I thought you guys might like to hear how the Catholic Church teaches about hell.
First, hell is the state of eternal separation from God. Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire."615 The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.
Since man has the freedom to choose God for all eternity, he also has the freedom to reject God for all eternity. We do this, of course by the things we say and do. Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: "He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."610 Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.611 To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell."
The Catholic Church has never officially stated that anyone has actually gone to hell. This is, of course, in contrast to its official statements about certain people who have made it to heaven which is why the Church canonizes people as Saints. Also, the Church constantly prays that no one would ever make the decision to reject God entirely. In fact, in our prayers we constantly pray for the salvation of all people and hope that people will make the choice of eternity with God. The Catechism says:
1037 God predestines no one to go to hell;618 for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want "any to perish, but all to come to repentance":619
The Church recognizes that all religions contain truth. Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about other non-Christian religions:
843 The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as "a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life."332
In fact, the Church recognizes that some, who through no fault of their own, do not know Jesus in His fullness can, through God's mercy (which is how believers get to heaven too), get to heaven.
847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:
Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.337
848 "Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."338
Much of the bitterness and complaints against Christianity that I see on this board is totally understandable and I know God understands those complaints very well. Those of us who are former JWs have been hurt very badly by a very damaging counterfeit form of Christianity that, in general, is very abusive. This also happens in Christian religious traditions that are more mainstream such as the Catholic Church (look at what has happened to those who were abused at the hands of certain sick priests.) They have every right to be ticked off at the Church and those leaders that abused them. Many of them have left the Catholic Church due to this (although some have not) and I am sure God understands all of this.
As the Catechism says about people's religious behavior:
844 In their religious behavior, however, men also display the limits and errors that disfigure the image of God in them:
Very often, deceived by the Evil One, men have become vain in their reasonings, and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and served the creature rather than the Creator. Or else, living and dying in this world without God, they are exposed to ultimate despair.333
853 On her pilgrimage, the Church has also experienced the "discrepancy existing between the message she proclaims and the human weakness of those to whom the Gospel has been entrusted."348 Only by taking the "way of penance and renewal," the "narrow way of the cross," can the People of God extend Christ's reign.349 For "just as Christ carried out the work of redemption in poverty and oppression, so the Church is called to follow the same path if she is to communicate the fruits of salvation to men."350
God is so much more merciful and loving than we could ever be or imagine. I am convinced that He worries more about our relationship with Him than we do and in the Catholic Christian tradition, we are taught that God loves us so much that He did all of the dirty work Himself to save us when He died on the Cross.