The Hell You Say!

John Shelby Spong is a retired American bishop of the Episcopal Church. He is a liberal Christian theologian, religion commentator, and author. (He was one of the many authors I referenced in my book.)

Here are just a few of his written works:

Recently (on another posting), archaeopteryx1 provided a link to a video in which Spong discussed the existence of “hell.” Arch commented that he (Spong) “makes some extremely bold statements for a Christian.”

“Hell” has been a topic of discussion for a long, long time. It’s covered in depth on innumerable blogs (mine included) and in writings too numerous to count (I even devoted a chapter to it in my own book). Many people insist it’s “confirmed” in the bible. Others have claimed they’ve had visions of it. And for some, it’s where they want to send someone who has “done them wrong.”

Of course, the jury is still out because we’ll never know for sure until after we’ve drawn our last breath. But speaking for myself, I agree with Spong that it’s an invention of the church to control people with fear.

In fact, in my opinion, fear is at the core of the gospel. Christians will claim it’s all about love, but when push comes to shove … I contend the real reason a person becomes and stays a Christian is because they want to avoid “eternal punishment,” “everlasting fire,” and the unceasing physical torture they believe is the final end for non-believers.

As for me? I am confident such a place does not exist. (Nor does “heaven,” for that matter, but that’s a topic for another posting.) 🙂

Check out the video that Arch has referenced. Do you agree with Bishop Spong?


23 thoughts on “The Hell You Say!

  1. I like how “they” talk about “everlasting life” as if it were a goal, when according to Christian scripture we all get it, just under some widely different circumstances.

    I think the invention of Hell (Hell is not really in the OT, instead there is a Sheol, somewhat like Hades, a land of dim light and not much fun, but it certainly wasn’t lit by a lake of fire.) disqualifies a religion from respect. Who could worship a being that would create “everlasting torture” for minor offenses of obscure regulations? Only someone quivering in fear, as you say.

    Liked by 1 person

    • For the most part, we get our concept of Hell and “the Devil” from two sources, neither of them the Bible – Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” and Dante’s “Inferno.”


      • Even tho’ this video is essentially related to the birth of “Satan” (rather than “hell”), I do like it because it’s just one more validation of the information in my book. 🙂


        • …this video is essentially related to the birth of ‘Satan’ (rather than ‘hell’)” – Satan is the linchpin of hell – hell is just a place for him to hang his horns – remove Satan, and you’re left with a hole in the ground.


  2. And for some, it’s where they want to send someone who has ‘done them wrong.’” – Personally, I’d rather send them to Cincinnati.


  3. I used to listen to Bishop Spong on CBC radio when I was returning from evening classes in the early 90’s; I believe that was the beginning of my questioning, Nan. He’s the voice of sensibility, in my opinion. I loved what he said about the role of women in the church – he is a forward thinker. It’s interesting that many of my Anglican friends get a frown on their faces when he is mentioned, though. I’m currently reading the top book on your list – I don’t think he’s written any since, has he?

    I’m with you on the heaven and hell issue – no such thing. Even when I was going to church, I never believed that nonsense. (as I’ve said before, the United Church of Canada – at least around here – doesn’t believe in that doctrine)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Having read one of Spong’s books recently, I was impressed by his scholarship. However what bemused me was how he could still claim to be a Christian after pointing out so many flaws in the Bible. He essentially repudiated the core elements of the 39 Articles of religion of the Anglican Church.


  5. I read two of Spong’s books on my way out of Christianity though I didn’t know I was on my way out, out. 🙂

    The Sins of Scripture
    A New Christianity For A New World

    I listened to the video.

    Doesn’t the topic of hell (the underworld) predate Christianity? My point being I guess that the church did not invent it. It’s a human invention that the church made its own to control the masses yes but I just don’t see them as the inventor of all things “hell.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “the jury is still out because we’ll never know for sure until after we’ve drawn our last breath” … I love it! You sound more like me than even I do …

    But face it:
    religion is nothing more (certainly nothing less) than Big Business. And all the various sects and cults and ‘faiths’ are simply franchises. Wealth and power, boom boom!

    As for what ‘religion’ a person is, I’d say most often mostly strictly a result of geography and nothing more.

    Liked by 1 person

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