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 this gets hits on the "mystery belief" blog.
Great Marketing has nothing to do with altruistically offering the religious a place to post. Any more than the "priesthood" marketeers offering them a collection plate every week
Bill Mahr – Atheism Not a Religion + Mitt Romney in-Law Unbaptism . . .
How odd, that those that don't believe are most bothered by those that do, conscience does exist afterall.
Pot, meet Kettle, Kettle, Pot.....
It's the awful evil corruption you bring to our otherwise naturally atheist children that scares us ****-less.
what is odd about it? Let's just say the atheists are right, and not only is there not a book written by an omniscient diety, but there isn't a god at all. Wouldn't you be bothered that well over half of the entire planet organizes their lives around tales that have the same status as Santa Claus and his eight reindeer? Yes, it makes me angry that a feature of human nature is credulity.
"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." Incorrect. There's a third option: Become a non-participant in the fantasy.
Wow! Seriously?? Here it is 2012 and we are still talking about fairy tales, imaginary space friends. and scary places were the devil is torture you. I'm just shaking me head in amazement that we even have to give this s second thought.
unbelievable how many atheists are on here, God might have to make hell bigger !!
I find it ironic that you find it "unbelievable" while the facts are right here .. yet you believe in a God(s) when there is absolutely no reason & no evidence.
That's why were here, we're trying to help you with your logic & reasoning skills by posting questions none of you can answer. We just want you to actually "think" about why you believe.
The only kind of "trickle-down" that works:
Idiot degenerates to:
"truth be told" degenerates to:
"captain america" degenerates to:
"WOW" degenerates to:
"Ronald Regonzo" degenerates to:
"just sayin" degenerates to:
"!" degenerates to:
"j" and many other names.
But it's the same little troll who was let go from the:
Evangelical Fortune Cookie Co..
All babies are born atheist. It takes the local nut jobs to give them the religion of their geographic location.
Unbelievable that j thinks that hell exists and has no doubt atheists are going there but is all of 12 years old.
If your god punishes people for unbelief he is neither just nor loving and is undeserving of worship. It is a morally bankrupt myth.
it's so funny to see all these atheists are getting offended by the truth, well I hope they turn to God, and believe
Who is offended? We just think your belief is not true at all and is in fact, absurd and immoral.
As usual, whenever there is a article regarding God, the comments are overwhelmed by Atheists. I pray to God that all non-believers will change their ways before its too late.
are you threatening me?
Joey, if you would use your Energy to do simple good deeds for your fellow humans, you'd have a lot better shot at Heaven!
Be religious! Make love to everyone! (unless of course you pick a religion with "rules")
I shall now pray. Dear heavenly Father, I pray for you to bring harmony between Christians and atheists. Help me understand why godless trash, who deserve to burn in hell, are offended by those of us who are holy, pious, and obviously god’s favorite people.
Help the unsaved filth understand that by judging and condemning them I am trying to save them from your vengeful & vicious wrath, of which they deserve, AND I APPROVE, as long as they refuse to believe what I believe. Amen.
In my heart, I believe that we are never alone, not even after death. We are never abandoned – not even when our lives are over.
If you care deeply for someone, don't you continue to do what you can to help him, even when he strays? ...And if your love is pure, don't you continue to offer an open helping hand to him, even if he rejects your love?
I have a question for the believers. Why did your imaginary god allegedly create angels? What purpose do they serve? Why would an omnipotent being need critters like angels? Well, maybe the story does require one angel in particular, Lucifer. Just had to have a king of hell to provide an adversary for the king of heaven. Doesn't seem like a level playing field though. Unless, of course, you believe that Lucifer (Satan) has powers equal to your god. Furthermore, IIRC there are hierarchies of angels. Archangels, seraphim, cherubim etc., etc.. What's up with that? Also, why would they need wings? Really? Jesus !
lol, all good points.
You make my brain hurt.
How many gods are there to believe in?
God has angels, Satan has demons.
My god and religion are real and true.
YOUR religion is just a pile of bull poo.
They say there’s only ONE god to believe in.
If you don’t believe, it’s the ultimate sin.
No more Zeus, Odin, or Thor, MY hero.
We’re just one god away from the true number…. ZERO.
That's a rather silly question. Better question why did God create humans? Or to frame it better: What's the meaning of life? You're asking a question about other beings without being able to answer that question. Or maybe you think you can, I don't know, but nobody can really be sure they know the meaning of life so how can anybody answer you about the meaning of another life outside their own species let alone themselves. Nobody can answer your question except for the God you don't believe in. The God that as you rightly put it is omnipotent. Let me ask you something. Do you fully understand why your best friend does every single action that they do? Really think about that because if your answer is yes than we could replace them with you and you would do all the exact same things at the exact same time and say the exact same words because you'd understand them completely. Obviously you physically can't do this. We don't understand anybody fully. Sometimes we might not even understand ourselves fully. So how then are you asking people, who can't understand themselves completely, to understand a being like God in any fashion that is remotely close to being accurate? Nobody can give any explanation for God's actions because nobody can come close to understanding who God is. You also ask about angel anatomy which, is again, silly. But why do you have an appendix? Why do you yawn? You can't answer those questions and yet here you are.
To Saint_John: 1. Allah (aw) created the angels only to worship him. 2) See #1 for their purpose. Angels have also revealed scripture. 3) Allah (aw) does not need angels, they (and also humanity and jinn) were created out of Allah's love. We need Allah (aw). Allah doesn't need the angels (or us for that matter). Lucifer (Iblis) was is a jinn who has free will. Angels do not have free will. 4) Allah (aw) created both heaven and hell and promised that both would be filled. Hell exists for punishment. Incidentally, hell will be "manned" by angels doing the will of Allah (aw). 5) It is not a level playing field at all. Everything belongs to Allah (aw). Lucifer in now way has any power comparable to Allah (aw) but does have the power to tempt humanity, which Allah (aw) allows him to use. 6) I cannot answer about the hierarchy of angels but I will get an answer if it is desired. 7) Angels don't need wings and their ability is not readily comprehensible to humaity. We may understand some of their ability. However, humanity is not angelic and angels are not humanity.
I'm not scared to die.I don't need the promise of eternal life to comfort me in my last moments.The comfort to me will be when I look back at my life and say to myself I did right.I understand that life is a cycle and even when life ceases to exist on earth millions of new stars are born every day.Life will go on but I will not.If religion makes your life more enjoyable that really is good.II just can't believe in it.Just when religion gets to the point that your fighting about it or condemning others to an eternal hell think about what purpose it's filling in your life.
Rule number 1 : Believe or burn in hell.
First 3 of the 10 commandments are all about keeping the faith.
Several passages in the NT warn that you must believe or you will burn in hell
Why do you suppose that is? No belief = no power, no influence, or no livelihood for church leaders.
Who wrote the bible and rule number 1 ? Church leaders.
Rule number 1 – Don't believe everything you read.
Actually, the first 4!!! Sad that you forgot the only commandment that begins with the word REMEMBER.
My Bishop told me that my blessings would stop if I quit the Church. Actually, just the opposite occurred, I've never been happier or more blessed in my life!
Heh-heh...yep, shearing the sheep is his business, and of course he wants as many sheep as he can get. Baaaaaaaah...... Congrats on coming to your senses.
The concept of "hell" in the Judeo-Christian-Islamo-Mormono-mythology was ripped off from the Greeks (Hades) or the Persians (Zoroastrianism) and evolved from a mere underworld (as it appeared originally in the Old Testament as "Sheol" which is definitely not a fiery torture pit) into the eternal punishment for the damned BS that we hear about from religious retards nowadays! IT CHANGED OVER TIME! Just read your fvkkin bible from start to finish and you will see. Or if you are not Jewish, ask a Jew who is well-versed in their religion, since you get yours from them.
Next on CNN: Is Never-Never Land Real? Two prominent fans of Disney's "Peter Pan" outline the case for and against the existence of this mysterious world.
It is not only the lying and hypocrisy of our Western politicians which es very nasty but it is also unbearable that we in the West are guilty of the death of the souls of millions of Muslims (I really mean the eternal death, not the physical death).
In order to continue to exploit the manpower and resources of the poor Muslim countries we tell them that we could tolerate the Islam as a religion like Christianity which will lead to the salvation of the soul. We lie for the sake of economical benefit.
Dear Muslims, I will tell you the truth: Muhammad cannot save you but only Jesus Christ. Muhammad was a sinner as his life proved, and Jesus was really holy as his life proved. Muhammad could not work only one miracle, Jesus worked so many miracles that they could not be counted. Jesus is the real Messenger of God, the Holy Prophet, he came down from have, became a man, and died and resurrected for us. Jesus was man and God at the same time, hence he was even much more than a prophet.
Dear Muslim, if you believe in Jesus Christ and get sacramentally baptized Jesus will set your free from your carnal desires, and you will become able to love "infidels" like me and the eternal God who has made heaven and earth.
Rainer, don't obfuscate the primary prenuptials with rasberries. Often, the pertinent cat presents fabled necessities in the parking chamfer. Realize your net precedent. Triangulate! Save the best for the alligators. Ever the bastille notches the orchestra but Wendy is not green and horses will capitulate. Filter out the log from the turnstile and cry prevalently.
So there brown stare. Feed your inner walnut and resolve. Subject your lemon to the ingenious door in the presence of snow and animals. Aisle 7 is for the monetary cheese whiz. Faced with the kitchen, you may wish to prolong the sailboat in the cliff. Otherwise, rabbits may descend on your left nostril. Think about how you can stripe the sea.
Regale the storm to those who (6) would thump the parrot with the armband. Corner the market on vestiges of the apparent closure but seek not the evidential circumstance. Therein you can find indignant mountains of pigs and apples. Descend eloquently as you debate the ceiling of your warning fulcrum. Vacate the corncob profusely and and don’t dote on the pancreas.
Next up, control your wood. Have at the cat with your watch on the fore. Aft! Smarties (12)! Rome wasn’t kevetched in an autumn nightie. (42) See yourself for the turntable on the escalator. Really peruse the garage spider definitely again again with brown. Now we have an apparent congestion, so be it here. Just a moment is not a pod of beef for the ink well nor can it be (4) said that Karen was there in the millpond.
Garbage out just like the candle in the kitty so. Go, go, go until the vacuum meets the upward vacation. Sell the yellow. Then trim the bus before the ten cheese please Louise. Segregate from the koan and stew the ship vigorously.
And remember, never pass up an opportunity to watch an elephant paint Mozart.
I'm sorry, "Rainer Braendlein", but all of your assertions 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
Good one, Jill. Rainer's blogspam is getting almost as bad as AvdBergs.
Dear Rainer, let me gently explain to you that you are delusional and that your delusion is quite dangers to the well being of every one around you. Fundamentalists are dangerous because every religion has it's own set of truths and when they conflict people die. Please seek help before you add more to the problem.
Jill, was that very nice nonsensical montage generated by an app? If so, which one? Thanks.
Hell is a barbaric concept. I couldn't worship a god who would tolerate such an idea. Invented by the catholics to control the masses. Christians who toss around the words eternal, forever and infinite have no idea of what they speak.
Well said. The idea is barbaric.
Will these evil liberal cats go to hell?
That depends on whether or not they have accepted Jesus as their savior.
Pascal's Wager. Look it up, stupid.
Really? You're betting on Pascal's wager to save you? According to the Christian myth, god can see into your heart and know the truth of your belief. Pascal's wager presumes that you are cleverer and more insightful than your omniscient god, and that god will be fooled by your insincere proclamations of belief. If you really believe in your god, then you need no such rationalizations. If you need such rationalizations then you don't really believe and you'll still be condemned if the Christians turn out to be correct. Really, this has to be one of the dumbest ideas that the most intellectually challenged among us desperately continue to clutch in the pathetic hope that they can live life with no moral base, then mutter a few insincere words to make it all better in the end. At least have the self-respect to decide what you actually do believe and then have the strength of character to just admit it.
At least Obama and Biden care about people – especially the middle class, and not just themselves!!
CLINTON – 2016 AND 2020 – I'M READY FOR HILLARY!!!
Give God a chance. Call on Him test Him and see if He won't reveal Himself to you.
You shouldhae been on the beach in Indonesia at tsunami time and prayed. Then you'd be in position to make a meaningful post
Colleen: I called. No one picked up the phone. Nor has god ever responded. Time to move past your delusion. The train has left the station; America is getting over religion at last and you are getting left behind.
What's your point, Tony? What does your question have to do with my post here?
Avoid bible wart pain colleen – stay away from the shift key. since there is no god, you don't need to capitalize stuff in odd ways.
Mark Driscoll seems to be an expert on Hell. So, Mark, I have a few questions that could use your expertise. Where is Hell located? We were always led to believe it was somewhere under the surface of the Earth. How far down would that be? What keeps the fires of Hell going? Is it some kind of an unknown nuclear process? What's the approximate size of Hell? According to Doom and Gloom religious types, most of us will end up there. Being that it's been calculated that over 107 BILLION humans have lived on this planet, it must be a HUGE place. If there's life on other planets in the Universe, does every planet have their own Hell, or do they ship them here to our Hell. I'm just curious, you don't learn anything unless you ask the experts. I have a lot of other questions, but I don't want to take up too much of your soul saving time.
If you don't blindly profess your faith in god, you will suffer horribly for eternity.
Wow, such a merciful and loving god. Who wouldn't love that?
I use to believe like you do. How can a loving God be fathomable. It's mind blowing to say the least.
Not as bad as a loving tsunami
You believe in this imaginary being because you can't "fathom" how the universe came to be, and then you say that god is "unfathomable" and so any ridiculous belief [like hell] is justified.
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.