March 19th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

Rob Bell punches back against claims of heresy

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

New York (CNN) - For two weeks while controversy swirled around him, Pastor Rob Bell stayed silent. His critics said he was playing fast and loose with heaven and hell, salvation and damnation. The eternity of souls was on the line, they said.

All this was over Bell’s new book, “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.” Critics tore into it before the book even hit store shelves on Tuesday, some going so far as to label Bell a heretic. The controversy pushed the book into the third spot on Amazon’s sales ranking, virtually assuring the book a place on The New York Times Best Sellers list.

On Monday night, dressed in black and sporting his trademark black-rimmed glasses, Bell strolled quietly into the auditorium of the New York Ethical Culture Society. This was his chance to hit back.

“I never set out to be controversial,” Bell told CNN before the event. “I don’t think it’s a goal that God honors. I don’t think it’s a noble goal.

“What’s interesting to me is what’s true. And what’s interesting to me is what’s inspiring. And what’s interesting to me is where’s the life? Where’s the inspiration? That’s what I’m interested in. If that happens to stir things up, that was never my intent, but I’ll accept that.”

Bell said he was surprised by the controversy around his book. Critics said he was preaching universalism, a theology that suggests everyone goes to heaven and hell is empty.

“I’m not a universalist. So that’s just not true.” He reiterated that again in the event that evening where he expounded on that idea and said that he didn’t believe God reaches down and sweeps everyone to heaven.

'Good environment for dialogue'

After a budding career as a rock star was derailed by a freak illness, Bell set his sights on the seminary. Now, at 40, he has risen to become America’s hipster pastor and one of the most influential preachers in the country.

He is quick-witted, non-denominational, and he unabashedly loves Jesus. He preaches to 10,000 people at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Michigan, the church he founded. His first four books sold nearly a million copies combined, and his short film series, Nooma, has sold more than 2 million DVDs.

He will tell you he again and again he is a pastor, not a theologian or a biblical scholar.

But for a guy who dresses in black, Bell has made his mark examining the gray areas of Christianity. His questioning of traditional approaches without always giving answers has brought him fans and made his critics gnash their teeth.

“It’s very appealing because he brings lots of facts and lots of information into it and lots of historical context into whatever discussion he has,” said Kristi Berderon, a 25-year-old Bell fan who drove an hour from New Jersey for the event. “He leaves it open-ended. He lets you think and draw your own conclusions for yourself instead of spoon-feeding what he grew up hearing or what he was taught in seminary.”

She and her friend Tommy Hayes are a lot like the others in the crowd tonight: wearing skinny jeans and dark-rimmed glasses - and openly exploring their faith. Berderon’s parents are Southern Baptists; she was home schooled and raised in the church. Today she attends a non-denominational church and self-identifies as a “Christ follower” but bristles at being called a Christian.

Danielle Miller and Maryalice Spencer took a two-hour train ride from Walden, New York, to hear Bell speak. They walked 25 blocks and stood in line in the cold to get in. Miller uses Bell’s short films as a discussion starter in her church. “I think it’s always good to ask those hard questions, and I think that’s what he’s doing, and it creates a good environment for dialogue,” Miller said.

Bell was in New York City to sit down with Newsweek’s Lisa Miller for a conversation on stage and take questions from the 650 audience members and thousands more watching the event streaming live on the Web.

Bell and Miller on stage at the New York Ethical Culture Society auditorium.

Before the crowds arrived, a contemplative Bell settled into a pew to talk with CNN about the book and to answer his critics.

The book began, he said, five years ago. “As a pastor, you interact with so many people [that] some of the same questions keep coming up. And ultimately you keep bumping up against what people really think about God.”

In his church and around the country, he saw what he considered a misrepresentation of the Christian narrative in the Bible.

“At the heart of the Christian story is [the message that] God loves the world and sent his son Jesus to show the world this love. So that’s fundamentally first and foremost the story. God is love and God sent Jesus to show this love.

“In our culture Christians are known for a number of other things. … Rarely do you hear people say, ‘Oh yeah, those are the people who never stop talking about love. Oh a Christian church - that’s where you go if feel beaten down and kicked and someone has their boot on your neck. You go there because it’s a place of healing and a place of love.’

“I’m passionate about calling people back to [Christianity’s] roots,” Bell said.

'Theology of evacuation'

In his new book, Bell challenges the traditional notions of heaven and hell.

“For many people the fundamental story was one of escape - Jesus is how you get out of here. I think for many people in the modern world, the way they heard it was fundamentally, ‘This place is bad, and there is some other place, and Jesus - believe, accept, trust, confess, join, get baptized, whatever sort of language got put on it - Jesus is how you get to some other realm where things are good.’

“So essentially it’s a theology of evacuation. And my understanding is the Bible is first and foremost a story of restoration. It’s a story of renewal.”

“The fundamental story arc of the Bible,” he said “is God is passionate about rescuing this world, restoring it renewing it. So discussions about heaven and hell … for many people are irrelevant and esoteric. … But what happens is, what you believe about heaven and hell deeply shapes how you engage this world now.”

Bell said if a believer has their eyes on heaven, they can miss the opportunities to bring people a taste of heaven here on Earth - and they can miss seeing the hell around them.

“Greed, injustice, the sex trade in Far East Asia, we see hell all around us, whenever people reject what is good and human and right and peaceful and all that,” he said.

“I begin with this world right now and the observation that we are free to choose. It’s the nature of love. So then when you die, I would assume [given] the nature of love you can continue to make these types of choices.”

For Bell the here and now is just as important as any possible life to come. “I think it’s very very important to point out … [that] we are speculating about after you die,” he said.

“In the Jewish context in which [Jesus] lived and moved, you didn’t have that articulated belief system about when you die. It was very rooted in this life - dirt and wine and banquets, family and fishing. [In] his stories, it’s all a very visceral – this world is our home, this world that God loves, that God is redeeming - so that’s the starting point.

“I think for many people they were taught you’re either in or out. But Jesus invites us to a journey that’s a fundamentally different way to think about it, and that frees you up from a lot of things that I think haunt people, bind them up and make them miserable. Then it creates all sorts of space for wonder and awe and mystery and the unexpected,” Bell said.

His perspective does not line up with many of the traditional views about heaven and hell, of separate spaces and places with streets of gold or lakes of fire.

For Christians who see salvation and heaven as crucial elements to their faith, Bell’s message can be abrasive - which in part led to so many people pouncing on his book before it was released.

What stirred many critics was a promotional video in which Bell asks whether Mohandas Gandhi, India’s non-violent leader, was in heaven. Bell’s answer offers a good insight into his view of salvation.

Bell would not be surprised if he saw Gandhi in heaven. “Jesus was very clear. Heaven is full of surprises. That’s central to Jesus teaching.”

Bell insists there is room for mystery in salvation and that Christianity is open to discussion.

“The historical orthodox Christian faith is extremely wide and diverse,” Bell said. “No one has the last word other than God. I am taking part in a discussion that’s been going on for thousands of years. Everyone can play a part in that discussion.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Devil

soundoff (1,308 Responses)
  1. Hans

    People ask what would Jesus do? The simple answer is what he has always done in death, he would suffer. They say there will be an anti Christ which means somebody will show up in this world to save the soul of Jesus from suffering. I suspect that if this unknown messenger exists, he will stop off in the underworld to pick up Odysseus and the women of greek mythology who have super genius minds and true magic. He will eventually make his way to the heavenly world and reclaim his brothers soul from god the father.

    I suspect the messenger would probably have a Jedi like mind. This means he must have Jedi like training from a special group of souls. He would reject Star Wars because they had to use violence to win battles. I"m talking the smartest minds this world has ever seen. I imagine he would hide his superior intelligence away throughout his childhood. I also think he must suffer much like Jesus. Everything has to be taken from him like Job in the bible. I suspect the world will be embarrassed because the man probably had his one true love taken from him. He is probably a tortured soul who suffered so badly growing up that Jesus routinely had to suffer for him. How else would he know Jesus is still suffering for the sins of Christians who do not care about others and all living things?

    The character I am writing about would never tell people god taught him how this world works. He would spend his life saving souls without every saying or even knowing most of his life. He would find the souls that are important to unlock this world and the mysteries of this world. He would be hated by most people because everybody is greedy, self centered, righteous and filled with the idea of gods glory. I think he will probably prevent the battle the battle between god and the devils that was spoken of in the bible. I imagine he would say he did it for his mother who never was allowed to have children in this world. Somebody like Pandora from greek mythology who may in fact be gods daughter.

    I like my story better than the Christian myth. Considering Christianity was created after they killed the wrong man, Jesus. Then they created a religion in the honor of the god who claimed his soul. Jesus said to love all things. He suffers only for victims who are truly suffering. He is not allowed to suffer for sinners.

    My story is free. I think Rob Bell should donate all of his book earnings to charity for the homeless, poor and humane society. It's not appropriate for people to make money off the suffering man. Besides, the gods like to make examples of greedy souls who use the bible to manipulate lost souls. I suspect Rob Bell has a great deal of personal knowledge of the trials and tribulations of Sodom and Gomorrah.

    I like to use my imagination. Does this story sound believable?

    March 19, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • airwx

      Your concept is funny, but not based on anything but your singular imagination. I do practice one thing you request of ministers... I take no money, not even travel money. The gospel is a gracious gift and I am only the carrier of the message, not the Giver.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
  2. Polaris

    Just another feel-good, pseudo-Christian fad. Even the basic core concept that this guy is presenting is inherently inconsistent with the core of Christianity. One of the core beliefs in Christianity is that humanity is inherently fallen. Salvation is contingent solely on the grace of God, not of human works "lest any man should boast". (Eph. 2: 8, 9)Christianity believes that humanity is inherently fallen and sinful and utterly bankrupt before God outside of Christ. (Rom. 3: 23)

    As for that idiocy about people not being in heaven pre-Christ, you may want to brush up on the Old Testament. The Temple was set up as a means for repenting of sin through animal sacrifice. (Rom 6: 23) Christ's death, in Christianity, is the "ultimate" sacrifice thus nullifying the need for the Temple. Christ's resurrection is the ultimate defeat of the consequence of sin.

    Regardless of what you believe, the facts are that what this guy is portraying is inconsistent with the Bible and easily proven. Whether you like the feel-good message is up to you.

    March 19, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • Marine57

      Well spoken, (in general).
      You stated: "The Temple was set up as a means for repenting of sin through animal sacrifice."
      Did you mean: atonement for sin?

      March 19, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Rob

      I would rather "feel good" with my religion than walk around in fear and shame every moment of my life and my kids lives. My children are sin less and innocent IF Your god wishes to condemn them you can believe that. I would rather see us all together on the other side of life getting along and working together. _optimist_

      March 19, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Polaris

      @marine17 yes. Poor choice of wording on my part

      March 19, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
  3. Ryan

    To all atheists,

    Suppose there was an all powerful, all knowing being. Suppose Christianity is the correct religion. The bible says people will be deceived towards the end of days. I keep reading people saying that the bible isn't valid because it doesn't fall in line with what we know from the sciences. What if this supernatural being left traces of alternative explanations as a test to see if people would reject him/her as the supreme ruler or not, effectively giving people the choice to reject or accept him. That is, this supernatural being purposively laid false tracks for scientists to discover one day to possibly lead them astray. Why? To see if people would have faith in him, or reject him. Ever think of that?

    March 19, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • Marine57

      Ryan – your astute point is stated in 2nd Thessalonians 2:11 KJB:
      And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:

      March 19, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Suppose? Suppose Hinduism is the "true" religion... or the worship of Zeus...

      You can take your Supposes and use them as Suppositories...

      March 19, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • Rob

      Ryan & Marine57 – Your whole argument is exactly why the Bible is false to so many ppl. Why in the universe would any "god" who can create the whole universe and all the creatures that live their for Billions and Billions of miles of this creation ever want to set forth some little experiment on one tiny planet to "test" creatures HE created and already KNOWS which will fall in line and which will not. Also will this god condemn all the religions that came before this religion? those billions of people that never knew of this religion are all condemned too? How about people raised Buddhist or Muslim and have never been exposed to any other religion as anything more than a "fake" religion? NO your answers are the reasons why more and more intelligent people are leaving the church.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • Happy Atheist

      "Suppose there was an all powerful, all knowing being"
      This is an impossible statement. You're suggesting he could create an incurable disease. Create an immovable object. Could your god do this if he wanted to? No.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • JohnR

      I would say that any god who "tests" people by playing mind games and giving them excellent reasons to disbelieve and then punishes them with eternal torment for following their rational minds rather than picking the "correct" faith out of a grab bag of faiths is a sadistic monster unworthy of respect, let alone worship.

      Now, what if Islam is right and Allah is testing you by exposing you to Christian dogma and is poised to torture you for eternity if you fall for the Christian faith rather than accepting the truth as revealed to Mohammed? Bum deal, huh? Well, what about the reverse? How about if Zoroastrianism is correct and it's just too bad if you weren't born into a Zoroastrian community, but God says you got to find your way over there regardless or its hellfire forever for you? And on and on ...

      March 19, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Perhaps that scenario would make sense if there was any evidence at all for a god. The only evidence of a god I have ever heard of was the lack of understanding of how things, and people willing "speak" (or write) for a higher power.

      As science and observation fill in the gaps of knowledge, there are few places for a higher power to hide. I believe that if you have to keep finding room for a god to exist, there isn't really a god.

      No offense, but I haven't thought about a scenario like this because it makes no sense. Why would an all-powerful being play silly games like this? This being wouldn't need an excuse to punish or reward. If this hypothetical god enjoyed this sort of petty behavior, then it wouldn't be worthy of worship, anyway.

      March 19, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  4. Marine57

    TRUTH is what God says.
    What mankind believes or does not believe does not change TRUTH.
    The following words were spoken by God for those who say there is no God:
    [18] For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
    [19] Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
    [20] For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

    March 19, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Rob

      If you come to the belief blog with quotes and reviews of quotes from 1 book only you will quickly be dismissed as a "one trick pony" IMO.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Really?? Those words were spoken by "god" ??

      Did he speak English?? Do you know anyone who actually heard him or her say that?

      Fairy tales...

      March 19, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • airwx

      @Praise the lard.....again with the snark....and no manners

      March 19, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  5. TheRiseOFliberalTHEOLOGY

    Firstly, I grew in the baptist strain of church, and have many vivid memories from my childhood of always weeping over my sinful state (knowing that I deserved to be condemned to hell - though the pastor never mentioned it excplicitly, I felt totally convicted and guilty of my sins). and/or whenever I would see a flim or skit on the death of Christ, I always felt so sad because I felt like He didnt deserve to die, but I never made the connection that He died for me until 2002 - that was when light shined in the darkness - that was when, as it were, I stopped looking at the shadows on the wall and came out of the cave - this was when I became born again, and put my complete trust in Jesus alone. Been walking in the light ever since, and that blazing light is the glory of God shining in the wonderful life and sacrifice (the best word for love) of Jesus Christ.

    Christianity is all about love, and that is becasue God is love. However, is it loving to give someone what they deserve? Is it loving to give a worker their earned wages? Is it loving to pay off an outstanding debt? When the bible speaks of salvation, it speaks of an act of God in saving a human soul from deserved damnation, not becasue the person earned it, but out of His mercy and grace. This salvation was purchased by the final and most holy (set apart) sacrifice of the spottless Lamb of God (illuding to the lambs that had to be sacrifice daily to cover the israelites sin) Jesus Christ being, though being without sin, was judged as a sinner. This is the heart of Christianity - who Jesus is (God incarnate and Savior), Jesus' life, and sacrifice that satisfied the justice of God.

    Moreover, Jesus spoke of hell more than anyone else in the bible. Essentially, hell is eternal seperation from God, and spiritual and physical torment in a lake of fire. This is the fire of God's eternal wrath and infinate fury against all sin and evil. Hell is necessary form of punishment becasue it reflects how serious an imperitive it is to reverence and fear God (the fear of God is the beginning of Wisdom - it is also the act of departing from evil). Its speaks to His infinate worth. God's worthiness is so great, that to not recognize is sin of the highest degree, it is an infinite injustice to His greatness, thus it deserves an equal punishment. Thus, salvation is not merely a way to escape hell, but more so God. In almost every Biblical account of a person seeing God (Moses, Ezekiel, Isaiah, John for example) the natural response is for the person to fall to the ground as dead, this is the most appropriate form of worship to God as He is so incredibly worthy. Invision movies where a person has to stand before a King, typically they bow in humility and reverance to him and his office becasue He is worthy, yet this is only a faint shadow of what will happen when we enter God's presence. This being said, Ghandi making it to heaven on his own merits alone?? Is that what Bell is suggesting? So Ghandi deserves something from God? For what? If we lived a thousand thousand lives perfecting benevolence, God would still deserve our praise and we would still be totally dependent upon Him, we are creatures. He us the universe and we are less than quarks...

    Its interesting how bell keep using the word "stories", maybe that's all the bible is to him, stories.

    March 19, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      "Its interesting how bell keep using the word "stories", maybe that's all the bible is to him, stories."

      Would you prefer the word "Fables" ???

      March 19, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • airwx

      @ Praisethe lard... Why do work so hard to denigrate someone who disagrees with you? Is atheism so weak a philosophy that you must resort to snarking or do you do it because you get joy from being snarky?

      March 19, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • Hayabusa


      Why be born again, when you can just grow up?

      March 19, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      AirWX: This isn't hard work... The rampant spread of ignorance in the guise of "religion" has to be opposed by anyone who has a brain.

      Who said I'm an atheist? If you prove to me that there's a god, I'll accept it... If all you have to offer is a bunch of ancient stories meant to control the behavior and thought(?) of weak-minded simpletons, derision is the only possible reaction.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • Adam Garth

      Finally, someone nails it. Great breakdown explaining the issue with Bell.
      I want to add that people often think Christians arrive at the conclusion that Christ and the Bible are real because we believe it is. The opposite is actually the case – We are believers because it is real. Believing in something never changes reality.
      I could say I didn't believe in gravity and jump off the top of a building, but it wouldn't change the fact that I'm going to fall to the pavement.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
  6. tallulah13

    I loved the line about "budding career as a rock star." He was a struggling musician, just like thousands of other struggling musicians.

    March 19, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
  7. klovejoy

    No man knows the heart of another. The Bible is clear that the only way to heaven is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but who am I to try and judge the relationship of another. I only know my heart not Gandhi's and I hope and pray that when I get to heaven every man and woman is there because that means that they have all accepted Christ as their savior.

    March 19, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  8. Deb

    The Supreme Being, Creator, God is love. The rule is simple. Treat others like you would like to be treated. This is the hardest thing for simple people to do and yet we screw it up all the time. Once we let go of money and judgment, I think our world will be a better place. I truly believe that TV ministers need to prove this by donating ALL their money to help others. I will never believe someone who sells books or have television productions. Jesus did neither and yet the world is better because of his love.

    March 19, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  9. mac8

    Do you think "his" god finds it noble to make millions from publishing such drivel?

    March 19, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • airwx

      And how many millions have been made selling the Atheist Bible or any of the other hundreds of works on atheism? Frankly, I'm going to wait and read his book before commenting on his thoughts.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • lkharris

      You sound jealous?

      March 19, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
  10. Bender

    "the first religion started when the first con man met the first fool" Mark Twain

    March 19, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  11. pgm

    I like Rob Bell's views and I too believe Jesus's teachings were inclusive and not exclusive. Swami Vivekananda said best with regards to religious fanaticism:

    "Every religion or country (has) only one way of loving their own ideal and that is to hate every other ideal. Herein is the explanation of why the same man who is so lovingly attached to his own ideal of God, so devoted to his own ideal of religion, becomes a howling fanatic as soon as he sees or hears anything of any other ideal. This kind of love is somewhat like the canine instinct of guarding the master’s property from intruders; only the instinct of the dog is better than the reason of man for the dog never mistakes its master for an enemy in whatever dress he may come before it."

    March 19, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Bell is only stroking the egos of sinners who don't want to change their sinful ways. He's leading anyone who listen to the eternal flames. Read the Bible (Jesus' truth) to save your soul. Only Jesus' truth will set you free. Everyone else keeps you in bondage (ego stroking ego). Ego means to Erase God Out. Only when you know what Jesus wants for you and what He wants from you are you on His righteous path. The only way you can know Him is to read His truth (the Bible) yourself and not listen to man/woman, comprehend His truth and apply (abide) it to your life.


      March 21, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
  12. I Wonder

    So what did you guys think about the article?

    March 19, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  13. Charles

    Bell is simply saying the things that have been taught in the Catholic Church for 2000 years. Naturally fundamentalists swallow their tongues at those ideas. Mr. Bell should visit a church or go for RCIA classes. He would find a home where what he is saying is the norm.

    March 19, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  14. GAW

    You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do. — Anne Lamott

    March 19, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Oh, I suppose you believe Annie is going to save your soul. LOL.

      Only Jesus saves. Read the Bible (His truth) to find out what He wants for you and what He wants from You.


      March 21, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
  15. T3chsupport

    So sad that this guy preaches the love of Jesus, and all of these supposed 'Christians' attack him for it.

    March 19, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • Adam Garth

      The critics are not questioning the validity of God's love. They question is whether or not his doctrine is Biblical.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm |
    • miked

      Yep. Our American Taliban is, unfortunately, alive and well!

      March 19, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  16. GAW

    This is America. We have no state church there is no officially designated religion and this is a free market society. Anyone can start their own religion or church. For Bell he is simply operating under the cultural context in which he lives. Since he pastors a church that he founded he can interpret the Bible and the faith in a means that is more culturally acceptable. He will not be excommunicated nor have his credentials taken away because of his views only deemed a heretic by those he has very little regard for in the first place.

    March 19, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      GAW, you are the generation of end of days. You believe in anyone that strokes your ego so you can continue your sinful ways. Jesus is Truth. Jesus is the only one that saves, not you, not man/woman, but Jesus.

      John 10:5, John 9:40-41, John 10:8, 2 Peter 2:18-19, Luke 6:39-40.

      Jesus warned us about the above scriptures and below scripture,

      Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

      Matthew 7:13


      March 21, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
  17. Happy Atheist

    Look at you people, all claiming to know the mind of god. Claiming that YOUR idea or YOUR perception is truth and therefore any idea that is different than your own is wrong. Get over yourselves. Jesus is dead and there is no god. Stop wasting your time on mythological crap.

    March 19, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • Pancake

      Aren't you doing the same thing?

      March 19, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Happy Atheist

      sure am; but my beliefs are not founded in a storybook

      March 19, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Larry

      "Happy" Atheist-

      Stop wasting YOUR time posting your lack of beliefs on the Belief Blog.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • Hayabusa

      @Happy Atheist
      Nothing we will ever deal with, or have to put up with as we live out our lives, is more ludicrous than the frightening fact that 75% of Americans actually believe (or at least respond that they believe) that a god exists.
      "Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned."

      March 19, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • Rob

      We cannot push Atheists out of the argument simply because they don't "believe". Because they DO BELIEVE, they Believe their is no god. I for one am not a Christian nor an Atheist I believe in a nature base religion because we are all part of nature as is science. Science can prove many things and I adore knowledge. NO heaven has ever been witnessed nor measured except in the pages of 3 books handed down from Abraham. NO Hell exists exists except for in the pages of these books. Other religions also have these concepts such as Mt. Olympus (as heaven) and Hades (as a Hell) but these to me are human attributes put in to the equation to "dumb down" the conversation. May be historically it was to "raise up" the conversation because mankind just didn't know how to explain so many things. Times have changed we know much more now and Nature is STILL in charge and NATURE follows the laws of Physics and the laws of evolution. It is really simple choosing NOT to believe is still Believing something. Lets not dismiss anyone in this dialog as it broadens our understanding of our fellow man.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Happy Atheist

      The beliefs (or lack thereof) of an Atheist do not praise the slaughter of countless millions. The Atheists do not cause children to kill themselves by spreading a hateful message. The Atheists do no protest soldiers funerals. The "Belief Blog" as you so desperately cling to the word belief, can be a medium for many different beliefs. Wouldn't a belief that there is no god be a belief nonetheless. The difference, like I already said, an atheistic point of view at least has a foundation in truth and reason.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Hayabusa: Are you sure it's only 75% ??

      I would have thought the number of deluded folks to be more like 90%...

      March 19, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Happy Atheist

      There is no forum easier to troll than that of a religious discussion 🙂

      March 19, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • K.C.K.

      I think this article does not represent the truth fully on both sides. Jesus did present a way of life to be lived here on earth, However he did also talk about afterlife, i.e. heaven and hell. In fact, you read the Bibke and he talks more about it than anyone else and there is no gray area with him regarding it as well. Bell does pose some good thoughts that all Christians need to consider.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Happy, you belong in the same group of scriptures that teach about leading God's children astray.

      John 10:5, John 9:40-41, John 10:8, 2 Peter 2:18-19, Luke 6:39-40.

      Jesus warned us about the above scriptures and below scripture,

      Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

      Matthew 7:13


      March 21, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
  18. b4bigbang

    Go to wikipedia and look up Georges Lemaître.

    March 19, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  19. NL

    A question for believers who are angry at Bell; would heaven mean less to you if everyone were allowed in?

    I've often thought of this in relation with the Dante's version of Satan's fall. It's almost like God saying "All humans will join us here" and Satan saying "You are too compa.ssionate! If you open the gates to all, then that diminishes it for me. I will leave then, and seek out my own place, taking all who feel as I do with me."

    The way some of these 'Christians' speak here I can well imagine that if they arrived in heaven, saw that everyone was allowed in, including those they looked down their nose at it life, they too would curse God for being too compas.sionate and leave for their own place as well. Kinda ironic who they would choose to emulate if Bell were correct, isn't it?

    March 19, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Dianka

      Rob Bell speaks to the issues that I have had with Catholocism , Christianity and Evangalism all my life. NL I love your analogy. I too believe that Ghandi is in heaven, although I am not sure if Hinduism believes in a heaven. God meets us where we are at. I have heard Rob Bell preach about8 years ago. He caught my attention then because he wasn't only speaking to Christians, he was speaking to me too. I like Rob's message and if he were in Illinois, I would go to his church.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • mrkusn

      NL, I understand what you are saying but disagree. This is not about Christians thumbing their noses at the "unbelieiving" world. It is about atonement not heaven or hell. If there is another "way" for a person to be with God in the end other than the blood of Christ, then this flies in the face of Scripture. The fact that any person would go to heaven is a demonstration of grace whereby a sinner is accepted in the sight of a holy God.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Rob

      Answer me this why in the Bible is it basically accepted that Jews all go to heaven even though they don't believe? Because of lineage? Jew don't accept Jesus as the son of god only as a prophet. This is the same believe the Muslims have they only believe Jesus to be a profit. Jews get in to heaven, Muslims don't and for the rest of the world you best "BELIEVE" with all your heart and actions here on earth!!! Sorry Check please!!!

      March 19, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Jessy

      I'm a Catholic by blood, but I'm not a practicing catholic as I see Christendom, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism as one in the same. Personally, I would question God if I went to heaven and found Saddam Hussein over there. Don't get me wrong, I believe in God and his existence. I just view him differently than your typical mainstream follower would.

      I love God, but I never feared him. And that's one thing that has me irked about mainstream religious folks in Christendom (ie: Catholics, Christians, Protestants, etc.). Typical followers once told me to fear God and Love him. But how can anyone fear God and love him at the same time? If you fear God, then you obviously don't love him because you only worship him out of fear of what he could do to you. And if you love God, then you should never fear him because then you have nothing to worry about (even if you haven't went to church for years like I did). That's what I believe.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Magic


      I was thinking the same thing just yesterday. These vindictive, self-righteous zealots would not be happy just lying on the beach basking in the sun in heaven. They would look for something/someone to pick on and condemn. If they didn't, they wouldn't be themselves anymore, since it is the core of their being and personalities.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • NL

      Gandhi is generally believed to have been a good person, but our evangelical friends don't actually believe that heaven is for 'good' people. They believe that only the 'saved' reach, and in fact deserve, heaven. Believing in God and Jesus is what gets you in, and your behavior doesn't really count. That's why they couldn't imagine Gandhi being allowed in.

      March 19, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • NL

      "If there is another "way" for a person to be with God in the end other than the blood of Christ, then this flies in the face of Scripture."

      Ok, but what if scripture is actually wrong? Not every human has heard the gospels in their lifetimes, and if you believe in a general judgment at the end of time, then what would be the point of God judging the long dead who had never heard of Jesus? Wouldn't they automatically go to hell under the rigid view? This excludes most of humanity through no fault of their own, right? Now, does that sound like a system adopted by a loving God to you?

      March 19, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • NL

      Perhaps a better question is why so many Christians never bother to ask the Jews if they want to be included in 'Christian' heaven? It's just as.sumed that they would be delighted to be allowed in, like it's some exclusive country club that wouldn't normally allow 'their kind'. Maybe they have their own ideas of where they'd like to go. The idea of having a heaven to go to was theirs to begin with, after all.

      After all, many Christians believe that a person can live the most incredibly evil life, full of selfishness and victimization of others, and still be atoned even on the last day of their lives by accepting Jesus as their savior. Once you explain to a Jew that even Hitler could have been 'saved' before he died I imagine they'd lose interest in joining him in 'Christian' heaven, wouldn't you say?

      March 19, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • NL

      The idea is that God is like your father, who loves you dearly, but who will also discipline you for any wrongdoing, which is why you would also fear him.

      This idea actually fails miserably once you think about it a little. A loving parent only disciplines in order to instruct their child as to what proper behavior actually is. A loving parent wouldn't lock you in the attic for the rest of your life, even as a warning to the rest of the kids. That's why hell cannot be how a loving God treats any of his children, right?

      March 19, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • NL

      Discussing this subject with some of the more, ... 'self-as.sured' believers who regularly post in this bolg it appears that heaven wouldn't be heaven for them if they were shielded from watching the damned get theirs in hell. They certainly can't wait for the day to see us atheists brought before God on our knees. They see it as their right to see 'justice' carried out, as it were. I suspect they'd complain to the Almighty if they didn't have a good enough view.

      "If your understanding of the divine made you kinder, more empathetic, and impelled you to express sympathy in concrete acts of loving-kindness, this was good theology. But if your notion of God made you unkind, belligerent, cruel, of self-righteous, or if it led you to kill in God's name, it was bad theology. "
      — Karen Armstrong

      I believe, but cannot confirm, that she is also credited with the quote that goes something like:

      "Hell was invented by people who were convinced that they wouldn't be going there."

      March 19, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      NL, everyone goes back to God who created Him. There is a divide in Heaven. Which side you are on depends on whether you follow Him (truth) or the alternative satan (lie).

      John 10:5, John 9:40-41, John 10:8, 2 Peter 2:18-19, Luke 6:39-40.

      Jesus warned us about the above scriptures and below scripture,

      Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

      Matthew 7:13


      March 21, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
  20. Richard Cheese

    There is no god. Man created god. All these people wasting thousands of hours of their lives, debating on the merits of religion, the existence of an invisible, "benevolent" supernatural being, and being under the delusion of a self-imposed psychosis. That's no way to live.

    March 19, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • SuperFed

      I find it amusing and ironic that you're here in the "Belief Blog" wasting your time preaching to others that there is no god.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • GAW

      Somehow you sound just like the same religious Fundamentalists that you disagree with. You guys think alike. That's why you guys have so much contempt for each other and why I have very little respect for either of you.

      March 19, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Hayabusa

      Exactly! Thank you. A few hundred years from now, the rest of the world, as well as America, will look back on this time of the greatest superpower in the world needing to believe in a god and magical happenings as ridiculous and backward.
      "Education and religion are two things not regulated by supply and demand. The less of either the people have, the less they want." -Charlotte Observer, 1897

      March 19, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Andrew

      If there is no God, then why do you care what these people do. No God means no moral compass. If you declare there is a moral compass then it is relative to your own socialization and culture and that would mean everyone's moral direction is different. By making a delcaration that there is no God means that you set yourself up as a god on earth ready to declare the truth as you see it. Who are you to say something like that? What qualifies you to make that proclamation? You are no different than those who try to tell you how to live. Don't be a hypocrite. (Oh I'm sorry. If there's no God then there's no hypocrisy, no sin, no judgment of evil works, and this entry won't bother you!)

      March 19, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • Rob

      From my non-Christian perspective the important thing I take away from this mans book is that it is each of our own individual journey to explore what "god" means to us. I personally have never been able to accept any of the Heaven and Hell dynamic it just seems rather shallow to be the tool in which an all knowing deity would ever have to resort too. According to these beliefs this God "created" all, He "knows" all, He has a "plan" for us ALL. These aspects when questioned seem to tell me if you believe in this religion you will come to a "stand off" that either this is a god of love or a god to be feared who threatens our bad behavior with eternal damnation. So I for one actually enjoy seeing people stand up and ask what does all of this mean? I say two thumbs up for Bell IMO!!!

      March 19, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Peter F


      He's here because he is one of the many atheists that do not understand that Atheism is a religion... one that happens to be more absurd than Christianity.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • sockpuppet

      Atheists spend more time on these Belief blogs than Christians do....so tell me who is wasting their life on religion? At least Christians have a valid reason for spending their time reading these articles and discussing the content. What are you atheists doing with your time? Debating "mythology"? WHY? You have a need you don't even begin to understand.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Magic

      Peter F,

      "Atheism is a religion... one that happens to be more absurd than Christianity."

      Ah, so you agree that Christianity is absurd?

      What are the established rites, rituals and worship structure of atheism to make it qualify as a religion?

      March 19, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
    • ozzi

      Why do you care to lecture? Why do you care? Nobody is really bothering you. You are just like the fundies and new agers. Always need to bully everyone about their beliefs.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • Happy Atheist

      @Andrew Are you seriously suggestion that without a belief in god man does not have the ability to determine right from wrong. How sad is that?

      March 19, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • JohnR

      @Andrew Your god's own moral compass is WAY off.

      March 19, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
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About this blog

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.