That said, there's a "fail" here. Not in the Economist, but in the opinions of some people:
Worst of all, Hell was apparently prepared, and waiting, even before poor venal man was created.Of course, these scholars are the same ones who try to claim Paul enver condeumned homosexuality, and with about as much actual scholarship behind their claims.
Modern biblical scholars have done their best to adjust the picture. They point out that Jesus himself, and even tetchy old St Paul, made no mention of “Hell” or “damnation” in the New Testament. The Greek words used there meant only “judgment” and “condemnation”; and only for “a long time”, aionios, not for ever. Jesus, having evoked that ruthless farmer’s bonfire, also said that a man should forgive his sinning brother not seven times, but “70 times seven”. Paul said God would have mercy on everyone. To all this the Infernalists retort that Jesus really did mean everlasting fire; that God’s ways of caring for his creatures are not man’s; and that alongside God’s infinite love burns God’s infinite justice, which is just as unconditional.
The Greek word? Tosh. It's the normal word for "forever." If you want to claim Hellenistic Greek in general had no word for "forever," or even no concept of the idea, fire away.
That said, later in the essay, its author claims that ideas of infinity didn't arise until medieval Chrstian Europe.
Tosh. As shown here, Archmedies knew about infinity as an idea 250 years before when the alleged Jesus allegedly lived.
Jesus' 70x7 of course applied only to relations between two human beings. It doesn't mean one damned thing, pun intended, about god.
As for modern Biblical scholars claiming Jesus wasn't that harsh. Err, the parable of sheep and goats? The parable of Lazarus and Dives? The book of Revelation?
It's not the first time I've said it, but again, it's another reason why, at times, I prefer the most straightforward fundamentalists to liberal scholars like this. At least they don't have dishonest waffling (by and large).