What really leads me towards universalism is the idea of salvation that we don't have to work for. Trying to be loving enough to earn God's approval leads to misery, as many including myself have found out. The threat of hell or purgatory is a nasty one, how can anyone live with that danger looming? The result is that a person tries to be good out of fear of hell, tries to love God out of fear or punishment, and that is a miserable way to live, a good God would not have it this way. I am reminded of the North Korean leaders, who are worshiped insincerely by the people out of fear or punishment.
If everyone goes to heaven, that does mean one can sin all he wants and still go there. However, sin has consequences here on earth and results in pain inflicted on self and others. So the motivation is still there to be a good person, except now it is motivation without the threat of eternal hell or intense purgatory. Doing the right thing is good for everyone and leads to less suffering here on earth. One can also be motivated by God's gift of universal salvation, that one doesn't have to do anything to be saved... this can create joy/love for God and wipe away any fear or hell.
My thoughts may not be so organized but I feel really compelled to respond to your comment. By the way, I am a Unitarian Universalist trying to reconcile Universalism with my Muslim identity of 16 years. It's tough. Really, really tough. I also grew up Catholic and I know that's hard there also.
I agree with you that it does and can lead many to misery, humidity. There's even a word for the type of anxiety/depression that this idealism leads to. I just forget it. I know that it has been the case for me. I see that often we are so literal with translations and our interpretations that we miss the point that people deserve individual spiritual prescriptions. Some people need building up much more through love, others through a tougher love, but I think it's always through love. And love is complex and messy too. The religious/spiritual prescriptions I received often tried to break me down, to remind me of my imperfection and flaws. But because my life experiences had already been so hard, with bullying and witnessing domestic violence, etc., what I actually needed was to be built up through the reminder of my worth and dignity, of the potential within me, the flows of power around me, the talents and skills my life has given me that I needed to uncover...while also being reminded of life's fragility and the interconnectedness of all things which brings humility.
Some claim to find freedom in the striving for perfection in the sight of the Divine. That's fine but I look for evidence of that working by observing the acceptance, love and space that is held for others despite differences in belief systems.
I think another way to also see it is that as we mature in life we move through reference points. As children we may need a strong reminder to remind us not to touch the stove and not to bite another kid. The goal I think is to aim for authentic growth with our intention. In the Sufi tradition, there's a spiritual woman known as Rabi'a al-Adawiyya who is quoted as having said (and living out) this ideal, "If I adore You (the Divine) out of fear of hell, burn me! If I adore you out of desire for paradise, lock me out of paradise. But if I adore you for Yourself alone, don't deny to me your eternal beauty."
My conclusion is this: There really are a lot of problems with the way we've done theology and passed it on. We see it as a one-size fits all and we have hurt a lot of people, emotionally, spiritually and physically. We hurt our own selves. I don't believe in ignoring that anymore and I think the real test isn't sticking to what we know and having faith in that, but to really
honestly question the way we humans have handled revelation, its preservation and its application. We can claim it is from God all the day long but we are the stewards/caretakers of and on the earth.
"When we are young, itís the illusion of perfection that we fall in love with. But, as we age, itís the humanness that we fall in love with- the poignant story of overcoming, the depthful vulnerability of aging, the struggles that grew us in karmic stature, the way a soul shaped itself to accommodate its circumstances. With less energy to hold up our armor, we are revealed and, in the revealing, we call out to each otherís hearts....." ~ Jeff Brown of SoulShaping.com