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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862 COMMENTS

  1. You are all going to hell.
    I know what you did
    I know what you are thinking.
    Grow up and be kind to everyone
    Eat meat. That’s why I put animals on earth.

  2. What the Hebrew/ Israel Scrolls talk about is “Gehenom,” which many transcripts refer to as “Hell” has two references: 1) A place “Outside of the City Gates, where trash and unclean things (and even unclean, dying & contagious people!) are taken; and, 2) It Also refers to “the Grave, a deep, dark, and pitiful place where the dead are taken.
    No the Scriptures do not tell about a place of eternal punishment and burning … Other than, NOT LIVING A LIFE FOR YHWH (God) is to die both Physically AND Spiritually, or, the second death, and both body AND Soul return to eath forever. To be without YHWH for all eternity would be “Gehenom,” or Hell. To be one of the REMNANT is to follow His Commandments, Learning all the Secrets of His Kingdom, and Learn Kingdom Life — and the REMNANT are those “WHO KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS OF YHWH AND THE TESTIMONY OF MESSIAH — UNTIL HE COMES, OR UNTIL OUR DEATH.
    Unfortunately most folks never seem to Learn that the words which the Serpent slyly told Eve, [[[ To NOT Keep YHWH’s Laws ]]] he has also slyly told everyone, including ‘the churches.’ But we’re told in Scripture to, “STUDY TO SHOW YOURSELF APPROVED UNTO HIM…” and so We Know that this Life is a Test between Good and Evil, to test us.

    • Thank you Rhonda. My understanding is the same…hello is not a physical place but rather a state of totally separation from God which is worse than painful itself…

  3. There is only darkness after life. There is nothing waiting for anyone. We do not have souls or spirits. There is no heaven or hell. When we die we die. Ive died. It was dark. I saw no light. I remembered nothing. I was revived. I saw light again. I will die again. It will be dark. I will be dead.

  4. I definitely believe in a higher being-through my life experience. There is good and evil in this world and we should strive for the good. Jesus did come to save us sinners and I do believe that he is the son of god, A foolish person will deny all of this.

  5. HELL EXISTS
    EVEN IF GOD IS NOT A RELIGION
    HELL IS NOT SO MUCH A PLACE
    BUT A STATE OF MIND
    KNOWING U COULD OF
    DONE
    COULD OF HAD BETTER
    CERTAIN SOULS SHOULDN’T RESIDE WITH OTHER SOULS
    IF LIFE IS ABOUT SPIRITUAL PROGRESSION
    THE BAR OF GOD IS REAL
    AS THE PITS
    RELIGION MIGHT HAVE UTILIZED IT FOR THEIR REASONS
    RIGHT OR WRONG
    AS SURE AS THERE IS THE PRECENCE OF GOOD
    THERE IS THE THAT OF EVIL
    THE WAR IS IN THE MIND
    AND A SOON AS U BELIEVE THERE IS ONLY GOOD TO AWAIT FOR WHATEVER UR DEEDS
    THE THINGS THAT TEMP UR THOUGHTS BECOME MORE POWERFUL
    REMEMBER THIS MANS FIRST THREE WORDS
    I DONT THINK
    THAT HAS TWO MEANINGS

  6. If Jesus has come to save us from ours sins did he come to save bishop raping and committing other crime and those they rape as much as well as missiinary who killed non believers to believer in God. is this his mission to save us.

  7. I’m a medium. And in my own readings and yes I am a Christian..catholic, I’ve was told there are three realms under the earth and three above the earth. I have never heard of hell or a firey place. The places I’ve heard are dark and cold, people feel lost and alone..if purgatory is a place its one of those realms. Demons are real but they came from the great battle in heaven and they have lived on this earth. Maybe there is a hell, maybe it’s the lowest realm? But I never head of it. People that go to these lower realms are people that usually dont believe in God….why would God want you with him when you never believed in him? It’s like inviting yourself in someone’s home with out an invitation. Your soul is immortal and has to go somewhere right?

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