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.
Confusion falls upon the earth....
Lewis Black – the Old Testament . ....
Hell is about as real a fairytale as Riverworld. We do love our imaginary friends and places.
Fantasy is great fun - even useful sometimes, like when brainstorming for solutions. Can't live there, though.
LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL, This article was funny. By The Way, Jesus was NOT White............Durrrrrrrrrrrr.........this was the middle east afterall, ya know, turbans and stuff.
Turbans and stuff? No.
Funny that you chastise someone for thinking Jesus was white, yet you believe everyone of that time period wore "turbans and stuff".
Is this a joke? Can't tell if this is a parody?
If not, why is CNN pushing some missionaries agenda when there are a few thousand other religions that are equally decent options for the 99.99% of people who believe anything they are told.
Here you go, all: a prime example of some fine Christian fundy literature:
still winning, may hold you willy fo some comfort or you poor thing, that's broken too::)
Isn't that just deathless prose? Rivals Shakespeare, it does.
The fact that a person can seriously ask "should we abandon hell" tells you how the entire Christian story is completely made up. It is not as though a biologist could seriously ask, "should we abandon mammals" or an astronomer, "should we abandon Jupiter." When your entire belief system is nothing more that contemporary interpretations of Bronze Age Judean mythology, you can pretty much do as you please. The whole notion of taking Christian theology serious in the 21st Century is a sick fvcking joke.
To prove my point, let's actually think the idea of hell throuh for 5 minutes. Let's subject this "cherished Christian doctrine" to the probing light of say.......fifth grade mathematics.
Approximately one hundred and ten thousand million (110,000,000,000) people have lived on Earth. Given all those who have, over the centuries, rejected the Christian god, or who have otherwise committed mortal sins, there must be literally thousands of millions of people burning for all eternity in the cosmic oven of hell set up by their all-loving god. Some must have been burning for thousands of years by now.
About 100,000 people die every day. There must be a constant stream of thousands of forlorn souls every day into the one way pit of hell their “all-merciful” god set up and maintains.
But, far, far worse than sheer overwhelming numbers is the extent of the punishment. There is no way out, no parole, no time off for good behavior. You don’t just burn, you burn for all eternity. Billions of people and thousands of daily new arrivals burning for all eternity!
No criminal justice system in the history of the Human race, even those established by the most despotic of tyrants, comes close to matching the unfathomable barbarity of their “infinitely benevolent” god.
Hitler murdered six million Jews in his concentration camps, but compared to the Judeo-Christian god, Hitler was a bleeding-hearted wimp. A goose-stepping girlie-man. Their “all-caring” god not only burns billions more than Hitler, Pol Pot and all other dictators and tyrants added up, he keeps doing so to them for all eternity! I would not wish a bad sunburn on a person simply because they have a different religion to me, let alone fry them for all eternity.
It is also odd that their all-loving god is also all-knowing and knows which souls will go to hell before they do. He even knows it before they are born, and yet he still creates them. He is worse than a psychopathic teenager than breeds litter after litter of kittens so he can slowly roast them in ovens.
That is the problem with using the same deity to be both the carrot and the stick. It gets really silly really quickly.
How they believe this utter garbage we call "Christianity" in the 21st century completely eludes me.
Hey, I would like to talk to you if you had a chance. I'm not trying to argue with you. Hell is real because God is ultimately and infinitely holy, beyond our imagination. Since he is holy and sin is the opposite of holiness, he MUST punish sin. He does this in two ways: he punishes the sins of those who refuse to repent in eternal torment in hell, and for those who place their trust in Jesus, he paid the penalty for their sins on the cross. You see, no sin goes unpaid since God is just. He calls all of us to repent of our sins so that we may enjoy him forever. What choice will we make?
You're missing the point about Christianity Colin. Although I appreciate your cynical rant, the fact of the matter is Christianity is the ONLY major religion founded on forgiveness and love, acceptance and renewal. It is not Jesus' fault that some of his followers are close minded pr1cks who don't understand the parables and metaphors of the Bible, and who believe that Hell was set up to torment. I think if Jesus were alive today he would say, 'wow, you f3ck nuts really twisted this shyt." Morons aside, Jesus' contributions were unparalleled, unrivaled, and unbelievably beautiful in their mission to bring people together in love–it's too bad that the message was lost starting day 1 of his death. Some people live by the teachings of Jesus, but very few. My point is, there have always been rigid, unwavering folks, who can't seem to grasp the lesson being taught. You mustn't throw the baby out with the bathwater and blame Christianity for the stupidity we see today.
Atheist Kicked Off Fox News – check this out – I knew Fox News was bad, but this is ridiculous
To say there is no hell is one of the worst things to say to anyone...is like saying to a child, "There is no punishment for your bad behaviors." The consequences are very familiar to all parents.
If that is all you have to maintain control over your kids, then you are clearly unfit to be a parent. No question. Wow – what an idiot.
Some of us think it's better to instil the concept of acting out of morality and reasoning what is best for oneself and others as opposed to just threatening our kids with fear-based mythologies.
How about making the consequences real then, and not:
- Your face is gonna freeze that way!
- Swallow those watermelon seeds and a plant will grow in your stomach!
- Swallow your chewing gum and it'll stay in your stomach *forever*!
- Step on a crack, you'll break your mother's back!
- Naughty kids get a piece of coal in their Christmas stockings!
So when kids misbehave, do you tell them they will not get punished now, but wait until they die?
Hell was only created to control the masses .. in the beginning ... Get people to believe that and you have full conntrol ... That is what it was suppose to do .... and 2 thousand years later it still has some reverance to some weak followers.
To say there is hell is THE worst thing to say to anyone... It's like saying to a child "No matter how good you behave you will be punished if you don't believe in Santa Claus.
Honestly, I don't even know why CNN still has the belief blog when all it does it attract flame wars and trolling. From both sides.
I guess some people still believe in the open expression of ideas in the form of discourse. Silly, I know.
Don't give me that BS. Neither side is convincing anyone. It's all just a bunch of pseudo-intellectual posturing. If volleys of insults and personal attacks are your idea of discourse then I'd hate to see what your idea of a candid conversation is.
Do what you think is right. That's all St. Paul thought was necessary. :twisted:
Romans 2 : 14-15
"For when the gentiles who do not have the law, by nature observe the prescriptions of the law; they are a law for themselves even though they do not have the law.
They show that the demands of the law are written in their hearts, while their conscience bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even defend them on the day, when , according to my gospel, God will judge people's hidden works, (through Jesus Christ)."
I don't buy what either is selling, but I do think it is telling that the second guy, whose picture looks a lot like a mugshot, as the evangelist, rambled a lot more, stuck it to the reader more, and was more "certain" of what he had to say (actually, certain is too weak a word); all signs of a psychopath when you're talking psychology.
Of course, this being religion, he gets to pretend to be "learned" instead of dangerous.
Only one question for "Pastor" Mark: do you eat shrimp? If you do, you're a cherry-picking hypocrite, and the discussion is over before it starts. I'm betting you are.
whatever you want to beLIEve in your own brain, is up to you.
Since hell does NOT exist, it really doesn't matter what the fools who believe in hell do in their lives. That's not to deny an afterlife, which is possible. But Hell is not possible, and was only invented by MAN, as a fear management device to intimidate others into following the path that they wish to direct the others down. I have no issue with people believing in hell, that's their own waste of time, not mine. But they have no right to force their beliefs on others who believe differently than they do. Nor do they have a right to use that as an excuse to create hatred and violence against others, who do not believe what they believe.
Check this out
Hey, Christtard, have you managed to untangle your digits yet? You'll need them to assist Rosie Palm later on, dear.
The concept of Hell was a way to control chaos and manipulate man to do good in this life and scare man to thinking there are repercussions for their actions while alive... In reality to think that when we die we meet st. peter at the gates and go over a list of each persons life and that list knows if you've been bad or good is a bit of a fairy tale if you ask me...
Maybe you ought watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRSjzY0s0SM
Christtard, maybe you ought to stick a cross up your anus.
Tom,Tom.....still winning, may hold you willy fo some comfort or you poor thing, that's broken too::)
"Still winning"? What, are you channeling Charlie Sheen now, you moronic azzwipe?
I just love it when some thumper like Christtard gets on here and trumpets his own stupidity and lack of education for all to witness. Really, it makes my day complete. Especially on a Sunday, when the idiots are full of gas and bloated like a possum carcass rotting in the sun.
Hey Whinny Tom: What's up? I guess not you little willy. You are such a loser & you won the idiot ontest this season, didn't u? Are well, I won't tell you tale to the world. Goodnight & enjoy looking for your wil.....Cheers
Christtard, perhaps you should lay off the bong, honey. You're looking pretty silly.
Umm, Christtard? I'm a woman. I do have a willy to pull, but it belongs to my husband. And it responds quite well, not that you'd know what that means, being a eunuch.
Religious dogma has also made it easier for people to harm others deluding themselves believing they are somehow superior. I'd much rather deal with a rational, open minded person in a sticky situation than a religious zealot that believes in one book at the expense of all others, whoever publishes it.
"As a pastor, my job is to tell the truth. Your job is to make a decision." Awfully arrogant, aren't we Driscoll? Despite acknowledging you believe the Bible is the word of God, you label yourself as the 'truth-sayer' for us all. y'know, I've read the thing, and it didn't mention Mark Driscoll at all. You've made a decision too, by the way: that is to delude yourself into believing you have some special power. My decision is to not believe what false prophets say - and as I recall, that one actually IS in the Bible.
Mr. Drudgekill lost me after those first couple of sentences. I probably wouldn't believe a word he said if he was a car salesmen. He should do society a favor and be a silent, meditative monk for a decade or so. Then maybe decide to open his golden mouth and spew garbage of a different type.
God doesn't believe in Hell, and no fundamentalist's claims to the contrary are going to make it exist. The unmitigated pride and arrogance of some of these people is amazing. Jesus didn't say a lot about Hell, but he did say a lot about proud religious zealots who run their mouths.
Let us the E mail you received from God, for your hinduism, absurdity or stop spewing your hinduism, absurdity.
God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Heaven is a reference to the spiritual realm.
The word ‘hell’ was translated in the Old Testament from the word ‘Sheol’ which comes from an Assyrian root
meaning ‘chamber’. It was regarded as an underworld for the dead, often called the grave.
Two words are translated in the New Testament by ‘hell’, namely ‘Hades’ and ‘Gehenna’.
‘Hades’ is the Latin translation of ‘Sheol’ and means literally ‘the unseen world’ or the ‘grave’.
‘Gehenna’ is however the word that is most often used. Originally the valley of Hinnom (Ge-Hinnom) was the area where Molech and Tammuz were worshipped and eventually became the place for burning the local refuse and was regarded as a fit symbol of the destruction of wicked souls.
The words ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ are strictly symbolic in nature as are many other words in the Bible. A symbol is something that relates to or is characterized by a symbol. For example: The owl is symbolic of wisdom and learning. Another example is the robin: it is a symbol of spring.
At the return of Christ only those that are dead in Christ (referred to as asleep) will rise with him (1 Thess. 4:16). It is noteworthy that there are only few that are dead (asleep) in Christ (Matthew 7:14), as this whole world has been deceived (Rev. 12:9).
At the final judgment, all those whosover was not found written in the book of life will be cast out into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15).
The above mentioned article by Frank Schaeffer is a good example how distorted things have become in society with the media industry as the main culprit.
He is spiritually blind as the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:15).
In order for anyone to be able to understand the Word of God they must repent and turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God (Acts 26:18). Frank Schaeffer does not know what spirit he is off (Luke 9:55).
The Word of God is not to be interpreted (2 Peter 1:20) and it is the discerner of every thought and intent of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
The local media, including CNN, Fox and your local TV stations and newspapers are a very important element of social and political behavior, as society is shaped by what it sees, hears and reads and it is conditioned by the events that influence the mind of every person. You reap what you sow.
To allow anyone to be directed by public opinion is dangerous because most public opinion is the view of the media. If the media does not like something, their bias taints information getting to the public, and this forms public opinion. Public opinion is never based on research and facts. The public uses the media for its sole source of information and for this reason social behavior will continue to deteriorate and wax worse and worse (2 Timothy 3:13).
The media does not provide accurate information on ‘Religion’ as it continues to ignore the truth and the history of deceptions (John 14:17). They only report how they want you to hear things. They have created the big chasm that now exists without offering any solutions.
For a better understanding of the role of the media we invite you to read the articles ‘Influence of the Media’ and ‘CNN Belief Blog – Sign of the Times’, listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca
Consider the truth about Catholicism, Islam, Mormonism, Judaism, Evangelicals and Christianity and all other religions and ask yourself the following question.
Are so-called Catholics, Muslims, Mormons, Israelites and Evangelicals and all those that call themselves ‘Christians’ followers of the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Word of God, or do they follow after an image of a false god and a false Christ (Matthew 24:24; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; Gal. 4:8)?
For a better understanding of the history of Catholicism, Islam, Mormonism, Christianity, and Judaism and its spread throughout the world, we invite you to read the articles ‘The Mystery Babylon’, ‘Can Christianity or Any Other Religion Save You?’, ‘World History and Developments in the Middle East’ and ‘Clash of Civilizations’, listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca
All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how and by whom this whole world has been deceived as confirmed in Revelation 12:9.
Seek, and ye shall find (Matthew 7:7).
I'm sorry, "AvdBerg", but all of your assertions are unfounded. The degree to which your assertions may represent correct statements is 0.0. To help you understand the degree to which your assertions may represent correct statements, I will access my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE). Using my IEE module, the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent correct statements is: "TOTAL FAIL".
I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book might help you overcome this problem:
I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do...... Who You Can Turn to.......
by the Alzheimer's Disease Society
Spirit means truth and why hindu pagan Christians worship a man as God?
AvdBarf, if you actually had anything to say, you wouldn't need to spam your sh!t here.
Too bad you're such a loser that you can't get anyone to read your spew without abusing free blogs. Loser.
Are you still engaging in the abomination of eating shellfish while trashing others for abominations?
I am sorry, but you are nuts.
Spirit means truth and Tom, Tom, means son of the Piper's why hindu pagan Christians Jews worship a man as Piper God?
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.