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.
It is admirable for a believer to step forward here and be counted. I'll do the same. I believe. I believe that I will live on after my death. I believe that my life on earth has a deeper meaning than I can fully comprehend now. I believe in a loving creator. I can only imagine what kind of responses await as a result of these simple statements, and yet I do not care. I am not ashamed. God cannot be proven and does not need to be defended. Believe in Him or do not as you see fit. It is a personal choice. Some of you feel that Christians stand in judgement of you. Understand that any who attempt to do so violate the tenents set forth by Christ Himself who wondered why we take note of the splinter in our neighbor's eye and ignore the log in our own. Admittedly we are often times guilty of hypocrisy. We are commanded by Christ to go forth and make disicples of all the nations. Unfortunately in our zeal to do so, we wind up alienating the very people we seek to redeem. Our faith has indeed created much hostility. In truth articles like this do nothing to help and in fact do a great deal of harm. No one will ever turn to Jesus Christ for fear of hell. People turn to Christ when they feel God's love – not His wrath. I am saddened at the level of vitriol and hostility exhibited in these posts and I have no doubt this one will be no exception. Still, we can take comfort in the knowledge that people did the same to Christ, so in a way we partake of His suffering. I just want to encourage people of faith to preach Christ's love – not God's wrath. We are in a season of mercy, when God calls lovingly to Himself.
You believe this only because of where you were born. The people born elsewhere don't believe this because they believe in an equally insane idea that the people they were born were told to believe.
Since God is not real, you can avoid Bible wart pain – stop shifting stupidly.
Actually, there are Christians in all countries.
The question boils down to the knowledge of good and evil. You know good from bad don't you? If you take that concept to the utter extreme, yes there is a hell. Look at the torment going on in the middle east. Surely the residents in those war torn countries that know no peace, that is a living hell, right here on earth. Look at our prison system, the poor souls who have done evil are now paying for their crimes living out their lives in a tiny cell with other criminally insane inmates, that must be hell. We don't have to wait to the afterlife to find hell. We have created our own version right here. Perhaps a better question is what do we want to do to make life on earth better for those who are suffering in the current hell we have created.
As a Christian myself, I believe in hell because I have the knowledge of good and evil and know that I am not worthy of standing before the holy, righteous presence of God due to my own imperfections and sin. I know I need help. Jesus is the truth, the way and the life. All you have to do is admit that you have sinned and need help. God loves you and wants to help you, he has provided a way for you to become righteous in his sight. He sent His son Jesus to take on your sin for you. Salvation is easy, just believe on Jesus and trust God to forgive you. Believe in Jesus and you will be saved. Repent from your sin and try to be good. Learn of Him by reading the Bible. Love your neighbor as yourself. And don't believe those that try to convince you that there is no afterlife, that is Satan trying to rob your right to eternal life. And, just for the record, when Jesus rose from the dead, the Bible says the "graves were opened" and that Jesus took the keys of hell and death. So when you die, you are no longer in a grave. You rise. Which is probably why so many with near death experiences and have come back to life give accounts of experiencing life after clinical death.
"Good" and "evil" do not actually exist. They are merely terms that we created to justify differences in behaviour. Much like "love", which is only a name for the evolutionary instincts that provide for one's support system. You can't use the terms to rationalize the existence of an imaginary place.
Near death experiences are also no sort of proof, since the vary wildly, are rare, often psychosomatic, and can be easily explained through any number of psychotropic enzymes the brain releases during states of heightened awareness. They can also be repeated under the administration of certain drugs.
Not only that, but most people with near death experiences always tell of a beautiful bright light and unimaginable peace awaiting them when it truly becomes their appointed time to depart from Earth, much as a train leaving the station (they just got on the wrong train by mistake). Their messages prove that there is a God, that He loves us all, and all He wants is for us to admit when we are wrong (confess our sins) so we can follow the right path as shown by his Son, the Messiah. Nice message. As for the problem between the Christians (gentiles and messianic Jews) and Jews on one side, and the Islamists on the other side show, only the "Great Referee in the Sky" will be able to mediate this dispute when the time comes.
Hmmmm. How much longer will this BS go on do you think? We continue to let the puniest, most fearful minds inflict their religions on us.
You religious fvcktards need a time machine to travel back to the Bronze Age where you belong.
I highly recommend you read father cantelemessa good friday sermon 2010. That Jesus on Calvary destroyed once and forever that ancient root of primitive violence.the demand of bloodlust is part of unregenerated fallen mankind under the influence of rebellious evil. Jesus crushed it forever.we are free to move forward as a new creation. We do not need to kill or be killed . We are created for eternity.chose life or death. Hell is on earth created by hate and evil. When God calls the end he will restore all to perfection. Jesus is the firstborn of the new creation. We all exist in Him.
Why would you waste time writing about fables and stories. There is no god. There is no life after death. No heaven. No hell. No ghost. No Bigfoot. No Loch Ness monster. No goblins. No seeing the future. No mediums. No prophets. Only humans that have a creative mind and like to come up with great stories to keep the kids entertained and in line. Eventually you will grow up and realize we are what we are and you'll never know why or what so let it be and live your miniscule time of existence in peace and create for another to experience the same. Slowly through science we can figure some out but what we know is so little it will take longer than we can exist on this planet to figure out why we are here in the first place.
Probably not, nor is heaven. However, if there is a hell, I have a feeling a bunch of these professed Christians are really going to be surprised when they end up there...
Less than 3 months till the world ends, if you do not believe in Jesus you will go to HELL.
ok, let us assume you're right (which there is no reason to believe you are), what makes you believe that anyone will go to "hell"?
Not true. No one knows when Jesus is coming again (i.e. when the world is ending).
"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."
Thus Spoke Zarathustra – Nietzsche
"[God] was equivocal. He was also indistinct. How angry he got with us, this wrath-snorter, because we understood him badly. But why did he not speak more cleanly? And if it was the fault of our ears, why did he give us ears that heard him badly? If there was mud in our ears—well, who put it there? He bungled too much, this potter who had never finished his apprenticeship. But that he wreaked revenge on his pots and creations for having bungled them himself, that was a sin against good taste."
Is there anything more sinful, prideful, vain and egotistical than sending people to eternal torment and damnation simply because they don't accept you as their savior? I urge believers to think about the doctrines of their religion and recognize how hypocritical and sinful they actually are.
Obamba, the Liar
Actually the Islamic issue was yet settled 300 years ago with the Great Turkish Wars when the Ottoman Empire (an Islamic Empire) was completely humiliated by the Holy Roman Empire (today Europe). And as the Islam is always connected with temporal power also the Islam as a religion was totally humiliated.
It is astonishing that the Islamic beast raises its ugly head again, yet I suppose this are only the last convulsions of an almost dead body. The Islamic states don't have (at least I suppose that) the military power to unite for a war against the Western states. The few Muslim idiots which blow themselves up will not manage to erect a new Islamic Caliphate but only cause that the poor ordinary Muslims more and more get unwelcome everywhere.
Anyway the current problem of the world is neither Islam nor Catholicism (Catholicism has also caused a lot of bloodshed during the dark age) but our current godless Western rulers. I think in the eyes of Mr. Obama reflects always a dollar sign, and he is a real "Uncle Sam".
I guess many Arabs, Turks and other nationalities which prefer the Islam as religion have noticed for a long time that their governments don't work for the interest of their own country but for the benefit of Washington. Hence, they feel fooled, and that causes terrible hate.
Better Obama and the whole American administration would finish the manipulation of administrations of Muslim countries, and on the other hand honestly refuse the Islam as a religion which is not legitimate. This would cause that the Western World and the Muslim World would get comletely separated from each other with some economical damage for both sides. Yet, better facing some economical damage than that eternal suicide bombing and lying by Western politicans.
I think the clever Muslims (the Muslim terrorists are mostly very intelligent Muslims) have noticed for a long time that neither Obama nor Merkel nor any other Western politican likes the Islam but that it is all about economy, resources, etc.. Cerainly the West only needs resources and extremly cheap manpower for assembling the Western goods.
I am sure that Obama has been told by many honest historians and theologian that Muhammad was a brigand indeed, and it would be a great crime to venerate him as respectable man, or even divine prophet or Apostle/Messenger of God. Like the popes of the dark age Muhammad was only a criminal which was greedy for honor, power and riches and used religion as a smokescreen for his malice. Furthermore, the Koran is not the holy word of God but a cheap novelette made-up by Mahomet, and the Islam is no legitimate religion but a dangerous cult.
No Christian is allowed to honor or acknowledge or appreciate Muhammad, the Koran and the Islam. On the contrary, a true Christian has to condemn the Koran, Muhammad and the Islam. However, we have to love our Muslim ordinary neighbours as people which have gone astray (Muslim terrorists are a case for the authority).
Translation of NoBrainer's post: Blah, blah, blah, more blah.
I'm sorry, "Rainer Braendlein", but your assertions regarding everything are unfounded. The degree to which your assertions may represent correct statements is 0.0. To help you understand the degree to which your assertions may represent correct statements, I will access my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE). Using my IEE module, the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent correct statements is: "TOTAL FAIL".
I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book might help you overcome this problem:
I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...
by the Alzheimer's Disease Society
How are you connecting Obama to this? This has been happening long before he was in office. Moron.
I'm surprised you didn't reference the new movie Hell and Mr. Fudge http://www.hellandmrfudge.com/ that is coming out this year based on a true story about whether Hell as we've understood it is Bible-based.
1st.Purgatory is Real.....
2nd Hell is Real also.....
Reason #1....The Last four years of Obama
Reason #2....FOUR more years of Obama :)
You spelt your name wrong. I think you meant, "Tard."
If "A" appears to be TRUE...
If "B" appears to be TRUE...
If "A" and "B" appear to be mutually EXCLUSIVE...
This is known as a PARADOX. It MAY be, in fact, that not BOTH "A" and "B" are true.
But it MAY BE that our perception of MUTUAL EXCLUSIVITY was false, or lacked understanding or definition. EDUCATION and GAINING KNOWLEDGE often "solves" what were previously "paradoxes".
Some of the CARTOON PARADOXES are "How can a GOOD GOD allow evil?" "How can the INFINITE and PERFECT change? And if IT cannot change, how does IT ACT or THINK or get MOVED TO ANGER"?
If you are satisfied with showing contempt for YOUR OWN CARTOON UNDERSTANDING of something that INTELLIGENT PERSONS HAVE STUDIED for 2,000 years... then GO BACK TO SLEEP.
Reason says; you can't prove or disprove religion, and it is therefore irrelevant.
The Christians and other Major Religions have made Hell here on earth. Between Bailing out Wall Street Bankers, to bankrupting and foreclosing on their friends, to Bain laying off millions of americans to ship their jobs to China for slave labor, to creating wars for Oil and killing millions of women in children just to get rich. for investing all money into weapons to kill people and nothing to help them? Oh yeah Hell is real and it's right in front of you: manufactured and solidly built by the Evangelicals.
Ummm.... those people more than likely aren't Christians..... jus sayin.
Absolutely correct. Humans invented religion they are the only ones who finally learned to write after centuries living in caves., not monkeys or martians!!
The catholic church has killed more people than that they saved; their churches are lined with gold etc.
In the universe this earth means nothing at all, let alone the tiny microbic people who think they know it all.
Indeed hell is on earth because people fight each other because of religion. The war industryand some senator lobyists loves this; so someone gets rich because of it. and so on and on.
Those of you who do not believe the Gospel (that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried in a tomb and rose from the dead 3 days later) are doomed to hell. You don't have to be an evil person to go to hell. Mother Teresa is in hell. John Lennon is in hell. Martin Luther King Jr. is in hell. So is Pope John Paul II. Why? They did not believe the Gospel. Jesus is the only way out of hell. Accept Him, ask Him to forgive your sins, and be SAVED from HELL!!
Penny, you are a sad, twisted, demented individual. And frightened. And brainwashed.
Try, for a moment, to step out of the darkness, and actually think. If there is a god, then that god gave you a big amazing brain to use. Try using it.
Dear Nickels did you go to Hell & check them out
If John Lennon is in hell then that's where I want to go when I die. Think of all the great songs he's written since 1980.
Hell would be spending eternity dealing with your ignorance.
Penny: You will have to ramp up your sarcasm quite a bit more if people are to catch on! Your statements are so similar to that of the religious wackos that readers will think you are really serious!
I can't help sadly noticing you sound *exactly* like some rabid radical Salafi or Taliban frothing against the Western civilization. Just replace a few names and words and voila,.
Penny Nickels - AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA! :)
I have more cents than you, and I think that you are quite delusional. There is not a shred of verified evidence for your "Hell".
OOOOPS maybe this will work
The thinking person can only shrug and agree fully with Karl Marx when the old social philosopher claimed "Religion is opium for the masses". Because that is what religions are (ALL of them) together with their grotesque bizarre concepts like Hell, 72 lovely teenage virgins, Karma, reincarnation and being God's Chosen people.
I don't think religion is "opium for the masses". Religion is a method to control the masses.
72 virgins is only a rough estimate. If shrapnel is really heavy then the suicide bomber may require several hundred virgins.
Go Mark Driscoll! :D
"As a pastor, my job is to tell the truth. Your job is to make a decision."
Mark claims to know something he doesn't know......therefore he spreads lies.
NOTHING involving any religion is real.
There are NO GODS.
Nothing Involving anything Fake is Real. My Heart & your Heart is running who has the remote to it who controls the beat who has given this wonderful body world & made all the arrangements for us to live & enjoy & not asked anything in return if man has messed up religions why blame God for it
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.