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.
If you combine a carnal view to scripture with fear, blind ego, self-righteous pride, a hidden desire for vengeance and spark the religious engine with a pharisitical spirit. You get a determined believer of hell. To suppose that God would bring beings into existence for both His purpose and pleasure who He knew in advance without mercy would be infinite losers by that existence, is to charge him a hypocrite with the utmost malignity. God says to love, bless and forgive our enemies unconditionally, but false teachers like Mark Driscall and his like would have God set the example of how He treats His enemies, by eternally torturing His in fire.
The space wizard will cast a spell and put you into a lake of lava if you do not worship the space wizards son! Think of how completely ridiculous and insane and crazy this sounds. Think of how unintelligent these people must be to believe this.
Many intelligent people believe in crazy things. It's not a matter of intelligence.
No Proof, what is it a matter of then? Fear of dying?
Could be any number of things. Upbringing, depth of childhood indoctrination, the selfish need to feel like you're somehow more special than other people, fear of death, etc.
The problem with having a concept of Hell, and an idea of who should be sent there, is that it alllows you to intellectually develop an a notion of "contempt" for another human being. Christ could not possibly be farther from that mind-set. With contempt comes prejudice, then a de-humanization of "the other", which eventually leads people to participate in genocide (Jeiwsh/gypsy Holocaust, Rwanda, etc).
What about the greatest prophecies in our history of all mankind that predicted the truth of the future? one of them said I am not afraid of death and I believed my spirit will enter into million of beautiful kingdoms in million of universe(S) which is all connected in one kind of spirit. Other lady said In 200 years later, we will make a contact with a mankind (alien) in other world.(same person that predicted Sept 11 2001) she predicted it in 1982 and died in 1996. Her words are still remind in her book after sept 11 which is a fact that she is the true prophecy. Also, she told the truth of hitler's death front of him, helped parents with their missing children...also, Presidents made a visit to her from time to time! There is no such as ONE GOD! There are trillion of stars that are simliar to our SUN! There are millions of EARTHS, HUMANS, ALIENS, SPACES, MOONS, STARS out there!! WE ARE NOT ALONE! WHOEVER CREATED US IS A GOD (which means its possible that ALIENS are GOD???) 100% sure there is someone out there who is 5000000000 trillions years ahead of US! Here's a MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION...... WHO CREATED GOD? WHO CREATED THAT THING THAT CREATED GOD? BEFORE THAT? BEFORE THAT? BEFORE THAT?? BEFORE THAT???? BEFORE THAT??? BEFORE THAT???? ITS A FULL OF MAGICS and MIRACLES! ITS 100% IMPOSSIBLE to find the truth of LAST QUESTION!!!! THERE WILL BE ENDLESS QUESTIONS FOREVER!!! Sometimes you gotta to let our technology to find the TRUTH but we are only 2000 years old on this EARTH!!! We need to be a million years old to find that kind of ANSWER!! LOVE YA ALL... Christians, muslims, antichrist, nonbelievers, etc... NO matter what happens.... NOBODY WANT TO END THEIR LIFE and go back into blackness empty world like you ve been there before you were born. GOD is just like us, he doesnt want to die so he decided to become a god and live forever to create all of imagines as much as he can. Who knows...when we die, god could give us a lifetime duty to create our own universes by our imagines. Its possible that our god used to be a living thing. He can even create a hell if he has a power from 50000000 TRILLIONS YEARS of TECHNOLOGY?OLD SCHOOL MAGICS? THERE IS NO TIME FOR DEBATES ABOUT THE TRUTH. ITs a WASTE OF ENERGY to PUT ALL OF ENEMIES into a WAR!!! THIS IS 2012! ITS TIME TO ACCEPT WHOEVER THEY ARE!!! RESEPCT THEIR BELIEVES. WE CANNOT CHANGE THEIR GENERATIONS OF THIER HISTORIES. JUST ENJOY UR DAMN LIFE AND PRAY THAT THERE IS SOMETHING OUT THERE FOR YOU TO DO AFTER YOUR DEATH. 100 YEARS of LIFE ISNT ENOUGH! U need to live forever to learn how this whole magic started?
By the way, IM A CHRISTIAN and I still have some doubts in GOD/JESUS/LORD/HEAVEN/HELL. That endless questions will always haunt me but I still say a pray to GOD/JESUS. THEY ARE MY ONLY HOPE TO LIVE THE AFTERLIFE.
EMPTY/HELL/BLACKNESS/DARKNESS FOREVER IS YOUR MOST FEAR ON YOUR MIND. PERIOD!!!
It is interesting you claim someone has proven they could see the future but you did not name the person, you just seem to expect people to believe what you claim. I don't, show me where she successfully predicted 9/11.
Hey, I said yesterday that I would have a tomato sandwich for lunch today, and behold! It came true!
Believe it or not...there are people who do good things because they genuinely care about others, and not because of the fear of eternal damnation. If you require the continual threat of the wrath of God to behave in a moral way, you are not human – you are an animal.
agreed. Hell is simply immersing your lack of love where "heaven" is rising to your potential to love.
I'm agnostic, but I simply feel that, to quote the film "what dreams may come", Hell is simply "Your life gone wrong".
Would you believe that Jesus agrees with you? Matthew 15:8
Bernhard, for an atheist you are surprisingly theologically sound. Sure you're not a Catholic?
Yeah hell is real.
Every time the inlaws come for Christmas.
All Christians wil go to hell.
Rule number 8 :You shall not steal, yet the whole bible story is stolen.
It is funny to see that many people call mythological to what many biblical historical facts and accounts SCIENCE has proven accurate. That you have not read about them is another story. Dont ask me to tell you what they are. Look them up yourselves.
No, no, what reasonable person could POSSIBLY expect you to find a SINGLE EXAMPLE of any of the preposterous Biblical claims that science has "proven"? I certainly don't.
That's not because it's an unreasonable expectation, however, it's because THERE AREN'T ANY.
That's hilarious. Make a claim and then refuse,beforehand, to back up your moronic assertion.
i'm guessing you don't understand the words "science" or "facts"
Science was used to prove the bibles science wrong.
That is the difference. Science does not set out to prove the bible right or wrong. Science is a method used to gather evidence for testing and verifiaction. The examination of the results of this testing and verification either supports or debunks a hypothesis.
Your posts are becoming more childlike. Do you wish to have a discussion or do you just like to shout at the wind?
Sure you can pick the fly sh*it out of the pepper given the proper tools and enough time. That is what christians/religions love to do is it not? The earth is the center of the universe and flat also, untill, then they have to change the doctrine. This has been going on for 2000 years and no matter what happens in the future the religious nuts will try to justify all events with their myth. Knowledge will be he death of religin, the sooner the better.
Scientifically correct? How about those "storehouses" in the sky where hail and snow are kept?
Yes.But we know that KingJC's assertions about the bibles facts being true are wrong.
Whats funnier is that i've read the bible cover to cover several times, studied it for 25 years and also keep up on reading scientific journals and none of what you say is true, unless you are refering to the fact that the bible gets some names of ancient places right.
Yes, I believe in Christ. Yes I believe he suffered died and was buried and something miraculous happened during that time....I mean christianity (as we now call it) was doomed...he had only ministered for 3 years approximately...but the "good news" was strong enough and true enough to motivate a few to become many and to outlast the roman empire. there was as reason that this "nobody" from galilee was put to death....a revolution was a foot within the jewish faith. their messiah had in fact arrived. Much has been diminished through politics and greed...however, my belief is that that action taken by this man 2000 years ago has made certain that I will be in fellowship in some context with the buddhist, muslim, hindu...the price has been paid...enjoy and stop looking over your shoulders. LOVE for that is the greatest commandment....NOT JUDGE and BE AFRAID.
@thomas: you do know that a pagan emperor of rome paid priests of the various faactions of early christianty to take all the "books" and vote on which ones would be in the official bible when he pronounced christianity as the official religion of the roman empire........i mean i may be wrong but i think that would have a lot to do with your flaovr of gods out lasting a war torn empire.
but hey the same can be said about puritans and the british empire, or the many other religions throughout history; each built off the bones of the old.
it's all just mythology............given the correct amount of time.
Yes it is real. Take Propecia and Proscar and you will be in hell!
The truth is right here....
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, I think we will understand God's justice and love against any sin and how He solved the problem of His holiness and sin.
i don't think any of those questions are necessary or reasonable.
I think you're having trouble telling 3 from 4.
The problem isn't whether or not there's a Hell, the problem is that we have these mindless dogmatic extremists who believe that anyone that doesn't believe in the same thing they do is being maliciously evil and needs to be destroyed. Getting rid of the concept of Hell isn't going to change that.
You mean to tell me Abraham, the founder of the magic book, didn't believe in hell? Next you will tell me that snoopy, jesus and santa isn't real. You people and your facts smh. Answer me this, is there is no hell, where did the Grinch go?
Abraham wasn't the founder of the mystical book, Moses was. Moses was the one who wrote the first 5 books of the bible and gave us the creation story. He went up on the mountain after leading the people out of slavery with a staff and his brother. (never fired a shot/ 1.2 million people!). So how do we know that Moses was really 'talking' to God up on that mountain? How do we know that Moses wasn't an ensane psytso? Well if you read the story you will be shocked at the life of Moses. If anyone today did even one of the miraculous things that Moses did he would either rule the world or be killed out of fear of the people, that is just one sign, of Moses's many. That's why so many of us believe. Because God made it difficult for us not to. So if you don't want to be a believer as well what ever you do, DON'T read the first 5 books of the 'mystical' book!
smokey – it is historically accepted that moses did not actually write the first 5 books of the bible.
A interesting point to make here is that there is just one man here stating his opinion on his beliefs. ALL religious men and women hold different views on "what will happen" as do athiests. Its only rational. No matter what happens, religious or not, we will truly never know. for all we know, we should be following Buddism, or wormhole quantom theory.
The lesson: life your life as you wish to be treated, and let the future be decided through luck/fate/ what have you.
And there is most likely not a god. There.
if it were only as simple as a belief. we must work tirelessly to keep the religious from codifying their beliefs into laws for all of us and indoctrinating our children.
God knew that this was going to be a problem for us, who do we believe? So he backs his 'boys' up with the miraculous. It may be difficult to believe that Moses parted a sea, but it is a historical fact. For millium the Eygptians didn't mess with Israel. It was a lasting lesson that only in this time has lost some of its sting. If a man comes around and tells you to repent then suffers and dies for you a brutal death, but not before healing everyone around him and raising a couple of people back from the dead, you might want to listen to him. Maybe he knows something that you do not. If he went to such extreams to keep you out of there, then do him and you a favor and take him up on it. Good luck.
smokey – that is just plain lunacy.
@smoke: "For millium the Eygptians didn't mess with Israel."
i have met deluded people before but you win the award.
do some real research on the founding of the isreali state. america after WW2 strong armed the UN into reconginzing isreal as a country.
it is disturbing that so many people have been indoctrinated and fooled by religion.
@snow: that's easy to understand, they start when you are very young then pound it into your head not to question anything about god and to fight to protect that image of god. it's done at childhood due to the fact what you learn as a child become hardwired in the adult mind as truth; thus it's harder to erase.
So depressing. People who base their lives on an imaginary piece of mythology that consigns fellow humans to everlasting torment. So sad and hateful.
Yes, we should abadon the idea of hell.. and heaven, and god. Religon is the root cause/excuse for the most of judgment, hatred, war that exists in our world.
We need to just live life for what it is, as living our life is the only thing that really counts.
We need to live life with morals, with kindness and understanding of all others.
The concept for hell came from the Valley Of Gehenna, formerly known as Ge Hinnom. The ignorant would sacrifice their children to Baal (some man made god thing) and so the valley was considered a place of eternal death. Real place. Mythical scare tactic to keep all us chillin's in line.
What makes Mark Driscoll's god so angry and hateful?
Probably the existence of Mark Driscoll.
He's not, you just might believe that way because you feel you shouldnt have to accept Jesus to get into heaven. In other words, you would want things done your way and not the way God has established. Im sorry to tell you it does not work that way. Its simple, accept Jesus (out of your own decision to do so) and you will not go to hell but to heaven. Simple really
Man created God in his image. Mark Driscoll is a hateful little troll so he believes God must be too.
But King, what about those people who have never and will never hear of Jesus? Are they doomed to your hell no matter what kind of person they are in life? Doesn't being a good person count for anything? What are the rules on all that?
But God could choose to save everyone without having them give worship first, right? What would you think of a "rescuer" who wanted something from you first before saving you?
But Schmaltz, I do really think your god is hateful. Just read the most violent book in all of history. You know, the one where masses of people were killed and babies were slaughtered, orders of your god.
Good question. The book of Romans speaks about that. Paraphrased it says that those who never heard the good new of Jesus will be judge by the way the lived life. BUT those who did hear about Jesus and his sacrifice for forgiveness and turn him away will have no excuse. I reckon you are either asking for just asking or are actually interested in knowing.
MaryH, if I told you I SACRIFICED my son to save your life because you were in danger even though you never met him, and than I told you the only thing you needed to do was believe he did what he did to receive that rescue.....Who did the most difficult part to begin with?
Eskimo: "If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?"
Priest: "No, not if you did not know."
Eskimo: "Then why did you tell me?"
@KingJC (what an arrogant tag)
Oh but that's not the only thing you have to do right? Not only would we have to believe he did that, we would need to model our lives after him and devote ourselves to what he taught, and attempt to convert others as well. Not only that, we would need to do so without any evidence that we were even in danger to begin with, nor do we know why it would require a "sacrifice" (which the whole jesus story was not).
KingJC: It's awfully arrogant purporting to speak for god
Funny how you use the word arrogance towards me but fail to see your use of it. Good luck. i shall see your faces one day and you will see mine. I guarantee it.
KingJC: If you told someone that your son died to save them from yourself, why would you expect that they would want to be with you?
You have no authority to make this guarantee. Go home, boy, and get your shinebox
You want logical answers. Faith is not about logic or common sense. It takes faith to understand. My answers will not make sense to you because as the Bible says "Spiritual things must be discerned spritually." Good luck
Awww how cute. The arrogant religious child is unable to actually address the post. Not unusual really, most religious people are incapable of looking at the bones of their doctrine without a preacher holding their hand through it with apologetics 101 handy.
Congratulations on your victory on this topic. your reward is your self pride and good comments from others who believe the same. My reward is eternal life. Again congratulations
KingJC: Your "reward" is convincing yourself that you have eternal life. If you actually believed it, what are you doing here on this mortal coil. Why not go now? Don't you have tall buildings where you live? Perhaps a sidearm?
I wish you all the best despite your comments. I bless your families, your income, your health and everything that is you and sorrounds you. May His mercy reach your heart one day. Until then.
And therein lies your arrogance. You did not address any post of my first post, you latched onto one thing that I put in there on purpose to see if you would do exactly what you did. Ignore the post, latch onto one thing, and try to turn it aound on the other person. It was predictable, dishonest of you, and really shows you exactly what kind of a prson you are in a discussion.
@KJC ...If it's that simpleth to goeth to heaven (Just to accepteth Jesus as Lordeth), what do babies doeth to get into heaveneth? About those who cannot understandeth what thou sayeth? I put it into bible lingo so you understandeth me.
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.