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.
God wants everyone to be saved from Hell. It is always a disappointment when someone dies before they have a chance to be saved. This is why I believe the death penalty is wrong, and why war should never be fought over religious differences.
If your god didn't want people to go to hell, he wouldn't have ever created it for the express purpose of sending them there. It's a blatant attempt to scare people into converting while simultaneously making contradictory statements so as to not portray this god as a tyrant.
"Believe, or you'll go to hell! He won't send you there, though... you'll be sending YOURSELF, even though the Bible says he'll be the one tossing you in!"
The attempt of modern Christians to try to make Yahweh appear more humane is amusing, to say the least.
If you want to be close to god do 3 hits of acid, drink a liter of whiskey to meet the devil. lol
Who do I meet if I do both while huffing nitrous?
It seems to me, the punishment does not fit the crime. Eternal damnation seems a little over the top. An all loving god and torment forever and ever?! Your psychotic if you not only believe this is justice, but truly wish it for others. Cruel people worship a cruel god.
Take into account that God is all just and all loving and infinite (forever). He made us, starting with Adam and Eve. The committed the first sin on earth which was disobedience. They infinitely offended the omnipotent, infinite God. Therefore since the sin was infinite, it took an infinite sacrifice (the God man-Jesus) to satisfy for that sin. Therefore the punishment or reward is everlasting and infinite.
Amanda- they ate a fukkin' apple. Infinite sin??????????????
Hell is a prison of the mind, and religions are its building blocks.
Next week on CNN:
Is there a way to Narnia?
What I can't understand is how the absurdity of the juxtaposition of eternal reward or eternal punishment is so readily accepted by believers. By analogy...
99.9% comments coming from People who know nothing of religion. The problem is Hell is an eternal region. It does not exist in this 3D or 4D (if you include time). If you never connected to your soul, how can one know it is TRUE or FALSE? Not just Christianity or Muslims, almost ALL religions say that Hell Exists. And is very real and those who commit large amounts of SINS (Lust Anger Gluttony etc) are certainly going to Hell !! Seek Mercy of God and search for Truth and True Followers (Mystics)...Or Just wait a few more years and see it for yourself... It all starts when Messengers of Death arrive...May you find Inner Peace!!
and you "know" this how exactly?!
Most cultures in the world have stories about vampires and dragons too, but that doesn't mean that they exist. Just because lots of people believe a thing doesn't automatically make it true. Thousands of years ago, it was almost universally believed that the sun and moon were gods.
That's pretty funny. Someone that thinks they know everything is belittling other people that think they know everything. You know nothing. You can't know.
And you sure as hell can't write worth a damn. Typical bible babbler with an eighth-grade education.
Haven't you heard? Many atheists know more about religion than the believers. I'm one of them and I find the topic fascinating.
@ all who replied (and are Outraged!) Yes, I knew nothing. And it is the story of ALL in this World (we know nothing). And that is why you need to follow Jesus or a Prophet (Muslim) or a Buddha or a Krishna (Hindu). And I learned from these Great Souls who came from God => WHO KNEW EVERYTHING !! And it is upto you my friends, Don't believe if you don;t want to. For you there is NO God. All Universe and Life Forms is just a coincidence !! (I pity you since you do not know what you are doing to yourself!!). Please find Inner Peace if it means anything...
Umm, Billy – how do you know that these prophets came from god, or where sent by god. Do you understand that your statement has about as much authority as a tiny child stamping his feet and having a temper tantrum saying, "it is because I say it is"?
Neither compelling nor convincing
@Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear
So who else should we follow? Please enlighten us. Who are the God's messenger? Is "Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear" a messenger of God? And is'nt your argument childish? Are'nt you putting your feet down and saying "No Ni-Na-Na-Na, God does'nt exist !!" Please make some sense... (And please don't say, There is no God! => the existence of this inferior physical Universe is proof enough God exists !!)
Guys, don't get fooled by the self-styled experts. Hell exists as a concept in all religions. WHat makes Christinity and Muslim religions is the concept of eternal Hell which has no LOGIC whatso ever. If you make a sin, it must have a finite consequence as the sin itself if finite. This is clearly an idea to scare people and that's how these two religions spread. WHile I have full respects for Jesus and Mohammad, I think this scare tactics are handiwork of the preachers of the religion as they try to win over religions. Religion is very logical and one has to live it all the time. There should be no dogma or fanaticism but pure LOVE for all human beings. Get REAL. You can not do a finite good thing and expect infinite pleasures of the heaven. Follow other great teachings of Jesus and Mohammad and the world will be a far better place.
You know what would REALLY help? A moral world without religion.
This whole line of reasoning is shockingly vapid. What does the church/mosque say will become of those who are functionally illiterate, mentally challenged, physically disabled, or who otherwise are unable to learn about or understand religion? Are they destined to hell, or are they given a free pass to Heaven? Where does that particular line get drawn?
I was told it is automatic for them, they have an ignorant excuse for everything.
So that leaves the question...where does that line get drawn? IQ of 70? 80? The whole thing is just silly.
Humans need to learn to DO instead of preach and worship.
Also, is it automatic to their parent's religion or the closest person's religion standing next to you, if your kid is a christian and died nearest to a muslim
Hell is and always has been a scare tactic whose primary purpose is to frighten people from thinking critically. You're supposed blindly swallow everything the religion throws at you, because if you don't, you're going to hell for eternity! You won't find any of this stuff about Hell in the Jewish scriptures unless they've been deliberately mistranslated by Christians to agree with the Christian view. Look up Tartarus and Elysium... heaven and hell, as depicted in the NT, are adapted from pagan beliefs.
I am not sure what Frank Shaefer is talking about when he says there is an equally robust tradition of an all-merciful God who forgives everyone. I have studied Patristic and other ancient writings, and scoured them for such an opinion. I would LOVE this to be true. It just isn't there. If anythiing, ancient writers were more inclined to paint the afterlife in absolute terms. Sources, Mr Shaefer? methinks you have none.
I've got no clue what this guy is talking about. But then again, he said Christianity is his "tradition" so that should explain alot. Neither view of the Christian God is found in the bible. Just more drivel from CNN writers.
Not sure what Frank Shaefer is talking about when he says there is an equally robust tradition of an all-merciful God who forgives everyone. I have studied Patristic and other ancient writings, and scoured them for such an opinion. I would LOVE this to be true. It just isn't there. If anythiing, ancient writers were more inclined to paint the afterlife in absolute terms. Sources, Mr Shaefer? methinks you have none.
All Sinners go to Heaven but not all Christians.
I'm concerned about the fact that the first columnists thinks conservative christians want to send those from Islam to hell. First of all, no. Second, conservative christians don't have that power.
scientists work for the devil too, they're trying to decieve people that God didn't creat earth, heaven and hell .
Hey, j -have you started crapping your drawers with hallowe'en coming up? That must be hell on poor little deluded you!
it's ridiculous , that's what I think of halloween
I need to be convinced that there is some part of me that is eternal before I can start worrying about what its fate might be.
Who or what do you think could convince you?
Well ANY kind of proof of the existence of a god would certainly be a good start.
your spirit is eternal Tom Tom
how can you not believe in God, when you walk on this earth that He created, when you look up at the sun in the morning. that alone should be more then enough to believe in God
@j – "how can you not believe in God, when you walk on this earth that He created, when you look up at the sun in the morning. that alone should be more then enough to believe in God"
Not speaking for Tom, but first, there's simply no evidence that there was ever a creative act by any deity. Second, if you start considering how this world actually works and all the messiness of it, it's really not a positive reflection on an alleged "intelligent" creator, let alone one who is alleged to be benevolent. Lastly, it's really not a good idea to look up at the Sun. I understand that "faith" goggles can significantly distort how one views reality, but I seriously doubt they have sufficient UV A and B protection. Not only can the Sun directly damage your retinas, be sure to wear sun screen because the Sun's UV radiation causes little "bubbles" in your DNA that can result in mutations. If these mutations occur in a region that controls cellular replication, well, then welcome to melanomaville...
According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you're just less orderly.
God could convince everyone he exists by taking 5 seconds to make a loud announcement to the world "this is God. Follow my Bible". Over and done. It could happen between plays of football games that Christian athletes say he is watching.
there is evil on earth because the devil is on earth. how do you think everything was created ? please don't tell me you believe in that " big bang theory" and " science"
j, so tell me, as the devil's sidekick do you get a little cape and mask to wear? do you have special hellish tights to wear when you help the devil fight goodness in the world? any special, cool weapons aside from your powerful "words that anger"??
@ j – Clearly I've been "Poe'd." Well played sir/madam... Nonetheless, and seriously, wear sunscreen and sunglasses.
Please, j. Get out of that church and spend some time in a library. Your stupidity is showing.
I think cosmology is a maturing science. The various "Big Bang" theories seem to be leading scientists in a promising direction. I don't believe in it in the same way you (apparently) believe in God. I hope no one does.
hahaa that's funny end religion, no words of hate coming from here buddy, that's God's honest truth, coming from the Bible, you should read it sometime, and let it change your life.
Is poe being called on j? I was wondering about that.
@ Tom – Of course one can never be sure, but in my mind, the parentheticals around big bang and science would suggest so...
you see Tom Tom, when you stand up for Jesus Christ and God, you will always be hated by non believers and atheists. It happened to Jesus when he was on earth and teaching God's word, people turned against Jesus and tried to stone Him many times, samething what's happening to me right now
There will be 7 years in which God w i l l deal with mankind openly, mostly in the second part of them... We are at threshold of this time. Never before has the human race seen such advancement in knowledge, particularly in technology, nor has deprivation of human character been seen to such degree as today. God has reserved all what's happening for the days of His 'appointed time', as a culmination of all things. . Nothing else needs to happen, humanity is ready, ready for it's "redeemer" , the man who will have all answers but with a price... Many will fall and damn their souls following him. But God's people will shine, tested and purified as by fire. And then at the fullness of time, the Lord of glory will come and every eye shall see Him ...many to their damnation, but those who waited for Him to their salvation, will rejoicing with joy unspeakable. Does some of you find this laughable and as a fictional fable? You'll see it before your own eyes, but if you had eyes, you'd see already the evidence of f what is written here... Judge for yourself!
science is the devil's plan to decieve millions of people in believing that there is no God
well said prism 1234
prism, that's the longest orgasm in history: jesus has been coming for thousands of years. You mean the wait is finally over? Great, that means we can dispense with any further religions ramblings by anyone.
@j: "people turned against Jesus and tried to stone Him many times, samething what's happening to me right now"
lol, OK, so we were thinking maybe you were a garden variety nut but you actually think you're jesus because you're being "stoned" with words. Lol... so you are equating yourself to a dude that supposed suffered tortuous beatings and then death, when all you've suffered is others' opinions. wow... deluded much?
You may think how the Sun was made by god,but we have answers.Science is a need for knowledge and answers about the universe.
"You may think how the Sun was made by god,but we have answers.Science is a need for knowledge and answers about the universe"
You, foolish person! Don't you see that man's science is no other then the study of the work of God? How can man ever come to the real knowledge of truth when he shuts out the One who alone possesses the secrets thereof? Do you think God will allow the proud, self willed, rebellious man to find it while shutting Him out? Ha, Ha, no way. Not in million years! All man can do is dabble in darkness, ever learning, but never comming to the knowledge of truth. It's like having a frame of a puzzle fully put together, and all the inside pieces fitting, , but in the heart of it remains a hole, an empty place,yet missing the whole motive or subject of it.... SO you people never realize that the very laws of the universe and all the wonderful things that you're discovering were put there and set in motion by the One who created them. So, here is your error and sure guarantee that you'll never find out real truth.
I guess I can agree with that, Andrea.
I agree with that more than what an atheist will comment on here
No one knows what happens after death since we either cease to exist, or we go to some netherworld and we are permanently out of contact and inaccessible for some strange theological reason. How convenient is that for belief in an afterlife?
As for hell, the sufficient effectiveness of a deterrent is determined by its credibility (evidence) in sufficient proportion to the amount of horribleness, that is to say, if empirical evidence or credibility is insufficient, that necessitates a rise in the horribleness in order to maintain an effective deterrent. For example, if I said I might punish robbers 1 time out of 3 for robbery, with a 3 month jail term, the deterrent would be insufficient to prevent robbery as many would take that chance. I could maintain the 1/3 chance but increase the punishment to life in prison to restore the effectiveness. Or I could guarantee to punish all of the time, and use a more sensible three year sentence.
So in the case of Hell as an effective deterrent to sin and disobedience: Zero evidence necessitates a supposed infinite punishment.
Very logical. But that is the one thing that religion is not.
The arrogance and narcissism between these two blowhards is pretty hard to deal with. A far left and far right opinion, and the far right from a non-ordained minister. Where is the actual view of Christians, CNN? There is a moderate view that is full of facts and without the me first thought process of these two.
Moderation of religious commandments is proof of one's atheism. God has commanded you. If you disobey or moderate or "reinterpret" his commandments/laws/word to fit the times (modernize), then you do not believe he'll punish you for your arrogance. Hence, you do not truly believe in him.
I hope God made hell big enough to hold alot people, because sadly it looks there will be many going there
What you want to say is ... "please I beg that there will be a heaven for myself, and a hell for people who don't believe in my brand of stupidity."
That is the core of every one of you basket cases. Pleading. Pretending. Wishing. Dreaming.
Always wanting.. and always ridiculous.
You 'hope" ? You mean you don't have faith that God already knows how "big" a space is needed ?
read the Bible answer and you see what God says about hell and who is going there
oh I have faith that God made hell big enough, He is control of everything, He knows what He is doing
Read a bit of psychology 'j' and you'll see how psychologically weak you are. Scared little shiats just waiting to be saved and pleading for love.
Cram a bible up your backside and see if that uplifts your spirits tomorrow.
That is NOT what you said in your original post. Your original post indicated doubt – and also a desire for those who don't think like you to suffer eternal torture. How very Christian of you.
Little ho mophobic troll idiot degenerates to:
"truth be told" – degenerates to:
"just sayin" – degenerates to:
"captain america" – degenerates to:
"Ronald Regonzo" – degenerates to:
"WOW" – degenerates to:
"!" – degnerates to:
"j" – and many other names, but it's still the same disgruntled ex
Evangelical Fortune Cookie "writer".
(it's the only kind of "trickle down" that actually works...lol)
If i had a T-shirt company this would be the one I began producing tomorrow, thanks to Answe: "Cram a bible up your backside and see if that uplifts your spirits."
hell doesn't need as much space as you'd think, because hell is only for children, according to Pat Benatar
mhm, yes. And the atheist Soviet Union was totally perfect eh? They had no concept of hell, and the society was messed.
That said, I don't think the concept of hell and heaven have any more place in the modern world. Previously, when people had belief, fear of hell could keep people from doing bad deeds. Religion is the moral foundation of society, but lately people can't seem to distinguish right from wrong.
Religion is a lifestyle , morals and laws are created by emotions given to you by the creator. Keep your religion out of my government and lifestyle.
people can't see right from wrong because they're so blinded by the devil
The devil – ah, yes – as manifested by deviled eggs, deviled ham, and the like. thank GOD for angel food cake!
The Soviet Union believed in a "state religion" in which the state was God and its leadership infallible. It is very similar to Catholicism in which the Pope endorses priest who enjoy little altar boys too much and overpopulation through the denial of birth control to his many followers.
I don't think "the fear of hell" ever kept anyone from doing bad deeds. Additionally, our deeds, whether good or bad, don't impress God. The Bible says that even our righteousness is as filthy rags. As a Christian, any good that I might do is not through my own effort, but through the grace of God. Fear is not the motivator, rather, it's a desire to honor my creator and savior.
Barry, what an absurd statement that the only reason you can bear to be nice to people is to honor your sky fairy. Can't you just be nice because its a nice thing to do? Why does it have to be in honor of anything? I swear, you people go on and on about religion being about love and you just don't understand the first thing about it. Love and kindness are only love and kindness when its done with no reward or punishment threat. Otherwise its extortion.
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.