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.

Be sure to ‘like’ us on Facebook


  1. Well I believe everyone with his or her believe no can change what you believed in .Act 26:28 and 1 peter 4:6 please try to go through it

  2. YHWH is the Almighty God

    Yeshua is our Messiah

    He came to fulfill the prophecies and future promise

    We call it the Good News of God new kingdom

    • it’s all fiction my friend. The Bible is a book about a God who drowns families in terror and who orders soldiers to kick in front doors and shove their swords through infants. It’s disgusting. It’s tyranical, no matter what pretty things Jesus said between flipping over tables. It’s either fiction or God is evil.

    • That’s his point. People need to have a motive to do good unless they just believe in doing good… which everyone believes they are good, from the most Christ-like to the most evil men in history; they don’t believe they’re the bad guys. But having to just believe in something in order to dodge an eternity of punishment? Why, that almost sounds too good to be true…

  3. I don’t trusts statements that starts with “I think”.

    That said, God is a loving Father. Hell was created for the devil and his demons.. Not humans.. But Satan wants humans with him there. So God said if you let me be your Father and obey my will, you’ll spend eternity with me. However, if you choose to act like the devil, then you have taken the devil’s side and will spend eternity with him wherever he is. Fact is, God isn’t the one sending people to hell.. It’s the people choosing hell by not obeying God’s word. He already gave us a manual for heaven which is the Bible. That’s why Jesus came… To save the world from eternal destruction.

  4. I agree with Spong. More people should THINK for themselves….believing without question what a doctrine hands you just relieves you of any responsibility. Church and Government are about control and they both usee scare tactics. I grew up in the church, I know the bible and i believe God gave us a free will and a mind to use for a reason. If you’re serving God out of fear of burning then it’s not genuine. THINK for yourself…be REAL and GENUINE.

  5. You should be ashamed of yourself. Did Jesus not say repent or you shall all likewise perish. This is terrible. Christian came from Christ himself. So how can u not say Christian didn’t come from god. Smh he wants us to born again. Because grown ups always want to do it there way. Exactly why god says we must be like children and believe in him. Look at it like if u were god, what would u call ur creation? What would u want from everybody.

    • If your God loves you truly, why place conditions on that love. Why does he not simply relieve your suffering if you, if we all, are his children? If he is truly all powerful, he is capable of that.
      I am a Nichiren Buddhist. I believe that EVERYONE has the Buddha (eternal peace & happiness within); the path is Kindness, doing good, & I chant, with my fellow Buddhists, for the peace & happiness of all living things. Peace denied even one is breach of faith, withholding happiness from any destroys our own happiness.
      The Christian bible contains much wisdom, but the 2,000 year trail of human translations contains the prejudice, desires & everything experienced & known by each. Acceptance of those words without question is failure is our squandering of our ability to think & reason. The gospels were written by men, good men I’m sure, but with all the weaknesses of all human beings. All the world’s religions have the same bottom line–be kind. The difficulty is the pull of our own yearnings; of being kind to ourselves at the same time. This takes discernment, much thought & a sincere belief that we are ALL capable of overcoming the obstacles encountered. That peace & happiness is for ALL is possible. It is freedom from fear.

  6. John Spong is a genius. He has aimed at the heart of religious ignorance: fear of death, the stories that mankind imagined to overcome that fear, and in the process created another fear, of what may happen next! So follow blindly and believe anything they say, and go to heaven, or risk burning on eternal fire!
    A real god worshipper doesn’t live for the reward or fear of punishment, but thanks God for what has been given, life, a chance to live in this amazing universe.

  7. I just love that in supporting/denying the premise, folks are drawing on the bible, a text written/amended/corrected/emended/annotated/refuted/ignored/plagiarised/invented etc by men. Good luck with that.

  8. I’ve read some of these comments and realized why I got out of religion. The mental constructs you people are confined to is scary. The Creator is all around and can do anything. How can a religion define God?

    What is a personal savior?

  9. With an appreciation like this, scripture interpretation will be rendered to cater whatever personal experience, thoughts o feelings are. In other words is an irresponsable interpretation. Spiritual abuse isn’t new but the scriptures can be misused for manipulation when interpretation is as weak as this one. A good look at Mathew 5 alone, will show how revolutionary many Jesus concepts were, and its opposition or relation to the the past and current law of the time. As a matter of fact a warning for prosecution for defending the gospel, is made. Generalizations and claims made by this man are incompatible with the scriptures themselves. Anyone can think and say as he wishes, yet the word of God will remain the same.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here