40 Harmful Effects of Christianity – #25

Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” Revelation 4:9-11

This post is the twenty-fifth in a series that addresses a list of “40 Harmful Effects of Christianity” that originated on the American Atheists Facebook page and has since made its way around the internet. In this post, I examine the following “harmful effect” from the list:

Harmful Effect #25: Children traumatized by vivid stories of eternal burning and torture to ensure that they’ll be too frightened to even question

Imagine an aged Palestinian Jew banished to a small island in the Aegean Sea by a hostile Roman government near the turn of the first century. He writes several letters to Christian churches scattered throughout the region which includes a vision of the future. This is the very scenario in which the Book of Revelation to John was written. Revelation is of the “apocalyptic” literary genre, which is one of the most difficult ancient genres to understand. The idea that it was produced to “ensure that children would be too frightened to question religion” is ludicrous; children struggle to understand apocalyptic imagery. Furthermore, though some of the letters to the various churches were harsh, they were written to criticize and encourage adult church leaders, not to traumatize children.

The idea that John, a Christian exile nearing death from old age, would be plotting to scare children into remaining “religious” in ~100 AD defies an understanding of his historical context. The Roman Empire was already very religious. In fact, Christians, most notably John, were already being persecuted for their refusal to take part in the preferred religious practices of the Empire. There was already vivid and sufficient fear throughout the empire for those who were irreligious. Christians weren’t banished or put to the sword for being religious, they were banished or put to the sword for being followers of the wrong religion.

In addition to the eternal punishment portrayed in the book of Revelation, Jesus Christ makes several statements about Hell in the four gospels. Again, the idea that these statements were made to “frighten children” into remaining religious is absurd. The society in which Christ lived was already very religious. Furthermore, the overall message of Christianity is one of hope and deliverance. Jesus offered eternal and secured salvation from death. Death was not a fear invented by religion but one already extant in the world. Christianity engenders, not further fear of death, but a hope for escaping it. No Christian, young or old, need fear death or Hell (or a hostile government for that matter). The Christian has been delivered by God’s enduring love and grace.

If you’re reading this and you haven’t placed your faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, I adjure you to do so today. There is no fear inside of Christianity.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18

In my next post in this series, I’ll address the following:

Harmful Effect #26: Terminal patients in constant agony who would end their lives if they didn’t believe it would result in eternal torture.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

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Seth Dunn

Masters of Divinity in Christian Apologetics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Member of the Evangelical Theological Society Certified Public Accountant