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.
Let's abandon all beliefs in fairy tales...
The second guy should have said;
'As a pastor, my job is to tell the truth. Your job is to make a decision. And the truth is there is no proof for or against the existence of hell, heaven, or God. Now make your decision'.
That would be a lie.
There is no proof of god.Now go and insult atheism.
Your preferred wishful thinking does not amount to empirical evidence...
The last place I would look for spiritual assurances would be CNN. Most people gather their theological knowledge from the media or how "they feel" so of course many people think that Mark Driscoll's theology is way off. If you study theology and educate like Mr. Driscoll has, why would we completely negate every educated conviction that he holds and has discovered through years of education and research. Look, I changed a lightbulb one time but that doesn't give me the expertise to tell an electrician that he doesn't know a thing about electrical currents. Step down pseudo experts and open your mind to professional opinions. It will further your case whatever your belief is.
Seriously, how is it that your all-powerful creature can't get his message out consistently? Pretty pathetic wimp of a god that you've made for yourself there, little Ryan.
What a load.
You can study fairy tales for a living. You can become the world's leading professional expert on fairy tales. They remain fairy tales.
For the same reason I would reject someone's opinion regarding Leprechauns and their gold, I reject Mr. Driscoll's and any other opinion on wholly immaterial and subjective matters. That they've spent significant effort "studying" does not eradicate the underlying reality that they still have no empirical evidence to support their positions.
Mark, I guess you knew they would come out of the woodwork after you, but you have to try. We all need to try- for their sakes.
Elvis, I guess you knew they would come out of the woodwork after you, but you have to try. We all need to try- for their sakes.
Please stop trying. It's like having children constantly trying to get you onto Santa's 'Good' list.
If the existence of Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny wasn't based on physical evidence that can be proved fraudulent by the parent, there would be a 'hell' of a lot of middle aged Americans still believing in them.
"As a pastor, my job is to tell the truth."...*insert hypocrisy here*
Hell is real! Trust me, I know. I've been married. :-)
It seems that this is another article from Ahtiests mainly, Gays and Lesbians, yet again trying to prove that God does'nt exist and Burn the Bible and Holy Books and Dump ALL Religions !! Good Try! But Tough Luck!! (No Thankyou! People are not going to change!)
Read the second half of the article from Mark.
The sixth-grade writing of Making Sense unerringly tags him/her as a bible babbler.
I don't know – making sense was using exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
how can one refute exclamation points??????????????????????????????
Hey, how about question marks???????????????????????????????????
Oh Frankie, your words fail to separate you from the standard confusion of any liberal. Could God punish people with eternal separation in a place called Hell? He has the right and is just to do so for every one of us. That the same God could offer so great a gift to escape such a sentence can bring only praise from the believer and indifference from the hard of heart. To then deny what His Word so clearly teaches with liberal reasonings is blasphemy at any level, even as articulate as you may offer. Repent.
No, dreamer, you can't pull that off here. Your god is hardly kindly bearing gifts when your owners' manual for your horrid religion has him making violent demands of you like these:
17 Now kiII all the boys. And kiII every woman who has slept with a man,
18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.
Deuteronomy 13:6 – “If your brother, your mother’s son or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul entice you secretly, saying, let us go and serve other gods … you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death”
Revelations 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
Note that the bible is also very clear that you should sacrifice and burn an animal today because the smell makes sicko Christian sky fairy happy. No, you don't get to use the parts for food. You burn them, a complete waste of the poor animal.
Yes, the bible really says that, everyone. Yes, it's in Leviticus, look it up. Yes, Jesus purportedly said that the OT commands still apply. No exceptions. But even if you think the OT was god's mistaken first go around, you have to ask why a perfect, loving enti-ty would ever put such horrid instructions in there. If you think rationally at all, that is.
And then, if you disagree with my interpretation, ask yourself how it is that your "god" couldn't come up with a better way to communicate than a book that is so readily subject to so many interpretations and to being taken "out of context", and has so many mistakes in it. Pretty pathetic god that you've made for yourself.
So get out your sacrificial knife or your nasty sky creature will torture you eternally. Or just take a closer look at your foolish supersti-tions, understand that they are just silly, and toss them into the dustbin with all the rest of the gods that man has created.
Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement. Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
Well said, Bob.
Regardless as to whether people are going to embrace atheism or not, simply becoming self-reliant and not staring skyward hoping for miracles to rain down– that is really what this boils down to.
It is the main reason we must stand behind a secular government to uphold all our freedoms alike.
Sigh... more deluded people that believe in fairy tales. Time to grow up, humanity!
Right, how retarded can these religious zealots be?
But they're so scared. And the promise of oblivion is almost useless. That's why it's so hard :-)
Whatever the truth is, it doesn't matter if any of us believe in it, that's what makes it the truth.
How fair is a God that just sends you to a hell that cannot be proven, it can only be believed in with faith born out of fear?
Why believe your religious texts over others?
It would make Odin roll in his mythically-relevant timeframe.
Do all the previous gods go this god's hell?
What reason should I believe the words of men long dead?
Why would I want to go to a heaven devised by a god so hell-bent on suffering?
I'd rather go to hell as a means of civil disobedience if both heaven and hell existed solely for buying my unwavering faith in the absurd.
But there is no reason to believe.
There is no heaven or hell to see.
There is this Planet, and we human beings upon it, trying to find our way as a species.
Ask yourself these questions, Mark.
Perhaps you will come to find atheism as an answer to opening heaven's real doors, right here on Earth. Or at the very least, realize that some skepticism might better hone your views and humble your lack of understanding of that beyond what humans can possibly understand. The unknown is simply the unknown.
Would you want to find out? Are you 100% sure hell doesn't exist? What are you going to do if what preachers and The Bible have been telling the world for thousands of years is absolute truth? Keep in mind, once you are in hell, no escape is possible. It is a terrible place far worse than the mind could comprehend. I would not wish it on the worst person who has ever lived. All you have to do is repent from your sins, confess Jesus as your Savior and believe in his death and resurrection on the third day. Jesus died for you and me in our place so that we may have everlasting life in heaven with him. Just open your heart and mind to be amazed what God can do for you.
No, I am not interested in this hokey product you are trying to sell me. Couldn't you tell my comment said "no soliciting"?
But A. Taylor, that's how they get you. It's such a disproportionately terrible thing to risk, you're willing to waste your entire life on the tiny tiny chance it might be true. It's psychological brain washing. Don't you see? I have nothing to offer you but an eternity of oblivion. It's a hard sell I admit. It's miserable knowing death is the end. It's nice to believe in something else. But when people kill and die for such beliefs, it's a broken world.
Here's how I see it: yes, I do believe in Hell, but God is a God who does not want to see anybody go there. He isn't pleased with us "sending our enemies there", as Mr. Schaeffer puts it. He does not want Christians and Muslims to kill each other. But just because he does not want anyone to go there does not mean that Hell does not exist. The US government doesn't want anyone traveling to places like Cuba or North Korea, but do they exist? Yes!
And while I do agree with the redemptive view of God, that does not mean that our wrong choices do not have negative consequences in this life or the next. If we sin against God, God does not "send us to Hell", we deny God and choose to take a step towards Hell. God is always there to welcome us back to Him, and is saddened when we turn against Him, but just as we made the decision to turn against Him, we have to be the ones to choose to come back. It's like the parable of the prodigal son. Our father is always waiting with the fattened calf for us to return; we just have to return to him. If we don't, we squander our share of the inheritance our father gives us completely and we are left alone, and the responsibility for putting us in that situation would be purely our own. In other words, God didn't dig that hole to Hell for us, we dug it ourselves. We just have to climb out of that hole, and fortunately for us, God, through Jesus' death and resurrection, has provided us a way out. We just have to reach out and take it.
Long story short, God doesn't want anyone to go to Hell and isn't pleased when we send people there. Further, when we do, we are taking a step towards Hell ourselves. God never sends anyone to Hell, we choose to go there through our own actions.
Why do you believe any of that, MidP, and how do you know what god wants?
And what are you holding it with if you are typing MidP?
Surely missing the opportunity to go to Heaven would be incentive enough to adhere to a religion? But no, the brightest people won't believe such nonsense. What's worse, those slightly less bright are inclined to follow them, unless we think up a punishment too. A stick to go with the carrot, something so unimaginably terrible and disproportionate that even those who might otherwise have questioned our rules would dare not risk it, just in case. They'll say, "I'm 99% certain these rules are made up by people wishing to control me, but even if there's a 1% chance I'm wrong, I can't possibly risk something so awful". HOW IS THIS NOT A OBVIOUS CHAIN OF EVENTS?!!!
Not sure where this man is coming from but the O.T. mentions "hell" 54 times in 54 verses in the KJV
Deu 32:22 KJV – For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.
Please don't rely on CNN to tell you what the Bible says and doesn't say.
"For you're everlasting soul is at stake"
Um, Mark Driscoll, to an atheist or agnostic you come across as a complete psychopath. Just FYI. Oh, and:
"Hell will be ruled over by Jesus, and everyone present — humans and demons and Satan alike — will be tormented there continually in perfect justice."
Your description of Jesus paints him as a psychopath too. Do you not understand how this sounds to somebody who is not a follower of your religion (ie most of the planet)?
no. next question?
So what if God is real and there is after life? What will you do then? NOthing! Because it will be too late to save yourself. No one is forcing you to believe, but our mission as Christians is to tell the whole world about God. Then the end will come.... Whether you like it or not
Who gave you the mission to tell the world about your fictitious god? Stop your meddling.
god is a word abused by religion, spirituality is true belief, not you're silly book. I will never capitalize the word god as it is not reference to the creator but to an object.
Go ahead and live your life in fear, you know, just in case there's a god. That's pathetic.
I have no doubt that God is real. I also have no doubt that God did not create religion. That disaster was created by man, to gain control of men and make money.
If only you had a shred of evidence to prove the existence of your god. Until you can provide that, you are simply individuals who annoy others with the mythology of your choice, be it through proselytism or through legislation.
In these last days God has revealed Himself to us through His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus said if you have seen me you have seen the Father.
You lie about everything else, TuBeTop. Why would anyone believe your claims? You're the boy who cried "Wolf!"
People like you are the crazies in the world that are bringing an end to religion becaue people are scared to death of you...not your made up god. You god makers are the ones that go to war, kill people and spread hatred.
truth be told – Every generation has thre share of nut jobs like you claiming we're in the last days. Funny thing though, it never happens. When the current bunch of religious malcontents are removed from our existence, what will you have to profess then?
Since all of you are responding that means that something inside you is bothering you it's called Your SOUL!!! What evidence do you have to prove that evolution ever took place. Who creature the world? You teach that out of nothing came the world! Where did matter mass and space come from? Where did 1st humans come from monkeys? Well where did the monkeys come from? God didn't creat religion he created love!
Hell can go to Hell
COEXIST is the only answer. For God is too big for ONE religion! Who's to say everyone's wrong, when all could have a kernel of truth? We simply need to work together, stop judging each other, & accept each other for who we are!
Set an example – for judging others is a SIN.
Judging that others are judging is a SIN too.
Love me some recursive recursion to go with my redoubtable exurgency.
God's children will judge the world. God says this in Revelations
j, speaking of Revelations, let's look at what is in that section and other parts of your Christian book of nasty AKA the bible. Fine stuff like this, from your nasty sky fairy:
That's sounds good on the surface, but Jesus spoke of the One True God and that no one comes to the Father without coming through Him. I trust in Jesus, because He is God and I believe He knows the way to His Father's house.
What a crock. Believe what you want, but stop pretending it's fact.
With respect to the "....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...". here is an idea. Why don't we get them all together on a neutral battle field and let them annihilate each other to their respective hells, so that the rest of us can live in harmony and with due respect, without religious bigotry. Problem solved.
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.