I believe that the doctrine of a hell of endless conscious torment repels repels unbelievers from the gospel. Atheists have cited this doctrine as an objection to the message of the Bible. They shun the Good News because we teach that a loving God will punish people endlessly if they reject His love. Consider this quote from the Atheist Foundation of Australia:
To love a god that would send another to a place of endless anguish is akin to pretend loving the school-yard bully to prevent personal abuse. Protestations that those going to hell do so as a matter of choice are nothing more than additional faulty logic. No human in sane control of their thought processes would send others to eternal punishment for any kind of crime. Nor would they stand idly by allowing it to happen without protest of some kind.
and this from the William Lane Craig debate with Ray Bradley
Keeping Dr. Craig’s biblical conservatism in mind, then, let’s ask “How should we think of God’s sending people to hell?” Not like Stalin sending people to exile in Siberia. It ought not even to be thought of as like Hitler sending people to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. For both of these are tame in comparison with the horror of being sent to hell. At least Auschwitz, Belsen, and the rest were death camps, finite in duration both for those who died and for those who survived. Hell, however, offers no such finality to those of us who are to fill its chambers. None will emerge from its torment, and its tortures will continue forever and ever.1
Are you an atheist who feels this way? Or, do you know someone who rejects the Good News because of the traditional view of hell?