Much to be said here, Melodie. First, thanks for engaging. It’s a shame to hear you were subjected to such brash treatment by your MIL; I’m sorry that happened. Jesus was said to be filled with grace and truth, and it seems that anybody who claims to represent him ought to themselves be filled with grace, strive to be winsome and attractive, especially when presenting something they think is true but difficult to swallow.
Let’s break down a few things. First, the biblical teaching on sin and hell as you described it is actually incomplete. This was sort of my whole response to this story: that good theology is being missed because of improper readings of or unsupported conclusions from the Judeo-Christian scriptures. Despite popular opinion, the Bible does not teach a simple “good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell” message, where we’re stuck having to figure out how good or bad a person has been and who’s been good enough.
Instead, here’s a paraphrase of what St. Paul wrote in his letter to the first-century church in Rome: all people — the ones we call good and the ones we don’t — have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And the penalty for sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus; so that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. If Paul’s message is true, it means that anybody, regardless of what they’ve done in life, has an opportunity to spend eternal life in the presence of God if they acknowledge their broken and sinful nature and their need for the salvation of a resurrected Lord. But for those who do not want that — who think God is a moral monster or is nonexistent, or who are simply not interested — God will not force himself on them. Instead, he’ll give them what they desire: separation from him.
Now, I’m not arguing here whether any of that is true. It may be, it may not be; that is not relevant to what I’m about to suggest. The important thing is this: if someone does think these biblical statements are true, then it naturally follows that they’ll have good reason to think it’s true that people who choose to deny that Jesus is Lord and that the penalty for their sin is death.. are going to get that penalty, eternally. Right? If you think the laws in your state are true, you’re going to be convinced that anybody breaking them will endure the due penalty.
Melodie, if you walked past a two-story home and saw that the top floor was on fire, but that the residents were downstairs unaware, would it be your duty to alert them of the clear and present danger? Yes; it would be the right and loving thing to warn them that their home was on fire, that the second story might collapse in flames at any moment. To not warn them because you don’t want to disturb them or because you assume they’ve already considered the implications and made their decision, would be unloving. And furthermore, if you warned them and they stayed and died, would you wish you could unsee that? That you wouldn’t have to relive the horror or think about their doom? I think that’s a natural thought to have, yes.
If your mother-in-law believes you are on a track to eternal separation from the Creator who made us and designed us to be in relationship with him, is it loving for her to warn you? By applying the same logic as above, yes, very. And she’d have no reason to desire to think about your unpleasant state for all of her eternal life, so it seems rational she’d want to be spared from that thought. Again, it is because she loves you and can’t stand the thought of you in such a state. (I could be wrong; I don’t know you, her, or your relationship, but this all seems very plausible.)
To your first comment: I actually have three mothers in my extended family who are the way of my hypothetical mother. My aunt has a son who identifies as gay. She loves him, hosts him and his friends in her home to swim in the pool etc., she goes on vacation with him, and supports his goals and achievements in life. But she believes that he is sinning when he acts on his same-sex attraction, and she does not want him getting married to a man. Does she want him to be happy? Yes. Does she have doubts, based on her Christian convictions, that this type of marriage will make him happy? Yes. Will she attend his wedding? I honestly don’t know. But she’s been there for every other milestone in his life, and I think has proven her love for him. Another mother in my family has a son who is in prison. She does not condone his choices that got him there, and she even played a role in having him locked up. But does she love him? Yes, she visits him, sends him money in prison and gifts, allowed him to live at home when he was out temporarily. The only difference between these two moms is the nature of the particular thing about their respective son’s lives that seems wrong to them. My aunt’s convictions are not popular with a little more than half of the world, but they are hers based on careful thought and reason, not hate. The second mother’s convictions are probably almost universally supported, because crime is still condemned by most people. Note: I am not equating same-sex life/marriage with crime; I am saying that these were the two things at issue for these moms. If you say the first mother isn’t loving, then you must say the second is not loving either, because they both act the same way with their sons except for that one things that does not sit well with them.
Do you see my point?
Finally, you say, “The belief in a god has destroyed more families than any other belief on the planet. Religion is the cancer that eats the souls of all humans.” I’m curious what brought you to that conclusion? Was it just anecdotal evidence? I’m aware of what many popular authors and speakers have said, such as the late Christopher Hitchens, that religion has taken lives and ruined the world in record numbers. But a few things to consider: first, it seems to me that the belief two people have that they should have children and raise them without any intention of following through on their vows (for better or worse) when the going gets hard.. and the belief of a father that his family is better off without him.. those are the beliefs that destroy the most families. Empirical evidence is crystal clear on that point, that divorce and broken homes, and especially the absence of a father, has immensely negative effects on all remaining family members. And secondly (and my final point), let me share what Christian thinker Greg Koukl said over at his website StandToReason.org:
My source is The Guinness Book of World Records. Look up the category “Judicial” and under the subject of “Crimes: Mass Killings,” the greatest massacre ever imputed by the government of one sovereign against the government of another is 26.3 million Chinese during the regime of Mao Tse Tung between the years of 1949 and May 1965. The Walker Report published by the U.S. Senate Committee of the Judiciary in July 1971 placed the parameters of the total death toll in China since 1949 between 32 and 61.7 million people. An estimate of 63.7 million was published by Figaro magazine on November 5, 1978.
In the U.S.S.R. the Nobel Prize winner, Alexander Solzhenitsyn estimates the loss of life from state repression and terrorism from October 1917 to December 1959 under Lenin and Stalin and Khrushchev at 66.7 million.
Finally, in Cambodia (and this was close to me because I lived in Thailand in 1982 working with the broken pieces of the Cambodian holocaust from 1975 to 1979) “as a percentage of a nation’s total population, the worst genocide appears to be that in Cambodia, formerly Kampuchea. According to the Khmer Rouge foreign minister, more than one third of the eight million Khmer were killed between April 17, 1975 and January 1979. One third of the entire country was put to death under the rule of Pol Pott, the founder of the Communist Part of Kampuchea. During that time towns, money and property were abolished. Economic execution by bayonet and club introduced for such offenses as falling asleep during the day, asking to too many questions, playing non-communist music, being old and feeble, being the offspring of an undesirable, or being too well educated. In fact, deaths in the Tuol Sleng interrogation center in Pnom Penh, which is the capitol of Kampuchea, reached 582 in a day.”
Then in Chinese history of the thirteenth to seventeenth centuries there were three periods of wholesale massacre. The numbers of victims attributed to these events are assertions rather than reliable estimates. The figures put on the Mongolian invasion of northern China form 1210 to 1219 and from 1311 to 1340 are both on the order of 35 million people. While the number of victims of bandit leader Chang Hsien-chung, known as the Yellow Tiger, from 1643 to 1647 in the Sichuan province has been put at over one million people.
China under Mao Tse Tung, 26.3 million Chinese. According the Walker Report, 63.7 million over the whole period of time of the Communist revolution in China. Solzhenitsyn says the Soviet Union put to death 66.7 million people. Kampuchea destroyed one third of their entire population of eight million Cambodians. The Chinese in medieval history, somewhere in the vicinity of 35 million and 40 million people. Ladies and gentlemen, make note that these deaths were the result of organizations or points of view or ideologies that had left God out of the equation. None of these involve religion. And all but the very last actually assert atheism.
It is true that it’s possible that religion can produce evil, and generally when we look closer at the detail it produces evil because the individual people are actually living in a rejection of the tenants of Christianity and a rejection of the God that they are supposed to be following. So it can produce it, but the historical fact is that outright rejection of God and institutionalizing of atheism actually does produce evil on incredible levels. We’re talking about tens of millions of people a result of the rejection of God.