Ross Douthat makes the case for hell :
Atheists have license to scoff at damnation, but to believe in God and not in hell is ultimately to disbelieve in the reality of human choices. If theres no possibility of saying no to paradise then none of our nos have any real meaning either. Theyre like home runs or strikeouts in a childrens game where nobodys keeping score.
In this sense, a doctrine of universal salvation turns out to be as deterministic as the more strident forms of scientific materialism. Instead of making us prisoners of our glands and genes, it makes us prisoners of God himself. We can check out any time we want, but we can never really leave.
The doctrine of hell, by contrast, assumes that our choices are real, and, indeed, that we are the choices that we make. The miser can become his greed, the murderer can lose himself inside his violence, and their freedom to turn and be forgiven is inseparable from their freedom not to do so.
As Anthony Esolen writes, in the introduction to his translation of Dantes Inferno, the idea of hell is crucial to Western humanism. Its a way of asserting that things have meaning that earthly life is more than just a series of unimportant events, and that the use of one mans free will, at one moment, can mean life or death . . . salvation or damnation.