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.
In my opinion, non-believers do not want to believe because they love their sin too much and don't want someone to tell them what to do & they most certainly don't want to be judged and be held accountable for every word that was spoken and all of their actions.
It's about God's love, mercy, and grace! He can forgive the worst people in society. That's who He'd prefer, so He can drastically change their lives & His glory is revealed through their life and testimony. One thing non-believers must know is that you come to God just as you are. No matter what sins you are committing. If you want to live a life without shame & guilt for everything you've done and have the peace of being forgiven, then admit your sins to God. Have an open mind to check out the bible. Stop looking at faulty society & judging God by the way the world lives because we are not perfect but God is. You should atleast give Him a chance! It can't hurt to believe but it sure as "hell" can if you don't.
Let me guess, Tam. You spend a lot of time in church, don't you?
Your opinion is just your opinion. It has no basis in truth. But I guess you would rather believe the worst about others than question your religion. That's sad, unfair, and dishonest.
You are misinformed in your opinion.
You don't know sh!t from Shinola. I am faithful to my spouse, I work hard at my job, I don't cheat anyone, I pay my taxes, I don't speed, I don't drive drunk, I give to charity, I donate blood, I'm committed to making the world I live in a better place by doing what's right, not because some sky-fairy is going to shoot lightning bolts at me if I don't, but because I want to do good things. I don't need some invisible jockey to beat me so I'll keep to the straight and narrow. If you do, I pity you. You're weak.
Oh my, this child may as well be peddling drugs. Lol. My goodness. Complete garbage. Her mama must have dropped the poor thing on her head when she was young.
@tamara: "In my opinion"
Which is why try to deal in fact. Our opinions are nice to share but shouldn't be used to base anything on. Most certainly I do not wish to base my life on your opinion.
"non-believers do not want to believe because they love their sin too much"
You exhibit a typical misunderstanding. We do not believe *because* we see no reason that it makes a difference, no proof; or because we see little enough reason to warrant the probability of a god that espouses any sort of rules about how we should live. A "sin" in one culture may not be in another, so "loving a sin" itself is no reason to disbelieve a particular religion.
"[non-believers] don't want someone to tell them what to do"
Hey, can I have your phone number? You like being told what to do evidently. You and I may get along well. I'll bring the dildo and lube...
"they most certainly don't want to be judged and be held accountable for every word that was spoken and all of their actions."
hey Little Miss Can't Do Wrong, no one is perfect. And if you've sinned, you're going to hell. There is no such thing as forgiveness, because if you've sinned then you have defied god's law, therefore you don't believe in his punishments or commandments, therefore do not believe in him, therefore deny his existence, and that's the one punishable offense he doesn't forgive.
"It's about God's love, mercy, and grace!"
It is about the opposite. Religion is only about fear, hate, and violence. Your god tried to sugar coat it with a bit of honey, and man did you take that medicine down!
"He can forgive the worst people in society."
wrong again. From god's point of view the worst sin is denying the holy spirit. Non-believers are the worst in society, even if they've spent their life gathering food and money to give to the poor and needy; even if an atheist has toiled his entire life building shelters for the homeless and adopting every orphan in the world. Your god does not forgive those people. He still prefers rapists and murderers. Sounds like you're in good company.
"That's who He'd prefer, so He can drastically change their lives & His glory is revealed through their life and testimony."
your god's glory is revealed through the life of a rapists and murderers? holy cow. You are welcome to that twisted insanity.
"One thing non-believers must know is that you come to God just as you are. No matter what sins you are committing."
Why would non-believers care to know anything about an imaginary being in your delusion? You seem to have a lot of guilt about something, constantly nattering on about so much sin.
"If you want to live a life without shame & guilt for everything you've done and have the peace of being forgiven, then admit your sins to God."
You're assuming others have done something to be shameful of. You're projecting your own guilt. We already have peace. We do not need forgiveness for that. Why would we need to admit sins to god? Hasn't he seen us commit them?
"Have an open mind to check out the bible."
You assume we don't know the bible when many of come from a religious past and have rejected it because we *do* know the bible. Perhaps we have a better understanding of it than you.
"It can't hurt to believe but it sure as "hell" can if you don't."
Pascal's Wager is certainly not a commendable way to bring someone to religion.
I am a devout Christian and believe me, there is a hell. It is not the place most Christians believe in but I will tell you that every being who ever lives must pass through hell. We remain there only as long as it we need to take responsibility for our lives, admit our mistakes and acknowledge our Savior. This process is the same for everyone, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist etc. After our judgement however, we are given the ability/power to progress based on how we lived our lives and how we treated our fellow man. Good luck to all those who take innocent lives in the name of religion. They may find an eternity of impotency far worse than hell.
Why should we believe you? I'll go with common sense instead.
An eternity of impotency???? You mean no more bo-ners? Is that what hell is? Granted, my wife would consider that to be heaven – no more stiffy proddings at 3 in the morning: hey, you awake? hey, you awake? (poke, poke, poke)
"I am a devout Christian and believe me, there is a hell."
See the way it works is...you are supposed to be prove it exists first. You don't come out and say "believe me" and then expect everyone to believe it by virtue of it coming out of your mouth. You're making the positive claim. Prove it.
Great article, Pastor Mark. You summed up everything accurately and succinctly.
Judging from the comment section for this article there are a lot of atheists out there, and if 47% of the population views themselves as victims who are dependent on the government as Romney says than Obama is just warming us up for the coming of the anti Christ.
Ray, you're saying that you're the anti-christ. I agree.
bwahahaha! Now that was funny. The anti-christ! Sounds like a hollywood movie!
is this article for real?
Hell is just a religious technology to maximize the drop in the bucket. Threaten people with hell and damnation if they don't give enough to the church. Easy way to insure the parish has enough money to build that grand new Cathedral the bishop has always wanted.
God didn't warn about hell to get our money. He owns everything and doesn't need it. On the other hand, He sure loves us and wants us to come live with Him, and has prepared fantastic things for us. We must be washed clean of our sins first. Repentance and faith in Christ obtains for us forgiveness and eternal life. Refusal to repent or believe is like refusing a judge's offer of acquittal for wrongs we have done and insisting on serving the sentence. Hell is the sentence.
You are right. God didn't for our money. But the many guys who wrote the books of the Bible over a period of more than a thousand years, sure are.
I admit, I am an idiot.
There are a couple ways we know the Bible is true and the God of the Bible exists. First, amazing design comes from a designer. That is true science! Never, Never, Never do you get more complex design from an explosion. Secondly, you have to live a real sheltered life not to know of the spiritual powers at work in our world. Jesus cast out demons and they are still at work today in and through people. Just do a little research about demon possession in animistic religions.
So what you are trying to say is that you are too lazy to learn a little science, so it's easier for you just to say "god did it."
Those are very poor, illogical reasons to believe in the bible. Spend a little more time in a library and a little less time in church and maybe you'll become more enlightened.
That post, "The Truth", bears a striking resemblance to those cute "recipes" Kindergartners come up with for cooking a turkey. Not even close to reality or fact.
Wow. Your lack of intelligence is comical. Too bad you are not capable of thinking for yourself. You will live the rest of your life in intellectual chains, never really thinking. Then you will die. Your brain tissue will liquefy, and your body will burst from a buildup of gasses from decomposition... In the end, we all rot. :)
The evidences I have listed that God does exist are very simple and plain to understand I agree. They are so obvious that all you can do is mock. But, the best evidence of the Bible is the historical facts that Jesus lived, died and then rose again 3 days later to pay the penalty for your and my sin.
Wow – Um, Mr. "the Truth" – there is absolutely, positively NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER that some dude named Jesus died, and then rose from the dead three days later. None. I can well imagine that story arose when someone thought to be dead, and then stuck in a cave, regained consciousness. But dead – actually dead? No evidence at all – not a speck.
I agree with my atheist friends. We are all going to the same place as Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, etc. That is the earth. In the long run, heros and villains are the same. We can talk about how we are intrinsically moral people. However, we just follow the Judeo-Christian ethics. Let's face it. It is simply slave ethics. It is contrary to our very nature. It is time to reevaluate right and wrong.
The article forgets one critically important aspect of salvation. One must be baptized for the forgiveness of ones sins in order to gain the kingdom. John 3:3 Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born again." Jesus repeats that statement in John 3:5-6. It takes more than just believing to be saved from eternal damnation.
No Mychale, it takes an incredible amount of stupidity to believe that you have to be dunked in water to be forgiven for sins. What happens if there's no water around? I think the sheer stupidity of you christians is so outrageous that it's almost comic.
There is only one true GOD
who has created His book of Universe and His book of Religion
based on same "19 coded, Symmetrical most magnificent and superb Mathematical Language!"
Here are the SOLID and CLEAR Proofs:
UNIVERSAL MAGNIFICENT MIRACLES
Is hell for real?
Much of what Driscoll writes above is gleaned from his background and this forum presents a chance for him to voice his "opinion" based upon that. As is typical of 99.9% of the evangelical pastors, preachers, and "cryers of woe" these days is to hang on to a single passage in the Bible and expound greatly upon it. Mankind has reached a point of intelligence in these past decades that supercedes the "threat" percieved and executed by those who find the educated leaving their congregation and then try to hold on to the rest by fear. 1) There is, nor has there ever been any hell. Religiously, jesus died upon the cross to bear our sins. He is not coming back again in any form as he has been inside each of us since he left to allow the comforter to come. Hell, by society definition, is the hook that has been used by the entire religious community since Constantine to put fear into the hearts of men and draw funds out of their pocketbooks for the church. Wake up and smell the roses. Can anyone truly believe that our saviour would allow us to exist upon this planet, after he was crucified, to deal with "Hell"? Hell no. One spits upon his name when one dares to say that Jesus died for nothing...He is not coming back, he is not judging us, and Lucifer, the Morning Star, is not waiting for us if we overdraw our bank account. As the intelligence of our people grows to understand the truth, "Hell" will eventusally join the ranks of the black cat and salt over our shoulder. Keep in mind that the only reason "Hell" is alive and well in many religions of this world is because it draws people and money back to the church. Period.
Hell is for real
We need to abandon the crutch of religion.
All these ancient fairy tales are just that. Fairy Tales.
We are no longer ignorant masses. The populations of the earth today have access to 1000 times the sources of knowledge that were in ancient times.
We are a society of laws and morals. Not a bunch of heathens that live by eye for eye.
It's time to put all religions where they belong. In the rubbish bin of failed ideas.
It just doesn't make sense really.
God so loved the world that He throws the majority of the human race that isn't Christian into eternal torment in a lake of fire when they die?
Also, if He created us and wants us to not sin, why not give us more of a predilection against sin when He created us? It wouldn't be necessary to command us "Don't covet your neighbors wife" if He just built that into our neurology. But He didn't, why?
"Is Hell for real?"
Why have "faith" in your gods when you can see actual evidence. Study a bit about Tiwanacu and Puma Punku Bolivia and to a lesser degree the Nasca lines in Peru. At least there's evidence that our Gods were aliens. Hell is just something we've made up since to scare people into believing the non alien version of Gods.
Mark Driscoll is right. There is a true hell, and Jesus is the only way out. Turn to Jesus.
No, pastor Mark is not a delusional nut. Don't take what he says out of context. It's actually very scarily plausible indeed.
Like the vacuum cleaner you are named after, your argument sucks
Sorry Eric, you have no real proof of a God.
i turn away from jesus, and i fart in his general direction.
I'm glad you posted this story because this is most definitely news. The best part was where you used cold hard facts to prove your point! Society will definitely take away from this one, and hopefully we can all become better people. Of course religion isn't just fairytales and excuses for people to manipulate others and commit hate crimes, it makes us better people to be afraid of a magical fire land! Better stick to my geography-mandated religion of choice, because everyone knows that everyone else is most definitely wrong.
Quit your job.
Donkeys can talk, people can fly
There’s a god-man named Jesus who lives in the sky
Secular science is just Christ-hating bunk
So Listen to Jesus, not Isaac Newton’s Junk
Because God has a great gravity lesson to tell
When he drops you like an apple straight into Hell.
Talk big now, because God will be back. Stop pretending that He is The creator. That is BLASPHEMY ,,,The only sin recorded in the Bible that will not be forgiven. When those that Deny God and Christ,Hell will be Eternity for you. No watch ,,no record of how Many days are recorded!! Its permanent. NO rebuttal for those that served themselves and satan. You cannot serve 2 masters/ Read your Bibles,,Talk to each other,,Stop relying on leadership here,,,,its Not working on either side,,PlEase,,,think about God for just one minute.
Jeeeez, why can't your god atleast have a sense of humor??
Hey, jbm – did you go to high school? Did you finish high school? Have you ever travelled more than 50 miles from where you were born? You sound like some absolutely ignorant and uneducated yokel.
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.