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. I kinda don't make sense for hell to exist, why give something that turned against you a lot of power and give them their own world to torture something you created and love and causes damage to the world he created too? He could of just destroyed the angel that went against him. To create a separate world that is not so extreme is believable but to be tortured to the extreme? that would make God less loving than us sinners because even we would say most people don't deserve that punishment! I have watched many reincarnation programmes of children 2 and upwards and two children on two different programmes said " we will live many, many lives because we will not always get it right", meaning we will be accepted in heaven when we achieve emotionally what we are supposed to. They also said that they got to choose their parents! Also, i just read a near death story of one women who's father was saying some interesting stuff near to dying that matched what these children that went to heaven said before being reincarnated, he said " we will come back again until we get it right" If we never got it right then we would go to hell right? I also watched a lady who hypnotizes people and many celebrities and they all had past lives so if everyone she worked on had past lives we all have, which mean we either go to hell for a short period of time, not eterninty and get reincarnated or we go to heaven and get reincarnated. This lady who works on reicarnation of people has been doing this for over a decade so i asked her does hell exsist? she said "no hell is made up by the church to control people" interesting!

      • It was the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, not the tree of sin. This, of course, begs the question; how could Adam and Eve know it was wrong to eat the fruit WITHOUT having prior knowledge that it was wrong to disobey? This also implies that God wanted automatons, not humans with free will, as mere servants to keep Eden tidy.

        Once your start actually examining the story, you can see just how many holes there are in it.

  2. Plus, if we went to hell for eternity and our bodies never died, how would everyone fit in, hell can only be soo big! more people would go there then heaven!

    • I mean the Bible does clearly state that hell has enlarged herself WITHOUT measure (Isaiah 5:14). And more people will me found on the broad and wide road which leads to destruction, and MANY will be there. (Matthew 7:13). Just some food for thought

      • Here’s more food for thought: infinite punishment for a finite crime is immoral.
        “But, that’s where god’s Mercy comes in!” Then god cannot be perfectly just. Mercy, by definition, is the suspension of Justice.

  3. I see so many theories concerning hell. But can someone help me understand Revelation 20:13-15 . Are people trying to comfort themselves by denying the truth which is there in the word of God?

    • The Bible was written by man and wasn’t published until the 1600’s when SLAVERY became a thing. It’s what slave matters used to control their slaves. The sooner you start questioning what’s in it the more truth will find you.

      • Not really. It’s a number of texts from the 1st century through the 3rd. As slavery became more of a new world phenomenon, the Bible was redacted to remove text about freedom.

  4. I believe in a higher power with all my heart and I do call this higher power God. But I believe in life after life. I believe that when your soul departs,its born again. May not be another person,but perhaps an animal. I believe you’re reborn until you’ve ultimately learned or corrected a lesson.

  5. You’re all insane, a of life is relative and there is no inherrant evil or good. Your not born good, or evil, or gay, or straight, or any other duality, we make decisions and pur enviornment pushes us to be who we are not some birth right. And further more, all dualities are relative because there are always 2 schools of thought for any duality. So for real. Your all just blithering on about things so beyond your grasp its just pathetic to watch…

  6. A medium. So you tell people what they want to hear about their dead relatives and extort money out of them for a living? I mean everyone pretty much knows all psychics and mediums cant prove a damn thing and they use the exuse “well you cant tell me my personal experience is wrong” sure I can, its called your a liar…

  7. For those who want to make sure they go to heaven “up there” when they die, the choose “Pascal’s Wager” which says, If one chooses belief in God and is proven to be real, then they receive total bliss and eternal life, and the unbelievers go to hell and stay there forever. They want to die again but they can’t, so they are tormented forever; if one believes in God and no God, they lose nothing. So logically the better choice is belief in God.

  8. The hell of the bible is different from the hell taught by the nominal churches. Bible does not teach of an everlasting eternity of torment, but do teach of second death. Reason with this, “hell and death were cast into the lake of fire”

  9. I think the perceived "real" threat of damnation artificially has historically kept the number of Christian laity higher than is the case in modern times in the West, where a secular culture dominates and old beliefs have been questioned rather than dogmatically upheld. In other words, both the questioned literalness of Hell (e.g., Pope John Paul II said it is a state, rather than a place) and the growth of a secular societal culture have likely played a role in rendering religious observance as optional rather than de facto required. Hence, in the U.S., the percentage of non-affiliated adults has increased to 23 percent.


  10. Regardless of religious belief, I would suggest that this “priest” has a very skewed view of the gospel and the church.
    Yes, there are religious organisations (I.e the Catholic Church) which do play on reward/punishment, but this has nothing to do with what the bible teaches and what Jesus brought through his ministry.
    Heaven and hell has absolutely nothing to do with right and wrong, reward and punishment…it is simply a fact that if you accept Jesus as Lord you will be in his Kingdom for eternity. And if not, well…

    • But if the bible was printed by man in the 1600s then it would explain such fear tactics as i believe also in life after death i also have my reservations of the belief of damnation since god sacrificed his own son to forgive all sins (also we werent there immaculate conception has not been proven to happen so in that case god sacrificed his greatest sin to forgive ours which is why jesus suffered such a horrific and painful death) years ago our rulers were “gods” so with that my opinion is miracles happen but the bible is just mans point of view people lie to make others believe what they want

  11. Your idea of the size of the hell is so limited so as your analysis , God can create a world, a planet or even a universe so are you saying that he cant make a hell that can fit its inhabitants?

  12. 1600’s?? Seriously? Research. Hebrews had theirs thousands of years, before 1600’s which is what King James’s Old Testament was founded from. Have you not heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls? Hidden in caves 2000 years ago, not found till 1946/47-1956, word for word what was put in our King James Bible by 47 scholars in the 1600’s.(that all 47 men had to agree on which books to put in )The first complete (copy) of the New Testament dates to the 4th century, the complete individual copied books date to 2nd century. Ummm, the more you read it, the more you learn and the more you research the more you know. Anyone that has internet, has the World at their fingertips, we all have our own opinions, but why guess when history and truth is a couple of taps of the fingertips.

  13. Hell wass awl da fussss. Bilble you follow a path, you go to paradise. You follow da Utha oath you go to funny hot farm. You have freedom of choice. You choose. I either see ya in da place perfect lids or I don’t see ya. Simple. Choose Ye this day whom you serve, as for me and my house, we shall serve The Lord.

  14. Strange but a tormenting hell is NOT mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament. So that gives credence to the facr that a tormenting hell is an invention of the New Testament made up by a priest or Bishop to control the masses.

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