepting a particular belief before they die, but people who live the best lives without the correct belief are said to be sent to fry.
What is wrong with this picture?
Although it is possible that some people who wish or justify hell on others are very angry and sadistic, most are certainly moral people in every other way. How it is that normally loving mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, neighbors and so on can say a fellow human being, someone else’s loved one, deserves eternal torture, for any reason, let alone over their beliefs? How can they think they could possibly enjoy heaven while others are burning in hell?
The answer probably lies in psychological coping mechanisms. In the same way that people love their own children while others are dying in the world, they are able to take comfort in what they see as their salvation without really thinking about what their belief in damnation of others actually means. Hell, if any such place exists, is not something anyone alive has ever seen. History has shown that horrors that others cannot see usually do not disturb them so much.
Besides, people have a tendency to follow and not question all the implications of the paths they have chosen. How many people have obeyed leaders or ideologies to their own dooms throughout history and to this very day? For example, how many Germans really stopped and considered what the hatred and militarism of the Nazis would lead to? Even in modern democracies, the party faithful will stubbornly defend failed leaders.
Most of the faithful do not really stop and think of how utterly sick and evil the whole concept of hell is, let alone the immeasurable amounts of pain, inflicted as punishment with no hope for reform or redemption, it would cause. It is just something they have been raised to follow, and they do not stop to truly think about it.
A world in which people more closely considered all the implications of their beliefs would certainly be a kinder, and less superstitious, place.