My trio of Charlie's Angels - that is, my greatest heroes - are Dr. Laura Schlissinger, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Wafa Sultan.
Propaganda plug: Until the end of the year, Dr. Laura can still be heard on Sirius XM radio, channel 155 from 4-6 pm EST if she is not on your local talk radio station. Ayaan's most recent book is Nomad, and Wafa has written A God Who Hates.
For most of my life, I would have had a problem with my trilogy of heroes. The problem would not have been that they are regularly skewered, diced, roasted, and hung out to dry by media favorites such as Jon Stewart and the New York Magazine. It was a more serious problem than that. My problem was that according to the theology in which I was born and raised, they were all going straight to hell forever because they have not "accepted Jesus Christ as their Personal Lord and Savior". Dr. Laura is Jewish by conversion, Ayaan is atheist by choice, and Wafa simply says she follows no organized religion. I'm not sure any of them have asked Jesus to forgive all their sins, which according to the way I was brought up is the only way to escape the flames.
To this day evangelical leaders step around the question of hell. I've never once heard Larry King interview any of them - whether it was Oral Roberts, Tammy Faye, Billy Graham, or Joel Osteen - without repeating the same question, "Do you believe that I and everyone else who do not personally accept Jesus as Savior are going to hell?" And I've never heard any of them simply reply, "Yes, that is what the Bible says and I believe it." They always take the escape clause of, "Well...God is the final judge and we will leave that question up to him."
I think it's time to take a step further and admit, "Yes, that is what the New Testament clearly teaches. But we don't take that literally, nor do we believe it is true."
After all, that is what we are asking Muslims to do with the Quran. The descriptions of hell in the Quran are just as vivid and even more so than those in the Bible. The overwhelming message of the Quran is that all those who do not follow Muhammad as a Prophet of Allah will be punished in hell. Just as some Christians try to wiggle around hell by arguing that some good non-Christians (especially if they are observant Jews) might make it through the Pearly Gates, so some Sufi Muslims find vague references in the Quran and the Hadith to justify their belief that a few good non-Muslims might also reach Paradise. I think in both cases they are trying to step around what their Holy Books really say.
We're challenging Muslims to leave that all behind. We're encouraging them to move away from, and not towards, Muhammad. We're asking them to consider the possibility that the Quran is just a text written and compiled by human authors in the generations before the first text that still exists. In response I suggest we as Christians must also be willing to admit that not everything the Bible says really makes sense.
There is, of course, one fly in the ointment, one major weakness in my argument. The believing Muslim will reply, "But my book is 100 percent from Allah, every single Arabic letter and dot, and yours is corrupted." And the Christian could respond, "No, every jot and tittle of my book is the perfect Word of God, and your book is wrong."
Describing her atheism, Ayaan Hirsi Ali simply says, "When I die I'll rot." If she's correct, any discussion at all of the afterlife is simply a waste of time, a moot point. If she isn't, I guess we'll all have to just wait and see.