I originally was going to post this in the "The basic math behind Christianity..." thread, but seeing as I was most likely just going to get bombarded with reactions by angry Christians, I decided it was better to create my own thread. This is basically first a reaction to that thread and then an longer reply to Casey's query. So reposting...
I'm not going to attempt to take on this debate other than to state a few reactions. Trying to convince people who already are set on one monolithic view to see alternative views is an impossible task. Right from the start, the moment Cesar voiced his alternative opinion in this "debate" he was accused of being "rude". I thought the OP was a call for discussing the merits of the idea that non-Chritians would or would not go to hell? Does the reactions of so many here mean that non-Christians, who don't believe in the Christian god, have no say in this discussion, including anyone who questions the very existence of any gods? It seems so from what has been said. Basically what this discussion has deteriorated to is, "Christians believe what they believe and it is they who, through their beliefs, determine what the fate of everyone else in the world is. If you question this, you are being disrespectful of Christian beliefs. End of discussion.".
It gets out of hand very quickly. As Khadar Ahmad states, "P.S. I hate the flaming on the theological questions on every forum... No one seems to be able to talk this things rationally :( ".
A very big +1 to Cesar, who made a brave attempt in a rather "hostile" atmosphere. Was he rude. I don't believe so at all. He was merely asking the questions that one of those 84% of non-Chsitians in the OP would have asked. A person like me.
To everyone participating in this thread, I'd be interested to know what belief system you were brought up with versus the belief system you have now.
Generally, I tend to only have discussions of this type with people if their "former" and "latter" beliefs are different.
My background is as mishmashed as Khadar's. My father is a Filipino-American Black. His father was Catholic, his mother, an African American from South Carolina, was Methodist. My father was raised a Catholic and in fact studied for the seminary before deciding to study science and became an atheist. My mother is German and is Lutheran. She is quite religious, but in a very open-minded manner. She loves studying and learning about many religions.
I was baptized as a Catholic (in spite of my mother's protests), spent my younger years in the States going to Sunday school and to masses, and went to a Catholic elementary and high school here in Japan. Thing is, it was Japan, a secular country if ever there was one. My school also harbored students from 78 different countries and cultures, with most of the students being from other religions. Quite a challenge for the Jesuit brothers who taught at the school, which forced them to come up with a way to tolerate everyone under one roof, especially during the 1970's when Israel and Egypt were at war and two of my close friends, the sons of the ambassadors of Israel and Egypt, were in the same class together and friends. Living in Japan also extremely strongly affected everything I saw in the world, and the utterly different outlook on the world and what was important and what ethics were based on challenged everything I had been taught in Christianity. Japan has no sense, whatsoever, of "original sin", none. There is a total lack of the sense of guilt about so many of the issues that Christians go on and on and on and on about. It even translates to how law is designed here, very much ignoring litigation and strongly working on the idea of reconciliation, with the premise that all people come basically from a state of being good, that somewhere along the way they just got confused. It makes for a very different society, one that has extremely low rates of crime and throughout the country there is a very apparent sense of mutual respect, contentment, and safety. It's not perfect, but it sure does work well here. And that has affected how I see everything.
For a long time I struggled with deism. While in college in America I met a lot of different people, most especially Christians, who were passionate about getting me to switch over to their beliefs, others who just wanted to share how they see the world. I spent a lot of time talking with Born-Again Christians, Christian Scientists, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, Quakers, Hari Krishnas, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Jains, Sihks, a Zoroastrian, even followers of Rasjneeshpuram wearing their red attire. All these differences, along with deep reading of many of the books from different beliefs and taking many courses in religion, only served to distance me from any one group holding an undeniable answer. More often than not the variety of beliefs just made me realize that there was no one answer, or if there was, it was more akin to Gandhi's Universal Truth than to what one religion claimed. I became what I now know to be known as "apathetic agnosticism"... I simply don't care, and no one's arguments are going to influence me in any direction.
However, I do want spiritualism in my life. Therefore I began to study and practice, everyt day in my life, Buddhism, which in no way has a belief in any form of deity. In it's very essence it eschews any predetermined idea of what the world is all about. That's what the whole "nothingness" is all about (though I'm stating it exceedingly simply here).
As Steven Hanlon so aptly put it (for me, too, at least):
my church is the wilderness at twilight. my religion is self reliance. my faith is in myself and the goodness of others.
I'd just add, to self-reliance, cooperating with and being good to others. (Yes, I am completely aware that Jesus said some of these things, and believe it or not, I completely subscribe to everything he said except his point about him being god)