Editor’s note: The new documentary "Hellbound?" explores Americans' ideas about hell. We asked two prominent Christians who featured in the film to give us their very different takes on hell.
My Faith: The dangerous effects of believing in hell
Editor’s note: Frank Schaeffer is a New York Times bestselling author. His latest book is "Crazy For God."
By Frank Schaeffer, Special to CNN
Is it any coincidence that the latest war of religion that started on September 11, 2001, is being fought primarily between the United States and the Islamic world? It just so happens that no subgroups of humanity are more ingrained with the doctrine of hell than conservative Muslims and conservative Christians.
And nowhere on earth have conservative Christians been closer to controlling foreign policy than here in the United States. And nowhere on earth have conservative Muslims been more dominant than in the countries from which the 9/11 extremists originated – Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.
What a pair George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden made! On the one hand, an American president who was a born-again evangelical with a special "heart" for the state of Israel and its importance to the so-called end times, and on the other hand a terrorist leader who believed that he was serving God by ridding the Arabian Peninsula of an American presence and cleansing the "defiled" land of Palestine of what he believed were “invader Jews.”
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So whether you're an atheist or not, the issue of who's going to hell or not matters because there are a lot of folks on this planet – many of them extraordinarily well-armed - from born-again American military personnel to Muslim fanatics, who seriously believe that God smiles upon them when they send their enemies to hell.
And so my view of "hell" encompasses two things: First, the theological question about whether a land of eternal suffering exists as God's "great plan" for most of humanity.
Second, the question of the political implications of having a huge chunk of humanity believe in damnation for those who disagree with their theology, politics and culture, as if somehow simply killing one's enemies is not enough.
What most people don't know is that there's another thread running through both Christianity and Islam that is far more merciful than the fundamentalists’ take on salvation, judgment and damnation.
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Paradise, which Muslims believe is the final destination of the society of God’s choice, is referred to in the Quran as "the home of peace"
“Our God,” Muslims are asked to recite, “You are peace, and peace is from You.”
Since Christianity is my tradition, I can say more about it. One view of God - the more fundamentalist view - is of a retributive God just itching to punish those who "stray."
The other equally ancient view, going right back into the New Testament era, is of an all-forgiving God who in the person of Jesus Christ ended the era of scapegoat sacrifice, retribution and punishment forever.
As Jesus said on the cross: "Forgive them for they know not what they do."
That redemptive view holds that far from God being a retributive God seeking justice, God is a merciful father who loves all his children equally. This is the less-known view today because fundamentalists - through televangelists and others - have been so loud and dominant in North American culture.
But for all that, this redemptive view is no less real.
Why does our view of hell matter? Because believers in hell believe in revenge. And according to brain chemistry studies, taking revenge and nurturing resentment is a major source of life-destroying stress.
For a profound exploration of the madness caused by embracing the “justice” of “godly” revenge and retribution, watch the film “Hellbound?”
The film shows how the "hell" of revenge thinking, and the resulting unhinging of some people’s brains through their denial of human empathy, leads them to relish the violent future of suffering that they predict awaits the “lost” in hell.
Do we really want to go back to a time of literalistic religion. Wasn’t 9/11 enough of an argument against retributive religion?
We need “hell” like a hole in the head. It’s time for the alternative of empathetic merciful religion to be understood.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Frank Schaeffer.
My Faith: Hell is for real and Jesus is the only way out
Editor's Note: Mark Driscoll is founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle.
By Mark Driscoll, Special to CNN
As a pastor, my job is to tell the truth. Your job is to make a decision.
When controversies over biblical doctrines arise, it’s a humbling opportunity to answer questions about what the Bible teaches without getting into name-calling and mudslinging. Near the very top of the controversial doctrines is hell.
What happens when we die?
Human beings were created by God with both a physical body and a spiritual soul. When someone dies, their body goes into the grave and their spirit goes into an afterlife to face judgment.
But death is not normal or natural—it’s an enemy and the consequence of sin.
Think of it in this way: God is the source of life. When we choose to live independently of God and rebelliously against God it is akin to unplugging something from its power source. It begins to lose power until it eventually dies.
The Bible is clear that one day there will be a bodily resurrection for everyone, to either eternal salvation in heaven or eternal condemnation in hell.
Christians believe a person’s eternal status depends on their relationship with Jesus and that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Our lives are shaped by the reality that “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
What does Jesus say about hell?
Jesus was emphatically clear on the subject of hell. He alone has risen from death and knows what awaits us on the other side of this life. A day of judgment is coming when all of us — even you — will rise from our graves and stand before him for eternal sentencing to either worshiping in his kingdom or suffering in his hell.
The Bible could not be clearer: “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
These are not just obscure Bible verses. In fact, Jesus talks about hell more than anyone else in Scripture. Amazingly, 13% of his sayings are about hell and judgment, and more than half of his parables relate to the eternal judgment of sinners.
Keep in mind that Jesus’ words come in the context of the rest of Scripture, which says that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Furthermore, he “is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
God is far more loving, kind and patient with his enemies than we are with our enemies.
What does the rest of the Bible say about hell?
The Bible gives us many descriptions of hell including (1) fire; (2) darkness; (3) punishment; (4) exclusion from God’s presence; (5) restlessness; (6) second death; and (7) weeping and gnashing of teeth in agony.
A common misperception of Satan is that he’s in a red suit, holding a pitchfork at the gates of hell. But Satan will not[j1] reign there. Hell is a place of punishment that God prepared for the devil and his angels, and it’s where those who live apart from God will, according to Revelation:
. . . drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb [Jesus Christ]. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night.
At the end of the age, the devil will be “thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
Hell will be ruled over by Jesus, and everyone present — humans and demons and Satan alike — will be tormented there continually in perfect justice.
Jesus says, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. ... And these will go away into eternal punishment.”
Is there a second chance after death?
The Bible is clear that we die once and are then judged without any second chance at salvation. As one clear example, Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”
We live. We die. We face judgment. Period.
How long does the punishment last?
Some argue that the punishment of sinners is not eternal, a view called annihilationism. This means that after someone dies apart from Jesus, they suffer for a while and then simply cease to exist.
Annihilationism is simply not what the Bible teaches. Daniel 12:2 says, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Jesus speaks of those who “will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Grammatically, there is no difference here between the length of time mentioned for “life” and that for “punishment”; rather, there is simply eternal life and eternal death.
Am I going to hell?
The good news is that the closing verses of the Bible say, “Come!” Everyone is invited to receive the free gift of God’s saving grace in Jesus. Jesus is God become a man to reconcile mankind to God.
He lived the sinless life we have not lived, died a substitutionary death on the cross for our sins. He endured our wrath, rose to conquer our enemies of sin and death, and ascended to heaven where he is ruling as Lord over all today. He did this all in love.
The stark reality is this: either Jesus suffered for your sins to rescue you from hell, or you will suffer for your sins in hell. These are the only two options and you have an eternal decision to make.
My hope and prayer is that you would become a Christian.
Have you confessed your sins to Jesus Christ, seeking forgiveness and salvation?
If not, you are hellbound, and there is no clever scholar who will be of any help when you stand before Jesus Christ for judgment. You’re not required to like hell as much as you need to believe in it, turn from your sin, trust in Jesus, and be saved from an eternal death into an eternal life.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mark Driscoll.
It is my belief that physics will eventually prove the existence of Hell before the existence of God which will be one and the same for all intents and purposes. There is some mysterious electrochemical reaction that occurs in what is our "soul" when we do bad things. At the point and death and loss of that 21 grams, a "soul" saturated with the effects of these mysterious electrochemical reactions will predisposed itself to a sentient existence in pure chaos – or Hell. Be good and don't go to Hell – simple dimple.
What exactly are you smoking hammer?
What are you talking about?
I think it is the weight a human body loses after death , 21 grams is though to be the soul leaving but maybe it's just poop?
hammer – "There is some mysterious electrochemical reaction that occurs in what is our "soul" when we do bad things."
There is some electrochemical malfunction in what is your "brain".
Of course, the whole 21 grams thing was just the product of dubious experiments conducted at the start of the 20th century, on the highly imprecise state-of-the art equipment of the time, with about of the tenth of the repiti.tions as one would see for a casual experiment on an episode Mythbusters.
So would say this myth is busted.
Hell is having to listen to religious vomit. Do everybody a favor and keep your fantasy life to yourself.
Prayer changes things .
Atheism is positively correlated with intelligence, higher education, low crime rate, low divorce rate, etc. It is extremely healthy for children, and adults for that matter.
More people have been murdered and tortured by atheists in the last 100 years than in all previous centuries. Your concept of what is "healthy" is lacking.
Your brain power is lacking, TuBeTop.
Tbt, that's false. The killings you are referring to were not done based on any dictate of Atheism. Christianity and Islam formally demand that believers murder.
Islam has nothing to do with Christianity, There are no instructions given for Christians to murder. All atheist leaders on the other hand have been mass murderers and liars.
TuBeTop, what does genocide have to do with anything? Millions of atheists and agnostics harm no one at all. And some Christians steal, kill, cheat, lie and fornicate.
What do you think posting your crap proves?
Atheism did not dictate murder.Look at your religion.Torturing people to convert.Killing people.Look in the mirror.
I'm so glad that my God is a loving one. I'm so glad that I am a recovering Catholic. I'm so glad that I can live my life in a loving way and helping other humans whenever given the opportunity.
I thank God daily that I don't have to "serve" him by jamming my beliefs down other people's throats or blowing people up.
Re not "by jamming my beliefs down other people's throats"
You forgot your /s tag, right? Please tell me you did, Jim.
Jim – You use "I'm", "I," my", "me", and "I'm happy" a little too often for someone who's "found God" – shouldn't there be more of the "you", "us" and "others"?
You're only happy because you're wrapped up in yourself! Get out more. Find someone who needs help! And I hope you don't regret giving up your birthright for a mess of potage!
Hell was made especially for Republicans.
hell was made for americans who are traitors to their own people.....that includes dems and reps both....
hell was made before americans even existed!
You know how idiotic that sounds coming from an American who probably thinks there is nothing beyond the borders of the United States of America. I am not an American but this is totally absurd that one would even suggest that hell was specifically created for your favourite political group. One question for you can or any other american shut the HELL up about your political crap and just vote already. The world is sick of seeing your political crap posted on forums, The US is not the world. STFU!
I doubt God cares about politics.
LOL...if you go to Hell for being self-centered and only caring about yourself, then I'm sure that there will be a lot of Repubicans going there. I wonder if old Mitt will get a car elevator in Hell?
Even Jesus had a job and provided for himself. He didn't expect anyone to take care of him like the Dems do...
Oh, and didn't God say something about shedding innocent blood... what is that thing that all Dems support (Including Obama)... oh ya, abortion = shedding innocent blood. Go to hell dems.
@nisroc00 - if America is not "the world", then why are YOU trolling around on the USA edition of the CNN website? Since you hate America so much, keep your ignorant self off our websites!
@Rock0f@ges Check international fool, it is there too.
"Perfect justice?" Why yes, everyone in hell is suffering perfect justice, meaning ENDLESS suffering for crimes committed during the tiny period of a human lifetime! NOT IMBALANCED AT ALL!
Even better, Hitler is taking the same napalm shower as Gandhi which totally makes sense because being a peace-loving Hindu who made a better life for millions of people is just as bad as committing genocide!
WHY WOULD ANYONE NOT ACCEPT THIS AWESOME RELIGION???
100% agreed with your views. This idea is what led me to seek my own spiritual path outside all religions. I am happy and content in my own conviction, which I base on inner reflection and intuition, and I wish everyone else Peace and Happiness.
Happy = Just so you know that Humanism, which you profess, is based on self and relegates man to animal status.
As it turns out, we don't know for certain who is and isn't going to Hell. In many areas across the world people have had access to the bible. However, there are also MANY places across the globe where no one ever had a chance to read the Bible because it simple wasn't available to them. To me this would mean that a just God judges people depending on what they know to be right and then obviously what actions they chose to take knowing full well what was the right thing to do. In my mind, some truth to a certain extent is instilled in everyone at birth, but the word with the MOST clarity by FAR is found in the Bible. Let me show you an example of how I think it works: Those in the Americas before Columbus or anyone else came over from either Asia or Europe by crossing the two major Oceans obviously did NOT have the bible to refer to. If this is the case, then how are they to be saved you ask?.. I believe those who did their best to do what is right despite not having the bible to refer to are in the position to go to heaven, and as I said before we are given by God at birth knowledge of what is wrong and right, however the specifics are found more so in the Bible, but God will again judge you according to what you knew. If you knew that by making a particular decision that is was wrong, then God will judge you for that. However, if you never even knew that what you were doing was wrong, then you won't be judged harshly, and maybe not at all depending on the specifics of the situation. What about people who believe in other religions? All I need to say about that: God looks at the condition of EVERYONES heart to determine their ultimate fate. Not even Christians can determine who will and who will not go to Hell, that is simply out of their hands. And personally, I don't think everyone from other religions are going to Hell by any stretch, it is up to them to choose to be good people at heart.
I would rather live knowing there is a God in life then not believing there is not...
So you prefer self-delusion to truth. Whatever floats your boat, as they say.
I suspect many would prefer "knowing" there is a God; however, one cannot "know" this...
Why ruth, because believing that people will burn in hell makes you all warm and fuzzy?
very tricky... your double negative asserts that you don't even believe in your own statement. Tricky indeed!
I think Ruth is confused in a number of ways.
You can believe in a loving God, not one that sends you to Hell because you didn't give enough to the church.
I would rather know the truth than believe in a comforting lie.
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. They will have no excuse and although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God...God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.
Sounds alot like those on the previous comments who reject God and the greatest love the world has and will ever know. Humble yourselves...repent and be saved.
well there is no God, no heaven, no hell, no afterlife, no jesus, all made up so why spend your lives worrying about fictional made up stuff?
Please explain love, honor, peace, contentment, joy, laughter, truth, patience and virtue.
Before,truth,Explain it by god.How does it all go.
That's an easy one, TBT. It's simply humanity.
TuBeTop, if you were any dumber, someone would have to water you. Moron.
you have explained nothing. Humanity, atheism left to itself in power becomes mass murder, lies and torture.
TBT,Whenever you bring up history to use for your argument,you lose.
@TBT – The same could clearly be said for religion...
Oh, nonsense. Why do you have to lie to attempt to make a point, TuBeTop? You post nothing but fallacies. Why should anyone pay attention to what you claim is true when you never post anything but inaccuracies and outright falsehoods? You undermine your own cause by being a dishonest fvck.
Truth be told – You're right about Atheists. They have been responsible for more killings of people of Faith than ALL the religions since history was recorded.
Atheism is based on selfishness; it relegates man to animal status.
Let me add one bit – Atheists have killed more people of Faith in the last 120 YEARS tan all religions! Sorry!
Oh, how sad. A sock puppet? Really? Seriously? You must be desperate, TuBeTop.
We currently live in peace while the religions of the world clash.Killing people to convert in the inquisition is more barbaric.And saying that Atheism dictates murder is wrong.Nothing dictates that.
If one blind person is leading another blind person they'll both fall into a pit. You are blind, turn to Christ so he can bring you out of your darkness and into His wonderful light.
specific tangible evidence of the existence of heaven or hell or the whole idea has the same legitimacy of Santa's Workshop at the North Pole
Santa was at least very loosely based upon an actual person so there is more credibility to that than to Christianity!
There is more evidence for Christ than there is for you.
No evidence for god.
I think "truth be told" needs to work on the "truth" part of their screen name. But hey! TBT provides proof that trolls do indeed exist!
True, tally. The fvcktard just keeps on digging itself deeper into a hole.
Let me post a question. Did Matter create intelligence, or did intelligence create Matter?
The chosen few are a terrible bunch of self righteous bores. If all the fun people are in Hell, what are they going to do with their time?
if i don't go to hell, i won't get to speak hang out with Gandhi or John Lennon...
You do not hang out with anyone in hell, you will be totally isolated and in incredible unending terror, all with the knowledge that you did it to yourself.
How do you know, TuBeTop? Been there? Didja get a T-shirt?
You idiot. There's no hell and there's no heaven, either.
Be honest, humans are violent animals and to make them follow the laws of society you have to threaten the only thing they don't have control over... their soul.
Goes back in time way before christianity....
So, according to Mark Driscoll, if you do not become a Christian and accept Jesus as your savior, you will go to hell. It does not matter if throughout your entire life you are kind, it does not matter if you are generous to the poor and help others, it does not matter if you practice nonviolence, it does not matter if you are loyal to your wife and family, it does not matter if you sacrifice yourself for the well-being of others, it does not matter if you strive to improve yourself spiritually during your entire life. You are still damned if you are not a christian. Mr. Driscoll, the message Jesus was trying to impart is totally lost upon you, even with your knowledge of the bible.
exactly. you can be the best person in the world - but if you don't accept jesus, you get to be tortured for eternity. god of compassion? LOL!
Mark Driscoll is not God, nor does he represent God. I doubt God even likes Mark Driscoll.
My idea of hell is to spend eternity with a bunch of obtuse religious nuts like Mark Driscoll.
So, all you holy rollers - either you're right, and I'm going to Hell, or you're wrong. Either way, it looks like we'll be spending the afterlife getting to know each other real well.
Sparky, you don't get to spend eternity in your idea of hell.
"you don't get to spend eternity in your idea of hell."
Q?: Why not?
A: [insert unsupported subjective interpretation of alleged supernatural edict from alleged supernaturally "inspired" holy book]
And christians don't get to spend eternity in the heaven of their choice. In fact, there is absolutely nothing to substantiate the existence of heaven or of hell. Only the wishful thinking of people who are afraid of the end of their own existence.
Nothing to substantiate heaven? Except the man who came from heaven and the promises given in Gods Holy Word and the millions of testimonies of those who have met God and the entire universe that declares the work of God truth and the soul of every person that secretly desires the completion that only God can give and the sacrifice of Gods own Son Jesus Christ.
The testimonies were not real.Just your mind.
And not a single thing you blabbered is proof of the existence of any omnipotent sky fairy, Lies To All.
@TBT. Yep. As I said, not substantiated. There is no more proof of your god than there is for Zeus.
My motto is its better to ask for forgiveness than permission
I believe this is also the motto for the International Union of Serial Rapists...
The 2nd author of this article states: "Hell will be ruled over by Jesus, and everyone present — humans and demons and Satan alike — will be tormented there continually in perfect justice."
He can't wait for this to happen to those that disagree with him. I simply can't understand how people think this way yet consider their god (and themselves) to be perfectly moral. Notice his choice of language, eternal torture for thought crime is "PERFECT JUSTICE"!!! Disgusting...
greg, from comment page 45 has inspired a rather tantalizing question that all religious folks should consider carefully. If i were to do a handstand and allow jesus to pour soup into my butt, would he use a funnel or would he try to cram the can itself into my dark abyss?
Godless kitties going to hell, anti christmas evil lil kitties – how sad you christian's do that to a poor lil kitty
It's "Christians", not "Christian's". You're a slow learner, aren't you, Gregg?
I aint spaelin nuttun right cuz I kno i makes you reely upset"
You don't have a spelling problem, just a punctuation problem. And you don't seem eager to correct it.
it's do not not don't
Oh Gregg , I love you anyway.
Christianity disgusts me. Islam disgusts me. If humanity doesn't evolve its thinking in this crucial time in our history, we will all suffer and die with our potential unfulfilled. Dying and burning eternally in a lake of fire because you don't believe in something you can't see and doesn't make any sense whatsoever is something an insane person would believe. Unfortunately, a majority of the planet's population believes this nonsense without question.
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.