Atheists Are Supposed to Be the Smart Ones?
...failure to accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior will result in eternal damnation is... in fact, completely absurd. And not just absurd in a virgin birth, water-into-wine, I-believe-an-angel-watches-over-me kind of way. On this view, a person who led an entirely exemplary life in terms of his impact on the world (would an example help? Gandhi, maybe?) but who didn't accept Jesus as his personal savior would be subjected to a life of eternal torment after his death and we're supposed to understand that as a right and just outcome. That, I think, is seriously messed up.What's seriously messed up is for someone who doesn't subscribe to a given religion's beliefs to be upset about what that religion teaches about the afterlife. Yglesias clearly doesn't share evangelicals' views on heaven and hell - so what the - heck - does he care whether they think he's going to hell or not? They're not saying he should go to jail or be burned at the stake - they're talking about the afterlife - which he presumably doesn't believe in anyway - what's his problem? It's one thing if you're offended if someone of your own faith says you're damned - that might be upsetting. But who cares what they think if you don't believe? How stupid is that.
To be fair to the evangelicals, they do have a pretty good case. Right there in John 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God...For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life...He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." Now you can quibble about the details (e.g., Catholics believe baptism in infancy counts as "born again") but there are few passages in scripture that are stated this plainly. So if your premise is that the gospels are - gospel - then believing that "failure to accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior will result in eternal damnation is" anything but "absurd" - indeed the rallying cry of protestantism has been "Sole Fide" - faith alone can bring salvation, not good works as Catholics believe. This is hardly some radical tenet of some backwoods tongue-speakers. On the other hand, if your premise is that, whatever else they may be, the gospels are not the word of God, then you needn't worry about any of this - you can believe what you want and not have to worry about salvation - but for goshsake, grow up about it!