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.”
Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter
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.
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
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 a tool of control. Just like Jesus.
There will never be proof so just shut up and fall in line!
"You sit there and you thump your Bible, and you say your prayers, and it didn't get you anywhere! Talk about your psalms, talk about John 3:16... Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your Butt!" "Austin 3:16"
So to the atheist, If God is not real , Why do you spend so much of your energy and time to deny something that is not real?
Well they got rid of limbo just like that, why not hell too? Religion is so funny, you can make up anything and just as easily take it away, because none of it can be proven.
If you consider yourself a believing Christian, then you should believe in what Jesus Christ, the Son of God, says in Matthew 7:13-14 which says: " You can enter God's Kingdom through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and it's gate is wide for the many who choose the easy way. But the gateway to life is small, and the road narrow, and only a ew ever find it." There is no other way to accept the fact that hell does really exist, don't attempt to place your own interpretation in what Christ clearly says in His word...
I love Highway to Hell! In the book of Bon Scott, it is written that "Hell ain't a bad place to be!"
The bible is just a book.
Written by monks hundreds of years after the death of Jesus.
NOT divinely inspired.
There is no god, so avoid the shifting, and thus avoid bible wart pain.
Random capitalization is usually a sign of se xual insecurity.
"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."
Drink our Kool-Aid or die!!!
People that have had near death experiences come back questioning religion but grasp onto spirituality which is the true belief in the creator, it is not in any book that a human wrote. I had a near death experience in 1993. Today I just enjoy watching religious people eliminating each other, it is pointless to explain anything to them.
Bla Bla Bla
I grew out of the Tooth Fairy, but I'm not going to rain on your parade.
Sure. Your bearded man-in-the-sky is a totally reasonable and defensible proposition rooted in rational inquiry and with no hint of blind, presumptuous baloney. Have a ball.
You unbelieving pr-ick! No more quarters for you, fat boy!
The tooth fairy, easter bunny, santa clause, the infamous flying spaghetti monster, or whatever other nonsense who want to mock the LORD did not create the heavens and the earth and all living things, God did! Thank you LORD...
You have as much proof that your LORD GAWD created the "heavens and the earth" as I do that FSM did it instead.
@ correctly – why would your god care that one of his creations mocked him? What – he's overly sensitive? Got a really wee pee pee, your god? Oh, a human mocked me! Oh, poor me – boo fukkin' hoo! Your god sounds like a wimpy petulant child
You mock reality.
Here's my understanding of faith. If you believe in a religion you're one of the billions of people on this planet who thinks he's one of God's chosen people, who thinks he's going to enjoy an eternity in paradise, while everyone who disagrees with his belief is going to be punished in hell forever. Unfortunately, there are thousands of different religions preaching this exact same doctrine. Since they can't possibly all be correct, I propose that they're all equally wrong. And if I'm wrong about that, I can draw only one more conclusion, we're all equally damned and cursed, and we're all going to hell.
TFP - GOING to hell ? ?
I have hot news for you, pal ! ! !
What if your in hell but your happy
(you may ask how can you be happy in hell,
maybe your thinking your love ones on earth are in good condition).
Lets reverse, what if your in heaven but your sad (maybe you miss your love ones on earth)?
Heaven or hell is a state of mind.
I couldn't agree more. if there is a heaven and I am there after I die then realize some of my loved ones are in hell how could I be happy in heaven? The bible was written in a time of chaos to bring order using fear tactics. That is all...
The idea of a hell is nothing but a lot of b s extolled by a bunch of nuts.
Mark Driscoll – I need you to prove to me that you are correct. How can you say all this and know you are absolutely right? You clearly have bought in to the scare tactics the bible has always used. How do you know? You are a dangerous person capitalizing on fear. You sir deserve to go to hell.
Check this out . . . . . . . . . . .
List of atheists in science and technology (natural scientists):
(The number of Nobel laureates is astounding.)
List (social sciences):
Hell and Heaven is right here on earth. If you live a honest life you are in heaven and a life of sin you will suffer and earth will be hell.
Be kind to that neighbor treat him well and he will do the same. Just reading a book like a parrot gives no sensibility to any one. Yes at time good people get into trouble for no fault of theirs is it do to Karma. I am a spiritual person and have not time for religion or all the silly book called sacred.
I completely disagree, so many times you see wonderful people who never did anything wrong to anyone only suffer and suffer endlessly like hell.
I am so nice to my neighbors but they are racist and bully my child and call him bin laden. I am Indian hindu, if I were white Christian they would not call me and my son bin laden. Now what happens to your Karma theory? I may agree that heaven and hell are on earth but I disagree that weather you live in heaven or hell is directly dependent on karma in this life. I don't believe in rebirths or any such thing. But there is some thing else that is not known to humans that comes into play when determining who would lead what kind of life, or may be it is completely random, no one knows. I even called cops who only gave me pep talk but did nothing to prevent my neighbor's children from passing racist comments on my son .
Is Santa Claus and Easter Bunny for real? Stay tuned!
Santa's made up, but the Easter Bunny is real. After all, he died in that helicopter crash for our sins. Don't you know ANYTHING????
One of the many upsides of believing there is no such thing as a god, is believing there's no such thing as a hell, either.
You don't need to believe in hell to live there. Try living in a non-christian country, sometime, like Syria and I am sure you will come face to face with hell.
@Abinadi – Germany isn't a Xtian nation, they have the largest population of atheists of any country. They learned from Hitler's Xtianity, Hitler's relationship with the Vatican.. how evil ALL religions truly are. Germany enjoys a healthy economy, and is free from religious tyranny (I'm sure there are some pockets where you freaks exist there), but overall, they are free.
Ah, but Germany has an ever increasing islamic population. Eventually, there will be hell to pay!
@Abinadi – Muslim, Xtian, Mormon... A cult is a cult. I'm sure those religions are spreading their disease to as many places on earth as possible. Religion is a living virus. It has to find a host to survive.
None of these gods (or religions) go anywhere - not next door, not down the street, not to the next country - without being carried there by men.
@edweird69 & A Frayed Knot– Then how did religion first ever come to be? someone did not simply randomly think, 'Hey, i'm gonna say there's a god and im going to devote my life to him'. There was some inspiration for it, some influence, that was not humanly. All the variety of religious textbooks we have, regardless of what they say, why would someone, multiple people actually, write such massive, specific texts? Again, it is such a giant work to be done that someone would not do it unless something divine drove and guided them.
People are sometimes sort of insulted by the fact that humans are social mammals. They seek a leader (of the pack, if you will), who has qualities of wisdom, benevolence, and the power to protect them from harm. They range from leader of the tribe, to leader of the nation, or some other group unit. Sometimes these human leaders were considered gods.
Since humans are aware that their lives will end, and they are not at all thrilled by this fact, they then seek an imaginary leader who will provide the same wisdom, benevolence and protection in a much hoped-for afterlife. It is not surprising that they envision this leader with human-like characteristics of love, anger, wisdom, benevolence, etc .Also, much of nature was a mystery to them and this fantasy filled the huge gaps in their knowledge.
The supersti'tions dreamed up over the eons regarding what these gods liked, hated, rewarded, punished, etc. fill many books. The shamans, whether they believed the supersti'tions or not, found a great mechanism for power and control of the populace.
The biggest problem with everyone starts with breaking several of those cardinal rules: putting any IDOL before "god"....and "judging others" and "killing in the name of God"........I live in America, and I love living here...but, in a bigger picture....I live in the WORLD....full of people who also live in this world and have EVERY right to live here and be happy. Judgement occurs whenever we get frustrated over anything someone else does and we claim we know better than the other person.....and killing is double-edged in that you can literally KILL....or KILL the soul through actions/words.......After much thought and prayer, I resolved to admit I will never be as perfect as many perceive themselves. But, if I can spread happiness through my actions, and my words....and be respectful of anyone out there who believes differently than I.....then I will allow them to have their choice and not judge them for it. It is a difficult tight-rope walk of sorts...but, I have faith to reach a glorious goal once on the other side......and, will do everything I can while living to not fall into the pit below....
Hell was invented by Christians and Muslims, so that's where they will all be in the afterlife, ripping each other apart for eternity. [Jews, Buddhists, Pagans, and Atheists don't buy into the vicious Hell myth, which is just a scare tactic for the dimwitted]
god and jesus were also an invention of man
ALL YOU RELIGIOUS FREAKS NEED TO GET A HOBBY OR SOMETHING. TELL ME HOW TO LIVE AND YOU ARE NOT BEING LOYAL TO THOSE WHO HAVE DIED FOR THE RIGHT SO WE CAN BE FREE, NOT TOLD HOW TO THINK. NO OFFENSE, BUT YOU CAN GO TO HELL.
Agreed, but can you say it without the CAPLOCK on?
Ironic that you'd tell us to go somewhere that you do not even believe exists. Kinda takes the insult part out of it for us doesn't it ;) Besides, we are not telling you how to live. Not anymore than you just told us how to live in your post.
..odd that christians believe in a satan. Heck, if there was a satan, he got the raw end of the deal. The guy gets slammed by christians, yet this guy never had a bible with his side of the story. That's right! It's just like the christians to go around judging and bashing others. Then again, is it bashing or just part of their brainwashing? After all they do have similarities with terrorist groups whose brainwashing begins in early childhood. Brainwashing begins with reducing the subject, For christians? They tell their children they are sinners and are born with an original sin.How awful and abusing. And as terrorist, you need to make someone the bad guy. In the christians case, it's everyone else who doesn't believe in their fantasy. I almost forgot, with brainwashing you need chanting and euphoric music <– that happens inn their churches. How sad this group it.
Please, don't get me wrong. I'm not supporting muslim beliefs. In fact I see christian and muslim as all the same. I really hope these groups start believing in evolution, and finally evolve into Realist.
Actueally He does. Its called the Satanic bible dumb one.
@Realist – It doesn't matter what you think. It doesn't matter what we all think on earth, whether we accept one or another. It doesn't change God's order one iota.
You are free to believe there is only God who created everything we can comprehend, or you believe that everything alive on this planet was started when a bolt of lightning struck a pool of water off the coast of France. If I'm wrong, I'll end up with you, wherever that is. If you're wrong, I'll end up eating at a never-ending "all-you-can eat" buffet with all my friends and you'll always be asking if the air-conditioning can be turned on.
From a practical standpoint, seems the smart money is on me.
@ Bldr – you're missing some very basic logic, there, bud (with a handle with Republican in it it does not surprise). Pascal's Wager – assuming that there are only two possibilities. There are infinite possibilities: what if the Muslims were right? What about the Norse – what if they were right, and now Odin is going to send your sorry ar-se to Hel forever? What if there is a god who favours non-believer for using their brains?
@BldrRepub – Believing in invisble beings, and thinking there is some sort of "order", from some magical sky daddy, hardly makes me think the "smart money is on you".
@Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear – and you are missing some very basic reading comprehension
As I posted, it *doesn't matter* about all the "what ifs" and "what-have-yous" each and every one of us can manufacture in attempts to "disprove" something. Their is a never-ending number of them, as you have illustrated some.
I don't know the answer to those questions – and neither do you. But you are *assuming* you do know the answer, which is that since none of us on this planet can answer them, then you've "stumped" us and therefore all of Christianity is wrong.
In reality, those questions are between God and the groups of people to whom you refer. As far as YOU are concerned, YOU have been presented with a different set of choices – light, or darkness. What YOU choose will affect YOUR eternal life. Concerning yourself about "fairness" and why others are presented with different choices does not change your situation at all.
Oh, and thanks for the insult. I was starting to think you were somewhat intelligent until I read that.
@edweird69 – then, as I said, I will see you where ever *WE* both end up after we die, right?
So what are you concerned about?
@BldRepub – no, I won't see you, or anything, or anyone, or be anywhere when I die. I'll be the same thing I was before I was born.. non-existent. As will you.
@edweird69 – However yo u want to refer to it, it's irrelevant.
Again, I ask – what are you concerned about?
@BldrRepub – I'm concerned about the horrors religion has inflicted on humanity. I'm concerned about my freedom. I'm concerned about living in a theocracy. I'm concerned about some religious nutcases nuking all of us. I'm concerned about children being taken to churches, and threatened with eternal punishment, if they don't drink the kool-aid... got it?
@ Bld – you really do not understand basic logic, do you? You said: "If I'm wrong, I'll end up with you, wherever that is. If you're wrong, I'll end up eating at a never-ending "all-you-can eat" buffet with all my friends and you'll always be asking if the air-conditioning can be turned on."
So, you're saying that, if the other poster is wrong, then you by default must be right, and that you will end up in heaven, and the other poster will end up in hell. That presupposes only two possible outcomes, which is logically flawed, as there is no basis to assume only two possible outcomes. Carrying the logic further, if there are two possible outcomes, that implies that there are an infinite number of outcomes.
You are suffering from religious tunnel vision. Stop – take a breath – and then reexamine your way of 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.