Years ago, an evangelical friend cut me from her life after her pastor said I was destined for hell. Apparently, he believed I cavorted with Satan because I:

I was shocked my good friend acted on his advice. Having been close for many years, she knew the suffering disease inflicted upon me, and that Ken and I’d been together for decades. Still, she left and my attempts to rekindle our relationship went unheeded.

Later in 2007, I fought my own pulpit demons after spending the night at the Goldfield Hotel (GFH). Everything my pastor had told me years earlier about the paranormal and psychic abilities were wrong, but those erroneous religious teachings traumatized me anyway. Was I going to hell because I realized my intuitive abilities and was able to interact with ghosts?

Damnation is an overused threat.

God loves us unconditionally, but you wouldn’t feel that way listening to some religious leaders who turn just about anything into a reason to condemn people to sweeping coals in the inferno.

Depending on what faith you subscribe to, the following can send you to hell:

· Divorce                                 · Drinking

· Birth control                        · Belief in evolution

· Sex outside of marriage       · Using cosmetics

· Homosexuality                     · Women wearing pants

· Rock music                          · Delving into the paranormal

Sorry, I don’t buy into this. If we respect our bodies, practice moderation, love our neighbors and don’t harm anyone, I can’t see why the Great I Am would condemn us for these types of so-called infractions.

Are non-Christians going to hell?

Many of you will say, “Absolutely! If you don’t confess Christ as your savior, you’re going to suffer for eternity.” While I respect those holding this position (after all, I once believed this, too), I beg to differ.

The Great I Am created thousands of cultures and billions of individuals: I don’t believe in the One-Religion-Fits-All Theory. Each time I learn about other faiths, I’m struck by the similarities in their teachings. Yes, I’m proud to be a Christian and my adoration for Jesus runs deeply. But isn’t it possible that the divine soul we know as Jesus could’ve been sent to earth as Buddha, Mohammed, Krishna and many others?

Pastor Rob Bell, an evangelical preacher at the Marsh Hill Bible Church (more than 7,000 members strong) feels Jesus’ redemptive work may be universal and apply to all humanity, not just Christians. In 2007, Pastor Bell was disturbed by a note posted next to a quote from Mohandas Gandhi that said: “Reality check: He’s in hell.” This led Bell to write, Love Wins, a book that raises the possibility that Jesus died for everyone’s sins (not just Christians’).

In my heart, it is more important to honor our connections through our humanity and the divine spirit of love than to label and judge others as inferior to us. After all, isn’t that what Jesus did while he was on Earth?

In two weeks, see my related post, “Is Fear Necessary in Religion?”