While I don't want to argue against your main point, that enlightened rhetoric has changed the statistical emphasis of popular preaching, I feel compelled to point out that higher theology and literature have always understood the conception Ingersoll may have helped to overthrow to be a simple misinterpretation.
One need look no further than Dante or Milton to be confronted with the fact that the gates of hell stand open. In Paradise Lost the key is held by Sin, who, once letting them gape wide, finds she has no power to pull them shut again, and proceeds with her son Death to build a vast bridge to earth. In the Inferno this opening is attributed to the Son, in the course of the Harrowing.
This opens up yet another point. Theologically, hell may have once represented a place which was free of God, the dreary Sheol of Hebrew myth, but this is no longer the case. With the nature of God being eternal, having become human he has always been human, having died he has become eternal Death -- "the lamb slain from before the foundation of the world" -- and having visited hell he resides there eternally.
So far, you have received four answers about hell, none of which you have responded to; two about the impact of rhetoric, your alleged point, neither of which you have gotten any use out of; and 15 posts responding to your categorization of evolution as historically enabling atheism, of which 14 disagreed and one was vaguely supportive. You have engaged the 14 in every post you have made since the OP.
There were only the two though, other than a half-clause from me in passing, and we all simply agreed. So no loss there.
Some people who sort of did stay on topic kinda missed the purpose of what I wrote, which may have been my fault because I wasn't clear. I don't really care about anyone's opinions of what hell is or how hell is justified.
No, you were clear. The four of us who responded on the doctrine of hell didn't expect to engage you, just to cover the subject for anyone who might be interested. You had already said the impact of rhetoric was your actual point.
But I wonder where the fundies are. There are still plenty of churches out there whose pulpits haven't adopted any new-fangled science fiction hell-aint-hot ideas. They preach on the fire, they still preach "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" and make no apologies about it.
So, true believers, I know you are out there. What do you think about rhetoric and hell?
But the worst of all phantasms are the moral ideas and the religious ideas. Sanity consists in the faculty of adjusting ideas in proper proportion. Any one who accepts a moral or religious truth without understanding it is only kept out of the asylum because he does not follow it out logically. If one really believed in Christianity, if one really thought that the majority of mankind was doomed to eternal punishment, one would go raving about the world trying to “save” people. Sleep would not be possible until the horror of the mind left the body exhausted. Otherwise, one must be morally insane. Which of us can sleep if one we love is in danger of mere death? We cannot even see a dog drown without at least interrupting all our business to look on. Who then can live in London and reflect upon the fact that of its seven million souls, all but about a thousand Plymouth Brethren will be damned? Yet the thousand Plymouth Brethren (who are the loudest in proclaiming that they will be the only ones saved) seem to get on very well, thank you. Whether they are hypocrites or morally insane is a matter which we can leave to their own consideration.