Editor’s note: The new documentary "Hellbound?" explores Americans' ideas about hell. We asked two prominent Christians who featured in the film to give us their very different takes on hell.
My Faith: The dangerous effects of believing in hell
Editor’s note: Frank Schaeffer is a New York Times bestselling author. His latest book is "Crazy For God."
By Frank Schaeffer, Special to CNN
Is it any coincidence that the latest war of religion that started on September 11, 2001, is being fought primarily between the United States and the Islamic world? It just so happens that no subgroups of humanity are more ingrained with the doctrine of hell than conservative Muslims and conservative Christians.
And nowhere on earth have conservative Christians been closer to controlling foreign policy than here in the United States. And nowhere on earth have conservative Muslims been more dominant than in the countries from which the 9/11 extremists originated – Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.
What a pair George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden made! On the one hand, an American president who was a born-again evangelical with a special "heart" for the state of Israel and its importance to the so-called end times, and on the other hand a terrorist leader who believed that he was serving God by ridding the Arabian Peninsula of an American presence and cleansing the "defiled" land of Palestine of what he believed were “invader Jews.”
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So whether you're an atheist or not, the issue of who's going to hell or not matters because there are a lot of folks on this planet – many of them extraordinarily well-armed - from born-again American military personnel to Muslim fanatics, who seriously believe that God smiles upon them when they send their enemies to hell.
And so my view of "hell" encompasses two things: First, the theological question about whether a land of eternal suffering exists as God's "great plan" for most of humanity.
Second, the question of the political implications of having a huge chunk of humanity believe in damnation for those who disagree with their theology, politics and culture, as if somehow simply killing one's enemies is not enough.
What most people don't know is that there's another thread running through both Christianity and Islam that is far more merciful than the fundamentalists’ take on salvation, judgment and damnation.
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Paradise, which Muslims believe is the final destination of the society of God’s choice, is referred to in the Quran as "the home of peace"
“Our God,” Muslims are asked to recite, “You are peace, and peace is from You.”
Since Christianity is my tradition, I can say more about it. One view of God - the more fundamentalist view - is of a retributive God just itching to punish those who "stray."
The other equally ancient view, going right back into the New Testament era, is of an all-forgiving God who in the person of Jesus Christ ended the era of scapegoat sacrifice, retribution and punishment forever.
As Jesus said on the cross: "Forgive them for they know not what they do."
That redemptive view holds that far from God being a retributive God seeking justice, God is a merciful father who loves all his children equally. This is the less-known view today because fundamentalists - through televangelists and others - have been so loud and dominant in North American culture.
But for all that, this redemptive view is no less real.
Why does our view of hell matter? Because believers in hell believe in revenge. And according to brain chemistry studies, taking revenge and nurturing resentment is a major source of life-destroying stress.
For a profound exploration of the madness caused by embracing the “justice” of “godly” revenge and retribution, watch the film “Hellbound?”
The film shows how the "hell" of revenge thinking, and the resulting unhinging of some people’s brains through their denial of human empathy, leads them to relish the violent future of suffering that they predict awaits the “lost” in hell.
Do we really want to go back to a time of literalistic religion. Wasn’t 9/11 enough of an argument against retributive religion?
We need “hell” like a hole in the head. It’s time for the alternative of empathetic merciful religion to be understood.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Frank Schaeffer.
My Faith: Hell is for real and Jesus is the only way out
Editor's Note: Mark Driscoll is founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle.
By Mark Driscoll, Special to CNN
As a pastor, my job is to tell the truth. Your job is to make a decision.
When controversies over biblical doctrines arise, it’s a humbling opportunity to answer questions about what the Bible teaches without getting into name-calling and mudslinging. Near the very top of the controversial doctrines is hell.
What happens when we die?
Human beings were created by God with both a physical body and a spiritual soul. When someone dies, their body goes into the grave and their spirit goes into an afterlife to face judgment.
But death is not normal or natural—it’s an enemy and the consequence of sin.
Think of it in this way: God is the source of life. When we choose to live independently of God and rebelliously against God it is akin to unplugging something from its power source. It begins to lose power until it eventually dies.
The Bible is clear that one day there will be a bodily resurrection for everyone, to either eternal salvation in heaven or eternal condemnation in hell.
Christians believe a person’s eternal status depends on their relationship with Jesus and that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Our lives are shaped by the reality that “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
What does Jesus say about hell?
Jesus was emphatically clear on the subject of hell. He alone has risen from death and knows what awaits us on the other side of this life. A day of judgment is coming when all of us — even you — will rise from our graves and stand before him for eternal sentencing to either worshiping in his kingdom or suffering in his hell.
The Bible could not be clearer: “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
These are not just obscure Bible verses. In fact, Jesus talks about hell more than anyone else in Scripture. Amazingly, 13% of his sayings are about hell and judgment, and more than half of his parables relate to the eternal judgment of sinners.
Keep in mind that Jesus’ words come in the context of the rest of Scripture, which says that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Furthermore, he “is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
God is far more loving, kind and patient with his enemies than we are with our enemies.
What does the rest of the Bible say about hell?
The Bible gives us many descriptions of hell including (1) fire; (2) darkness; (3) punishment; (4) exclusion from God’s presence; (5) restlessness; (6) second death; and (7) weeping and gnashing of teeth in agony.
A common misperception of Satan is that he’s in a red suit, holding a pitchfork at the gates of hell. But Satan will not[j1] reign there. Hell is a place of punishment that God prepared for the devil and his angels, and it’s where those who live apart from God will, according to Revelation:
. . . drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb [Jesus Christ]. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night.
At the end of the age, the devil will be “thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
Hell will be ruled over by Jesus, and everyone present — humans and demons and Satan alike — will be tormented there continually in perfect justice.
Jesus says, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. ... And these will go away into eternal punishment.”
Is there a second chance after death?
The Bible is clear that we die once and are then judged without any second chance at salvation. As one clear example, Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”
We live. We die. We face judgment. Period.
How long does the punishment last?
Some argue that the punishment of sinners is not eternal, a view called annihilationism. This means that after someone dies apart from Jesus, they suffer for a while and then simply cease to exist.
Annihilationism is simply not what the Bible teaches. Daniel 12:2 says, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Jesus speaks of those who “will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Grammatically, there is no difference here between the length of time mentioned for “life” and that for “punishment”; rather, there is simply eternal life and eternal death.
Am I going to hell?
The good news is that the closing verses of the Bible say, “Come!” Everyone is invited to receive the free gift of God’s saving grace in Jesus. Jesus is God become a man to reconcile mankind to God.
He lived the sinless life we have not lived, died a substitutionary death on the cross for our sins. He endured our wrath, rose to conquer our enemies of sin and death, and ascended to heaven where he is ruling as Lord over all today. He did this all in love.
The stark reality is this: either Jesus suffered for your sins to rescue you from hell, or you will suffer for your sins in hell. These are the only two options and you have an eternal decision to make.
My hope and prayer is that you would become a Christian.
Have you confessed your sins to Jesus Christ, seeking forgiveness and salvation?
If not, you are hellbound, and there is no clever scholar who will be of any help when you stand before Jesus Christ for judgment. You’re not required to like hell as much as you need to believe in it, turn from your sin, trust in Jesus, and be saved from an eternal death into an eternal life.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mark Driscoll.
Hell is on earth. It doesn't have to be, but it is there for anyone who lives a faulty life by choice. So while i don't subscribe to typical Christian ideology, i do believe that so-called 'sinners' will experience the wrath of a hellish existence.
Do those "sinners" include children born into appalling poverty and deprivation, right here at home?
JESUS CHRIST doesn’t ask our permission or beg us to make HIM Lord. Whether we like HIM, hate HIM, glorify HIM, ignore HIM, make HIM Lord of our life or not, JESUS is Lord of all! It is written: ‘Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that “God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus” whom you crucified.’ Act 2:39
He commands everyone everywhere to re...pent and believe in HIM as the Son of God – The One who died on the cross, rose on the third day, and ascended into Heaven. As it is written in Moses, Psalms and the Prophets, it is by faith alone that we recognize HIM as Lord and Savior. It is written: (Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus “every knee” should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth) Philippians 2:9-10
Today is another day for salvation. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising HIM from the dead. Come and drop your weapons; come empty handed, thirsty and hungry, surrender and cast yourself on Jesus Christ the King of the kings, The Lord of the lords. He is mighty to save and satisfy you with living water and heavenly bread …
Come, before it is too late
Blah, blah, blah. Oh my God! Religion is boring.
That is the main thing that bugs me about Christians. All the fear. That is usually their main selling point, believe in what we believe in or X will happen. woo...woogabooga.
There are very few sins, perhaps none, that warrant eternal torment forever and ever and ever.
For the SIN of just not believing in God (who people ask you to believe in with no real evidence) your sentence is an eternity of torment.
That, to me, is insane. I don't believe in God but if I did I would not worship someone who would punish someone FOREVER.
The problems of humanity are three questions, and we always fail to understand them. The first question is "who is God?" second question is what is the holiness of God?" and the third question " who is man? is he holly?". If we understand these three questions, and I think we will understand God's justice and love against any sin and how He solved the problem of His holiness and sin.
1. god doesn't exist
2. n/a see 1)
3. evolved from simpler life forms including fish, mammals, and apes
A lesson in regards to hell:
"There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." Luke 16:19-31
Yes, and we know this is all true because we saw video clips of it on Fox News.
Same camera crew that captured the palm trees during the worker uprisings last winter in Wisconsin, no doubt.
"As a pastor, my job is to tell the truth. Your job is to make a decision." That type of thinking lies at the root of the problem of fundamentalism. This pastor believes he knows the "truth" when in fact he does not. His truth is his personal interpretation of what he perceives to be instructions contained in copies of copies of translations of translations of manuscripts written by ancient peoples reflecting the realities of their culture and times. In short, he is a fundamentalist Christian who takes the Bible to be the literal world of God. That is very , very dangerous, as dangerous as Islam fundamentalism. Let us all hope and strive that these people will soon become educated and understand Jesus' and Mohammad's real message. Regarding a "decision" I have to make, the pastor is completely out of bounds. He has to make a decision to either keep feeding false information to his congregation, or learn the actual truth and preach that if he has the courage to which I doubt.
I completely agree. Pastor's perceptions of what they read are just as colored by their experience, likes, dislikes, etc as anyone else. I think if more congregates realized this they would think for themselves more and the world would be a much more compassionate, loving, and better place.
Any time the first words out of a minister's mouth are "here is the truth", turn and run like, um, well, you know.
"And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear." Matthew 13:3-9
"Is there a hell"?
There will be if Rommel is elected.
Probably for sodomites
Pity the Republicans, then.
Bother hetero and ho/mo sodomites, or only the latter?
bother = both.
i left my typing fingers at home today, it seems/.
It's already hell with this failed administration, I don't see it getting much worse.
hell is as real as heaven!
Pophets prior to Jesus said things. Jesus did things. He was a "magic man". It was this magic that set him apart. Nobody knows how he did what he did, like nobody knows how Houdini did most of his tricks. Churches ask their flocks to believe on faith that the "miracles" actually happened, and happened as they were reported by the Apostles (PR men) of Jesus. Consider the fact that Jesus was traveling around the countryside trying to build a religion and following. Of course they would tell the stories the best way possible, and it may not have mattered if they didn't even occur. Someone could tell a story in one province to people in another and nobody would have been the wiser. People didn't travel far in those days.
Some of the tricks ascribed to Jesus are easily explained. For instance, the water to wine trick (which was first performed by the demigod Horus) is a very simple old magick trick involving concentrated wine hidden in bread. it's chronicled in several old Jewish magic books. Bringing the bird back from the dead was originally in a Mithraic story. Faith-healing the sick and injured is a hoax that continues to this day and might be happening somewhere on your tv this very moment.
The truth is that there is no such thing as magic, except for the kind where the audience is tricked.
@ other 'Russ':
i've yet to hear of a magician who was publicly tortured, pierced, speared, blood drained, & pronounced dead by his enemies, embalmed, entombed 3 days, and then rose from the dead and repeatedly appeared to people for 40 days with a transformed body that could walk through walls but was still so solid he ate meals with them.
if that's magic, it's unlike any magic we've ever heard of.
I do not know one Christian or Muslim that smiles on people when they go to hell. The war-like groups are usually more nationalistic and I know in the case of Islamic groups, they want to conquer so that the rest of the world will be Muslim and avoid going to hell under their religion. Christianity believes in the same thing, only they spread via missionary work and not violence most of the time (Charlemagne, the Conquistadors, and other groups have been different in the past).
God doesn't send people to hell, people send THEMSELVES to hell...by the choices they make. Believe it or not there are people who do NOT (though I cannot imagine why) want to be with God (and the angels, and the saints, and their friends and relatives) for eternity. People are in for a hell of a shock when they find themselves there if they don't believe in hell. It is not about "smiling" when someone is in hell, but about justice and God's mercy.
Lroy, were you really serious when you said you can't imagine why people wouldn't want to hang out with God? Read the Bible. According to the most devoted accounts of his most devoted believers, Yahweh is the most barbaric, cruel, heartless, sadistic, torturing, butchering, murderous, pettily vindictive, unforgiving archfiend in all of fiction. The only reason I'd ever want to get anywhere close to the assho1e is to perform a citizen's arrest. Good thing he's not real.
Stalin didn't send people to the Gulag – people sent themselves to the gulag by rejecting his worker's paradise.
"and on the other hand a terrorist leader who believed that he was serving God by ridding the Arabian Peninsula of an American presence and cleansing the "defiled" land of Palestine of what he believed were “invader Jews.”
Off topic but why did w bush lie about the reasons bin laden attacked? bin laden gave the above reasons and w said no, it was that they hated our freedoms. What a dangerous baffoon w was.
"As a pastor, my job is to tell the truth."
Well, that's a lie.
I don't believe in any religion but from looking at the suffering in the wold, I can say that Hell is real and its here on earth. And for paradise, I don't think such a place exists.
Agreed. Too funny too.
Another question for believers. Why is faith, as in belief without evidence, considered a virtue?
Because Christ said it was.
Because god wants us all to be mindless sheep and sheep follow their shepherd blindly even if it's down a cliff.
@Huebert...Trying to convince Billy D. with reason and logic is just not going to work. Billy believes that He walks with me and He talks with me but in reallity the truth is He does all of Billy's thinking for him. Billy read in his myth book every thing that will ever be important in his life because christ said so, spare your efforts on this dolt, Huebert.
Hell has always been a boogeyman for religionists to threaten children with. The less intelligent among us are also quite cowed by the threat of eternal damnation. The Jews believed that when you die your essence goes to God to be placed in the Guff. There all of the essense of life is kept until God blows essense into the nostrils of children as they are born. The Jews know NO Hell, you pay for your sins while on this Earth. Helll was invented many years after the Hebrew Scriptures.
"And nowhere on earth have conservative Christians been closer to controlling foreign policy than here in the United States"
Since when are Hillary and Obama considered "conservative Christians" or conservative anything?
Are you saying that the tea party loonies have no influence. They do. Boehner has his hands tied so they effectively limit what Congress will do.
"closer to controlling foreign policy" is not the same thing as "controlling foreign policy".
"been closer to controlling foreign policy "
I'd call the 5% divide between Romney and the White House close enough.
Barry and Hillary merely do as they are told. As did their predecessors. As will their successors.
I will be one of the 5% of independants in Ohio voting to keep that slick liar Romney out of the white house.
I was knocked out once, you know what I saw? Nothing. At that time I still had synapse firing, yet I saw/remember nothing. So I can feel comfortable in knowing that when all my synapse stop firing all together, I will feel/think/know nothing, and ignorance will be bliss.
Being knocked out isn't the same as dying.
Really Ryan, what is it then?
GOD does not exist. No heaven nor hell. You live forever in the loving memories of your dear ones. Biologicallly, we are no different than any of the other species on this planet. Our carbon based living organism,. when deprived of biological activity, decomposes. Dust in the wind, should you want a more poetic way of saying it. As for the souls.... well, the emotional capacity and activity of our brains, our life experiences, our traumas are what defines us as unique individuals..... so we dont have souls neither. It's all a romantic idea to prevent unitelligent people from despairing because they cannot find the meaning of their own lives.
i respect that you have your own induvial opinion on this topic, but you shouldn't say thing slike you know fro sure, or like you are trying to prove that someone's idae is idiotic. you believe there is no god, but you shouldn't put down others opinions, feelings, or ideas because there really is no way to prove or disprove that god, imdeed, does exist
@ Ariana You dont need to prove there is no god and religion. no more then you need to prove there is no easter bunny.
Its common sense.
Wow, you've really taken a depressing stance on life. Before you say its 'realistic', consider what information in life you consider to be realistic. If science is realistic, then you must know that quantum physics is pointing towards our consciousness being a non-local part of our physical bodies. The body itself being a 'receiver' of an electrical impulse from a form of energy existing apart from the body. I don't believe in god, and i hate religion more than anything. Don't let your hate for religion and your pride in logic, stop your curiosity for answers in life. If you believe what we experience solely through our physical senses is 'all' that's going on in life, then you're just as crazy as the religious people.
Sorry jd33t, but that's an outdated view of quantum physics. The original double-blind slit test was shown to be faultily set up, hence the notion that the experimenter affects the particle state has been dispelled. There is no longer a link between consciousness and the functions of quantum causality. That sucks for people who invested heavily in the holographic universe theory because that original experiment was the cornerstone of their new-age beliefs.
So what is the meaning of your life and how are you certain? What are you judging it on? Why do you believe that trauma defines us as unique individuals? Can you define trauma without using words like good, bad, or pain? Because if words like these are used you have to define these words and what do you use measure them on? If we are like all other species do you believe that animals define their existence on experiences or do they even think about there existence? You use words like love yet who defines this term? Who gave love meaning?
Perhaps Jesus spoke so frequently of "Hell" just like any leader seeking control over others speaks most frequently of the horrible consequences of not following them. Fear is an invaluable leadership tool.
I have a very difficult time equating the reward/punishment equation of this heaven and hell arguement. In the grand picture of eternity, we are provided, at most, 100 or so years on earth to influence the "almighty" as to what he should do with us "forever". What is "forever"? I don't know exactly, but it sounds like a very,very,very long time.
He says, death is the not normal and is the consequence of sin. That's just dumb. All things in nature die. How did my cactus sin? It died big time this summer. Animials die; do they have sin? What about newborns that die on the first day of their life or in the womb. What sin did they have? Religions have long been at odds over the question are we born with sin or born good and are swayed to sin as we live. Religion is a choice. To choose to believe that all your fellow man are born already damaged is a terrible way to view the world. And they want us to believe it all started because God's perfect first boy bit some apple (which isn't even native to that part of the world) Time to think for yourselves people.
Apparently our sun sinned too because it will die someday, albeit 5 billion years from now, but it's not immortal or eternal, nothing in this universe is. Everything had a begining and will have an end, we are no different. To think otherwise is to selfishly reject reason and logic and common sense.
absolutely not! hell is real & i'm there right now, its also known as DTI BCL
The most arrogant thing a fellow human being can tell you is that THEY KNOW what happens to you after you die. If you don't think exactly like they do, you well spend eternity burning and suffering. I would rather spend eternity burning and suffering.
Not arrogant at all. After we die, we begin to decompose. Yes, it can be tested and produce repeatable results.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.