Editor’s note: The new documentary "Hellbound?" explores Americans' ideas about hell. We asked two prominent Christians who featured in the film to give us their very different takes on hell.
My Faith: The dangerous effects of believing in hell
Editor’s note: Frank Schaeffer is a New York Times bestselling author. His latest book is "Crazy For God."
By Frank Schaeffer, Special to CNN
Is it any coincidence that the latest war of religion that started on September 11, 2001, is being fought primarily between the United States and the Islamic world? It just so happens that no subgroups of humanity are more ingrained with the doctrine of hell than conservative Muslims and conservative Christians.
And nowhere on earth have conservative Christians been closer to controlling foreign policy than here in the United States. And nowhere on earth have conservative Muslims been more dominant than in the countries from which the 9/11 extremists originated – Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.
What a pair George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden made! On the one hand, an American president who was a born-again evangelical with a special "heart" for the state of Israel and its importance to the so-called end times, and on the other hand a terrorist leader who believed that he was serving God by ridding the Arabian Peninsula of an American presence and cleansing the "defiled" land of Palestine of what he believed were “invader Jews.”
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So whether you're an atheist or not, the issue of who's going to hell or not matters because there are a lot of folks on this planet – many of them extraordinarily well-armed - from born-again American military personnel to Muslim fanatics, who seriously believe that God smiles upon them when they send their enemies to hell.
And so my view of "hell" encompasses two things: First, the theological question about whether a land of eternal suffering exists as God's "great plan" for most of humanity.
Second, the question of the political implications of having a huge chunk of humanity believe in damnation for those who disagree with their theology, politics and culture, as if somehow simply killing one's enemies is not enough.
What most people don't know is that there's another thread running through both Christianity and Islam that is far more merciful than the fundamentalists’ take on salvation, judgment and damnation.
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Paradise, which Muslims believe is the final destination of the society of God’s choice, is referred to in the Quran as "the home of peace"
“Our God,” Muslims are asked to recite, “You are peace, and peace is from You.”
Since Christianity is my tradition, I can say more about it. One view of God - the more fundamentalist view - is of a retributive God just itching to punish those who "stray."
The other equally ancient view, going right back into the New Testament era, is of an all-forgiving God who in the person of Jesus Christ ended the era of scapegoat sacrifice, retribution and punishment forever.
As Jesus said on the cross: "Forgive them for they know not what they do."
That redemptive view holds that far from God being a retributive God seeking justice, God is a merciful father who loves all his children equally. This is the less-known view today because fundamentalists - through televangelists and others - have been so loud and dominant in North American culture.
But for all that, this redemptive view is no less real.
Why does our view of hell matter? Because believers in hell believe in revenge. And according to brain chemistry studies, taking revenge and nurturing resentment is a major source of life-destroying stress.
For a profound exploration of the madness caused by embracing the “justice” of “godly” revenge and retribution, watch the film “Hellbound?”
The film shows how the "hell" of revenge thinking, and the resulting unhinging of some people’s brains through their denial of human empathy, leads them to relish the violent future of suffering that they predict awaits the “lost” in hell.
Do we really want to go back to a time of literalistic religion. Wasn’t 9/11 enough of an argument against retributive religion?
We need “hell” like a hole in the head. It’s time for the alternative of empathetic merciful religion to be understood.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Frank Schaeffer.
My Faith: Hell is for real and Jesus is the only way out
Editor's Note: Mark Driscoll is founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle.
By Mark Driscoll, Special to CNN
As a pastor, my job is to tell the truth. Your job is to make a decision.
When controversies over biblical doctrines arise, it’s a humbling opportunity to answer questions about what the Bible teaches without getting into name-calling and mudslinging. Near the very top of the controversial doctrines is hell.
What happens when we die?
Human beings were created by God with both a physical body and a spiritual soul. When someone dies, their body goes into the grave and their spirit goes into an afterlife to face judgment.
But death is not normal or natural—it’s an enemy and the consequence of sin.
Think of it in this way: God is the source of life. When we choose to live independently of God and rebelliously against God it is akin to unplugging something from its power source. It begins to lose power until it eventually dies.
The Bible is clear that one day there will be a bodily resurrection for everyone, to either eternal salvation in heaven or eternal condemnation in hell.
Christians believe a person’s eternal status depends on their relationship with Jesus and that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Our lives are shaped by the reality that “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
What does Jesus say about hell?
Jesus was emphatically clear on the subject of hell. He alone has risen from death and knows what awaits us on the other side of this life. A day of judgment is coming when all of us — even you — will rise from our graves and stand before him for eternal sentencing to either worshiping in his kingdom or suffering in his hell.
The Bible could not be clearer: “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
These are not just obscure Bible verses. In fact, Jesus talks about hell more than anyone else in Scripture. Amazingly, 13% of his sayings are about hell and judgment, and more than half of his parables relate to the eternal judgment of sinners.
Keep in mind that Jesus’ words come in the context of the rest of Scripture, which says that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Furthermore, he “is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
God is far more loving, kind and patient with his enemies than we are with our enemies.
What does the rest of the Bible say about hell?
The Bible gives us many descriptions of hell including (1) fire; (2) darkness; (3) punishment; (4) exclusion from God’s presence; (5) restlessness; (6) second death; and (7) weeping and gnashing of teeth in agony.
A common misperception of Satan is that he’s in a red suit, holding a pitchfork at the gates of hell. But Satan will not[j1] reign there. Hell is a place of punishment that God prepared for the devil and his angels, and it’s where those who live apart from God will, according to Revelation:
. . . drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb [Jesus Christ]. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night.
At the end of the age, the devil will be “thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
Hell will be ruled over by Jesus, and everyone present — humans and demons and Satan alike — will be tormented there continually in perfect justice.
Jesus says, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. ... And these will go away into eternal punishment.”
Is there a second chance after death?
The Bible is clear that we die once and are then judged without any second chance at salvation. As one clear example, Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”
We live. We die. We face judgment. Period.
How long does the punishment last?
Some argue that the punishment of sinners is not eternal, a view called annihilationism. This means that after someone dies apart from Jesus, they suffer for a while and then simply cease to exist.
Annihilationism is simply not what the Bible teaches. Daniel 12:2 says, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Jesus speaks of those who “will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Grammatically, there is no difference here between the length of time mentioned for “life” and that for “punishment”; rather, there is simply eternal life and eternal death.
Am I going to hell?
The good news is that the closing verses of the Bible say, “Come!” Everyone is invited to receive the free gift of God’s saving grace in Jesus. Jesus is God become a man to reconcile mankind to God.
He lived the sinless life we have not lived, died a substitutionary death on the cross for our sins. He endured our wrath, rose to conquer our enemies of sin and death, and ascended to heaven where he is ruling as Lord over all today. He did this all in love.
The stark reality is this: either Jesus suffered for your sins to rescue you from hell, or you will suffer for your sins in hell. These are the only two options and you have an eternal decision to make.
My hope and prayer is that you would become a Christian.
Have you confessed your sins to Jesus Christ, seeking forgiveness and salvation?
If not, you are hellbound, and there is no clever scholar who will be of any help when you stand before Jesus Christ for judgment. You’re not required to like hell as much as you need to believe in it, turn from your sin, trust in Jesus, and be saved from an eternal death into an eternal life.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mark Driscoll.
Hell is now.
Look around, we live in a world full of misery.
Of course it is real. Everything in the Bible is real and should be taken literally and as fact. Hell is/was in no way used as a method of intimidation and control over a poorly-educated populus.
Everything in the Bible is real and should be taken literally? I disagree. There is no way the story of Noah can be taken literally. Please look up the about 3 dozen reasons why. And then ask yourself this, "If the story of Noah can't be taken literally, how do we know what parts can or can't?" And then read the sermon on the mount, and perhaps research why it has been a source of confusion for about 2000 years. And then ask yourself this, "If God is not the author of confusion, how can He be the author of the Bible, since it is the most confusing book ever put together." Religion frightens me to no end because believers lose the ability to discern the difference between what they believe and what they know.
Sorry, not the sermon on the mount but rather the Olivet discourse (Matthew 24:34)
Ask your rich PUblic Servants about ANY of the problems they've created. Their response:' I don't know that and I don't care!'
I guess those of you denying hell will think it is just one long nightmare when you get there? It will be only you won't wake up.
Where r the unicorns, Noah messed up for sure!!
No worries. Batman and Pecos Bill will save us from the fiery pits.
All Jesus has to do is to show up and show me his birth certificate. The Muslim and Christians DEPEND and actually require ignorance for them to stay relevant. Both books are written by people and contain so many errors and contradictions that to believe either of them would require absolute stupidity on an epic scale.
...in his boundless love and mercy right?
Why does CNN (and not just CNN, most media outlets) get intellectual lightweights to discuss interesting topics like this? If you are going to discuss serious matters, why not bring in serious scholars (theologians and philosophers) who actually think about these things for more than a nanosecond.
They do it to generate comments which generates page views which generates ad income
Because sometimes we like to parade around our first grade children when they first learn to add an subtract as if they have already achieved doctorates in Mathematics. It is interesting that only in religion can someone on a first grade level get these gigs. Your point is well taken.
I couldnt agree more. Waste of my time.
"God is far more loving, kind and patient with his enemies than we are with our enemies."
Rubbish, we dont eternally torment our enemies. And you claim that your god delights in that with statements like:
“If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
"or suffering in his hell."
"but the wrath of God remains on him."
"eternal condemnation in hell."
"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."
"and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
oh that ever loving and forgiving god, look at his mercy there.
"Hell will be ruled over by Jesus, and everyone present — humans and demons and Satan alike — will be tormented there continually in perfect justice."
pefect justice? eternal torment in perfect justice? what justice? to whom? for what? for not believing in god?
That one comment disgusts me more than any other. That is not a forgiving loving god, that is an evil, nasty, spiteful S.O.B.
God takes no pleasure in the punnishment of the wicked according to scripture. I thought you atheists knew the bible better than us Christians according to one poster.
"God takes no pleasure in the punnishment of the wicked according to scripture"
of course he does, he has to the choice to do it or not and decides to do so, no one is forcing him to do it, he made the choice. What difference is it to a god whether he merely ends their existance or actually torments them for eternity? what does he gain or lose by it? he does it because he can and seemingly wants revenge.
and i think you are confusing knowing with realising it is BS.
If a genie ever offered me a single wish. . . it would be that the Book of Revelations was never included in the Christian Bible. Those kinds of writings were very popular at the time they were written, and the fact that one of them is still being included as "canon" is ridiculous.
Written by St John the Opium Addict, evidently. That dude must have crashed his camel in a field of burning poppies to come up with that mess.
and the rest makes sense to u??
True, Pep. It's all junk. I think Paul just ate some bad food and got drunk before his "vision".
God loves us all, so much there is more than one path to reach him. Jesus was/is an enlightened soul who tried to teach those during his short earthly life here how to live in peace and harmony, loving his fellow man. I praise him for that. All souls who know the compassionate and loving God know He gave us many paths to follow and reach him. The light shines on us all. If there is a Hell, it is here on earth.
Which god? You should be specific, since there are over a thousand of them that people worship.
So on Sundys she watches football instead of helping starving Africans? Ok i guess Tebow has a great body!!
The obsession for HELL is something so strong inside the christians....don leave room for happiness, love or smileys! I just feel sorry about this people. I am Jewish and we NOT born with original sin. This for us don't exists . All this is ridiculous!
You need love G'd with love and happiness, He want us happy and day by day more.
We will certainly experience hell if we continue to follow chickenhawks,neocons and warvangelicals.
God kicks humans out of the Garden of Eden, but then says, "Yeah, it's ok, you can come back and live with me...when you die."
It's kind of like:
*God kicks Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden*
God: Keep heart, for if you follow my ways, you will have eternal life.
Adam: Wait...you kick us out of the Garden, which is akin to a parent kicking their teenager out of the house, but you expect us to live by your rules on the outside?
Adam: Even though we don't live with you anymore?
God: Well...you still live with me in mind and spirit.
Adam: You kicked us out of the house just for eating a piece of fruit.
God: It was a test.
Eve: You rigged it.
Eve: You allowed some serpent, who may or may not be Satan, who is actually one of the demons of the Seven Deadly Sins, into your home.
God: Well, you should have known better.
Eve: You didn't give us the concept of peer pressure. It's your fault.
God: I wanted you to learn from experience.
Adam: So you DID rig the test.
God: That's not what I said!
Eve: Yes it is. It totally is.
Adam: Nice going setting us up for failure there, dad.
Adam: You know what? Screw this. Let's go, Eve. Since we're the only two humans around, I guess God won't mind us having inc3stful s3x to populate the world.
Eve: Yeah, anything's better than living with that dictator.
God: Ok fine, if you're going to be that way, don't be surprised if I throw a firehose in your window and flood your house someday!
Adam: Ok whatever. If you can't handle it when things don't go your way, then maybe you don't deserve our praise for problems that you allowed to happen
Eve: Yeah. Do you have any idea of how uncomfortable this bra is? Can we go yet?
Adam: Yeah, let's bounce.
*Adam and Eve walk off, leaving God alone*
*Lucifer comes strolling up*
Lucifer: Well, that could have gone better.
God: Shut up.
Lucifer: I'm just saying...had you given them the concept of good and bad from the onset like I suggested, Eve wouldn't have eaten that fruit.
God: Didn't I banish you?
Lucifer: Yeah, but you never said I couldn't come back to visit.
Lucifer: Oh yeah, I came here because I was looking for my pet serpent. He got loose again, and I haven't been able to find him anywhere.
ROLMAO, u know u can go on and on!! fairy tales are so nice!!
you should seriously do some stand up. That is freakin' funny!
I'm going to copy and plagiarize this... fair warning!
Religion is fear, science is courage .
Religion is fear, Science is limited and short sighted, Spirituality is freedom
I'm gonna be needing to steel that one.
Spirituality can represent freedom as long as you don't make up things and think they are real. For Christians it is misdirected and also a self-locking prison.
Roman Emperor Constantine solders worshiped the Pagan God Pan, as in Pans Flute the God of love and music. On the advice of his mother in-law he made Pan the devil and illegal to worship or dance...
Could someone please explain how it is that an all knowing Deity knows a billion years before your born if you end up in haven or hell, but like an ole pervert likes to just sit and watch!
If God is all powerful why does he need to rest
"PERVERTS"? You mean like the CREEPY DUDES that stick their hands in my grandchildren's pockets, fishing for change to subsidize their spending addictions?
What is hell? Listening to that misogynistic drip Mark Driscoll.
There is no heaven. There is no hell. There is no supernatural invisible friend.
This is our one shot at existence. Grow up and make the most of it.
ROFL. And I perceive that YOU are imaginary. I see no evidence, except what I choose to ignore, that you exist at all. You have been declared superfluous.
Forgot to take your meds again gramps? That puddle on the floor isn't going to clean itself ya know.
Remember Snowden's secret. Man is garbage. Put him in the ground and he rots. Enjoy life for it is the only Heaven we have.
Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?
Où sont les Snowden d'antan?
You could ask me, but only when I'm not in my office
Of course you're dying. We're all dying. Where the devil else do you think you're heading?
What is scarier than hell?..........all of the people that believe the myth is real.
The myth is the whole religious story that originated in the desert from goat herders with nothing better to do than to try to out do each other with tall tales after smoking some weed.
And lo and behold, the weak minded believed it. That is the scary part.
scarier is doing crack for 3 days and than at night seeing moving shadows that look like people sitting in empty parked cars that are out to get you.
Read my post below it sheds more light on the subject
I don't care where I end up when I'm dead, as long as they have great music! And from the impression I get about any alleged heaven purported by any organized religion I have ever heard of, there won't be any good music in any "heaven." Not to mention, none of my friends will be there either.
I so hear you. Rock on.
I can't stomach religious fluff. I am drawn to religion because the Catholic Church champions reason and logic. An anthropomorphic Godhead just doesn't make sense, neither does hell or heaven as a place. Place is a human experience and one that requires boundaries for it to exist. Humans are comforted by human experiences; ideas that we are familiar with. God is unfathomable but we try our best. "Judgement" makes sense to us because we are comfortable with the concept. Hell is the absence of God. If God is good then not being in God's presence is bad. Nobody knows what that might "look" like or "feel" like. The bible uses anthropomorphic methods of explaining these unfathomables.
Evangelicals are hellbent on clinging to unreasonable explanations that don't make much sense to me. "Because it says so in the bible" sounds like God incarcerated us to a leather-bound earthly prison. Freedom from this by "accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior" is a total cop-out. The evangelical model would allow pedophile priests to go to heaven without justice. Freewill demands that we think beyond scripture and live with accountability. My pope challenges me to think outside the box and beyond the book. Thank God for freedom!
"I am drawn to religion because the Catholic Church champions reason and logic." BWA HA AHA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!
Yeah, and it champions fukking alter boys by its priests. And it champions the subjugation of women. And it champions the spread of AIDS.
Champion religion, there!
CanE, your belief in your all-powerful god-ruler is nearly the antithesis of the freedom that you claim for yourself. Good that you are thinking about freedom, though. You'll need to leave religion to find it.
"I am drawn to religion because the Catholic Church champions reason and logic."
That's a laugh. The self-proclaimed "apostle" Paul is no more credible than Joseph Smith. And yet we argue today about abortion, men's and women's roles in the church, celibacy, gay issues, contraception, etc. etc. And most of those weird tenets that address those issues come to us through someone I wouldn't trust as far as I could throw him. It's just unfounded.
Do not equate the Apostle Paul with Joseph Smith in front of me.
@ paulronco – or what? Who the fuk are you to limit debate? Grow up.
Paul = Joe Smith = Mohammed = The Flying Spaghetti Monster = Mickey Mouse = Santa Claus.........
I wasn't going to tell anyone but maybe you can help. I am not religious but was attending a frends funeral when I was accidently sprayed with holy water and it burned like, well, hell. Do you know a good Roman Ritual guy I can get in touch with if the fee isn't to high? Bless you or whatever.
I think I made my point quite succinctly, which is that some people take great offense when someone equates the Apostle Paul with the traveling charlatan and snake-oil salesman Joseph Smith. If you don't like that, tough, but at least now you know.
The good news here is that at least the question is being asked, and many people are finally realizing that Christianity (and other religion) is bunkum. America is moving past religion, gradually. That at least is a good thing, although we have to put up with the loud gurgling noises from the desparate evangelicals as they go down the drain of history.
THankfully the prayers of the nation were answered ........and the Mars Rover was allowed to land without incident...
At first I thought the breach of Worlds might make God angry .......and have Him cast out the demon rover into the pit.....
.....but I knew God was pleased with the course of the Rover's action, when He allowed the Space Shuttle to fly over Los Angeles without a tragedy caused by its very nature of Sin.
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.