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.
Penn Jillette on God, No!, Atheism, Libertarianism, & More . . . . . . . . . .
Call me crazy, but if I wanted to create a religion and appeal to followers, maybe – just maybe – I might promise paradise to those who strictly adhere, and eternal suffering to those who do not.
Give me a break. Invisible beings do not judge us or punish us. Exit the bronze age, please. You look like fools.
this is idi otic... we have people actually trying to debate something that can't possibly exist. not even remotely possible... it is literally the same thing as your parents scaring you into doing things they want you to... LITERALLY THE SAME THING... except throughout history it was men in power that needed to scare the ignorant masses into doing what's best for the men in power. i can't wait til we can end a life and bring it back.. that will be that day we find out there is NOTHING after death. when your brain is destroyed YOU are destroyed for all time. religion is a farce and EVERYONE knows it, most are just too WEAK, COWARDLY and PATHETIC to admit it so they cling to this adult fairy tale and avoid the harsh realities of life...
and 200 years ago flying couldn't impossibly or even remotely ever happen. 100 years ago a man walking on the moon couldn't impossibly or even remotely ever happen. 50 years ago the government being able to monitor every communication transaction couldn't possibly or even remotely ever happen. 10 years ago the government being able to deny you medical care couldn't possibly or even remotely ever happen. today, kenny's brain functioning correctly hopefully will begin to happen.
I think religious people must suspend critical thinking to maintain their faith. Otherwise, religion makes so little sense, as much as Santa Claus. I think religion was invented because it is very difficult for humans to accept the finality of death.
The finality of death is very unpalatable. I wish I were religious because then you are shielded from truly knowing your mortality.
Why follow jeezbub when you can follow a King??????
God crap... How stupid is it possible to be?
any deity who demands adoration under threat of unending torture is undeniably false.
Following of truth absolute is required, not an option, have any doubt, hinduism, failure is guaranteed.
Omnibenevolent and omnipresent God created hell to reward evil with greater evil. By its creation he created a place where he is not. He gave up the "omni" part of his credentials.
The perfect, and perfectly good, Creator created something that was flawed: Satan, us, sin etc. and came up with a perfectly evil solution – hell. He gave up "perfect" and "good" as well.
"And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance."
2 Nephi 28:22
steve, lean closer.... its all a fraud.... there is no god
when did Mr Jesus PREACH to send non believers to hell?
when did he preach to be bigots to hate Gays to hate anyone? or even about marriage...
Oh wait he NEVER did.... so why do christians supreme mullahs preach it?
Because it's in the old testament, which the new testament replaced... duh! BTW, it's Mr. Christ; Jesus was his first name.
I believe there is an invisible man up in the sky and that he knows everything. I believe that he loves me so much that he will make me burn for eternity if I look at my neighbors boobs, which he created. I know this is all true because someone told me so when I was a little kid.
God is visible through his creation. The whole world including your incredibly complex body points only to God who created you from nothing and does know everything. God does love you so much that he was willing to send His Son who died in your place to forgive you of your sins (including looking at your neighbor's anatomy lustfully, which btw does not send you to hell. Only unbelief sends you to hell...read Mark 16:16). In Christ you can be forgiven. You know this because the Bible, which is God's word to His people tells you so. Peace to you.
I refuse to live my life in fear because of the fever dreams of a tribe of bronze age desert nomads.
Purveyors of religion–Christianity or otherwise–are taking money for product (everlasting life in heaven) and services (feel-good, redemption, rapture)–for which there is no credible evidence that they can deliver on their promises. In any other sphere of public life, such hucksters would be prosecuted for consumer fraud. Religion is evidently "special" in that it is above mere secular law–even in a secular society that attempts to separate religion from government.
Saw the film Hellbound last night. Highly enlightening. Wherever you stand on this issue, this is an important film to see.
Nice Scholarly sources Driscoll...NOT! Look up what beg the question means.
The great Jesus swindle
you atheists still on here commenting, you been on here all day
Can't you religious folks feel your faith just wafting away?
It's always about the qu'eers! Why don't you just shut up !
Yeah, they are! Their worm never rests!
what I see is God's wrath coming down on atheists
"Can't you religious folks feel your faith just wafting away?"
He, he.... Nope! The more we see of your kind, the more it makes us run the other way. You've become worse than base beasts!
faith is gently wafting away until all that's left is the craziest of the crazy, all gathered into one nuthouse church somewhere in alabama
religion is slowly eroding. you call it moderation. we call it progress. now you're considering giving up on the idea of hell. lol, WIN!
"what I see is God's wrath coming down on atheists'
Yeah, they can boast themselves now and make sport of mocking God, but it is God who will have the last word!
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, says the LORD!
"religion is slowly eroding. you call it moderation. we call it progress. now you're considering giving up on the idea of hell. lol, WIN!"
Wish on, buddy, just wish on! If the last person on earth denies God and His Son Jesus Christ, and if they all decide they'll agree that there is no hell, there still be God and f there be hell, only enlarging itself to receive them. God is forever who He is, and you are what you chose to be: Satan's servant, child of hell, and future resident of it. Do you hear laughing? It is your fathers pleasure he is expressing in you!
J, how would you know where others have been "all day" if you hadn't been there as well, you stupid little git?
Why is this article posted on a news website?
According to the Long Island Medium we ain't gettin off this planet anytime soon. She see's dead friends and family of everyone on earth and they never seem to be able to get off this god forsaken planet. I was looking forward to my trip around the universe when I die, but looks like we might be stuck here for eternity. Where is the sign up sheet for that one way trip to Mars they've been talking about lately?
What's funny about Mark Driscoll's article is he starts off making a bunch of assertion. No establishment of why he believes hell exists, why he thinks his theology is right, just breaks right into the here's the "truth" There's this god see and he loves you but wants to burn you cuz of sin and blah blah blah. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And crazy weirdo theology requires just plain sense.
If you read the article, Ryan, you'll find that Mr. Driscoll backs all of his statements up with the Bible. It's the book that Christians looks to as their final authority. We trust it, live by it, and believe it to be the final answer. Romans 3:4 God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar;
Proof Every Christian Goes to Hell by End Religion
1) The only irredeemable sin against your Lord thy God is denying him, the Holy Spirit
2) To deny is to refuse to admit truth of or to refuse to give that which is requested
3) Any sin is to deny god of his commandments
4) Therefore, even one sin results in a soul that cannot be forgiven. Sin once, and you're going to hell whether you repent or not. Since Christians are "born into sin" they're automagically damned to hell and cannot be forgiven.
> We trust it, live by it, and believe it to be the final answer.
Well, that's your problem right there. Nobody else does. Nobody else takes your book seriously. You say it's the final word, I say there IS no final word. Words are wind my friend and books are just ink on paper. Your bible is no different from the Illiad, Don Quixote, or other works of literature. The ONLY "final word" that I and a lot of other people trust is verifiable, repeatable evidence.
In my experience, and at the risk of sounding intolerant, those that bash Christianity and it's precepts are the same ones that read the Bible and pray when nobody is looking. They hide it under their bed at night. Sort of like that guy that HATES gay people...but secretly.
Same principle probably applies to most of the people on this board.
Silly and shallow comment – so how many gay video's are under your bed?
not,delusional mr journey.
Haha ouch... you really, actually believe this, don't you? Ah man, I'm so tired of people....
You have ONE part of that right. I bash christians, and yes, I read the bible. I have read it several times and know it more then most christians I talk to. ACTUALLY reading the bible, as a book, from cover to cover is what turns a lot of people atheist. Have YOU read the bible? ALL of it? Fully? every page, every chapter? AS A BOOK? and not cherry picking passages here and there that make you feel warm and fuzzy?
God never existed and Satan used to be known as the Great God Pan. All hail Pan!!!
there is no record of anything jesus said,don't buy into he said she said fairy tales..
Moderator, this guy greg is an atheist terrorist. I'm reporting him on behalf of the Patriot Act.
hinduism, stupidity of a hindu, copy cat.
It's really best for all people including children to have an agnostic approach to god, and an atheistic approach to all religion. It keeps things simple for kids, and lets them be all that they can be. They just need to be taught that some things, like all religion, were just made up by salesmen and politicians from long ago. (Yes, charlatan folklore and spam started long before the Bible; what would make you think they hadn't???) And they need to be taught that other things, like God, we really don't know a damn thing about.
Atheists have strong minds and don't need a religion. Many religious folk have the best intentions. But too often, religious folk run and hide their misdeeds within their religion (and by doing so, they disserve society). And too often, religious folk are easily offended when someone mocks their make-believe characters – and, as we can see they can get really CRAZY!!!
Although there are many religious folk with good intentions – some selflessly helping others, religions and religious organizations are, as a whole, just big old clubs – each trying to out do each other and inspiring hate and division (often disguised as love) along the way. The problem is that people too easily buy into religion and don't realize how unfounded it all is. And when they buy into it, they buy into a lot of really old, really weird tenets that are nothing but harmful for the human species.
Take Christianity, for instance. Just look at all the things that Christians argue about amongst themselves today – abortion, men's and women's roles in the church, celibacy, contraception, acceptance of gays, etc. Most of these issues have their roots in the conflicted, unfounded tenets of early Christianity. Non-Mormons harp on Joseph Smith these days. But we really don't have any more proof at all to believe that Paul, the self-proclaimed "apostle" was anything more than an ordinary man who needed to make up religious "sales literature" to survive and spread his own personal beliefs. And yet a good chunk of the NT is attributed to Paul and accepted by many Christians. And a lot of what he wrote about has to do with many of the issues I mentioned above that have Christians fighting amongst themselves hundreds of years later. It's way too unfounded to argue over.
Get a good cup of tea, and sit down and collect your thoughts. If you find it helpful to pray to a god, fine. But it is really healthier for the mind to leave behind all the characters that people over the centuries have invented or given powers to, for which there is little or no foundation. Because with those invented characters and powers – that's where division and hate join the little party in your mind. That's where, in your mind, you are inheriting the division and hate from ordinary politicians, lobbyists and salesmen from long ago. My goodness.
Sandusky-ism, absurdity of a p.e.dophile, child r.a.p..er, borne just like a filthy perverted filthy man GAWD, ALLAH, AL, the, LA, limited, H, height, his childeren in his shower.
Only by hindu absurdity of a hindu name thief, hindu and pagan. Filthy Christian Captain Crunch dog. Filthy pagan hindu pig dog. Filthy Randy Jackson dog. Filthy hebrew national beef dog. Filthy Ron Jeremy foot-long dog. NO DOGS!!!!!! Who let them be out? Quran means nothing else but path of triple abdullah absolute quantified. please visit ahmadinebinpaid.com/blog.html and click on word Choice to open file. But turn virus protection off before.
I know a man, who used to believe exactly what you said....that religion was only for weak people. That it was just a crutch for those who are weak. He is now saved and talks a lot about how foolish it was of him to believe that. What's really, really foolish is for people to believe, that somehow after millions of years, things just "came" into existence. If you leave some thread and a needle in a room for a million years, do you really think a sweater will be formed? Isn't that laughable? But, yet, people believe the MOST complex thing on the Earth (human life) just formed becaue somehow a lot of time made it all happen. That belief is more of a religion than believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, Creator of the Universe and Saviour of mankind. He made it, He made the rules, and man just doen't like it and doesn't want to obey the rules. Therefore, he comes up with his own ideas. "Prepare to meet thy God". Seek ye the Lord, while he may be found. It's close folks, it's close!
the only problem with your viewpoint is that there is way more evidence of God (both as Creator and as Jesus) then there is any evidence that neither existed. if you believe that there was never a Creator, then you have to have far more faith than myself, because i can at least trust my eyes to know that the natural world was absolutely created. likewise, if you believe that Jesus never existed, then you must not believe in any other historical figure – people like George Washington or Napolean could not have existed either if you are going to be intellectually honest with yourself.
trouble for you is that there is too much evidence in favor of Jesus being a real person on earth. If he was on earth, then he was either who He claimed to be (Son of God, sent to save man) or just a nut-job or con man. Given the large numbers of people who testified to their own deaths with what they witnessed, my vote goes to Jesus being exactly who He claims to be even to this day.
Jesus Christ is the One true way to reach heaven, and all he asks is belief.....He will meet you where you are and help you (or anyone else who asks for His help) find peace, joy, salvation....
You make some great points. Lately when I've been sitting down to a cup of tea to collect my thoughts I love to ponder the infinite insignificance of man compared to the billions of stars in the universe and the billions of years of the existence of the universe (or multiverse?) When considering how miniscule each one of our 75 +/- years of life on this planet are, and considering the incredible odds stacked against any one of us ever having been born as living, breathing, self-aware human beings, it's enough to make me realise why humanity has needed religion to explain things like pain, suffering, unfairness, and, of course, death. The stark reality is that we die, and that's it. We're dead. No heaven, no hell, just a formerly living being returned to dust, just like any other living organism or like millions of humans who have come before us. What better way to soothe away the horrific reality of the utter insignificance of each of us than to invent myths of 'heaven', 'eternal life' etc. (Seriously, who would really want ETERNAL life??) Anyway... religion serves to impart meaning to the meaningless, and make us all feel a little better. But if you learn to accept and even embrace the truth, then death is not scary, life is not insignificant, but simply an incredible gift, the only true winning of the lottery that we all share just in being alive. Embrace life, enjoy it, be good to each other, and try to leave the planet in better shape than you found it (for those who will be carrying on your genetic code into the future.)
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.