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.
Mark Driscoll does an awesome job here. Great job, Mark!
Easy steps to starting a successful religion.
First, the rules:
Rule number 1: Believe or else
Rule number 2: See rule number 1.
Rule number 3: See rule number 1.
NEXT: Convince vulnerable, prospective devotees that they are worthless trash; sinners, who are certain to burn in hell and suffer the brutality of their loving god's wrath because they deserve it.
NEXT: When the vulnerable, prospective devotees have been sufficiently pounded down by indoctrination and fear of death, promise them a "get out of hell, go directly to heaven" pass.
HINT: This last tactic is most successful if you play to their emotions with a story full of drama, torture, blood, sacrifice and death. Teach them that it is moral and just to absolve the "sins" of the guilty by punishing the innocent. And for good measure, dazzle them with stories about miracles.
NEXT: To obtain a " Get out of hell, go directly to heaven" pass, See rule number 1.
I've searched for God for almost 58 years now, wondering if He is, what I believe and why I believe it. I don't want "religion", I want the truth. A few months ago, I read a book called "I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist" by Norman L Geisler & Frank Turek. It answered all my questions, you are welcome to your own conclusions.
My balls hurt.
You forgot one. While teaching them to "fear and obey", you also must teach them that money is the root of all evil and they must give a certain amount to the "church" or they will also be damned to "hell".
It's like arguing whether unicorn poop is blue with magenta stripes or the color of a thousand rainbows.
Not one individual knows a thing about a damned thing about God/Jesus/Satan. No one.
But we all wonder – don't we? I do. I wonder why so many die in the name of Religion. Why? Did GOD want us – his children – to kill each other?
All Gods children know God and Jesus and what He has revealed to us .
TuBeTop, you don't even know how to write a sentence, much less what is "true".
The audacity of man to believe the entire universe was spoiled by a single human act. Lunacy!
Drumbeg, are you sure you're not dumberg? I am a white female revert. Revert meaning, everyone one of us were born a Muslim. Meaning, believer. Belief in one God. It is how we are raised that takes us away or continue on as a Muslim. If we are raised other than Muslim, we may or may not revert back. If you really want the real truth, Allah will bring you to it. You just have to want to find it.
That is insane. No child is born with belief. They are raised with the belief system of their parents in most cases, but they are not "born believing". What nonsense.
You must be one bad ass SOB to be posting here in hell.
Top Ten Signs You're a Christian
10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.
9 – You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.
8 – You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.
7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!
6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.
5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.
4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs – though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."
3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.
2 – You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.
1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history – but still call yourself a Christian.
Religion is a "middle-man" between yourself and God.
My balls are blue. Yow!
I've heard of one Sunday School teaching her kids that you spend hell here on earth. And in some ways I'm beginning to believe that. On the other hand though going back to about 1917 when the Virgin Mary appeared to the 3 children at Lourdes the Virgin Mary opened up the ground to show hell. If you don't know the story about that you should go look it up and read it. Also at that time the Sun came falling to the earth, and then stopped. You may think it is a myth story, but it is not. There were 70,000 people there in attendance who witnessed it. I believe if you have faith and believe in God, and live by his Ten Commandments you will see Heaven.
A few questions should help shed light on the relationship between religion and rational thought.
The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in the “afterlife” comes from the field of:
(c) Economics; or
You are about 70% likely to believe the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with only one man, one woman and a talking snake if you are a:
(c) NASA astronomer; or
I have convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges. I am
(a) A gifted psychologist
(b) A well respected geneticist
(c) A highly educated sociologist
(d) A Christian with the remarkable ability to ignore inconvenient facts.
I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am
(a) a delusional schizophrenic;
(b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly
(c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or
(d) your average Christian
Millions and millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because:
(a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus;
(b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine;
(c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story; or
(d) their religious convictions tell them to blindly accept this completely fvcking absurd nonsense.
I believe that an all powerful being, capable of creating the entire cosmos watches me have $ex to make sure I don't do anything "naughty". I am
(a) A victim of child molestation
(b) A r.ape victim trying to recover
(c) A mental patient with paranoid delusions
(d) A Christian
The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others they have never met and/or to commit suicide in its furtherance is:
(c) Archeology; or
What is it that most differentiates science and all other intellectual disciplines from religion:
(a) Religion tells people not only what they should believe, but what they are morally obliged to believe on pain of divine retribution, whereas science, economics, medicine etc. has no “sacred cows” in terms of doctrine and go where the evidence leads them;
(b) Religion can make a statement, such as “there is a composite god comprised of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit”, and be totally immune from experimentation and challenge, whereas science can only make factual assertions when supported by considerable evidence;
(c) Science and the scientific method is universal and consistent all over the World whereas religion is regional and a person’s religious conviction, no matter how deeply held, is clearly nothing more than an accident of birth; or
(d) All of the above.
If I am found wandering the streets flagellating myself, wading into a filth river, mutilating my child’s genitals or kneeling down in a church believing that a being is somehow reading my inner thoughts and prayers, I am likely driven by:
(a) a deep psychiatric issue;
(b) an irrational fear or phobia;
(c) a severe mental degeneration caused by years of drug abuse; or
(d) my religious belief.
Who am I? I don’t pay any taxes. I never have. Any money my organization earns is tax free and my own salary is also tax free, at the federal, state and local level. Despite contributing nothing to society, but still enjoying all its benefits, I feel I have the right to tell others what to do. I am
(a) A sleazy Wall Street banker
(b) A mafia boss
(c) A drug pusher; or
(d) A Catholic Priest, Protestant Minister or Jewish Rabbi.
What do the following authors all have in common – Jean Paul Sartre, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, René Descartes, Francis Bacon, John Milton, John Locke, and Blaise Pascal:
(a) They are among the most gifted writers the World has known;
(b) They concentrated on opposing dogma and opening the human mind and spirit to the wonders of free thought and intellectual freedom;
(c) They were intimidated by the Catholic Church and put on the Church’s list of prohibited authors; or
(d) All of the above.
The AIDS epidemic will kill tens of millions in poor African and South American countries before we defeat it. Condoms are an effective way to curtail its spread. As the Pope still has significant influence over the less educated masses in these parts of the World, he has exercised this power by:
(a) Using some of the Vatican’s incomprehensible wealth to educate these vulnerable people on health family planning and condom use;
(b) Supporting government programs that distribute condoms to high risk groups;
(c) Using its myriad of churches in these regions to distribute condoms; or
(d) Scaring people into NOT using condoms, based upon his disdainful and aloof view that it is better that a person die than go against the Vatican’s position on contraceptive use.
Forget "religion", search for God Himself, yourself. I've spent almost 58 years wondering if He is, what I believe and why. I don't want "religion", I want the truth. A few months ago, I read a book called "I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist" by Norman L Geisler & Frank Turek. It answered all my questions, you are welcome to your own conclusions.
Truth,,,you need to read more books. maybe a science book or two, or The God Delusion by Dawkins
If you start the argument from the basis that the Bible is correct (and it's obvious some of you don't, which is why it totally baffles me as to why you'd care enough to even read, let alone post anything on this piece), then there's only one commentator here who truly did a good job defending the doctrine of hell. I appreciate Mr. Schaeffer's words, but from the basis of scripture, it amounts to nothing more than, "I don't like the doctrine of hell so I'm not going to believe in it, no matter what may be found in the whole of the Bible." And Mr. Schaeffer, while you correctly point out that God is love, you may also want to go back and study the wrath of God. Yes, God is love and mercy, but he's also a God of justice and wrath as well.
religion is nothng but a state in our mind to cause fear
imagine if there was nothing to fear by the billioins on earth in the afterlife. utter chaos! ask sodom and gomorrah
How many are billioins?
You are saying atheism is popular? Wow, you have spent almost *zero* time as an atheist. ROTFLMAO!
Hell is real only to the person that believes it is. When a mind that has the capacity to think actually contemplates on God and the fact that we did not create ourselves, but were created by God, is it likely that a concept like hell would be thrown into the mix? It's human arrogance to think that eternity (which in and of itself has no beginning or ending) begins when we "die". We have been in eternity all along. We dream here and that is all. There is nothing here that is real. The world is nothing more than illusion. What God creates is eternal and does not die. Illusions do though. The Bible says Adam fell into a deep sleep while Eve was created. Where is the reference to his waking back up? We dream here while safe at home. Dreams seem very real to the dreamer.
Hell is real but it is just the common grave. The Hebrew and Greek words are Sheol or hades. When we die God told Adam from dust you to dust you will return. Ecclesiastes 9 says the soul that is sinning dies, that there is no thoughts in Sheol. If we weren't in a approved relationship with God we die we aren't tormented in a fiery place. It would be hypocritical for God to tell the Israelites not to allow there own sons and daughters to pass thru the fire(a practice that was common among the nations around them) and then to do the same thing to us when we died. In fact the account in Jerimiah says it was something detestable to Him. Fire is a symbol of destruction. Jesus spoke of Gehenna a place were things we burned and destroyed in Israel it symbolizes eternal destruction not eternal torment. And why would God use his arch enemy Satan the Devil to in a sense run Hell and carry out some form of punishment? It doesn't make sense, and not to mention the bible tells us that one day God will destroy Satan the devil. Then who would run hell?
Very few things from religion make sense.
Rule number 1 : Believe or else.
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.
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.
@truth be told
Which god? If I happen to be born in a different culture, believe in a different religious system and never will accept jesus as my saviour, I will be cast into your idea of hell?
That eventuality is explained in Romans.
Given the truth about Jesus and remaining in a false religion, rejecting Jesus will result in eternal separation from God, or hell. If you never hear of Jesus by name but accept the grace of God by faith and act accordingly you may find Salvation.
"Do you really believe you can make a voice that can drown out God's? Do you really believe you can devise a thought system that can separate you from Him? Do you really believe you can plan for your safety and joy better than He can? You need be neither careful or careless; you need merely cast your cares upon Him because He careth for you. You are His because He loves you. His Voice reminds you always that all hope is yours because of His care. You can not choose to escape His care because that is not His Will, but you can choose to accept His care and use the infinite power of His care for all those He created by it". – A Course in Miracles
Yes, well said David, Jesus Christ is Santa Claus for dim-witted "adults".
So, if god has created animals, do they also go to heaven? What about hindus? Since they do not believe in Jesus they should not be allowed into heaven on judgment day? Just because they were born in a place where society does not teach about Jesus?
We know that some animals have DNA that is 99.9% similar to ours. Brain function is very alike in many mammals, that's why we are studying rat's brains to learn about the human brain. Despite this similarity, rats are supposed to go to hell eternally, because they have never read th bible?
Just ask some logical questions, folks, then the concept of heaven and hell falls apart quicker than you think.
He'll is not a place so much as an event.
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.