Like the other alternatives to hell, the motivation for annihilationism is emotional. Hell is just too horrible to be true.
Whether that’s intuitively plausible isn’t self-evident. After all, many unbelievers fear death because they fear oblivion. They fear death precisely because they don’t think anything lies on the other side of the grave. So it isn’t obvious that they view a disagreeable afterlife as worse than no afterlife at all.
This also depends on your view of hell. Opponents of hell typically take the eternal torture chamber as their foil. That’s the kind of thing that Ingersoll used to rail against.
Of course, if I were God, I might make a point of consigning Ingersoll to the very paradigm of hell he expended so much effort to revile. Seems like poetic justice. Punish him with the very punishment he reviled.
Mind you, this entire line of objection is misguided from a Christian perspective. Doesn’t Hitler deserve a worse fate? Isn’t that the point? Should the damned get to choose how they want to be punished?
However, there’s another problem with annihilationism. Remember that right now I’m not discussing the exegetical pros and cons of the issue. (I think it doesn’t hold up exegetically, but that’s an argument for another day.) For now I’m just discussing the emotional appeal of annihilationism, as a preferred alternative to hell.
A person is often better off having never had a certain experience in the first place than to have it, then lose it. Take a story of revenge. One teenage boy (let’s call him Bryce) does something to tick off another teenage boy (let’s call him Ted).
In retaliation, Ted cuts a deal with the prettiest girl in school (let’s call her Amber). In exchange for some favor from Ted (like helping her get through math and physics), Amber will pretend to take an interest in Bryce. She will lavish her considerable charms on Bryce until he falls madly in love with her. Then, at the last moment, she will dump him.
Yet that’s like the God of annihilationism. He lets certain people taste the gift of life, then he snatches it away, half-eaten. In a sense, they end up worse off than if he never gave them that tantalizing taste in the first place. All their fond hopes and memories extinguished in the blink of an eye.
But if God is too loving to send anyone to hell, why would he confer the gift of life in the first place, only to take it away? Isn't that a mean thing to do?