But without hell there’s no reason to think of good and bad, right and wrong as a question of getting over some hurdle of minimum standard of conduct.
Whether or not we agree with the issues they champion, the majority of Americans who continue to believe in hell can’t simply be dismissed as fanatical relics of a bygone age. Controversies over hell keep recurring because to its believers, hell stands for more than fire, brimstone, and worms that never die. Hell also represents a backstop on the slippery slope to social chaos in a nation founded not on ethnicity or religion, but on the premise of a virtuous citizenry.
The doctrine of hell, by contrast, assumes that our choices are real, and, indeed, that we are the choices that we make. The miser can become his greed, the murderer can lose himself inside his violence, and their freedom to turn and be forgiven is inseparable from their freedom not to do so.