Evolving Damnation: The American History of Hell
If you were dreaming up a new religion, maybe you wouldn't include the idea of hell. But in traditional forms of Christianity, even as they evolve, hell seems almost grandfathered in. They can't quit hell. Or can they? A 2013 Harris poll found that while 74% of U.S. adults believe in God, and 68% believe in heaven, only 58% believe in the devil and in hell, down 4 percentage points from 2005. Still, 58%! That seems like a lot.
More than half of us believe that God's grand plan involves punishing some of us - maybe a lot of us - because there's an especially strict, although far from universal, Christian doctrine that says we are all born in a hell-bound state. That we can only get out of that state by adopting a specific set of beliefs, so that Ghandi is already in hell, and Elie Wiesel is going there. What keeps a doctrine like that alive, and what might be killing it?
On this show, we explore the current status of how Americans view hell, up to an including the surprisingly consistent absence of hell that Millennials consider when asked, as part of a college course, to create their own religions.
Comment below, email Colin@wnpr.org, or tweet @wnprcolin.
- Kathryn Gin Lum is the author of the forthcoming Damned Nation: Hell in America from the Revolution to Reconstruction. She is an Assistant professor of Religious Studies at Stanford in collaboration with the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, and organizes Stanford’s American Religions Workshop
- Meghan Henning is a professor of religious studies at the University of Dayton in Ohio, and the author of the forthcoming book, Educating Early Christians through the Rhetoric of Hell, on the pedagogical function of Hell in antiquity
- Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge is the founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians, and is also the pastor of Jubilee Circle in Columbia, South Carolina. She is also the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians, and teaches Comparative Religion at Midlands Technical College