As a lifelong questioner, breaker of rules, and Aquarian it is no surprise that early on I was cynical about the topic of going to hell if I didn't obey God. I would like to say my cynicism kept me from feeling lots of unnecessary guilt but that is not so either. As I've gotten older I have had the opportunity to study different religions and spiritual teachers. I came to realize that God loves me and the power wielded by religious fanatics on the innocent can be carried for life if the person is unaware it resides in the deep places of the soul.
My big wake up moment came with my father. As he lay on his hospital bed, moving through the transition from this life to the next, he was daunted by the question, "Do you think God forgives me? Do you forgive me?" I would tell him, "Of course God forgives you and so do I." I noticed when others came in, even preachers, he gave the staple answer of "Yes I know I am forgiven and I know where I am going." which made the preacher's job very easy and showed him to be assured of his salvation, something very important to this religions culture. I shrugged, as if there were some way we are not saved. It just does not compute in my brain. Another one of those tricks we learn early on - tell them what they want to hear and all will be well. Play the part and parents will sleep better knowing they have done their job, pastors get to report good numbers to the board and a feeling of a job well done. It's ironic because in my meditation practice I do the opposite - let me be present with what is there and be okay with what is. There is no need to pretend otherwise because either way I am always loved.
After this experience with my father I fully realized the power of religion and doctrine upon our children. Oh they feel good as parents and church leaders when everyone follows as they should. They feel good knowing the child, teen, or adult is following the law of Christ, right? I would say it i more like the law of fear and do as you are told. Our spiritual life is not a bargaining chip. Our spiritual life never ends, it only changes.
My prayer is that for myself and all those I love, including peoples everywhere, that they will feel God's love so strongly there is no question they are forgiven and God welcomes them with open arms - just as he always did.