Retired priest: ‘Hell’ was invented by the church to control people with fear

By Koba | 2 July 2015
Urban Intellectuals

This video is of an interview retired Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong did with Keith Morrison of Dateline NBC back in August of 2006.

A partial transcript of the interview can be found beneath the video link:

Spong: I don’t think Hell exists. I happen to believe in life after death, but I don’t think it’s got a thing to do with reward and punishment. Religion is always in the control business, and that’s something people don’t really understand. It’s in a guilt-producing control business. And if you have Heaven as a place where you’re rewarded for you goodness, and Hell is a place where you’re punished for your evil, then you sort of have control of the population. And so they create this fiery place which has quite literally scared the Hell out of a lot of people, throughout Christian history. And it’s part of a control tactic.

Morrison: But wait a minute. You’re saying that Hell, the idea of a place under the earth or somewhere you’re tormented for an eternity – is actually an invention of the church?

Spong: I think the church fired its furnaces hotter than anybody else. But I think there’s a sense in most religious life of reward and punishment in some form. The church doesn’t like for people to grow up, because you can’t control grown-ups. That’s why we talk about being born again. When you’re born again, you’re still a child. People don’t need to be born again. They need to grow up. They need to accept their responsibility for themselves and the world.

Morrison: What do you make of the theology which is pretty quite prominent these days in America, which is there is one guaranteed way not to go to hell; and that is to accept Jesus as your personal savior.

Spong: Yeah, I grew up in that tradition. Every church I know claims that ‘we are the true church’ – that they have some ultimate authority, ‘We have the infallible Pope,’ ‘We have the Bible.’… The idea that the truth of God can be bound in any human system, by any human creed, by any human book, is almost beyond imagination for me.

I mean, God is not a Christian. God is not a Jew or a Muslim or a Hindi or Buddhist. All of those are human systems, which human beings have created to try to help us walk into the mystery of God. I honor my tradition. I walk through my tradition. But I don’t think my tradition defines God. It only points me to God.

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  1. He will find out hell is real when he takes his last breath an it will be eternally. Sad he will take many with him with that statement. God sent His Son that we may be saved an go to heaven rather than hell if we accept His Son Jesus as Saviour.

    • Read the Bible and you’ll learn that he’ll truly does not exist. Jesus said “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free”. Part of that freedom includes freedom from religious lies and being able to spot them right away.

    • Have you been to hell or heaven before? My guess is you haven’t. You do not have right to judge anybody leave that to the Almighty.

    • B.G. please answer this. How do you know hell is real?
      Did you see it?
      Did someone tell you about it?
      Did you read it someplace?

    • So you are telling me that if I don’t accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, but still live a good moral life, I won’t go to heaven?

  2. A priest did used the concept of hell to control me in a Catholic Church. I stopped attending a church when a community member judged me showing me without words that I don’t belong at the church. I explained this to a priest and the priest uttered that he could hardly believe this judgment was possible. He told me I had something to make up to God and I will be dead if I don’t make up for the alleged sin on his terms. Who is he to judge?

    • Steve he is not judging. Just telling you what he believes. God gave all of us free will. The church is attempting to keep us in line.
      Instead of trying to change others to your way of belief, give others a chance to speak. You might learn something.

  3. I am exactly the way in which God created me. God knows everything before they happen and since God created Everything then Everything that happens was already planned to happen.

    • Enoch, some people believe there is a book of life for everyone.
      It lists everything we we do in life.
      Sometimes I hear and read that God will place an obstacle in front of us. We can choose to either do the right thing or the wrong thing. I am told this is a test.
      If God knows the outcome, why the test?
      I believe God gave us the freewill. We make the decision to do right or wrong. Our book of life is being written day by day.

  4. The Bible is very clear about the condition of the dead Ecclesiastes 9:5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing at all, nor do they have any more reward, because all memory of them is forgotten.
    Main stream “Christianity” has little to do with the Bible and more to do with traditions and cherry picking what parts they want to follow. It doesn’t work that way because “ All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.”
    2 Tim 3:16-17.
    There is no hellfire
    There is no trinity
    Christmas is pagan
    Halloween is pagan

    The knowledge is out there. Find it

  5. Colossians 1:20 tells us that it was pre-determined by God to reconcile to Himself All creation, All those in Heaven and All those on Earth through the shedding of Blood by Christ on the Cross.

    Philippians 2:10&11 – That at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, of those in Heaven, and those on Earth, and those under the Earth. And that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Confess – means to give praise to God)

    Romans 14:11 – For it is written, As I live saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

    Isaiah 45:23 – I have sworn by myself, saith the Lord, that unto me every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall swear. (Swear – means to pledge allegiance to)

    For all those who do not commit themselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, they will stand before God at the future "Great White Throne Judgment" which will begin God's process in them of a Divine Spiritual Transformation through the refining Fire of His Spirit. It seems that the Bible does not tell us how long that this process will take in each individual.

    I have written an extensive 30 page article titled "What is the GOOD NEWS of the Gospel of Christ?" If anyone would like a copy of my article, just simply email me and request a copy, and I will email you a copy.

    My email address:

      • Christ spoke 3 sayings to Thomas in secret that if he were to tell anyone else he would be stoned even by the other deciples. Those three sayings are the greatest secret of secrets . He said ” I Am God” “you are Also God” and everyone outside that Room is God” Man is God in Amnesia

  6. A grown priest played an immature authority game by first reacting to my absence from mass. “I don’t know how you will be punished but you are most certainly going to hell if you don’t do what I say.” He would never state how to resolve the problem, as attending mass did not resolve the issue. He abused the authority of God alleging God will destroy me if I don’t follow the ways of the priest. The priest never told me the ways to resolve his claimed violation. He generated an illusion of violation abusing biblical authority. He alleged I always did something wrong that I better correct but he could never define what that was. He used this abuse to turn this into a demand to do something that remained undefined while demanding submission to his authority. It is this type of abusive relationship that I meet in the church when the group reacts to my disability. I am most certainly going to hell. I don’t know how or why but it is most certainly going to happen unless I run to this priest and submit to his authority. I see this abusive authority game played commonly in the church and I have never been welcome.

  7. We all have intrinsic value…such as stated in the Judeo-Christian perspective where we learn we are all created in the image of God. Yet, it is a fact with wich we are all familiar, that not every one, in every place, all of the time, and in all circumstances, is going to be treated with dignity and recognized for the personal value we possess. The following link offers us a powerful story reminding us of our value and the value of everyone and everything. But for that value to be seen, appreciated and recognized, we must go to the “right” places and the “right” people. Getting too flustered over the injustices we experience or see others experience can often hurt us more than help us. Over the years I have developed a love for learning and this is freeing. I learn now from both friend and foe, and in the process chew the meat and spit the bones. I try to make friends with those who want the best for me and try to avoid those that don’t.

  8. The teaching of a fiery Hell is not taught in either the Hebrew nor Greek Scriptures. The Bible clearly states as does at Romans 6:23, ” the wages sin pays is death…” Adam was sentenced to eternal death when he sinned (Gen. 2: 16, 17). Adam was formed from the dust. He did not exist somewhere before he was formed. What happened to him when he died? ”He returned to the dust.” That is became nonexistence as he was before he was formed.

    Man does not possess an immortal soul as many claim. The soul is you, the entire you


      • True many of you could not even read greek so you do not know what is the truth, the truth is that the bible is truth mixed with lies bc the council of nicea corrupted the bible
        If you go back to mark in hebrew it does not even contain the part where they go to the disciples to say to them that Jesus resurrected it just stops at the tomb so what all these christians are experiencing now is cognitive dissonance

  9. No faith no belief. No belief, no faith. Makes sense? Of course not! Circular "reasoning". It's all B.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. All life is God experiencing itself in different forms hell and heaven only exist in the collective mind everything forms from thought. If all humans grew up and took responsibility they both world disappear

  11. We will die and and not one person will solve the God mystery. Those who speak to you about heaven or hell are false. Let them die first and come back and lecture us, unfortunately that is not possible. I can break down a Christian to the point where they say they don’t really know, their parents told them etc…

  12. Hell is mentioned in many places in the bible. That priest doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Since the bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, then hell or in biblical terms” lake of fire and brimstone” is all true. You can’t argue what the bible said because it is moved by the Holy Ghost while it was written by man. HELL IS REAL

  13. Also. There is proof by NDE (Near Death Experiences). People who’s heart stopped momentarily experienced both Heaven and Hell.


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