“Hell Anxiety”

Those who are frightened of God, naturally, have high “Hell anxiety,” as do those who do not feel in control of their lives.

The more religious you are, the less you worry about going to Hell, which makes sense.  Those who are not religious at all, of course, don’t believe there is such a place.  But among those in the middle, lots of people are scared.  Some 13% think it’s more likely than not that they will end up there.

 

Churches don’t talk much about Hell anymore.  The notion of a realm of eternal punishment is thought to put people off.  It seems unfair.  It’s out of synch with the view of an all-benevolent God.   And yet, research shows that though they don’t like to talk about it much, people today do believe in Hell.  And many of them–especially those who are not particularly religious–have “Hell anxiety.”  They are worried that they might go there!

According to an article in Christianity Today about this research, about half of Americans are absolutely convinced that there is a Hell.  When you factor in the number who are uncertain but think there could well be a realm of eternal punishment, the number goes up to two-thirds.

The more religious you are, the less you worry about going to Hell, which makes sense.  Those who are not religious at all, of course, don’t believe there is such a place.  But among those in the middle, lots of people are scared.  Some 13% think it’s more likely than not that they will end up there.  Those who are frightened of God, naturally, have high “Hell anxiety,” as do those who do not feel in control of their lives.

The researchers found that an “unhealthy fear” of Hell is not connected to “religious fundamentalism” or “dogmatism.”  Quite the contrary.  Nor is the conviction that Hell is real associated with neuroses or any kind of pathological fear.

In fact, those who have a strong belief in Hell seem to have greater qualities of cooperation, less selfishness, more generosity, avoid addictions, and cultivate more long-lasting relationships than those who do not.  A study of people in the Netherlands, secularized though it be, found that belief in Hell inhibits suicidal behavior.

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