I have carefully examined the biblical case for and against both eternal torture (the belief that god sends sinners to hell forever) and annihilationism (the belief that sinners are perminantly destroyed). Annihiliationism holds that we do not inherently possess immortality, but instead that immortality is conditional.
I have come to the conclusion that there does appear to be a much more convincing case to be made that the bible teaches annihilationism.
Annihiliationists will say- why would God choose words like "destroy, perish, death and destruction" to signify anything other than their plain meaning?
The case for eternal torture in the Bible is altogether fairly weak and does not stand up to closer scruitiny in my opinion. Check out http://www.hell-know.net/ for an indepth study into this subect matter.
I was convinced of Christian annihilationism for some time. But there are problems. Just take a look around you. Lots and lots of perfectly ordinary, decent human beings are going to be destroyed simply because they are not Christians. How is that fair? You could preach to hundreds of people every week and convert them to Christianity, but essentially still over half the planet is going to be destroyed by God. And that is what your "message" is that you are preaching. How is this 'good news'? It's fine if you want to lock yourself away and only ever talk to Christians or love or care for Christians. But how can you tell loving family members who are not Christian that essentially you believe God will throw them in the lake of fire and have them destroyed? What gives you the right to go around "preaching" that millions of ordinary, decent people who may of even been more charitable and loving in their lifetime than yourself, are simply going to be blasted out of existance because they havn't got round to becoming Christians? How is that ever fair?
Throughout history, our world has reacted in horror to individuals in positions of power who have used their great power to kill multitudes of people who don't happen to believe the "right" things, for example, Adolph Hitler. And yet Christians go around teaching that God, much like a muderous dictator, is going to throw you in hell or kill you for not believing the right things.
I once read a Christian book which tried to justify the idea of God sending people to hell or annihilating them as comparing it to the relationship between a parent and a child. The book said 'If you were a parent and your child rejected you, would you not be angry?' As if this perfectly justifies the idea of God throwing his children in the lake of fire. Sure, parents would be hurt if their child rejected them, but how many would be happy to MURDER their child or see them thrown into hell to suffer for all eternity because they don't believe what they want them too??
Sure, Christians will say "God is all knowing and only he can make a good judgement and we have to trust this". But this is just a cop out. This is like saying "yes, I realise how utterly unfair this teaching is but you just have to have blind faith in what I am saying and stop asking so many questions".
Far from the "love" and the "hope" and the "good news" I was supposed to be feeling by believing this stuff, the more I reflected on all these problems of divine judgement the more I began to feel repulsed. Far from spiritually uplifting, it was dragging me down and making me feel bad. The whole thing is completely driven by fear. I just simply could not go around with a "I'm saved, and you're not" attitude. Sure there are some genuinely evil people in this world, but I believe the vast majority of people have plenty of potential to do good and it really doesn't matter what religion you belong to. I know, deep down, that if there is such a thing as a loving God, and an afterlife, that these utterly rigid and fearful dogmatic set of teachings simply cannot be true. Far too many of Gods children will be destroyed because they did not believe the right things. And we live in a world with an endless number of opinions and people who claim to have the "truth", and yet all we have apparently been left as "evidence" is a book called the Bible, to make up our minds that will determine our eternal fate. What about people in the world who cannot read?? What about the numerous parts of the Bible which appear to contradict other parts?
When it comes down to it- what evidence really is there for these claims? If we step back and look objectively at the situation, the ONLY evidence that God will do these things are a handful of quotes from the Bible.
Compare this with hundreds of modern day reports of Near Death Experiences where individuals from all backgrounds and walks of life claim to have an afterlife experience and an experience with God, or Jesus or other religious figures or deceased relatives. These people tell us that although Heaven and Hell exist, they exist to varying degrees and that where one goes depends upon ones charactar during life. But even this is not "for all eternity". According to Christians, only THEY should be in Heaven. So what about all these NDE's where people are meeting non- Christians in heaven?
The modern day Bible was put together by the pope. Not only does it contain contradictions, but parts of it have been proven scientifically inaccurate. We do not have the original documents. Not only this but all of the writings of the bible are SUBJECTIVE accounts, which render them subject to all of the problems of subjective evidence. I do not believe the Bible should be read and followed in a strictly literal sense, but that deeper, spiritual meanings can be found in it. I do not "reject Jesus", but I do reject going around preaching that non-believers are damned for eternity.