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September 22nd, 2012
10:00 PM ET

Different Takes: Should we abandon idea of hell?

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.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Devil • My Faith • Opinion

soundoff (7,963 Responses)
  1. Just call me Lucifer

    Religion is losing its grip on humanity, and is currently fighting for the last few idiots left. Religion is a virus, and knowledge
    of reality is the cure. Take your myths and relegate them to where they belong... in the fiction section.

    September 24, 2012 at 1:43 am |
    • Raed

      Many people had the same view like you do today; one of them the French atheist Voltaire. his nurse repeatedly said, ‘For all the wealth of Europe I would never see another infidel die.’ It was a scene of horror that lies beyond all exaggeration.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:54 am |
    • Athy

      You're absolutely correct, Lucifer. But there will always be, I'm afraid, a few idiots on the lunatic fringe that will never see the truth. That's just the way it is and we'll have to live with it.l

      September 24, 2012 at 2:02 am |
    • itsallaloadofbollocks

      Raed. That is only one account of his death. As there is no difference between any of us in death, the death of an atheist is no different to the death of a believer. We all go to the same place one way or another some rot in the earth and some are burned and the ashes spread. No heaven or hell. Above us only sky.

      September 24, 2012 at 2:10 am |
  2. Lars J

    No other Medieval religious teaching has caused greater rejection of the Bible than the heresy of eternal hell. The idea of frightening people into loving God was attractive to the early Roman Catholic Church leaders and theologians, but it is not Biblical. Death is not a life of torment. Death is death. For those who reject the evidence, grace, and forgiveness of God (we are selfish rebels but are immersed in a world of evidence) then death is indeed eternal. What more can God do? He is a gentleman and will not force loyalty or love. But once the creation rejects its only source of life, then a final verdict, as in all things, eventually comes. But the idea that this universe will be forever polluted with pain, suffering, and selfishness – that is not a Scriptural teaching but is taught by the Liar who wishes to impute his evil nature onto God and make the Creator out to be a sadistic being who would pronounce an infinite penalty on His children that did not ask to be born. Anyone parent would reject a god like that. Fortunately, Jesus came to show us who and what the Father was really like.

    September 24, 2012 at 1:38 am |
    • Damocles

      @Lars

      So Jesus is the slick PR guy that your deity hired to smooth out his image a bit?

      September 24, 2012 at 1:45 am |
    • Lars J

      There *was* a slick negative image campaign being created around who God was and is, so slick and deceptive that all the words in the world couldn't counter it.

      So He came Himself to set things right. It cost Him everything, but if you are a parent, you will know that it was a price worth paying.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:54 am |
    • Damocles

      @Lars

      As a parent I don't make a habit of torturing my kids to death as a way of teaching other kids a lesson. Guess that makes me the better parent.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:59 am |
    • Frank

      Excellent reasoning. The early church had to break a few eggs to make an omlet; but in doing so, this legacy of trying to force people to come to the knowledge of the Creator has almost crippled the modern Christian church. Just follow Jesus! That is all you need. Pray in His name to God and God will help if it doesn't conflict with some other priority of creation. Remember, Jesus came to help YOU.

      September 24, 2012 at 2:04 am |
    • Lars J

      If God *did* torture His kids, He would have no moral right to use the term "Father" in describing Himself. I think we are on the same page there.

      September 24, 2012 at 2:06 am |
    • Hell Is

      obviously you never read Josephius. The Jews all believed and knew of Hell. Study more tyoe less.

      September 24, 2012 at 2:06 am |
    • Lars J

      Frank, I don't know if you are being ironic, but you are right. Everyone knows John 3:16 "For God so loved..." but the very next sentence explains – "For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the World". That is a theme many Christians are afraid to teach because they think God would be "too soft" on sin. They forget that it is the Parent that makes that call.

      September 24, 2012 at 2:09 am |
    • Lars J

      I've read all of Josephus' writings. (not spelled Josephius) He was a Romano-Jewish historian who was describing the contemporary beliefs of his day, including the Hellenistic Ideas about hell. But the Pentateuch (historical first 5 books of Scripture) don't mention any reference to a hell. Read: http://www.jewishhistory.org/the-hell-in-hellenism

      Maybe we both should read more.

      September 24, 2012 at 2:18 am |
  3. Tanker

    I'm going to have to go with Christopher Hitchens on this one.

    Hell is being trapped in a small room with people who believe in hell.

    September 24, 2012 at 1:37 am |
    • Athy

      Even worse is being trapped in a room with a bunch of bible babblers that believe in heavn.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:41 am |
    • TADA

      and jahovah's witnesses

      September 24, 2012 at 1:50 am |
    • Athy

      But at least you can slam the door in their faces. Actually, I kinda enjoy putting them down when they come calling. I gotta admit, they have thick hides.

      September 24, 2012 at 2:06 am |
  4. Robman

    The very fact that we are still asking a question like this means that things are terribly wrong.... There is a huge disconnect between humans and their natural birthright: enlightenment.....

    September 24, 2012 at 1:36 am |
  5. Reagan80

    It's always a pleasure to read another article equating conservative Christians with Muslims that fly airplanes into buildings. What would we do without the guidance of the left fringe?

    September 24, 2012 at 1:34 am |
    • Observer

      Most of the killing done by radical Muslims is identical to commands issued by God when he set up all the rules for his followers.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:36 am |
    • Tanker

      Before the 9/11 attacks, the most deadly act of terror on US soil was commited, not by a muslim, but by a christian, Tomithy McVea.

      So, christians are just as dangerous as muslims.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:40 am |
    • Observer

      The greatest number of Americans to die in any war were killed by Christians. The Christians for the Union and the Christians for the Confederate states killed each other.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:44 am |
    • Lars J

      So "love your enemies", "Do good to them that despite you", "turn the other cheek" – all this is followed by professing Christians? No. Fanatical Christian groups, like the Ku Kux Klan – and they very much do claim to be devout Christians – are just as hateful and harmful as any Muslim radical group. Read the history of the Crusades, the Inquisition, et al – please.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:45 am |
    • TADA

      Yeah and the lovely Westboro Baptist church that pickets funerals and holds signs saying GOD Hates F*gs and Thank GOD for dead soldiers aren't evil they are just expressing their religious beliefs right? Nah christians aren't radical a**holes at all.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:55 am |
    • Veritas

      Where does the article equate that? Just out of interest – who do you think is committing arson at mosques? Conservative christians have to be favorite

      September 24, 2012 at 1:58 am |
    • snakeplissken87

      The only difference between conservative christians and conservative muslims, is that the first are more richer than the second. You will not make a terrorist attack if you are rich, if you have hope and a future. On the other hand, if you dont see future (because your country is very poor), it is more easy to sacirify you life and what you love.

      September 24, 2012 at 2:03 am |
  6. Religion hater

    Here's my dilemma. I was born in eastern Europe, and live in Canada now. I love America, because it represents freedom. But I hate religion, and I know that America is a religious country. With all the evidence widely available, the religious people's reasoning seems very disturbing and fanatical and it makes it harder for me to love America. Any thoughts on that are appreciated.

    September 24, 2012 at 1:32 am |
    • Reagan80

      No problem. We'll just give up our deeply held beliefs to accommodate your emotions. But, be careful. Don't let your penchant for "hate" turn toward men who like to play with other men's rumps. That could get you deported from Canada back to Eastern Europe. And, you definitely wouldn't enjoy living in that paradise which was created by other religion haters.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:41 am |
    • yankee atheist

      I'm an American (with Croatian blood) and I have the same dilemma. I love that my country represents freedom, kindness and ingenuity. However, I'm also ashamed and angered at the rampant anti-intellectualism in this country, the lack of a true separation between church and state, and the fact that we have so many religious conservatives here (whom I consider to be rather ignorant). The US is light years behind many other industrialized nations in this regard. Perhaps I should move a couple hours north...

      September 24, 2012 at 1:52 am |
    • Marla

      I'm an American Atheist, and I would rather be where you are – in Canada – if the right-wing crazies should happen to win this election.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:53 am |
    • OneTruth

      Reagan. He said he hated religion not gays like you

      September 24, 2012 at 1:54 am |
    • Russell's Teapot

      @Reagan,
      Wonderful idea, given that your deeply held belies are predicated upon utter nonsense.

      September 24, 2012 at 2:28 am |
    • End Religion

      For all it's faults it's still a great country. Come on down and we'll have a beer!

      September 24, 2012 at 2:57 am |
  7. sprin001

    This article leaves one thing out. Muslims killed innocent people, mothers, daughters, sons, Christian/atheists/and all other religions. A Christian president Just so happened to be in office and was responsible for the retaliation. This article makes it sound like bush was as extremists as Muslims who flew planes into our towers, come on man!

    September 24, 2012 at 1:28 am |
    • Observer

      Bush's response was to start a $1,000,000,000,000 war for false reasons and to say he didn't care about Osama bin Laden.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:31 am |
    • hacham14

      I agree, the only Christian responsibility to the attacks is that it differs from Islam and is a major part of American culture. If the States were an Islamic country, the twin towers would still be standing.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:36 am |
    • itsallaloadofbollocks

      Well Bush did attack Iraq which had nothing to do with Al Qaeda or 9/11. I'm not defending the attacks but the response was misguided. Most religions, maybe all, have blood on their hands so let's keep that in mind.

      September 24, 2012 at 2:15 am |
  8. hacham14

    I'm not that religious of person and I don't really believe anything happens to us after we die other than our bodies decompose or our ashes are blown away if we choose to be cremated. However, no one really knows what happens to us when we die, except for those who have died, so I could be wrong. Until, there is something the proves that heaven and hell exist, in the spiritual sense, I'll continue my personal beliefs.

    Personally, I think religion was initially used as a code of morals and how to describe how our world works using the knowledge of the time. As technology has improved, I can see how many of the things described in the bible can be explained by science. For the things that can't be explained, we just haven't discovered the science behind them.

    For example, with heaven described as a world of peace or the world to come in some religions, this doesn't really disconnect from the science where we don't experience any feeling and just rot away. While the religious believers like to picture majestic places where everyone is roaming around freely, peace can also mean freedom from worry and pain, which is what happens if you don't have any feeling. It's similar to being under general anesthesia. From the world to come perspective, it might not be the majestic place or Garden of Eden, but that our bodies are in a different state or world than they were in when we were alive. It may not be as exciting as some believe, but it's the world that comes, and there's not much that can be done to change that.

    Obviously, my view of heaven isn't as grand as some others, but it makes you think, if it's right, killing people just to experience the glory, which may not exist is not really worth it. In short, I don't think we should kill others because we believe it will help us get into heaven or other such place. However, we should defend ourselves against those who threaten our experience and existence in this world, as it could be the only world we know.

    September 24, 2012 at 1:27 am |
  9. James

    It's so sad that anyone in 2012 can believe the Bible is literal truth, and that a God exists who would punish a soul to an eternity of suffering. An eternity?!? And this is supposed to be a loving God? What is loving about no possible chance at redemption? This is simply fear propeganda of the oldest kind – catering to our deepest fears and vulnerabilities. Religion is the root of all evil in the world – and can be blamed for most major wars throughout human history. Countless millions killed in the name of some God that doesn't exist. Christians did it for centuries and probably still would if they could get away with it. As Hillary Clinton said so perfectly, 'there will be no peace on Earth, until there are no more murders in the name of God'.

    September 24, 2012 at 1:26 am |
    • Athy

      Yeah, it's really a shame there are still people that believe that shit, but the cold, hard fact is, they do. And there is no way to convince them otherwise. It's been beaten into their minds since childhood and they'll probably never recover. But they are, thankfully, a dying breed. It'll just take time and patience.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:33 am |
  10. splovengates

    Each individual has a decision to make. If you dont want heaven, what in hell do you want.?

    The true God will not watch His created beings burn in hell forever. You wouldnt be happy in heaven seeing your dead relatives, who didnt make it, burning in hell forever. But He will burn up stuff until the fire goes out.

    September 24, 2012 at 1:26 am |
    • splovengates

      THIS IS HELL ON EARTH. But there is a better place once this place burns up. Thats where you wanna be, in a better place
      Hang in there, and keep the faith of Jesus and keep His Commandments

      September 24, 2012 at 1:31 am |
    • End Religion

      You may have gone a hair past delusion and fallen into pure crazy...

      It's not what we "want," it is what is probable. Many of us might actually prefer a cool vacation spot for an afterlife, like the purported "heaven" of the christian myth, but there's no evidence for it so it seems highly improbable.

      September 24, 2012 at 2:09 am |
  11. TheRationale

    The second guy is a prime example of a brainwashed Christian. His arguments are based on an assumption that he's right to begin with, ie, that the Bible is true. Of course if you just take that by fiat, asking about hell is a non starter.

    The real question is whether you should believe the Bible. If you do any research on it, the answer is a resounding no. Dogma is useless and amounts to plugging your ears and yelling "I'm right you're wrong lalala." And the logical arguments and evidence theologians try to come up with is so far from the starting block it's laughable.

    So given all the trouble just the idea of hell brings us, as spelled out here and at much greater length elsewhere, it's a pretty clear answer that "we" should ditch it.

    September 24, 2012 at 1:25 am |
  12. Low n slow

    Life began through a chemical process that science has never explained, proven through experiment or even proposed a reasonable theory of explanation. Yet I know for a fact that there is no God, because I only believe things that science can prove. Wait, what?

    September 24, 2012 at 1:10 am |
    • TheRationale

      Yet another moron who doesn't realize that the existence of science is predicated on the fact we don't know everything. The scientific method is how we figure it out. We've only had progress slowed down by churches insisting that dogma is better than science.

      Everywhere science has succeeded in explaining something, God has taken a step back. Go get an education. Or, if I may quote Voltaire, "Better keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and erase all doubt."

      September 24, 2012 at 1:33 am |
    • Athy

      Wait, what?

      September 24, 2012 at 1:35 am |
    • End Religion

      There is more about the universe we don't understand than what we do understand. That doesn't mean we need to insert god into the gaps we have in our knowledge base. "Gods" used to be the answer for everything in our world but that concept is slowly but surely pushed into ever smaller gaps. It is seemingly probable god is the answer to nothing with regard to our universe's workings.

      Here is the current hypothesis to early life: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RNA_world_hypothesis
      A timeline of life: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_evolutionary_history_of_life

      September 24, 2012 at 1:56 am |
    • End Religion

      You've posted this or similar items several times. You can learn about evolution, and how there *are* theories about our early chemical evolution, here: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/0_0_0/origsoflife_03

      September 24, 2012 at 2:01 am |
  13. Agapatos

    Wow, what an over-simplification! But don't take my word for it . . . . After all, I'm clearly one of those dangerous 'ultra'-conservatives (who actually believes the Bible) and is therefore responsible for all the U.S. wars in the last 20 years. I'm probably cringing in fear right now, even as I write out yet another tax-deductible check to the church basket, just to ensure my everlasting escape, and simultaneous gleeful demise upon my enemies!... And never mind what Jesus Himself may (or may not) actually have said about Hell (e.g. Luke 16:19) . . . . The 'real' Jesus surely just spoke about Love and Acceptance, as was deduced & conclusively proven way back in the 1960s. Come on you all . . . . Didn't you know that 1965 was the great focus of history, the self-realization of man-and-woman-kind?

    September 24, 2012 at 1:07 am |
    • jim

      wha....?

      September 24, 2012 at 1:14 am |
    • Agapatos

      ...that HELL might actually exist?
      ...that evil conservatives and traditionalists might actually care about your soul?
      IIN-CON-CEIV-ABLE!

      September 24, 2012 at 1:19 am |
  14. Nesus of Jazareth

    Opiate opiate op op op opiate. Opiate. Du-dumb dumb dumb

    September 24, 2012 at 1:07 am |
  15. Hawke

    Am I the only one who sees the similarity between the words spoken by men in the Bible and the words spoken by men today who call themselves ministers, preachers, teachers and pastors? To get people in the first century to believe in one man and his ideas enough to give him and his fellow speakers food, clothing and shelter that man had to get the reputation of working miracles-just as big haired and jewelry laden televangelists do today. It's an endless cycle. "Imagine" is a song by John Lennon that is a great description of how the world could be if there's no heaven and no hell and nothing to kill or die for.

    September 24, 2012 at 1:05 am |
  16. I'm right

    I enjoy religious discussions because I get to see how CLOSE some people come to the truth but yet are also so far from it because they can't allow an expanded version of that truth to come about. And then on the other hand I get to see the total naysayers who's only belief is that religion is for fools and weak minds and that the idea of God is simply make believe. That is right up until they are faced with an actual life or death situation and find themselves praying for help, forgiveness, and extended life at any cost. I always find that amusing.

    September 24, 2012 at 1:02 am |
    • ScottCA

      The null hypothesis is that there is no god. Since there is no evidence to support the existence of god, the null hypothesis holds as the logical position. To depart from this position without evidence is to delve into fantasy and insanity.
      Just as it is insanity to believe in the 6ft tall green monster in my closet without evidence of its existence, so is it insanity to believe in god without evidence.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:05 am |
    • I'm right

      I disagree completely. Just because YOU personally choose to ignore the evidence or have not yet been presented with it, most likely because you oppose it and turn away from it before you take time to TRY and understand it, does NOT make it null and certainly does not make it non-existent.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:07 am |
    • Damocles

      @I'm

      Speaking as a person who has had a couple of life and death experiences I can be perfectly honest with you and say that I was not begging or pleading with any deity to spare me. When I had a gun pulled on me, I was able to convince the person to take the money and go and when I went under the knife to correct a problem that was killing me, I relied on the experience of the surgeon and nurses.

      It seems that in this case, you are wrong, not right.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:09 am |
    • Damocles

      @I'm

      Come on, man. Your post about evidence leaves it wide open for me to say that you have ignored all evidence that states there is no deity, most likely because you oppose it.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:13 am |
    • AJD

      If I'm faced with a life or death situation, I know that I am going to have to deal with it myself and use my own intellect, creativity if applicable, and resources available to me. Whether those things will lead to a successful conclusion and save my life would remain to be seen until it played out...but I don't have time to pray to something that doesn't exist if my life is on the line, I must use that time to take action. If I die, that's part of reality, part of nature. It happens to us all at some point. I love how the religious will talk up a supposed miracle where one person prayed and was saved from what seemed like an incurable disease or a hopeless situation but don't want to pay any attention to the thousands of people that were equally religious, also prayed for help and to be saved from death, but died just the same. But then they say "well it was god's will or god's plan" that those people die. Well, then why bother to pray if god has a plan already and you getting what you want would mess up his plan???? Wouldn't it make more sense to NOT pray and just say "well if it's in god's plan that I live, I will, if it's not, I won't...no sense in bothering him." If god has a "plan" then the idea of "free will" kind of goes out the window too.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:16 am |
    • I'm right

      Here is the BEST part of being a "believer."
      If you are right and there is NO God. No Heaven, no Hell, and it's all a bunch of made up crap and I die... So what. Nothing Happens. But if I'M right and it's NOT made up and it, IS real. Well, my bases are covered there too.

      Better safe than sorry I guess.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:19 am |
    • Damocles

      @I'm

      So that's your smoking gun? The same tired old response of 'better safe than sorry'? Well then I suggest you start worshipping any and all deities because it's entirely possible that any one of them or perhaps all of them hold your life in thrall. Hell, I'd start making up some deities just to be on the safe side.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:23 am |
    • AJD

      Ah...the old "Pascal's Wager"....nope, sorry...doesn't work. What if you chose to believe in a certain god and it turned out that it was the "wrong" god? What then? What if you go ahead and choose to believe in the judeo/christian god to "cover your bases" and you die and it turns out that Zeus is really god? Or Ra? Or Ahura Mazda? Or one of the other hundreds of gods that people have believed in throughout recorded history? Their rules may be different than the judeo/christian god. They may not like you because you didn't believe in THEM. There are other problems with that argument, but that is the main issue. Personally, I'd rather just live my life as a good person, try my best to be a good person and help others, not harm anyone and then when I die if there is some god out there, hope that's good enough for them. If it's not and the simple fact that I didn't believe in them trumps the good things I did in my life, well then so be it because that is not the type of being I would wish to worship anyway.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:24 am |
    • I'm right

      @D

      Exactly my point about "evidence." Evidence will NEVER prove the existence or non-existence of God. That was the point I was trying to make to ScottCA. But I can tell you this. The real EVIDENCE comes from faith, and when it is truly sought for, desired, and tested, and then answered then you know.

      I know that God is real and that God Lives. I know this without ANY doubt or question. And the reasons that I know it are undeniable to me and cannot be changed by any other notion. Others don't believe. I'm okay with that. I know someday they will. Every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess...

      September 24, 2012 at 1:25 am |
    • redzoa

      The question then becomes what is acceptable "evidence?" Physical evidence is the strongest, eyewitness/anecdotal accounts are far less reliable and hearsay evidence (generally, a 3d party statement presented by a witness) is so bad it is excluded from consideration in our judicial system (with a few notable exceptions).

      There is simply no empirical physical evidence indicating a God or gods, ghosts, demons, spirits, etc. This point is conceded by apologists of all kinds as they invariably invoke a "faith" requirement in order to appreciate this and the other spiritual revelation they've received. What is relied upon are anecdotal accounts, scriptural hearsay and an ever-reaching degree of apophenia. Could despositive evidence exist? Anything is possible. Has it actually been presented? Certainly not to any degree which would allow an empirical conclusion to be drawn.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:25 am |
    • I'm right

      Sorry, my "better safe than sorry" comment was tongue and cheek. That's the difficult thing about "posting" I haven't found the sarcastic font.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:27 am |
    • redzoa

      "I know that God is real and that God Lives" You've just indicated this must be a product of faith and so are erroneously conflating "belief" with empirical knowledge.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:27 am |
    • Observer

      I'm Right,

      Even more amusing is when people don't understand the difference between BELIEVING in God and HOPING there is a God.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:28 am |
    • I'm right

      @red
      There is a point where "faith" moves you to action. When it moves you to action and that action is confirmed again and again, it becomes knowledge. So when I say "I know" it is because I "BELIEVE" it at such a level that it will NEVER change. Therefore, I know. Faith becomes knowledge.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:31 am |
    • I'm right

      Observer.
      Hope is the first part of faith. Hope is what makes faith possible. We "HOPE" we will get a result if we DO something. Then if we actually exercise faith, we act. That is the action. Then based on the results our faith is either confirmed or challenged. I for one DO know the difference and now so do you.... You're right... That was amusing. : )

      September 24, 2012 at 1:34 am |
    • I'm right

      Well... Time for me to call it a night. Goodnight non-believers. Sleep well knowing that even if YOU don't believe in God, he still believes in you. :)

      September 24, 2012 at 1:38 am |
    • Damocles

      @I'm

      No, I don't think your 'better safe than sorry' post was meant to be tongue in cheek or sarcastic. You are afraid of what happens at the time of death... I can understand that, I think everybody goes through that, some more than others. So you hope that there is a deity out there who will cradle you to its bosom and make you feel safe and special. So far there is nothing wrong with your belief and I can understand the root cause.

      My problem with your belief is when you start saying that other peoples belief is wrong. You do not have the right nor the capability of telling other people they are wrong just based on your own gut feelings. You believe what you want, when you want others to believe as you do is when you have to start offering up evidence that your way is somehow better.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:41 am |
    • redzoa

      @I'm Right – You are still conflating belief with knowledge. The confirmation is available only to you. You alone subjectively dictate what is and isn't confirmation. I suspect your confirmation relies heavily upon a notion that regardless of the outcome, it was correct (and confirmed) because it was part of "God's plan." A confirmation does not occur when any and all outcomes are potentially predicted. Furthermore, unless you are willing to claim for yourself an infallible discernment, you must concede that your own confirmations may very well be post-hoc rationalizations to fit the evidence into your a priori expectations (apophenia). Additionally, your invocation of Pascal's Wager betrays a significant fear of your own mortality such that you have abandoned skepticism in favor of any hope of living beyond your years (any 2 minute consideration of Pascal's Wager should present the confounding elements presented above to someone seeking knowledge rather than a validation for the pacification of their fears).

      Regardless, this is still all anecdotal and does not remotely rise to any level of empirical evidence.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:45 am |
    • AJD

      Yes, and that right there is why religion spawns so much evil and harm in the world. If everyone could just be happy believing what they believe and leave others that don't believe it alone and not tell them they are wrong or that they are better than them for believing in this or that god or believing that god is unhappy with those who don't believe in him and wants people to kill the unbelievers there would be no problem. If religious people would keep their religion as a personal thing and not let it seep out into our politics and our legislation and hinder things like scientific progress there would be no problem. If people would say "ok, these people over in this country don't believe what we do but that's ok because they're not trying to make us believe in their thing" instead of fighting wars over it, religion would be harmless. But religion is NOT harmless. It has soaked this world with more blood than anything else throughout history. That is why though I won't go knocking on people's doors and telling them they should be an agnostic or atheist like me (like some religions do) I will speak out against it and point out its hypocrisy and how ludicrous and illogical it is on forums such as this one because it is a danger to the world...no, not the little old lady who goes to church every Sunday...but in the big picture, it is. It is in no way necessary to have the crutch of religion or a belief in a god to be a "good" person who cares about humanity and this planet and has the ability to love and be kind and charitable. If it were necessary I would say religion is necessary even with the evil it can cause, but it's not necessary for people to be "good."

      September 24, 2012 at 1:52 am |
  17. Epic Diapers

    What Mark meant to say is, "As a pastor, my job is to tell (WHAT I THINK IS) the truth. Your job is to make a decision."

    If that little blurb was inserted, I wouldn't be as infuriated as I am now. Everyone has a right to believe what is the truth, but at least give us the intellectual courtesy of saying (this is what my opinion of the truth is). Because, after all, you're not talking about science. You lose all credibility with blanketing facetious statements such as this.

    September 24, 2012 at 1:02 am |
    • AJD

      I thought the same. He has every right to say that this is what he BELIEVES is the truth, but no right to say that it IS the truth without concrete, irrefutable evidence. That there is gravity is something that you can prove. That water freezes at a certain temperature is a truth you can prove. That I had tacos for dinner is something I can prove is true. No one can prove that what the bible says is true, that there is a god, or that this or that is what god wants or that heaven or hell is real. Those are all just beliefs. You can believe that they are true if you wish, but you cannot say that they are "the truth" unless you can back that up with undeniable evidence and if that existed, there wouldn't be articles like this one.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:19 am |
  18. ScottCA

    September 24, 2012 at 12:57 am |
  19. ScottCA

    There is no evidence to support the existence of Heaven, Hell, or God. It is most likely that the time following our deaths will pass exactly as the time that past before our births.

    “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

    ― Mark Twain

    All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"– a strange complaint to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
    - The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson and the Comedy of the Extraordinary Twins

    September 24, 2012 at 12:54 am |
    • I'm right

      On the other hand there is no evidence to support the non-existence of Heaven, Hell, or God.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:05 am |
    • AJD

      On the one hand that makes complete sense, but on the other hand as someone that has seen and experienced some pretty strange things that I can in no way account for by "natural" explanations that seem to point that there may actually be some type of existence after death I can't completely discount that there may "something." But if there is, I don't believe that it has anything to do with some omnipotent being but is just something that IS actually part of nature that we just don't understand yet. I know that sounds strange coming from someone that is an agnostic and atheist when it comes to the world's religions, but I can't discount some of the things I've experienced....but again, I think if there are such things as "ghosts" they would be part of nature, not really "supernatural" in the technical definition of that term. Unfortunately I don't think science is ready or has developed to the point quite yet to really be able to study the matter.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:07 am |
    • I'm right

      I'm not sure what you've experienced and I'm sure that there is nowhere near enough time or room to do it justice in this type of forum, just as there is not the time or room to explain religious things. But let me throw out this one little tidbit if I can. You mention the supernatural and "ghosts." That is VERY easy to explain... Religiously speaking of course. :)
      We are taught that 1/3 of the host of heaven followed Lucifer and were "Cast out of Heaven" Well, where were they "cast out" to? They are here. All around us. But fortunately there is a barrier between us and them. A barrier that is very thin and sometimes due to certain situations that barrier is removed and when it is... You have experiences like I assume you are talking about.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:16 am |
    • Damocles

      @I'm

      That only works if every ghost or supposed supernatural creature ever seen looked like a fallen angel. I hardly think that's the case.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:20 am |
    • AJD

      LOL...nope...the one I'll mention was a dead ringer for my great great grandmother who I did not even know about and when I described the woman I had seen that had appeared to me just walking in profile to me in my living room and not saying a word or even looking at me and described her to my grandmother (who was the only person I could talk to about it that wouldn't think I was nuts lol) she about had a heart attack LOL and ran into the back room of her house, pulled out a photo album I had never seen before in my life that was so old it had tin type pics in it and showed me a picture of a woman that was exactly the same woman I had seen but had never in my life seen a photo of her. In fact, that photo was the only one of her that was still in existence. So no...she didn't look like a fallen angel...just an old woman lol.

      September 24, 2012 at 1:31 am |
  20. Gadflie

    Robert Heinlein was right when he said "Men rarely (if ever) manage to dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child."

    I have seen playground bullies with more morals than the Christian's idea of a god.

    September 24, 2012 at 12:53 am |
    • AJD

      One of the biggest fairy tales is that the judeo/christian god is the "god" or "father" of all people on the planet. If that were so, he would not have written off other people beside the Jews in the Old Testament and so callously ordered the Jews to slaughter them including their women and children and to bash the heads of babies against rocks. No...the god that "Christians" say is the father of us all did not love all people on the earth or treat them all equally. He was only the god of the Jews and only cared about them. Christianity is what you get when you cherry pick the bible for quotes here and there and take them completely out of the true context in which they were written and never completely read the book as you would any other work of literature to get the whole story.

      September 24, 2012 at 12:59 am |
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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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.