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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1015 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t know what happened to this man to make him decide that most of us are wrong. I do believe, and always have, that the only way to Heaven is through Jesus Christ. I also believe in hell and that it is a place the unrepentant will be sent to forever to suffer. I believe this because it is in the Bible. Without the Bible, how would any of us know about the existence of God?

    • One can learn of God and spiritual matters by other means besides a book written 400 years ago that can from scrolls written written 1,800 years ago. Teachers and guides have always been here, even now, as direct messengers.

    • In my opinion every Christian is a idiot for trying to explain that “the bible” was not telephoned. And can’t forget when you idiots do the “father son holy spirit” thing you are literally making an upside down cross. (next sentence has nothing to do with the last sentence) You idiots are pegans and don’t even know. And have you ever wondered why no one has seen not Jesus nor God. And also do you ever hear your mom or gma say hey I’m gonna go to church to vote for the new pope…exactly some old guy wears some suit and calls himself “the pope”. Should I bring up that some of your popes have legal battles. What about the kids raped by the priest stories because everyone loves those. GOD IS NOTHING THE BIBLE IS NOTHING CHRISTIANITY IS NOTHING GROW UP

    • Exactly, with out teaching u would not know about a god, well if god was real dont u think it would be an instinct & not a teaching… answer me this, if jesus really did walk the planet dont u think it would of been very well documented at the time he so say lived, the Romans were very good at documenting important things of their time so if there was some man running around ‘on water’ & doing physically impossible things dont u think they would of wrote about him… they never, the first gospel was wrote by paul 40 years after his so say death and the last some 200 years after that. We have all the proof we need for Evolution, mainly in fossils and yet not one shred of Proof of any biblical story. Religious people such as yourself just need to learn to accept that when were dead, were dead, nothing more nothing less, just dead.

  2. This article speaks so much truth. People are weak. This is how we have ended up with an idiot for president.

    • I don’t believe that people will be burning and suffering for all eternity in a place called hell. A God who would invent a system like that is not a merciful God in my mind. We are told that God loves his children. Eternal sufferering with endless torment and pain would suggest otherwise. I believe we may have to answer for things we have done wrong, but it will be a temporary punishment to meet the demands of justice. Christ died so that mercy can be extended to all who have sinned. There are many people who never even get a chance to experience the atonement in life or have an understanding of Jesus Christ. Everyone will get a fair chance to be judged based off of their individual experiences and understanding in life. God is far more merciful than punitive. I’m

  3. I believe he has a point! I know there’s a TRUE GOD, but the one King James tells us about, has questions! Slave owners through out history, taught spiritual oppression, but like another! I appreciate his honesty about a flawed Catholic Church and it’s Christian teaching!

  4. Keep in mind it was the Catholics who decided which books would or not go into the Bible. They made the Bible back in 325 A.D.

  5. Omg what’s wrong with people that they believe any of this shit. Heaven is all lollipops, candy, air conditioning and peaceful if you’re perfect and give money to the church, you’re allowed inside Heaven for eternity.
    However if you’re a flawed human being as we all are and we make mistakes, don’t give up cash to priests and walk around scared all the time, we’ll end up in Hell where it’s all hot, on fire and miserable forever. Yup that’s a real fairy tale right there. The Bible was written, rewritten, scrapped, written again, changed around, rewritten, parts taken out completely and edited over and over again by around 40 different men spanning many decades.

  6. If the god who gave us life were to sit upon his throne in heaven, while billions upon billions of his creations burned for eternity, all because they didn’t beg for his forgiveness and thank him at every turn, he would be the most sadistic, vile, evil creature to have ever existed. THAT is an inescapable truth!

    • I like your comment. It makes sense A critical look at the bible shows that God will never torment people in a fire forever. People simply misinterpret the bible and its teachings.

  7. In my opinion every Christian is a idiot for trying to explain that “the bible” was not telephoned. And can’t forget when you idiots do the “father son holy spirit” thing you are literally making an upside down cross. (next sentence has nothing to do with the last sentence) You idiots are pegans and don’t even know. And have you ever wondered why no one has seen not Jesus nor God. And also do you ever hear your mom or gma say hey I’m gonna go to church to vote for the new pope…exactly some old guy wears some suit and calls himself “the pope”. Should I bring up that some of your popes have legal battles. What about the kids raped by the priest stories because everyone loves those. GOD IS NOTHING THE BIBLE IS NOTHING CHRISTIANITY IS NOTHING GROW UP

  8. It’s always bothered me that Christians say that “God is love”. Yet if you don’t believe in Jesus, God sends you to ETERNAL damnation. This does not sound very loving to me. The Jewish idea of hell shows a far more compassionate God.

    The following is a paragraph from a longer piece that sort of encapsulates the difference between the two religions. Islam, too, believes in eternal damnation, but for far less offense. The rest of the article explicates it further.

    https://jewinthecity.com/2018/12/do-jews-believe-in-hell/

    “America is predominantly Christian (as are Europe, Australia, et al.) so the Christian concept of Hell is culturally dominant. In Christian theology, Hell is forever; such is not the case in Jewish theology. So when people say that Jews don’t believe in Hell, what they really mean (even if they don’t know it) is that Jews don’t agree with the Christian idea of Hell. We do believe in Hell. What we don’t believe in is eternal damnation. (At least not for regular people. People like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and Vlad the Impaler are another story.)”

  9. Then why is it mentioned in the Bible before the Catholic Church was created? Yeshua Ha'Mashiach/Jesus the Messiah the Way the Truth & the Life was here well before Christianity was invented and he spoke about Hell Many times.

  10. This is the type of info the devil puts in the minds if those that are not totally committed to God! If he’s our heavenly Father what kind of God and father would he be if we can do whatever we want and not receive disciple, it’s like people should not be punish for rape, thievery, construction, blackmail, murder, abuse, etc etc! This nan is speaking foolishness that He thinks and that’s the problem, his thoughts which have discretion and full of comprimose, using the scriptures about forgiveness and loving your neighbor, yes we are to follow all his comandments not just those that suit our flesh and this nan is speaking from his flesh and not from the mind of our creator! His self-righteousness does not exceed the laws of God and he’ll discover that in God own time! He believes in life after, yes their will be, in Gods kingdom and it will not be filled with unbelievers, fournicators, adulterers, child molester, liars, murders, every one gas an opportunity to examine the way they live and God gives you a choice and the devil, choose ye this day whom you will serve, because God is a nan who can not lie and all of his promises are Yeah and Amen! He’s the creator and this man talking didn’t create himself and can not stop what God has said because He doesn’t believe it! Do you know how many people didn’t believe and it was to late when they decided ” ok its true” Noah told them it was going to rain and they partied and got married and celebrated like nothing wasn’t going to happen… Then all of a sudden they found themselves banging on the Ark.. Help I believe… don’t believe anything contrary to the gospel because Satan and his demons have transformed into angels of life to deceive the very elect, because he knows he has a shot time and he and those that “grow up as this man says and don’t need God’s guidance because it’s controlled to bring fear” will have their part in the punishment God has laid out because you chose to do your thing! God doesn’t give us the spirit of fear, but of love and of a sound mind! His blessings you have no fear of because you’ll be in a place of love and perfect satisfaction in his kingdom because of your obedience! His Son was given for our Sins and it’s our reasonable service to worship him in spirit and in truth! After all God and Jesus has love us through, his mercy and grace, given him your heart is the best you can do! This man is not being lead to God if he doesn’t represent God by his fruits of righteousness according to the gospel of peace! He’s afraid of the lake of fire because his way is his own and not God. We have peace because we know we’re we head in the next life

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