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.
If adult christains want to believe in eternal torment for themselves and their family from their loving god? Good for them. Knock yourselves out.
There rest of us will stand by and point and laugh.
Where would you be laughing from??
There is no Hell. There is no Heaven. It is a story made up by powerful people who wanted to make the commoners get in line and behave. And all you religious suckers have been brainwashed into believing it.
Hooray. At first I worried I was going to read another worldy lie about the non-existence of hell (the Devil loves those). I am glad to see Driscoll leading people away from it and NOT toward it. Glory to God...Jesus Lead On!
The Church of the Subgenius offers eternal salvation or triple you money back, all for only $30.
Should you find yourself at the gates of "normal" Hell when you die, J.R. "Bob" Dobbs Himself will personally deliver you $90 in cash.
Of course, being the universe's greatest saleman, he will then sell you a book called "How to survive in Hell on $.05 a day" for $89.95
Farewelll to Faith. Bye Bye.
Best Video I have ever seen!!!
This couldn't be any clearer. I went through exactly the same process that these people did. If you look hard enough the lies and obfuscation in religious teachings become painfully obvious.
WRONG is WRONG even if everyone's doing it... RIGHT is RIGHT even if NOBODY's doing it...
So we all shall see ONE day... not need to argue people! it is a waste of time!
There is no hell, we create our own hell in our lives and everybody in this world sins, and God didnt send us here on earth for ALL of us no matter what being sent to hell!!
that is why I believe in reincarnation because God gives us another chance to make ourselves better so one day we can all be at peace and reunite with him...
Allan Kardec books are very interesting and talk about it.
Mark Driscoll is so full of crap I can see 5hit running down his face. His imaginary friend are nothing but a delusion to fill his life. Its scary in this day and age that humans are so repressed that they take a 7th century notion of a deity and try and force it on others by telling a LIE of eternal damnation. Its a crime. And its a fraud. These people should be in jail for fraud. Then start taxing all churches.
All organized religion preys on the weak and infirm and is designed to relieve them of a good chunk of their cash.
As far as heaven and hell.....until someone comes back and makes a full report, it is BS. No spirits...no dreams...no delusions.
Why do people feel like they should create their own god???? Why is it that they feel contempt to watch a dumb movie to escape the truth that is in the Bible?? As a Christian, my God, the one that is in the Christian Bible, is the same today as the one 1000.'s of years ago, as the one who created the earth and the heavens. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob! Why do we want to create these new gods that "make us feel better?? SIMPLE!! because we want to worship a god who allows us to willfully sin yet forgive us and pretend nothing happened. Jesus is very clear!! He does not condenm us, WE CONDEM OURSELVES! Open your Bible, read it! Ask your priest or your pastor to help you. Stop condeming yourselves by following other idols or gods that don't exist. God is only one.
Your god is a myth and you can't produce a shred of credible evidence to support his existence. It's a fairy tale. Grow up!
Vik, there were thousands of gods thousands of years before some bronze age goat fukkers started to cobble together the mythology you now call christianity. yours is no different.
rdeleys can you prove that it does not exist?
if you dont believe in it, it does not mean that it does not exist :)
I hate to break it to you, but the Christians DID create a new god; Jesus.
logical, you are a dumba-ss and certainly not logical. you cannot prove the non-existence of something. You can, however, prove the existence of something. If someone claims that a god exists, the onus is on them to prove it. very simple and – yes – logical.
I don't have to prove anything. YOU are the person claiming the existence of god. The burden of proof is yours.
prove ONE negation! and you win!
the best way for god to be real to you is to create your own god, vik
Where is your god when all the children are starving? When earthquakes take the lives of people who are minding their own business? When war breaks out and both sides claim to have god on their side? When babies are born deformed and die soon after birth? Don't give me the crap that that your god works in mysterious ways BS. You god is a figment of your imagination. Nothing more, and a lot less.
how is the whole world, galaxies going on? Who is controlling them?
if any non living thing cannot move by its own, how is the earth moving? what is that force? have you even seen that force?
you know what, we first need to believe in God in order to believe in hell and heaven!
all these calamities occur cuz of US! God does not do injustice! this life, this world is a TEST for us! if the examiner helps a student in its test, would it be a test? no!
that is why, there shall come a RESULT day. on which we shall get our results! either hell or heaven!
if we do good deeds and believe in God, we get heaven! if not, then otherwise!
Just by saying that "I do not believe in hell because I can not see it!", makes the argument enough to prove that there is no hell? NO!
If today I say I have got a device which does this and that, but you do not believe in it because you didnt see it, proves that the device does not exist? NO, right!
same is the case with the concept of hell and heaven!
the ones who strive for truth and make some effort, they can actually visualize hell and heaven.
the weakness is there in US! we do not ponder upon! it does not make the reality a fake concept!
If you are making wild claims about what your "device" can do then I won't believe it until I see it. Put up or shut up.
then its your ignorance! not my fault!
the thing is, we all dont want to talk about this. it makes us angry, right! the way you are being...
If you actually WERE "logical", you'd realize that the burden of proof is on those who say hell DOES exist.
it means you know something as well (which you are not willing to say) :) interesting!
logical, if someone said to you, I have this magical device, you would say,really? may I see it? And if they show it to you, and demonstrate how it works, and what it does, then you would probably be justified in believing that it does exist.
But, if someone says, I have a magical device, but you can't see it, or feel it, or touch it or taste it or sense it, and it can't be measured, and there's no way of demonstrating how it works or if it has any effect on anything, but it's sitting right here on the coffee table, what would you say then? Would you question the existence of that magical device? Of course!
But if this person then pulls out a book t-itled "This magical device is real" and tells you to read the book, because the book says that the magical device is real, would you suddenly believe that the device is real?
Of course not.
Exchange magical device for god.
Logical91= logic fail. It is hard to have a battle of wit with an unarmed person. Logical, is 91 the year you were born, or the year you dropped out of the 6th grade?
but God can be sensed!
have you ever seen force? it is seen in the form of some work! right! similar God cannot be seen directly. His reflections can be seen in His creation.
if one just tries to ponder upon nature and everything around, one surely starts to believe that there is someone who is controlling everything!
I cannot make you believe in all this, because you are not ready to. but YES, there will come one point in your life when you'll start understanding these things.
a point comes in one's life, when nothing goes right! then one tries to look for the right things! and eventually one finds it! :) if the will power is strong!
God is behind the curtain but He shows His signs. May we all be the ones to accept the reality
logical, the magical invisible device can be sensed! Just look: it's keeping the coffee table from flying away, right? The coffee table isn't flying away, therefore the device is real! I can sense that it's real because, when i go near it, methane gas erupts from my butt, so therefore the device did it.
Do you see that the problem with what you are saying is that anyone can make the claim that anything is the cause of anything else. i can sense that invisible leprechauns snuck into my pajamas in the night and magically filled my willie with blood, because this morning there was a major case of morning wood happening.
It's simply wishing on your part – but the reality is, simply wishing something doesn't make it so.
@logical 91. So it is true then. You did drop out after the sixth grade. Go back and get an education, in the real world, not your fantasy one.
People always listen to what they want to hear. If there was a hell, then there would be a final accounting, and this thought can be highly disturbing. I find it interesting how people answer the question, "Are you going to heaven?" The most common answer I have heard s, "Well, I am a good person, I'm not a murderer or anything." What about stealing, envy, adultery, sloth, pride, mistreatment of parents and children, greed, self-centeredness, fornication, etc, etc. etc.... Yep, if there was a hell, we'd need to be pretty nervous about now. One can take the ostrich route, and if it makes you feel better, great. If you believe there's not a hell and live that way, you better be right.
Hell...a place with no love, no mercy...and no chocolate!
I have known many born-again Christians. As a teenager, I thought I was one because I so wanted to be part of a "community". Then I started to see that 1. Not one of the Christians I knew questioned their particular authority (pastor), so they tended not to think for themselves, and 2. For some strange reason they equated naivete with Godliness. So, no thanks. I'll work out my own spirituality and leave the religion to the gullible. Too bad they're so dangerous as a voting block.
And this is why most rational thinking people don't give any credibility to "Faux" News..lol
No harm in believing, as long as you're not a fanatic. That way you have your bases covered after you die, just in case it's real. In terms of Christianity, I see one facet of the religion being useful to people who are downtrodden, because it gives them hope when things here in the "real world" seem hopeless. It could be false hope, but nevertheless, some people are positively motivated by it. We'll find out when we're dead and gone. The other facet of the religion is useful to people who are in power, because the "fire and brimstone" threat can be used to keep the "little people" in line, thus allowing the powers that be to maintain their status. "Don't steal or you'll burn. Don't cheat or you'll burn. We'll cheat and steal from you and become fat cats off the fruits of your labor while you cower in fear of the Lord."
@ green – you're accepted a very common logical fallacy. You said "No harm in believing, as long as you're not a fanatic. That way you have your bases covered after you die, just in case it's real."
How do you know that there's no harm in being a believer?
Why not posit a god that HATES believers and wants people to use their brains. Maybe this whole religion thing is simply a screening device, and the believers are the ones who get screened out for being dumb.
So, there is a risk.
Google "Pascal's Wager"
Please tell me this, seeing as there are several religions, do you have to believe in all of them then to cover yourself just in case? That means you need to learn all of the religions and what they are about "Just in Case", am I right?
You are right about one thing, people turn to religion when everything and everyone else has turned their backs. Religions like Christianity do open their doors to the downtrodden and the weak and help them rebuild whatever they have lost.
To me, this is not a religious concept but more of a humanitarian concept of helping your neighbor, friend, family, etc. The religion is more like a pyramid scheme where you get one person to join, then two more join and so forth, etc. You have enough followers believing in the same ideals is sometimes a good thing but a lot of the time a very bad thing since cults and gangs are created in the same fashion.
Just my thoughts on it.
Hell is the place where God is not. THAT is what makes it hell. And the "hell" we experience on earth is because we turn our backs to Him.
Hell is also the place where the hearts of athiests dwell, because they are incapable of acknowledging the simple truth: that God loves us and wants what's best for us, but it's WE who decide where we end up because we insist on doing things our own way. Do athiests go to hell? Only if they choose to because while they refuse to believe in Him, God still believes in them.
If you dont believe in God then it seems like you never thought why you are here in this world..! you have been living an ignorant life then..! every thing's got a reason, right? if you dont have any purpose in life other than just eating, sleeping and enjoying, m afraid your life is not different than that of any animal.
It's really not much different from an animal, and you (or I) don't really have any purpose other than to carry on our genetic code. I find the thought that we're no different from any peace loving animal to be eloquent. if Muslims and Christians behaved like the animals that they are (because by definition human beings are animals), and they learned from them, maybe they would find peace as well.
If you believe in God, you spent the minimum amount of time possible considering why you are here, put aside critical thinking and accepted "magic" as the answer.
The hypothesis that an anthropomorphic, anthropocentric, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent enti/ty willed the entire Universe into existence simply to have us, the predilect objects of Creation, in it is absurdly egotistical.
As the great philosopher "Lint" Armstrong wrote "All I know is that I don't know nothin'"
When people abandon their idea that there's an invisible, all-powerful force controlling their lives, they might start to see to realize how much control they have over their own lives (or how little, if that's the case)
I feel that being an atheist is one of the most liberating things. I can f*** who I want (legally at least) and not worry about going to Hell, I can say whatever I want, I don't have to explain my idiotic reasoning as to why my religion is right and Muslims and Jews are wrong. yep, life is good
Religion. For those with a fear of death, and/or those who need the comfort of a daddy figure. (or Mary, a mommy).
I can guarantee, hell is real. I can also guarantee there are lots of people who will try to reason through it to say otherwise so as to make themselves and others feel better about their decision to live contrary to God's word.
2 Timothy 4:3
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
What is your guarantee? Just quoting text from the bible that is made ul in the first place doesn't prove anything.
that is right! it is like people do not want to come out of dreaming by saying that hell is not real. May God help them to understand the reality, to live in reality, to strive for reality! Ameen!
A money-back guarantee? Excellent – let's see your evidence that hell is real.
Go . . . . . . . . .
Wow, Jesus found Sarah, what a simplistic way to view life. You believe that there is a magical man in the sky who cares about you? You believe that if you "sin" you will be sent to "Hell"? In some ways I envy you; it must be nice to live in your world, completely oblivious of science and reality.
You have no authority to make this guarantee, Sarah
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.