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.
All ateheists do not believe in a soul. Period. You cant even have a dicussion about faith because its moot. They believe that when they die thats it. So what is the point? To try to convince them? It will never happen. It will take something like what happened to that neuro surgeon a short time ago. He too, was an atheist. Then he died on the operating table and lived again. Hes not an atheist anymore. Period. Now you cant convince him otherwise. Hes been there. A truly amazing story.
Sounds like you just wrote it. No wonder it impresses you.
Actually, it is a new book: http://www.amazon.com/Proof-Heaven-Neurosurgeons-Near-Death-Experience/dp/1451695187
by Eben Alexander, M.D.
It does not have reviews yet on Amazon, however.
p.s. he did not "die on the operating table" - he was in a coma for a week because of encephalitis/meningitis.
Oh FYI, facts don't matter. eyeswideopen is making a plea to emotions based on anecdote.
"It’s time for the alternative of empathetic merciful religion to be understood"
alternative to what God said in the bible? Brian mclaurin and frank shaeffer are liars. They are at the very least politically motivated liberals and at worst, deceivers – wolves in sheep's clothing. not sure who they are? google "emergent church".
Emerging cult that combines global universalism and false gospel doctrines.
how did politics come into this?
also, man said stuff in the bible, not god
"What a pair George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden made!" And, speaking of hell, perhaps their name is Legion.
Has anyone considered their symbiotic relationship; that each gave the other powers that neither could have garnered on their own?
An eternally burning hell is not Biblical nor in keeping with a merciful God. Would any loving Being force a person to suffer in agony for an eternity for a brief lifetime of wrong no matter how badly they behaved. Is that how you treat your own children? The Bible says that 'the wages of sin is death' not eternal torment and conversely the 'gift of God is eternal life' not eternal suffering.
We may as well abandon the idea of hell since religions are being destroyed as it is. Under the guise of "freedom" it's being taught all across western society now that there are almost no consequences for your actions. The mere notion of hell used to help keep society in line but now it has all gone to.. hell...
Hell is a required article of faith in in the RC Church. For those who believe in a God of infinite mercy and are uncomfortable with the idea of eternal damnation, there in an escape clause: while you are required to believe there is a hell, you are not required to believe there is anyone in there. Meanwhile, for those who have issues with guilt, Karma seems to make sense and fits nicely with "reaping what we sow". So with or without "hell" bad behavior has its price and good behavior is its own reward. Now we can relax.
no consequence to actions? a bit of hyperbole, no?
fairy tales collapse under the weight of their on absurdity, john. why should christianity be different?
The best reason to abandon the idea of hell is because there is no evidence for the existence of hell, or for heaven. Better to be responsible for your actions in the real world than pretend that you will be held responsible after you die. Talk about a cop out.
tallulah: without those scare tactics, what would theists have to convince others to believe in the same manner as they do?
"Death is not normal or natural." I guess he's saying that because God originally created Adam and Eve to live in eternal ignorance in the Garden of Eden until they disobeyed him, ate from the tree of knowledge, and low and behold, they were naked! Out of the garden they went and death was their punishment. My question is this: if God was so all-knowing and omniscient, why did he put the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden in the first place, especially since he knew his two "pets" would eat from the tree? It's also obvious that God's original intent was not to create anymore humans than the ones he did create; Adam and Eve had no knowledge of procreation. They didn't even know they were nude! This whole religious thing is bulls**t. When are people going to pull their head out of the dark ages and stop being afraid of facing reality? THERE IS NO GOD!!!
That is simply an outright lie. There are many passages in the Old Testament that mention hell as a physical location to which people get thrown into. Here are some clear examples.
"Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell."
"Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them."
"They also went down into hell with him unto them that be slain with the sword; and they that were his arm, that dwelt under his shadow in the midst of the heathen."
And for those who wish to argue against that KJV 1611 translation is flawed, I suggest you juxtapose your credentionas along side the very least of the scholars who contributed the the authorized version before you offer your opinion.
Right being the act of recognizing who the creator is and the requirements He set down for us.
what makes you think that the creator set any rules down for us? an iron age comic book?
To believe in heaven and not hell is not logical in Christian faiths. Nor is it acceptable to believe in one and not another in many other religions. It is unfortunate that anyone who chooses not to recognize there is an afterlife...heaven and hell then they are lost. Why would anyone run the risk of losing their eternity with the creator if the only thing that was required of them was to do right?
did you use the terms "logic" and "faith" in the same sentence?
whose creator story is correct?
For God's sake (or Pete's sake, or whatever), having a Christian pastor who can't rationally acknowledge the plausibility or implausibility of religious beliefs without invoking the wholly worthless. circular arguments of relgious doctrine chime in on a story about hell...can't CNN get someone who can exhibit some independent thought on this?
Like the pastor's citing biblical support for material in the Bible (good grief, and he appears to a grown man), the 8000 comments mean next to nothing as well. There are really only two comments on the entire board:
1. Praise Jesus.
2. Religion is stupid.
I wouldn't say religion is stupid. It is simply an emotional response and a cultural habit.
ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO TRY TO ABANDON HELL.
You cannot turn your back on it for a moment, for when you do it comes out of the darkness and fastens its chains and its death upon you. Only the fool believes he is more clever than the power of sin.
Only the blood of Jesus can save from hell. Repent or face the destiny of the second judgment and d eath.
and that's just me, hollering from the choir loft...
You're kidding, right?
If you're a religious person, be your faith Buddhism or Christianity or Hinduism or Islam etc., that's fine.
You're free to have that faith and to practice it. At least in the United States.
Just please have the basic respect for your fellow humans and all other creatures on this planet to avoid proclaiming your faith to be the one we must all follow, or the only one that is "true." The moment you do this, you negate the worth of your opinions. If you, as a believer, cannot have the minimal self-awareness to know that just as you believe in a certain deity or set of religious narratives, others also believe in different deities and narratives they hold to be just as "true" - then you don't have the ability to contribute meaningfully to public discourse. You can't communicate to others because you can't communicate honestly with yourself.
Note: This means that quoting your specific religion's scripture, whatever it may be, does not suffice as an argument or credible support for any idea when you are talking to any person who doesn not share your particular religion. Doing this is insulting. I doubt many people on this board would appreciate having the Koran quoted to them as an argument. If you wouldn't, then don't quote the Bible on a public board, OK? As a matter of religious faith it may mean a great deal to you, but to someone who doesn't share that faith, it's just a lot of words. So refrain from the Bible-quoting, or be ready to accept some Confucius quotes as a legitimate rebuttal. If you can't see how they're exactly the same, please reread the first paragraph above - you don't have the self-awareness to speak coherently to other humans who don't think as you do.
Too all of those who don't believe in God and believe in science, I feel very sorry for you. The bible is not full of myths. Its is full of truths and as a matter of fact, it describes people like you. You have to really be unhappy and in denial to believe that the earth was man made. Those who believe in evolution are delusional as well. If we came from monkeys then why aren't mokey's still turning into humans. Science wouldn't change. Catepillars still turn into butteflies, tadpoles still turn into frogs. No one looks at this. I believe that God is powerful enough to everything that you said he can't do. The bible discusses everything that is going on right now in the world but it is really sad that you can't see it. The bible says there will be wars and rumors of wars and guess what, we are here. I pray that someday you come to the knowlege of Christ. Jesus is God and you have to be saved by speaking in tongues and getting baptized in Jesus name. I know that I will get backlash for this but you know what I don't care because I know who I serve and I know where I am going after my flesh dies. Isn't it sad that there are people who believe that they are here for 80 years and that's . Where is life's purpose, in money or thrill.? Sad.
Jesus H. fucking Christ! What a moronic post.
What about the people who believe in countless other ideas - just not the ideas you believe in?
Must you think that you are right and they must be wrong?
Can you not look beyond your own beliefs, and those of your own group, and see yourself as a human being who subscribes to a particular religion, living on a planet filled with other equally-valid human beings who subscribe to many, many other religions?
Do you not have the self-awareness and cognitive maturity to say, "As an active Christian, I believe that specific tenants and narratives held within the Christian faith are true - but as a human being I also know that other humans and other religions hold different beliefs just as sacredly as I hold my own, and I know these differing beliefs are no more or less valid those of my own particular religious sect"?
Can you understand that it is perfectly OK to personally hold a belief in your own heart by giving it no more credence than saying, "It is said to be so, I know it to be so, and therefore it is so" - but it is absurd to think you can somehow denounce or contradict the beliefs of other humans by using this sentiment?
And what is the underpinning of your faith, of any religious faith, if not this sentiment? However fervently or sacredly held, it is this. Nothing more. Nothing more. All people share an equal privilege to subscribe to this sentiment personally, unless they lose that privilege by claiming it to be genuine reasoning.
You should change your name to "Proudly Ignorant". It would describe you much better.
proud christian....how do you expect people to be able to fear beings in which they do not believe? can you fear odin? how about baal?
past that, your god is a vindictive, petty pr1ck
I have yet to meet a Christian who read the bible. So much for truth. I won't even start with studying the bible. Pastors like Mr Driscoll are not even in line with christian scholars. I spoke to god this morning he assured me it will all be ok. Funny how god never hid himself in any biblical story. He made sure many people saw the burning bush, the fish, the water to wine. God never hid in the bible, so why does human logic think hiding is his way?
@J: they rationalize that "god is hiding" because otherwise they would have to accept there is no god.
There is no such thing as atheists...
"As a pastor, my job is to tell the truth." A very offensive statement as human understanding of truth is not read and believe. Mr. Driscoll, truth is better exhibited in the medicines you take than your own statements, thats why the entire planet believes in anti-biotics, and everyone is willing to fly in a plane. This is the only truth we can know. The rest is hearsay, dangerous, scary and a cop out. Why be so afraid to love? Why be so afraid to make a world of peace. If world peace is not our goal then we have no chance. Don't be so afraid Mr Dricsoll I know thinking for yourself is tough but you can do it!!
Hello fellow humans. There is no heaven or hell or any god. It's all man made. If you believe in that stuff, you are simply either brainwashed, or a more primitive human being who still needs that psychological crutch to get through life. This by no means you should not live your life to the fullest. You should. But you shouldn't need to believe in something supernatural to do it.
hey let's not forget, Jim Jones, David Koresh, Osama Bin laden, the Spanish Inquisition, The Salem Witch Trials, the Conquistadors...mass murderers in the name of and for the glory of good old god
I'D BE SHOCKED if just once some pompous atheist quit proclaiming the lie that religion is responsible for all the terrible wars of history.
Remember Adolph Hitler, Hideki Tojo, Mussolini, Joe Stalin and Mao Tse Tung – all atheist leaders who were responsible for the murder of nearly one hundred million people – more than all the religious wars of history COMBINED. These names and nations are just for starters – a full list of post WWII leaders and nations can be easily found by one who seeks truth.
Take the lie out of your mouth before you accuse another of crimes against humanity. You only prove your own ignorance and bigotry.
but that's just me, hollering from the choir loft....
Atheism and humanism is denial of reality.
Evolution is an outright lie and the ultimate fairy-tale.
And I'll pray that you except Jesus Christ before you perish from this world of science, reason and logic (which God created),before you will enter the never-never place of destruction, weeping, darkness and gnashing of teeth, where worms will crawl in and out of you and the flames of torment are for eternity and you will wish it was just a bad dream...
I'll pray that morons like you will be laughed out of existence. Oh, wait. That's already occurring.
Goodie, goodie. Buh-bye, fundie. Don't let the door hit you where the dog should have bit you.
I see that your reality check bounced. Again.
If only you had spent more time on your education instead of this nonsense.
Why don't you take a trip down to the museum of Natural History and try and explain all that away with your book of mythology, proven falsities and contradictions..because they have plenty of evidence as compared to your one little book written by goatherds who didn't know why the sun came up in the morning but were somehow experts on the mysteries of the universe..take a look at some of the pictures taken by the Hubble Telescope and explain that away w/ your old testament nonsense...tell me Noha's ark...what did the tigers eat on their way back from Mt Ararat to India?...how did everyone on the planet come from 2 people living in a garden w/ a talking snake...Your story is flat out wrong and a grossly childish notion like Santa Claus and shot through with just as many holes...you are living in a childish delusion...grow up
you are a troll
you would not know reality if it came up and bit you in the butt
If you knew the definition of science you would not believe what you do. You can't have it both ways, if you believe in science you can't deny epistemology in religion. By doing so we remain firmly in the second century. I submit all blind followers should not be given any medications scientist have created using science. Pick and choose the way you belief the human mind works, cherry picking is a cop out for thinking.
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.