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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1120 COMMENTS

  1. The system, the government, the big guys control everything…. you name it, your food your drink they teach you to drink to smoke to be prostitut a drug dealer a pimp they decide who lives and who dies, the control de economy the contol the medicine without the BIBLE
    But it’s you can believe what you want because we all gonna die some day and then we all gonna know the truth and yes i hoop you are right people!!

  2. Is there really a he’ll there shouldn’t be no one deserves forever torment even evil doers not saying they shouldn’t get paid back but not burning forever torment that’s evil and wrong making God sound like a monster loves see people in pain tortured is that true does he

    • God is a perfect and just. He is loving and slow to anger, but you must understand that has rules for his people to follow. God made hell for Satan and his angels but those who do not follow the lord and his words will have no chose but to go there to. Son is what separate us from God. He is perfect he knows no sin he is without sin. Therefore he all our deserving of sin, but God sent his only begotten son so we can have salvation. God cane as a human and endured pain to demonstrate his love for us. Accept him now Becky he is waiting on you.

    • Hell is not real. God is not real. Relying on a supernatural power to be the arbiter of goodness, morality, and justice is intellectually and morally lazy.
      The entirety of religions were created by Bronze Age agricultural peasants who needed to have some explanation for “why” and “how”.
      Just as children outgrow the idea of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, our society has philosophically, scientifically, ethically, and intellectually matured (or should have) well past the point of needing a bunch of fairy tales to tell us how to behave or else.

      No “God”. No Heaven. No Hell. Never has been. Never gonna be.

  3. I believe that. Is,ways thought that”burn in hell” concept was a scare tactics. Why would the originator of Love do this to his creation. The living knows they will die, but the dead know nothing at all. Ecclesiastes 9:7

  4. Well those that doesn’t believe will found out in..hell.. well.. it will be too late to turn back time.. Satan is just too smart to distract and destroy the simply minded who doesn’t know God’s will or plan for mankind. Beware, be warned, and be save. If not.

  5. Never felt that I would agree with a priest but do on this topic….Religion is good as a guide in life. It serves its purpose in providing guidance with respect to our moral values, ethics, and behaviors towards one another. And it provides a place where people can go reflect and make changes and adjustments in their daily practices and values. But complying or observing these beliefs, values, and behaviors does not guarantee life afterwards or a place in man-made's vision of heaven. I believe in the notion that those matters are far to complex and deep for the human brain to embrace and comprehend, no matter what the clergy may say. So religion definitely plays a good role in our lives a for all we know, it may be a way that God, in his infinite wisdom, determined was the best way of preventing humankind from destroying itself…ernestoEr

  6. I Believe In YHWH is our Lord Our Creator. I Believe that Jesus Die for our sin the sin of man and women.
    That only through him I will enter the kingdom of Heaven. I Believe in the covenant that Abraham made with our YHWH. That Moses Led the Hebrews out of Slavery. He went to the top of Sinia. And spoke with YWWH. With the hand of YHWH made the commandments. The Law in which we are to live by.
    I believe I am a
    huge sinner. That we are sent down here to make this place Holy. That each of us has a purpose. A reason why we are here. And either we make that decision to fulfill it or not to.. To either do the right thing .. or the wrong. We all are given the Freewill to make that choice. We are here to Learn from our mistakes.
    A chance to ask for Forgiveness.
    I do believe that man has added and have changed the living word of our Lord. To benefit Man. And they will be Judged by the most High. As we all will in the time of Judgment.
    It even says it in the Bible. That we do not know the whole True Word Of YHWY. There was a lot that was voted out.. and the interpretation of the Word.
    I have learned more now that we have the release of all of the information. Where we didnt have it before.
    I Pray for more truth and knowledge .. For him to guide me. To reveal the True Living Word Of YHWY.
    What I find Amazing. Is that we are now discovering where what why and how. Through our technology, Archaeology, finding artifacts like the Dead Sea Scrolls. From that.. it has Proved beyond Belief. That The word is our living History and is True.
    Well.. .thats my opinion.. my belief on the subject.
    I Pray for.. Many Blessings to you and your .From me and mine.God Bless Us All !!!

  7. I believe in God! I believe in the Holy Trinity! I believe there is a heaven and a purgatory and a hell! And I believe we all share the same God, we all pray to the same God, it’s like a tipi, round and pointy on top. I do agree with some of what you say, some!

  8. Jesus talks about Hell and Heaven only. There is no Sheol or purgatory. Are you going to spend eternity in Hell because you don’t think it exists? On the other hand, if you don’t think hell exists neither would Heaven or purgatory or Sheol. There’s always a counter action to an idea. Wake up! !!!!

  9. All this is a bunch of bull. The ones that actually do as Jesus said are the ones with hope of living in a paradise earth just as God has promised. God only chose 144,000 to rule in the Kingdom with Jesus. That kingdom is soon going to take down every system of government on earth as well as all wickedness. Believe that. Dan 2:44 a must read. This world power duo/UN is the last world power and it goes off into destruction making room for a worldwide gov with Christ as king. Read all of chapter 2 in Daniel. Read all psalms 37 too.

  10. Jesus die on the cross for our sin . Be careful about what say about the Holy Book. God made the world .I think he can keep his Holy Book together.

  11. Religion is a state of mind to keep people under control most religions will keep the masses in fear in order to control them it is a huge business always looking for money without control money does not come then religion fails money is the name of the game that is the true religion. The Bible is a book of fiction no proof of fact in is based on ancient stories that we were convinced to believe

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