Question: The pain and suffering caused by crime and sickness is bad enough. Christianity, however, creates worse suffering by threatening mankind with hell for having broken God’s laws. An irrational fear of eternal punishment haunts those who come under Christianity’s destructive influence. The world would be a better place without such delusions!
Response: Contrary to your suggestion that Christianity creates an irrational fear of eternal punishment, it alone delivers from such fear all who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. No one lives in fear of God’s judgment for one’s sin who believes that Jesus Christ paid the full penalty. Christ promised that all those who believe in Him have eternal life and they will not “come into condemnation” but have “passed from death unto life” (Jn:5:24). All who believe that promise are thereby delivered from the very fear which you blame upon Christianity.
Nor do those who have heard and rejected that gospel worry very much about God’s judgment. If they were truly concerned, they would have accepted His offer of mercy. Take a poll of those who were once under Christian influence but who rejected the gospel and you will find individuals who have little if any fear of judgment because they don’t believe in it.
The truth is that those who know little or nothing of Christianity are the ones who are haunted by fear of coming judgment. All non-Christian peoples, from pagans to idolaters, have that fear. Conscious of their sin but without hope in Christ, these poor people visit the witchdoctor or rely on fetishes or amulets, or make some other attempt to earn salvation and to appease whatever gods or spirits they imagine exist. When such people believe in Christ they are delivered from such fear.
Religious practices among all non-Christian peoples everywhere and at all times in history always involve a sense of guilt and the attempt to erase it through some kind of sacrifice, sacred pilgrimage or other ritual. Such practices are quite similar worldwide and can be traced back for thousands of years before the advent of Christianity and therefore cannot be attributed to it.
Perhaps you came to your conclusions by observing Roman Catholics, whom you thought were Christians. Many if not most of them are indeed plagued with the very hopeless sense of guilt to which you refer. This is because Catholicism dogmatically claims that the Church dispenses the graces of Christ through its sacraments—graces which can be lost by failure to live up to its rules—and thus there is no way to know for sure that one will make it to heaven.
Therefore, Roman Catholicism involves its members in many forms of attempted appeasement of God in order to earn heaven and/or lessen one’s punishment. For example, endless Masses offered on behalf of the dead are paid for by their survivors (often until the money available for payment runs out) in the hope of lessening the purgatorial suffering of the deceased. There is no peace in this practice.
Several times we have quoted the late Cardinal O’Connor of New York stating that neither he nor Pope John Paul II nor Mother Teresa (nor anyone else) could know with certainty what their eternal destiny might be. He declared this to be official teaching of the Church, and indeed it is. Obviously, such a dogma creates the very fear to which you refer—but this is not Christianity!
We need know nothing more than this to identify Roman Catholicism as a non-Christian pagan religion. There are priests and monks and nuns today who (just as in the Middle Ages and Dark Ages) wear haircloth undergarments, put rocks in their shoes, flagellate themselves and otherwise endure self-inflicted suffering in the hope of earning forgiveness of sins and becoming worthy of heaven. Millions of Roman Catholics all over the world make pilgrimages to shrines (some walking for miles on bloody knees), light candles, pray to saints in heaven, wear scapulars and medals and employ crucifixes and other means of appeasing God in the hope of thereby meriting God’s forgiveness.
True Christianity delivers from guilt and fear of judgment. The gospel promises forgiveness of sins and eternal life as a free gift of God’s grace, not by works or sacraments, but to all who will believe. Catholicism involves numerous pagan practices; and the fear of the judgment it creates cannot be laid at the door of Christianity.