If you pay attention to how church members respond to Christian Orthodoxy’s doctrine of eternal punishment, you will observe a variety of reactions. One group seems to relish the whole idea because they think a lot of folks deserve that outcome and, of course, being a part of the group which escapes that fate promotes a sense of general superiority. These folks, though probably a minority, generally control the internal debate.
A second group, those who focus on the uncertainty around the church’s salvation or escape process, is caught in a perpetual state of anxiety, for themselves and their loved ones. These are the introspective types who constantly weigh the realities of a salvation by human achievement and recognize the horrendous implications. These more aware individuals are generally overwhelmed by the negativity and often end up abandoning the church all together. Removing themselves from the toxicity of this doctrine becomes a matter of survival.
Then, a third group, which is perhaps the majority, manages to ignore this unpleasant tenet of their faith. It is likely that this ability to set aside the whole issue of eternal punishment is a subconscious rejection of its validity. Church members catch a whiff of this sentiment, even among ministers, when funerals of known non-church people gloss over the question of the fate of the departed loved one. Very few find it palatable to mention hellfire in front of the grieving family.
If this last group, which apparently includes the leadership in many congregations, ever faces up to all the negativism that their tacit support for hellfire generates, maybe the church can right itself. The doctrine of eternal punishment is the aspect of church doctrine which unravels all the rest of their “good news gospel”. Hellfire with a thin veneer of love is definitely not good news for mankind in general or the church either.