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.”
Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter
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.
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
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.
Lol. 'Hell' was a manic-depressive narcissist named Angela. I was assured of being able to 'abandon' it, but the costs were prohibitive, said the lawyer, so we settled for legal separation.
Here is your answer: JEREMIAH 32:35, "Furthermore, they built the high places to Ba'al ..., in order to make their sons and their daughters pass through the fire to Mo'lech, a thing that I did not command them, NEITHER DID IT COME UP INTO MY HEART to do this detestable thing, for the purpose of making Judah sin." Also MALACHI 3:6 says God not change. ("I have NOT change") He still feels the same way. It is humanity who looks for convenience, and to justify their sinful conduct. So, Christians and Muslims truly love to hate, just like their father the Devil. Jesus told the religious leaders of their time, "YOU are from your father the Devil, and wish to do your father's desires..." JOHN 8:44.
That's the answer? quoting from a book?
Religions throughout history have concocted some wonderful posthumous punishments to keep their followers in line.
Aztecs believed that you'd wind up in the rather unplesant realm of Mictlan if you died of old age.
For 4 years, you'd have to traverse the 9 layers, trekking over mountains that crash into each other, fields that blow flaying knives and rivers of blood.
The Norse had a similar belief whereing those who die cowards (IE: of old age), you'd wind up at the Goddess Hel' shore of corpses to lead a dreary afterlife, never to escape it's have gates.
The Egpytians thought that when they died, their hearts would be weighed by Ma'at against a Shu feather. If the heart was heavy with sin, their soul would be consumed by the part-hippo, part-crocodile, part-lion Demon Ammit,
But what if the Buddhists, Hindus and Sikh's are correct and life and death are simply part of an eternal cycle wherein the form of your reincarnation is based on the balance of good vs, evil in this life?
The biggest lie is that god(or whatever you want to call it) is apart from us, a separate being of sorts. People, why don't you concentrate more on loving and respecting not only one another, but everything else in this life as well. That would be a great start.
"seriously believe that God smiles upon them when they send their enemies to hell."
Born-again believers in Jesus Christ do NOT believe this. The author who wrote this knows nothing of Christianity if he believes this. This is not what Christ taught or what the Bible teaches in any regard. It is completely irresponsible and wrong for the author to write this.
...? He was referring to Islam, not Christianity.
Perhaps Christian dogma doesn't teach it outright, but you must not know some of the Christians I do.
Revelation 20:13 talks about death and hell giving up the dead in them and then death and hell are thrown into the Lake of Fire.
Rev 21:4 says that death is no more.
From these two simple scriptures, we learn that hell is NOT the lake of fire, all those in hell will get out and then death will be no more. Logical assumption is that since death and hell being thrown into the lake of fire results in death being no more... it also results in hell being no more. And since you can't "punish" death or hell, anything thrown into the lake of fire is no more. Period.
When Adam sinned, he earned the worst sentence God offered... death with no future. He turned back to dust. If anyone deserved eternal punishment, it would have been him, but his punishment was no more life. Nothing more.
In the final Harry Potter book, Harry is described as killing Voldemort. We know by examining our world that there is no Voldemort alive. Therefore, Harry Potter DID kill Voldemort, which proves that Harry Potter is real. therefore, everything in the Harry Potter books is true.
Guess what has as much credibility as Joseph Smith? Paul, the self-proclaimed "apostle" – that's who. Yep, the dude who wrote most of those Epistles.
Guess who has even less credibility? St. John the Opium Addict who was high as a kite when he wrote Revelations.
Yeah, I kinda have a problem with Paul, too. Pretty clear why the early church included him. The first evangelist.
As a Christian, both are what you make it, Anyone can be in Heaven and anyone can be in hell. Just look around!
There is no god, no hell and no heaven so enjoy your life while practicing these three powerful words: DO NO HARM !
The Apostles' Creed 2012: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)
Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??
I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)
Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,
He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.
(references used are available upon request)
To see such blatant preaching on a news site is disgusting. Preaching lies is not news or honest or truthful. You, CNN, are allowing misinformation to be posted with your express permission. Any disclaimer you print is worthless when you allow any religious person to publish a full religious rant full of demonstrable lies when it is not news that people already think in this schizophrenic way.
But it's your site. You are free to make fools of yourselves. Just don't complain about your lack of good ratings.
that's exactly what they want. CNN is the king of trolls
It is a belief blog....try to keep up
I feel that some of you are guilty of sin and therefore cannot accept the article that was written. All you have to do is repent of your sins and you will be saved from hell. Our carnal minds tell us that hell is not real because we still want to sin and according to our flesh, it loves sin. Lying is a sin. Stealing is a sin. Fornication is a sin. Adultery is a sin. There are so many other sins but Jesus died for us so that we may have an oppurtunity to repent (asking GOD to forgive us of our wrong doing). If you steal money from your company then you will be punished and fired, so why do you think that there is no punishment for sin. There is punishment for sin but God is so loving that you get a second chance while here on earth to ask for forgiveness. That's all it takes, so why get angry or frustrated over the article. Its simple, just repent or just dont live a life of sin and you will be saved from hell just like you will be saved from jail if you dont steal. Love Ya
maria: we do not seek heaven nor fear hell. if you want to live your life by what iron age sheep mounters considered sinful, have at it.
Why do people devote so much time to such BS? What a waste of effort and energy. If that time was spent on dealing with reality instead of myths the world would be a much better place. Grow up already!!
What's your beef, Dave – the article? Hmmmmm?
Actually DAVE, the world would be a better place if people would stop murdering, stealing, and just doing so many bad things to others. The article is letting people know that hell is real and if people continue to do bad things here on earth they will definitely be punished for it. So someone in the world just got better because they read that article. Possibly the murder or the child molester or the adulterer or whom ever was bound by sin. If it didnt touch you then I suggest you go somewhere in a corner or closet and cry out to GOD for a humble heart to receive the truth. Love You
It's really best for all people including children to have an agnostic approach to god, and an atheistic approach to all religion. It keeps things simple for kids, and lets them be all that they can be. They just need to be taught that some things, like all religion, were just made up by salesmen and politicians from long ago. (Yes, charlatan folklore and spam started long before the Bible; what would make you think they hadn't??) And they need to be taught that other things, like God, we really don't know a damn thing about.
Atheists have strong minds and don't need a religion. Many religious folk have the best intentions. But too often, religious folk run and hide their misdeeds within their religion (and by doing so, they disserve society). And too often, religious folk are easily offended when someone mocks their make-believe characters – and, as we can see they can get really CRAZY!!
Although there are many religious folk with good intentions – some selflessly helping others, religions and religious organizations are, as a whole, just big old clubs – each trying to out do each other and inspiring hate and division (often disguised as love) along the way. The problem is that people too easily buy into religion and don't realize how unfounded it all is. And when they buy into it, they buy into a lot of really old, really weird tenets that are nothing but harmful for the human species.
Take Christianity, for instance. Just look at all the things that Christians argue about amongst themselves today – abortion, men's and women's roles in the church, celibacy, contraception, acceptance of gays, etc. Most of these issues have their roots in the conflicted, unfounded tenets of early Christianity. Non-Mormons harp on Joseph Smith these days. But we really don't have any more proof at all to believe that Paul, the self-proclaimed "apostle" was anything more than an ordinary man who needed to make up religious "sales literature" to survive and spread his own personal beliefs. And yet a good chunk of the NT is attributed to Paul and accepted by many Christians. And a lot of what he wrote about has to do with many of the issues I mentioned above that have Christians fighting amongst themselves hundreds of years later. It's way too unfounded to argue over.
Get a good cup of tea, and sit down and collect your thoughts. If you find it helpful to pray to a god, fine. But it is really healthier for the mind to leave behind all the characters that people over the centuries have invented or given powers to, for which there is little or no foundation. Because with those invented characters and powers – that's where division and hate join the little party in your mind. That's where, in your mind, you are inheriting the division and hate from ordinary politicians, lobbyists and salesmen from long ago. My goodness.
Wow. Spoken like a true Atheist. Got it all figured out and nothing to back it up. You guys will say just about anything to live in denile and not be accountable for your own actions. If there is no God, according to you guys, then why does it bother you so much when others who believe share their faith? It's a choice. Eternity is a long time to be wrong. Might want to check your facts again. God Bless.
Comparing Bush to Bin Laden? The author is off base on this premise and most everything stated in the introduction is either grossly oversimplified or intentionally misleading. No sane person can possibly compare the Christianity that exists in the US as a cause of the present war against terrorists, who USE religion as an excuse to murder. Don't think conservatives do that very much. The author is so far off base it would take too long to refute everything he says. What a joke.
Bush called our enemies "evil doers" alluding that they were in actual league with Satan. How is that any different than those who call America the Great Satan?
How soon people forget.
"I am driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, 'George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan'. And I did. And then God would tell me 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq'. And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East'. And, by God, I'm gonna do it."
– George Bush, 2003
Thanks, Mark, for telling it like it is, although it brings on a hornets-nest-stirred up avalanche of negative onslaught against the stances of the Bible, God and Jesus, the apostles, the historic Christian faith.
Despite all the rhetoric against hell, and people living without choosing Christ as their Saviour as hell-bound, it doesn't change God's Word nor His ways one iota. The book of Romans is very clear about these things.
I also pray that every reader of your writings will see God's light about salvation, having the blindness of their understanding and hardness of their hearts removed.
logos: you have no authority to speak for god.
Logos – you're right – it doesn't change the fact that the bible is simply a collection of things written by people to control and manipulate other people.
He didn't "tell it like it is"; he merely stated concisely the fundamentalist Christian belief about Hell. It's a particular religious belief and people don't have to accept it as the "truth" unless you can prove to them that it is. Plenty of Christians have a view that God is far more compassionate than you or he give him credit for.
Logos Aletheia... word of truth... clever name.
Sadly your statement about those not choosing Christ as their savior being hellbound is not the word of truth or even scriptural.
However, what is scriptural is that no everyone saying Lord Lord will be saved.
I agree with you,and pray the same as you,that people will accept God's free gift of salvation,and trust ,and give their heart to Jesus.Not in a religion or a church,but the living risen Son of God,who died for the sins of the world,so the world can be saved.You who read this have a choice,and it will be an eternal choice.
Hey, it's still religion even if you boil it down to being just a personal relationship with Christ. Christ is a god, and you worship him = religion. Plus, there's enough of you "relationship" types as a group to consider you a separate church. You all have the same basic beliefs, right? So, I don't really see any difference between you guys and the folks who gather in mega-churches following what some pastor in a $1000 suit says.
How could anyone possibly argue with this? If you do not accept our way, you will die and suffer for eternity. But, really, we are loving people and our god is a loving one. You just have to join us or you will suffer, forever. No pressure, we aren't trying to manipulate you. Of course not. See, it MUST be true, it's all in this book that's thousands of years old and has been interpreted countless times – by man. Yes, yes, we acknowledge that man is fallible and all that, but this is the word of God and could never be misconstrued... And crowd says :...bleat, bleat, bleat, bleat..."
To Hell with you, GenXcynic!! ha ha ha
This might be one of the worst articles I've ever read. Logical? Sure. Factually erroneous with leaps to conclusions only Evil Knievel scale? Definitely. If people are getting paid to write articles that ignorantly and arrogantly assert such poorly developed theses, then I and many others should be draining CNN for all the money it has. In short, this is one wack ass article.
•Revelation 14:10 “he will be tormented with fire and brimstone”
Bible goes on alot about how one with sin and who is unholy will be thrown in a lake of fire...
But a real truth in my eyes which I see by faith, is that God doesnt care nor wants his people to kill each other. If God killed wouldnt he had kill his first angel(satan) by now? No he gives us all chances to show our true kind hearts. He lives in us all and not just in some...
Just my views...I think we should all walk each step side by side with God's step...
Revelation – everyone knows whoever wrote that was high as a kite. St. John the Opium Addict, evidently. He must have crashed his camel in burning poppy field to come up with that mess. My goodness.
CNN, you're the biggest of all the trolls with headlines like "is hell for real?". You know that such a question will spark debate and intolerance.
they know it will spark debate and traffic. they make money based on traffic.
it's just about generating page views, which drives online ad revenue. All of these comments are making money for CNN.
Why follow Jesus, when you can follow a King?? ?? ??
Yes, there is a hell. You might not like the idea or agree with it, but still, there is a hell. Jesus mentioned hell. Even John 3:16 mentions perishing.
oh , well then it's settled. (rolls eyes)
You are absolutely right. For those who don't know Jesus, it is understandable. For those who call themselves Christians to be doubting it.. To doubt the Word of God, To doubt about what Jesus himself spoke about. Then why in the heck do they call themselves Christians?? Is Jesus a liar? They let themselves get contaminated by the world yet Jesus speaks clearly of them. Christians follow Jesus NOT the world. If you're not a Christian or if you don't believe in the God of Jesus, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob then how could you be judged? but if you're are one calling Jesus a liar, then you are condeming yourself.
No, there is no hell. You might not like the idea or agree with it, but still, there is no hell. Jesus was a loudmouth sho got whacked by the Romans. What he supposedly said has been translated and edited numerous times. No need to look on this as anything but an Iron Age comic book
Romans 2; 6-8
"He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury"
"“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."
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.