I was recently asked to comment on a discussion about Free Will (a common argument from apologists declaring that humans essentially choose damnation when salvation is an option).
Free Will is a cheat. It excuses God on pretty much everything, and it plays into the "battered partner" syndrome that the church so often falls into. ("It's our fault. He only harms us because he loves us. We get our worth from him. We just can't leave him.")
If I invite a child to my front porch and say, "OK. You've got two choices. You can pledge your entire life to my service, or I'll throw you into my fireplace," you haven't given much of a choice at all. Free Will is about as valid as asking a hostage whether he'd like to be shot in the kneecap or the head.
And, of course, we must examine the architect of Hell, as Yahweh created a chamber of horrors far beyond anything constructed by earthly tyrants. In fact, God makes Hitler look like Mickey Mouse, as Hitler's torments eventually ended. God's torments do not. And even though some bark about Free Will, if you hold to the Christian deity, it is God who constructed the mechanism for eternal agony, and it is God who hand-places his children there.
Hell makes no sense, anyway. An omniscient god would have seen his failed plan (and the damnation of billions) in advance and constructed a better plan. An omnipotent god wouldn't have required that he have his own son ripped to shreds and executed, when omnipotence would have allowed him to simply manifest redemption outright.
Fortunately, hell is presented in the same book that posits as fact stories of talking donkeys, magic, curses, enchanted shrubbery, flying chariots of fire, 900-year-old humans, and supermen who gain power based on the length of their hair. It's the Harry Potter of our ancestors.
There may or may not have been a man named Jesus, but Jesus as a deity has been long debunked and is anything but original. History is filled with gods that feature elements of the Jesus story, from Osiris' death, resurrection and promise of salvation, to Romulus' and Perseus' virgin birth, to Zalmoxis' promise of eternal life, to Inanna's crucifixion in the underworld, ascension and reign from Heaven. There is nothing new under the sun.
Yes, when I was a Christian, I claimed that it was perfectly rational that an all-powerful wizard conjured up a universe with 100 billion galaxies so that he could put his children on a tiny rock and then send most of them to Hell. His method of avoiding damnation would be to take human form in a highly superstitious and illiterate time period and then have anonymous authors subjectively pass the story down 1400 years before the invention of the printing press.
What I see from the apologists is a shifting of the burden of proof. There are no proofs here. Just wispy claims about the most powerful force on earth, etc. And for every claim apologists make, there are thousands of other faiths making differing claims with just as much verve and enthusiasm. If we must accept one's sincere word, then we must also accept all others, and they devolve into a noise of contradicting claims that ultimately help no one. (Is this really how a benevolent Father would communicate to his child? The universe's biggest game of telephone?)
In the meantime, be wary of those who won't buy a car until they've visited a dozen car lots, test driven 20 vehicles, checked the accident history, insurance, payments, safety record, gas mileage and resale value, but they'll accept the bible as Absolute Truth without even knowing who wrote the book of Genesis.