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September 22nd, 2012
10:00 PM ET

Different Takes: Should we abandon idea of hell?

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.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Devil • My Faith • Opinion

soundoff (7,963 Responses)
  1. Buck

    NASA actually discovered a 'hellish' state when they and the Soviets tried to reenter the upper atmosphere at hypersonic velocities back in the early 60's discovering instant vaporization. According to NASA, this temperature is indeed a 'hellish' 100k degrees at these meteric velocities, hence we now have the International Fake Station.....

    http://www.fountainsofthegreatdeep.com/IFS.htm

    September 24, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • MDAT

      You link is so wrong it is hilarious.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  2. Pam K.

    Read "The Case for a Creator" by Lee Strobel, then rethink your earlier thoughts.

    September 24, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • OTOH

      Pam K.

      You are not finished until you have read:
      http://www.bidstrup.com/apologetics.htm

      September 24, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  3. jackhudson

    @itsallaloadofbollocks

    What does starving have to do with whether one commits a sin?

    September 24, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Jack, try using the reply button when replying to a specific post – like I did! Makes for a much easier following of the conversation

      September 24, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • itsallaloadofbollocks

      Isn't there something about dying for our sins?

      September 24, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • jackhudson

      There is something about Jesus dying for our sins.

      September 24, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      There IS something about jesus dying for our sins – and that something is a load of c-rap! An infinite, all-knowing, all-powerful being sends a tiny piece of himself to earth in human form – jesus. this tiny bit of god lives for an immeasurably short time – 30 years or so, is killed, and then comes back to life, and returns to heaven.

      There's no sacrifice there.

      Jesus didn't die for your sins – he had a timeout for your sins.

      That is such an immeasurably stupid thing to base your beliefs, and your lives on. Stop and actually think about it.

      September 24, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • jackhudson

      @Magical Underwear

      You are right that if Christiianity said any of that it would be pretty crap-ful – thankfully that bizarre caricature of our beliefs bears no resemblance to any Christian creed.

      September 24, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Jack, I'm all ears, ready to be edumacated! Let's hear the real story of jesus, according to the gospel of jack

      September 24, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • jackhudson

      @Magical Underwear

      It's not all that complex – we were designed to be in relationship to our designer, we acted contrary to our design and corrupted purpose which explains our constant desire to enhance our life experience, our designer acted to restore that which was lost and we have a choice to accept it or reject it.

      Parts of that are evident – our brokenness, our desire for purpose, our concept of an ideal which we can never experience in this world, realities which can’t be explained by atheism.

      September 24, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      No, jack, you dodged the question. Please try to use some intellectual honesty. i have outlined my view of why the supposed "sacrifice" of jesus is ridiculous. you labeled it as a caricature. i asked you to educate me. So, please explain what I got wrong about the jesus story.
      God is all knowing, all-powerful, and infinite, right?
      Jesus is a part of god, and divine, right?
      He was sent to earth by god, right/
      He lived on earth as a human for about 30 years or so, right?
      He was killed, right?
      He was resurrected 3 days later, right?
      He subsequently ascended to Heaven, to rejoin god, right?

      Have I misstated something here, or does that fairly and accurately set out what I call the "jesus story"?

      September 24, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • jackhudson

      @Magical Underwear

      Well you are getting into the theological weeds (rather than the meaning) but no, Jesus is not ‘part of the divine’ because God doesn’t have ‘parts’ – He is fully divine, and He appeared as a human, emptying himself of the power of God while retaining the holiness and purpose of God.

      The rest you got right. This time.

      September 24, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Jack, thank you for that. I'm a little confused about the part where you said "He is fully divine, and He appeared as a human, emptying himself of the power of God while retaining the holiness and purpose of God." First off, you're making a statement that is without evidence or basis. Further, you are claiming to have personal knowledge of the actions of a god, including the extent of those actions. Pretty ambitious claim. In any event, the part about Jesus "emptying himself of the Power of God" – okay – so, are you claiming that, when Jesus was here, on earth, there was no god with any power in charge of the universe? Or are you simply saying that the jesus part, while on earth, didn't have divine power?

      Either way, a few days later, Jesus "rejoined" for want of a better word. The human body that jesus was inhabiting rose form the grave. the, he ascended to heaven.

      Which brings us right back to my primary point – that was no sacrifice. A sacrifice requires giving something up. A supreme sacrifice – as the jesus myth is often described – should involve the supreme giving up by god. So what do god give up? Not temporarily, with the foreknowledge that jesus would return to god in a bit. What was given up?

      September 24, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • jackhudson

      @Magical Underwear

      No problem. I wasn’t really attempting to provide evidence for the claims, merely explaining the theology. Proving Jesus was God to an atheist would be akin to proving Lincoln was President to a person who didn’t believe the United States existed. And you are right; I couldn’t have such personal knowledge unless God communicated His intent, which is of course exactly what a Christian believes about history.

      With regard to how God could incarnate and remain God, I actually think modern experience gives us some insight. If you have ever played a character in a video game, you know you can be ‘in’ the game as you, and remain out of the game as you. Others playing the game experience you within that game, but not all that you really are. It’s analogy, but an apt one I think, as much as we could understand the nature of God.

      So at least logically, there is no contradiction in saying God was here, inhabiting a human body, and remained God of the universe.

      With regard to the sacrifice, I am not sure why it wouldn’t have been as ‘real' as anything we experience.

      September 24, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • Ann

      Whether it was a sacrifice or not, the question remains, why was it necessary?

      If god wanted our sins to be forgiven, why couldn't he just forgive them? Why all the blood and guts?

      Unless, of course, god has some rulebook he has to go by – in which case, shouldn't we be trying to find out who wrote the rulebook?

      EITHER:

      God had no choice about the human sacrifice of Jesus, in which case he has limits, or
      God just likes human sacrifice, which makes him kind of a jerk.

      September 25, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • jackhudson

      So, if someone murdered a loved one of yours, and the murderer was being tried, you would be fine if the judge just told you, “Hey, you just need to forgive the guy for what he did – case dismissed”

      September 25, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • The Truth

      "So, if someone murdered a loved one of yours, after you intended your loved one to be put in harms way to make a point, and practicaly forced the hand of the killer so that prophecy would be fullfilled, and the murderer was now being tried, you would be fine if the judge just told you, “Hey, you just need to forgive the guy for what he did – case dismissed”

      Yup.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • jackhudson

      Then you are an advocate for anarchy and injustice. God isn't.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • OTOH

      Ann,
      "If god wanted our sins to be forgiven, why couldn't he just forgive them? Why all the blood and guts?"

      Ours is not to reason why...
      Ours is but to follow one of those Middle Eastern used camel salesmen (Moses, Paul, Mohammad)!

      September 25, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • jackhudson

      If someone has come up with a better set of moral precepts than Moses and Paul I would love to hear it. It certainly isn't coming from atheism.

      September 25, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • The Truth

      "If someone has come up with a better set of moral precepts than Moses and Paul "

      You mean like the moral code Moses would have studied as a Prince of egypt? Or the moral code contaiend in the code of Hammurabi? All written well before either of your supposed inventors of morality were ever born. Your Moses and Paul were just hijackers of prior moral codes as was the criminal Joseph Smith.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
      • jackhudson

        I always here this from peopple who have only a passing familiarity with 'The Code of Hammarabi". Obviously you have never read it if you are making such a comparison. But such things are easy to assert in a post as most readers are as niave as the person making the assertion.

        September 25, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • The Truth

      "The Code of Hammurabi consists of 282 laws, with scaled punishments, adjusting "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" (lex talionis)[1] as graded depending on social status, of slave versus free man. Nearly one-half of the Code deals with matters of contract, establishing for example the wages to be paid to an ox driver or a surgeon. Other provisions set the terms of a transaction, establishing the liability of a builder for a house that collapses, for example, or property that is damaged while left in the care of another. A third of the code addresses issues concerning household and family relationships such as inheritance, divorce, paternity and s.e.x.ual behavior."

      Sounds a lot like much of Leviticus to me. Or have you not read your own book as I have? Or studied it for nearly 30 years? No, you would rather take what some random pastor spouts from a posh pulpit as truth. Go snuggle up with your warm bag of vomit that are the lies and deceipts spewed out of Babylon the Great, the wh.ore of the world, and share in her cup that is overflowing with the blood of the innocent.

      September 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
      • jackhudson

        Actually, you quoted one passage that is similar – out of hundreds. There is nothing like the Ten Commandments in the Code of Hammurabi, and atheists have never devised a better set of moral precepts to follow. My point stands.

        September 25, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  4. Beth

    Those of us who are children of God know what will happen to us when we die. He gives us understanding. Those who turn their backs on Him live in confusion because Satan tricks you into thinking you are smarter than you are. You don't understand God's plan because you don't live in His WORD. If you will read His WORD, pray and meditate on it, you will understand ... not of your own mind, but because God removes the tangled web of lies that Satan has woven into your thoughts. This is all supernatural and beyond our comprehension. Anyone who tries to scare you or take your money is not a Christian and thank goodness we can see them for who they are: wolves in sheeps' clothing.

    September 24, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      And if you read the WORD of L. RoN Hubbard and live according the the Truth of Dianetics, the tangled web put in place by The Galactic Overlord Xenu will be lifted.
      It is all supernatural and beyond earthly comprehension, but trush in L. Ron and the Thetans will no longer cloud your mind with their lies.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Madtown

      Those of us who are children of God know what will happen to us when we die
      ------
      All human beings who walk the earth and draw breath are children of God. You're no different than anyone else, despite what you believe. Christian doctrine does not have the answers. No human has the answers, and any books written by human hands do not have the answers.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Russ

      Beth has a secret decoder ring. Do share it with us, Beth.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • itsallaloadofbollocks

      It's beyond your comprehension and yet you understand.
      There are many churches that are purely about taking money – you christians need to do more about weeding them out.

      September 24, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  5. RichardSRussell

    To those of you convinced that Hell is real and gloating over the "fact" that atheists like me will be headed there after we die, I ask you to reflect on the Bible's entrance requirements for YOUR preferred destination. It says that only 144,000 people will gain admission to Heaven. Given that there have been something like 50 billion human beings who have ever lived, calculate your own personal odds of being one of the elect thousand gross. Here you thot all along that you were destined for glory, didn't you? Not according to your very own holy book, you're not. And I guess I don't have to tell you what the alternative is, since you've taken such great glee in describing it to people like me.

    Now doesn't the idea of Hell's NON-existence start to sound a lot more attractive?

    September 24, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Beth

      The 144,000 will rule with God and Jesus as kings. His children will live on earth restored to the way it was in the beginning. "The meek shall inherit the earth". True Christians don't gloat or want anyone to go to hell. We love each other and are sad for the lost. If you will read the Bible, pray and meditate on it I promise you that God will give you understanding.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Beth

      Been there, done that, nothing happened, much happier now.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Russ

      Can't seem to get to the same understanding as you, Beth. Can you share your secret decoder ring?

      September 24, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  6. JonJon

    If god is so great and loving how can you explain Noah's flood? Do you realize how many little children would have died if that actually happened? Yeah, it says he was displeased with his creation, so is he admitting to a mistake? Doesn't he have faith in his own works?

    September 24, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • BobbyG

      Noahs flood was an anology. The people in the region thought they were the entire world becuase that all they have explored and knew.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • JonJon

      Right, I know that. But many people today think it was world-wide. I grew up Mormon and they believe in a world-wide flood because the Earth had to be baptized for some reason.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • SouthernCelt

      The story of Noah is not just about God's Greatness, but the depths of Man's depravity and sin, and the wages of such sin. God also Said He would never do it that way again.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Russ

      SC, one mass murder was evil enough. Stuff your disgusting god stories.

      September 24, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  7. Steevo

    The boogey man DOES exist then?

    September 24, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      No, but the Boogerman does. He lives inside your nose.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  8. 500SmithandWesson

    Excellent commentary Mark Driscoll. Keep it up. No amount of pandering to skeptics has ever changed a work of Jesus' teaching.

    September 24, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • BobbyG

      What did they call God before Jesus was around.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • sam stone

      Pandering to skeptics may not change a word of Jeebus' teaching, but pandering to the gullible sure is profitable

      September 24, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  9. Zao

    Hell, as it is commonly understood, is fundamentally incompatible with a just God. Justice demands that a person be punished in proportion to the wrongfulness of his conduct. Infinite punishment cannot be proportional the finite sins a person may commit in life. Either we have a God of justice and Hell does not exist, or Hell exists and God is unjust.

    Given the choice between these two alternatives, I find that the non-existence of Hell is much more compatible with Christian theology than is the concept of God as an evil being.

    September 24, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Zao: you said "Justice demands that a person be punished in proportion to the wrongfulness of his conduct."

      Yes, but if you sin against an infinite God... it's like breaking a priceless work of art at a museum. How can you *pay* for something that is priceless? it carries greater weight than you could EVER pay. how much more if – as Christians claim – when he came to reveal himself to us, we crucified the most valuable being in existence?

      September 24, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • sam stone

      russ:

      god could have forgiven without this sacrifice, no?

      September 24, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • OTOH

      Russ,
      "when he came to reveal himself to us, we crucified the most valuable being in existence?"

      He did a shoddy and substandard, quite non-godly job of "revealing" then.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • SouthernCelt

      You forgot about Free Will. You have to "Choose" to accept His Love and Forgiveness. Some people just won't do it. People separate themselves from God, not the other way around.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      @ russ – sinning against your god is like forever breaking your god?

      Really, really weak analogy.

      And, if god is all-knowing, and god created people, then your god knows in advance that people will "sin", however that is defined. So how would that damage or harm god?

      And the jesus sacrifice myth is just that – a myth – there was no sacrifice – assuming it is true, your god sent a tiny piece of himself in human form to earth for a very short period of time, this human bit – jesus – lived in human form for 30 years, died, was resurrected, then went back to rejoin the main part of god. And god knew that this would happen in advance. NO SACRIFICE at all! Picture Bill Gates making the ultimate financial sacrifice by letting you hold a penny of his for one second, knowing full well that he will get it right back. Sacrifice? Don't think so.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @SouthernCelt

      It's more like people won't accept the existence of something based on no evidence, and therefore there is no need to ask for the forgiveness of something that doesn't seem to exist. You make it sound like everyone knows and accepts that your version of god exists, which is a highly dishonest position.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Russ

      @ sam stone: your question presumes that forgiveness comes without justice.
      but as anyone knows who has been wronged, there is always a cost. the only question is: who will pay it?
      and that's what's so incredible here: God is saying "I will pay the cost for you, so the you will understand both...
      1) how big of a mess you've made of yourself
      2) that my love is deeper than your mess

      but that isn't revealed with a 'cheap' forgiveness that ignores injustice (and doesn't seek to correct it).
      if God extends 'mercy' without justice, it reveals he doesn't care about justice ultimately.
      but if he holds the two together without compromise, he's revealing something about his character.
      namely, that he is both uncompromisingly just and incredibly merciful.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Attack: your assertion that Jesus was a myth fails to deal with the scholarship.

      Here's CS Lewis (a Cambridge myth expert) on that very point:
      http://orthodox-web.tripod.com/papers/fern_seed.html

      September 24, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • SouthernCelt

      @HawaiiGuest: I've seen and read enough to convince me. Apparently it is not enough to convince you.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      @ russ – exactly how does your god extend "justice"? I'm a mass murderer, and I've gotten away with killing many people. I live to be 99 years old. on my death bed, i truly repent, and truly accept jesus as my savior. So how, and where, and in what form does god deliver justice to the hundreds I've killed, and to the thousands of lives I've ruined?

      please be specific.

      September 24, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Russ

      He's not saying that Jesus himself was a myth, he's saying that the sacrifice thing is a myth, and there he's right. Maybe you should read the entirety of a post before you respond.

      September 24, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Russ

      @ Attack: per 'breaking God' – you're not going far enough.
      What kind of God is omnipotent, omniscient & omnipresent, yet *chooses* to fully enter our fragile, finite & broken existence in a way that would allow us to manipulate Him – and yet is so sovereign that He even turns our failure & rebellion inside out through what He does?

      God's actions reveal his character. Uncompromising justice meets unfathomable mercy.
      A God who won't stand for evil, yet redeems horribly broken people like me – despite the fact that I am completely responsible for what I have done to myself and he would be fully just to leave me to my own devices.

      September 24, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • Russ

      @ hawaiiguest: the 'sacrifice' cannot be separated from Jesus. they are inextricably linked in the source material. so the discussion is one and the same.

      September 24, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @SouthernCelt

      And everyone will have their own standard of evidence they use to determine the truth of a claim like that. This is where any claim of a universal message falls apart completely, and (if done by a supreme being) shows a massive oversight.

      September 24, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Russ

      @ attack: how does he extend justice? that's the point of the cross.
      he takes the punishment I deserve on himself. and considering his life is (the point we started with) INFINITELY more valuable than anyone else's, his sacrifice not only pays for but also begins reversing all these things (hence the resurrection).

      or to put it as Dostoevsky said in "the Brothers K":
      "I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradi.ctions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the desp.icable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood that they’ve shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened."

      September 24, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Russ

      You're still not getting it. He's saying that if it did happen, it wasn't a sacrifice to god or to Jesus. That doesn't mean Jesus never existed, just that the sacrifice thing is just another of the many contradictions and illogical mess in the bible and the doctrine.

      September 24, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Russ – you miss the point – he didn't die! We're talking your god here, right? infinite? It's like me breathing out an atom of my being, and then breathing it back in. No sacrifice. And as for an infinitely valuable life??? Where did you come up with that? God could have made an infinite number of jesus people, right? Because god is god – omnipotent – he can do anything! Instead of the most valuable live, the life of jesus was the least valuable imaginable – because he would have been infinitely replaceable. The only reason the jesus son of god myth was developed was that to a bronze age goat diddler, sacrificing of a son was the most meaningful thing that they – the people of the time – could come up with. Why didn't god sacrifice his daughter? because at the time daughters were not valued as highly as sons.

      Think, man – use the brain your god supposedly gave you, to think.

      September 24, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Hey, hawaii, how goes it? You may not recognize me – i used to be a lot shorter, and blue

      September 24, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • SouthernCelt

      @HawaiiGuest
      You appear to be educated. Have you ever read Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theoligica? I'm sure it is online by now. Man is a moral being and lives, knowingly or not, by a moral code. I choose The Gospel of Jesus Christ. What is your choice?

      September 24, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Attack

      Smurfette. I'm doing well. Still plugging away over here lol.

      @SouthernCelt

      Personally, I went with humanism. After I deconverted, I realized that I needed to take a look at how I determined morality on my own, and found that humanism summed up my own personal preferences fairly well. As far as Thomas Aquinas, no I have not read it.

      September 24, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      @ hawaii – keep at it – I enjoy your posts. Hey – do you live on one of the islands?

      September 24, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • SouthernCelt

      @HawaiiGuest
      Humanism? So you believe in the creation but not the Creator? If you are open to it you should find Thomas a good read.

      September 24, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @SouthernCelt

      1) Saying "creation" as if it is a given is merely plugging the conclusion into the language used, and I don't accept that.
      2) If I'm going to read Aquinas, I'd need a reason to. Without a reason Id rather stick to my own reading list.

      @Attack

      Yes, the island of the same name as the state, which I always found weird considering the capital is on another island.

      September 24, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • SouthernCelt

      HawaiiGuest,
      The Summa Theolgica presents 5 Proofs of God's Existence that satisfy most who read them. It is a logical and rational explanation of the Faith you may or not have been raised with. Keep in mind that Pope Pius II called himself a Humanist as well.

      September 24, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @SouthernCelt

      Logical arguments might be able establish a possibility, but it cannot possibly justify belief to me, and I care about what is, not what may be possible through logic (considering if it is sound). If the thing proposed interacts with the "material" world, then we would reasonably expect physical evidence to be left behind., and if it doesn't it is indistinguishable from a thing that doesn't exist.

      September 24, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Southern

      Also, in case you may be thinking this (although if I'm wrong or reading to into things, sorry), I have not completely dismissed the concept of a god as possible, just certain concepts.

      September 24, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  10. BobbyG

    I guess God only speaks English.

    September 24, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  11. nonBelieverOne

    Why don't the miracles and amazing feats described in the Bible happen today? As a former Believer, I'd like for some current Believers to answer this question for me.

    September 24, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • SamJackson

      The bible is clear that the miracles of the bible would no longer occur once the Bible was completed and the last of the apostles was dead. I Cor. 13: 8-10.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • hmm..

      so convenient..

      September 24, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • SouthernCelt

      It depends on how you define a miracle. There are cures with no scientific explanation at the Grotto in Lourdes, France. 10,000 Portuguese people saw the unexplained events (Sun dancing in the sky, then plunging towards Earth and returning to its proper orbit) in Fatima, Portugal just before WW I, unless you consider that mass hypnotism of 10,000 which is a miracle in itself :-).
      Then there is Padre Pio in Italy; Stigmatist, Soul reader, bi-locationist, all witnessed by peope alive today. All it requires is Faith.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Jose

      Because it was all a bunch of BS. And each retelling of the story, made more and more fantastic.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Ah, the miracle of the Padre! Very good book about him doc-umenting how he used to purchase very large amount of carbolic acid – just the thing to put on wounds to make them look like stigmata.

      As for miracle cures – why hasn't god cured any amputees, ever?

      Were are the real miracles? real, verifiable miracles that cannot be replicated?

      There are none.

      September 24, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • SouthernCelt

      @Attack,
      Why do you require miracles? Faith is believing without seeing.

      September 24, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      No, southern – the point is that religious texts written thousands of years ago contain supposed miracles, but then, back then , the populace was much more gullible. The point is – if god/jesus/allah/whoever was performing these supposed miracles all those years ago, why are they doing any more? today? Clearly, a supreme being could resurrect my dead parents, right? Such a being could regenerate the leg of some poor war vet who stepped on an IED, right? I would love to see a bona fide miracle.
      But we're not seeing them because they don't happen, and they didn't happen as described in the bible, and other holy texts

      September 24, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • SouthernCelt

      @Attack,
      Since you require proof, I suggest you investigate Saint Bernadette and what hapened and is still happening in Lourdes, France.
      The crippled walk again, the blind see. It sounds like your kind of place.

      September 24, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  12. jackhudson

    Hell is the belief that when we die we are permanently separated from life, love, joy and meaning. Christians believe God wants to keep all men from experiencing this, atheists believe this is the inevitable fate of every man.

    It is atheists who are abandoning men to hell.

    September 24, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • MDAT

      No.You have got it backwards.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @jack

      Oh gee yet another concept of hell that just popped up from nowhere to absolve a god concept from the immorality of the hell concept.. Congratulations have a fucking cookie.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • jackhudson

      I do? What do you believe happens to men when they die?

      September 24, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • itsallaloadofbollocks

      When we die, we're not sentient so obviously we'd be separated from those things. But the church talks about damnation for those who have "sinned". Explain to me what sin has been committed by the 1000s of children who die daily of starvation.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • MDAT

      They decompose.Just like anything that dies.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • jackhudson

      @hawaiiguest

      It's not 'another concept' it is the only concept – and atheists believe all men are fated to the hopelessness of it.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • jackhudson

      @MDAT

      And do they cease experiencing life, love, joy and meaning?

      September 24, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • MDAT

      Well,they are dead.They won't do much.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Madtown

      It's not 'another concept' it is the only concept
      ----
      Yes of course. Anyone who doesn't think like you must have it wrong.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @jack

      Oh so now dishonesty. Are you a Lutheran?

      September 24, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  13. kalo

    People will never stop believing in god nor hoping there is punishment for actions that are outside of the social acceptance level. There is no argument against faith, it does not follow the same rules as logic and fact. In Science, logic and facts make the laws; in faith the laws make the logic and 'facts.'

    There will never be a time when someone doesn't want all the answers to be given, no time in human history or future will "I don't know, and no one else does either" be considered ok for the majority of folks. Most people want the all knowing father figure up on high like they were when they were a child, and everyone wants answers...Only Atheists and Agnostic people can have the mental capacity to cope with knowing there is no plan, there is no certainty, there is only you and everyone around you. Make earth yours and your brother's heaven and stop making it hell for others.

    It might be a pipe dream but until people can move past the bronze age thought of evolution isn't real, that the Catholic church isn't acting like the Jewish council that killed Jesus (Abusing power), science should dictate the rules of the physical world and people should keep the soul out of numbers; I truly do fear when a person can 'hear' god and press the big round button in the oval office to make hell on earth for another group of people. This happened with Bush and Iraq, god told him to do it; for better or worse this means that faith dictated the logic which is a very scary president.

    September 24, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  14. JD Hamilton

    This has GOT to be the STUPIDEST puff-piece I've ever read. CNN is rapidly earning my pet name for it... christian nonsense network.

    September 24, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  15. dtboy

    Yes, Hell is real! I'm going through it right now!

    September 24, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Darw1n

      Are you a Broncos fan too?

      September 24, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  16. Stevo

    Hell on Earth? 4 more years of Obamanation.

    September 24, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Amniculi

      Herp derp. I'm Stevo and I'm so funny and original. Herp derp.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • OneTruth

      You may have suffered, but a) most people blame Bush more than Obama b) Romney would just be another Bush and c) compared to most other countries in the world – you're doing great.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • Darw1n

      @OneTruth – Thank you for clearing that up so well

      September 24, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • sam stone

      Get used to it Stevo.....Mittens continues to stick his foot in his mouth.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  17. Russell

    It takes more faith to be atheist. If Atheists are correct, we will never know. If Christians are correct the Atheists will have a long time to ponder their mistake.

    Jesus really is about love and freedom. Read scripture with an open heart and a focus on love, and look past the people that exploit religion for power.

    September 24, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Amniculi

      I don't have to have faith that I will never be impaled by a unicorn. It is a null equation.

      September 24, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • derp

      "Jesus really is about love and freedom"

      I love it when jesustards blabber about love, right after threatening atheists with burning for all eternity.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      You know not whereof you speak.

      Faith is BELIEF in something despite the lack of any evidence or other reason to believe it.

      Atheism is the ABSENCE of belief in gods, the diametric opposite of faith.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • sam stone

      "If Atheists are correct, we will never know. If Christians are correct the Atheists will have a long time to ponder their mistake."

      What if neither were correct?

      Your statement presumes that there are only two possible outcomes.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      @ Russell: And if both Christians and Atheists are wrong? What if there IS a god, and he values and regards those humans who used their brains and reason to conclude that god doesn't exist. What if all of this is just some elaborate IQ test, and the winners – the non-believers – are rewarded with eternal paradise, whereas the gullible believers burn forever in fiery torment?

      Sorry, believer-boys!

      September 24, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Jake

      Russell's point is that Athesits BELIEVE that God doesn't exist. In other words your "ABSENCE of belief in gods" is your faith because you believe what you think is true. You have no eidence to prove otherwise, therefore Atheism also requires faith

      September 24, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      To assert that having no faith is a faith is like saying that being asymptomatic is a symptom.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • derp

      "You have no eidence to prove otherwise, therefore Atheism also requires faith"

      So does that mean that I also have faith that there are no unicorns?

      Does that make me a nounicrnist?

      September 24, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      @ Jake – sorry, but Atheism is not a religion,and it does not require faith. Does it require faith on my part to NOT believe in Cedric, the 876 mile high invisible hummingbird with a Tyrannosaurus for a pe-nis, who lives beside the 18th dimension, and has a yellow hat???

      Umm – no. It's simply an act of common sense and logic – when someone makes an extraordinary claim, it is reasonable to request evidence of that claim before accepting it. That isn't an act of faith.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • snowboarder

      jake – belief and disbelief are not the same. it is a common misconception of the believers.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Jose

      Another Christian using fear, what a surprise.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
  18. LtMacGowan

    This really has no place on CNN. A debate over a fictional fairy tale. I feel sorry for the poor fools who believe this. Id also like to say I was asked once don't I fear going to hell for being Atheist. I said I live life being the best man I know how to be, If being a good man isn't enough because I don't worship "god" then I want no part of his Heaven anyways

    September 24, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Amniculi

      Um...hello? This is the BELIEF BLOG.

      September 24, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      CNN is in the business of selling eyeballs. 100+ pages of comments means that this certainly DOES have a place on CNN.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • f. carter

      LtMac, your stmt is well put old boy, you will not be the only atheist in a six foot hole all dressed up with no where to go. I pray that your wish will be heard.
      I don't understand most of the bible is so easy to understand, I'm 72 years old and I have never waver my believe in God...get yourself a book about St Paul and read it with an open mind...you think that Billy Graham and the Pope are stupid people like yourself?

      September 24, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • derp

      "you think that Billy Graham and the Pope are stupid people"

      No, we think they are senile old coots, just like you.

      What is your point?

      September 24, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • I wonder

      f carter,
      " in a six foot hole all dressed up with no where to go"

      What is your evidence that all of those well-dressed Christians in coffins *went* anywhere?

      September 24, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • BU2B

      f. carter:
      ..you will not be the only atheist in a six foot hole all dressed up..."
      true. The all dressed up part though is for the people attending the services.

      " I pray that your wish will be heard."
      if talking to yourself makes you feel better, have at it.

      "I don't understand most of the bible is so easy to understand"
      It's not easy to understand a "loving" father who will punish his imperfect creations for being imperfect. And "he" had to kill his only son in order to forgive us, for the way that "he" made us. How does this make sense?

      "I'm 72 years old and I have never waver my believe in God"
      Good for you. What reason do you have to believe in your specific god instead of Zeus, Thor, Athena, etc?

      "get yourself a book about St Paul and read it with an open mind"
      just because a book says something doesn't make it real. Does Harry Potter exist in reality?

      "you think that Billy Graham and the Pope are stupid people"
      only if they actually believe the things that they say.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  19. derp

    Of course hell is real. It is as real Mordor, Atlantis and Neverland.

    September 24, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Amniculi

      One does not simply sin into Hell.

      September 24, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • derp

      One does not simply fly into neverland

      September 24, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • BU2B

      One does not simply walk into Mordor.

      September 24, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Sure, but why didn't they just get the giant eagle to fly Sam and Frodo to Mordor, stop at Mt Doom, toss in the ring, and be back in time for second breakfast?

      September 24, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  20. Amniculi

    Just another sign that religion is dying. The religious just don't know it yet.

    September 24, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
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About this blog

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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.