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Arts & Culture

Evolving Damnation: The American History of Hell

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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.


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