cartoon: Rob Bell’s Real Hell

About David Hayward

David Hayward runs the blog nakedpastor as a graffiti artist on the walls of religion where he critiques religion… specifically Christianity and the church. He also runs the online community The Lasting Supper where people can help themselves discover, explore and live in spiritual freedom.

  • adrian

    so funny yet probabbly for Rob bell probably so true .

  • JD

    I don’t know him personally, some people do well with attention.

    I do find it interesting that ancient Israelites and modern Jews didn’t have a belief of hell as an afterlife destination (or punishment), seems like something that should have been too big to accidentally leave out of their texts.

  • Becky

    I would call it hell except he got a high six figure advance. And what he’s done with the media attention is to promote his own product not discuss the real hells on earth. But then again, this is the Rob Show.

    Read the book and it’s really godawful – reads like a screenplay – definitely not worth this hype.

  • http://www.LizRay.com Liz

    Was handed to me with dire warnings when I bought it from a Christian book store – and a second lot of warnings when I paid for it at the till. Felt like a Muslim buying a copy of the Satanic Verses…

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    really Liz? that’s just sad.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    @JD,
    From everything I understand, hell is something Jesus mentioned first…at least in the Christian Bible. I’ve read the bible several times, but that certainly doesn’t make me anything approaching an expert, so please feel free to pile on mercilessly if I’m wrong here.
    I cannot find anywhere else that anything even remotely resembling hell is brought up in the bible except (initially, at least) by Jesus.
    I haven’t read Mr. Bell’s book yet, but I’ll give it a go when I have some free time.
    @Liz…did you read it yet? If so, what was your impression?

  • Amy

    I have read the book twice. It is in complete Rob Bell style. Meaning, if you have read any of his books, he talks about all sides of the topic, and presents it to you for you and God to hash out. He doesn’t take any side to be honest. It is also full of really great history on the topic of eternity and life in ancient Hebrew times. You hear about words that we take literally, that meant other things in Hebrew.

    I am completely unsure of where I stand on the whole hell topic, and I don’t think it really matters to be honest. I found Rob’s Book refreshing. The first half talks on the 2 topics, and the rest is about relationship with God and who God is.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    hi Amy,
    Thanks for your input on this. I am curious about this statement,
    “I am completely unsure of where I stand on the whole hell topic, and I don’t think it really matters to be honest.”
    Does it not matter to you because you are an atheist? If you are a theist, or more specifically a Christian, I don’t understand how the topic of hell (eternal, unending anguish) could not be of concern to you. If it’s real, wouldn’t you want to know that? Even more to the point, wouldn’t you want to ensure that you aren’t going there?
    As boring as the Christian concept(s) of heaven sound (and they DO sound hellishly monotonous), it seems that the fear of hell has really been the only driving force behind Christianity for most of it’s existence. Heaven pretty much sucks, so scaring people sh*tless with hell is all you’ve got left. All stick and no carrot, so to speak. Now that people like Rob Bell have taken away the stick what’s left? An eternity of mindless, monotonous praise for a deity? No thanks.

  • http://willcookson.wordpress.com Will

    Godless Monster,
    I think that you are right. Hell should matter. But not necessarily for oneself. It matters out of love for all people. I hate to see people suffer. I’ve just returned from Kenya where the poverty and the suffering of lots of people really had an impact. Some of it was hellish. a 4 year old kid found next to her dead mother surviving by eating sh*t. Shouldn’t we all want to rescue people from that sort of existence? Isn’t that what love is about? Isn’t that what we see in the life of Jesus – love for those that aren’t loved by others (including – maybe especially religious leaders?)
    No doubt your experience of Christianity is the sort of Christianity that gets off on the subject of hell. Heaven is where love reigns and injustice doesn’t have a chance.

  • http://LizRay.com Liz Ray

    NP – Yes, sad but true. Had I been manager, there would have been a Love Wins pyramid in the shop window – instead of a few books lurking apologetically at the back. I guess the assistants were just concerned for my soul…

    Godless Monster – I haven’t read it yet, but this stuff has been making waves for a while now. Dispensing with the idea of hell can offend people because it doesn’t address the issue of justice. An author friend who is writing a book on some of this tells me that the hell-associated ‘wailing and gnashing of teeth’ passages actually have to do with people being faced with the painful repercussions of their actions for others – as in the South African restorative justice approach. Don’t know if RB goes into that. The biblical imagery of ‘hell’ is about the total destruction of evil rather the eternal punishment of sinners. Oh, and he says we’re not headed for heaven, either… the universe will be renewed rather than replaced, with creation and humanity completely fulfilled and transformed. So maybe a happier prospect for you…?!

  • walt

    Mr. Bell has discovered what many have known for years: hell is other evangelicals who’ve turned on you.

    No wrath like it, baby.

  • http://www.dailywhitt.com John

    The lack of emphasis on heaven and hell in the Jewish religion is interesting considering that in Exodus the Hebrews are leaving the afterlife-obsessed nation of Egypt to go worship God in the desert. Archeology illustrates the focus of the ancient Egyptian mind: Their dwelling places for the living are hard to find these days. Their houses for the dead are still around! Maybe Israel (and their God) was reacting to this death-obsession by concentrating on how to live.

    @Liz Ray, I like your prospect for the future! The New Testament passages about the future of believers are not just God’s people droning on about how awesome he is. They’re about a restoration of existence to a former glory. Heaven and earth become one. Everything wrong with the world, everything sad and painful simply becomes untrue.

  • shelly

    I don’t believe in hell as interpreted by mainstream Christianity. I have a hard time accepting it now, given there are three different Greek words mistranslated as “hell” (Jesus really talked about Gehenna, for instance; the other two Greek words mistranslated as “hell” are “hades” and “tartarus”), and the fact the concept of “eternal torment” doesn’t appear in the OT until the book of Daniel, and the fact “eternal/everlasting/forever” are often a mistranslation of Hebrew and Greek words meaning “age-during” or “eonian” or “for the eons of the eons”. In fact, mainstream Christianity’s interpretation of hell is MAN-MADE.

    That said, I don’t think Rob Bell’s “hell on earth” is the media attention he’s received. If anything, it’s the lambasting from his fellow Christians — most of whom have passed judgement on his book, and him, without reading it. Not cool.

  • Peter

    David, come on. Are you kidding? That is Rob Bell heaven! He reminds me of the real estate agent who will lie to you about the value of your house, so that he can get the listing. After your house sits idle for months and becomes a “poisoned” listing it has to sell for below it’s original market value. Too late for you! Starting a mega-church which only tells people what they want to hear and never forces them to face the “harsh” realities of sin and it’s consequences, will ALWAYS get a big and grateful crowd. There will always be those who would rather stand on the deck of a sinking ship and hear someone comfort them that everything is going to be alright, instead of walking the 10 yards to a safe and available lifeboat, which has been placed there for that very purpose.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    peter: i’m not for mega-churches. that should be obvious. i’m also not a huge fan of gimmicks. but rob bell has a voice that deserves to be heard just as much as yours or mine. i could have said what he said with no consequences. not him. he says anything and he’s going to pay for it. i’m not sure he’s so excited about the endless theological probing that he’s subjected to because he said something.

    Check out Eugene Peterson’s reasoned response:
    http://www.patheos.com/community/loveandjudgment/2011/03/16/eugene-peterson-would-jesus-condemn-rob-bell/

  • walt

    Oh, David thanks for that link.

    I loved what Peterson says here:

    “But the people who are against Rob Bell are not going to reexamine anything. They have a litmus test for who is a Christian and who is not. But that’s not what it means to live in community.”

    In defence of Bell’s attackers, though, much of the various Christian communities have litmus tests of one sort or another. Even people within the progressive/emergent branch that I’m attracted to, and sometimes part of, do this. We must constantly remind ourselves to give one another the benefit of the doubt. Most of us fail, and on a consistent basis.

    Shelly – your last point said more emphatically and concisely what I was trying to say in my usual flippant way. Thank you.

  • http://www.dailywhitt.com John

    I don’t think the imagery of the next life reduces its reality. I wonder if the symbolism describing heaven and hell is trying to convey an existence that is either more wonderful, or more terrible than all those biblical images? As far as tinkering with the Greek definitions of eternity, does Jesus promise over and over that, “whoever believes in me has life… for a relatively long time?!” Maybe a bit facetious, but you get the point.

  • Peter

    Thanks David for leading me to Eugene’s comments. However, even though I have great respect for peterson, he is not infallible. God and Jesus are real persons, they are not fungible beings we can interpret and twist to fit our own agendas for the world. Too often we interpret Jesus as a non-violent, revolutionary, but easy going, “hippie”, who is closer to Donald Sutherland’s character in the 1970 movie Kelly’s Heroes, than the Son of God, take no prisoners against the evils of sin and death, he is. Yes, Jesus in the New Testament, the same as he is today, was loving and sacrificial, but he was also an extremely angry guy. At who? He was angry at those who tampered with God’s House and God’s Word for their own agenda. He pronounced horrible judgments on those who would mislead (the little children) and defiled the message. So is it wrong for us to challenge Bell. He says our interpretations are “misguided” and toxic.” Christ-like does not mean rolling over and allowing the things dear to God to be damaged.

  • Stefan

    Mr. Bell is unbiblical. And thus dangerous. There is no way to save but Jesus. Thats in my Bible. Not Buddha saves, not the Dalai Lama, and not time. If you were for a period od time in hell, time would be some kind of saviour. But the Bible states that without a saviour you are in hell “forever and ever”. So how long can this possibly be? Bible words that are repeated twice mean a stressing of the said. Think about that. We have to check what Bell sais about Heaven and hell – is it scriptural? Not what do I like more, but is it really in the Bible?

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    @Stefan,
    “Mr. Bell is unbiblical. And thus dangerous.”
    How do you propose we deal with “dangerous” people?

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    Stefan brings up -unintentionally perhaps- a point that I’ve tried to make on this and other blogs.
    From a logical standpoint, Stephan’s stance makes sense -assuming, of course that his premise that the Bible is the word of God is correct. In other words, once one accepts the Bible as the inerrant word of God, then it follows that any religious doctrines espoused by followers of the Bible, are actually based on the Bible. To do otherwise is basically fence sitting.
    Of course, what inevitably follows from the type of certainty Stefan espouses is the inclination to label heretics as “dangerous”, etc. Once labels like that are assigned to people, it is so much easier to dispose of them in the name of God, Stalin, the Fuhrer, etc.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    In my opinion, TGM, using the bible or any other holy text as support for one’s argument is circular reasoning.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    @David,
    “In my opinion, TGM, using the bible or any other holy text as support for one’s argument is circular reasoning.”
    And reasoning like that is exactly why you are a better man than most in dialogue, understanding and patience. Theist, or not, the world needs pastors like you. Now more than ever. I don’t believe in fate, but some gifted people are lucky enough to be born at the right place and the right time.
    Take advantage of it.

  • John

    TGM,
    The New Testament instructs believers to warn “heretics,” though it may not use that exact term. Those who present another Gospel, which seems to have been gnostic ideology at the time, were to be warned, warned again, and dis-fellowshipped. Pray for your enemies, live at peace with everyone as far as you can on your part, but do not put up with divisive people who call themselves brothers and/or sisters. I haven’t found anything in the writings of the Gospels, Paul, or any other New Testament author about disposing of people. I know that people who practice Christianity have been guilty of murder, but I don’t have any stats for you. I also know people have actually killed in the name of Christianity, but they are more of the anomaly than the norm, as far as I can tell.

    How about using the Bible, specifically the Gospels, as eyewitness to support as argument?

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    Hi John,
    Hope you’re doing well. You asked me if I think using the Bible, specifically the Gospels to support an argument.
    As we both know, that can be done, but the underlying question (to me)is whether or not the Gospels alone are sufficiently reliable in their historicity and consistent enough in their collective message to support a given argument. Sometimes, “yes” and sometimes “no” would be my answer, but this has more to do with the fact that even a broken clock is correct two times a day. Being lucky or correct on occasion does not make a text invaluable as a source or guide for morality. Take Mein Kampf or Das Kapital for instance and you’ll follow my meaning. There are actually tidbits of useful and truthful information in both, but we can certainly agree that in general, they are not good guides for morality, economics or politics, despite their status as important works of literature.
    It would all come down to what I believe would be a disagreement on facts and/or their interpretation or relevance.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    CORRECTION…
    “You asked me if I think using the Bible, specifically the Gospels to support an argument.”
    SHOULD READ:
    “You asked me if I think using the Bible, specifically the Gospels to support an argument is valid.

  • John

    The result of living my life by the Scriptures has led me to believe the Bible is right more than “two times a day,” lol! I have several witnesses both historical and personal who would agree with me about the positive effectiveness of trying to live by the teachings of the New Testament. I’m sure you could refer me to atheists who seem to have found purpose and fulfillment in life without the need for a deity. As you said, it comes down to facts.

    The historical evidence is sufficient to me, as well as possibly a few billion others, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and was Resurrected from the dead. I’m not appealing to the masses, I’m pointing out that with so many people of faith, there isn’t one type, or kind of Christian. I don’t see a correlation between intelligence and belief because Christians run from one end of the bell curve to the other. It’s not completely a cultural phenomenon, because Christians in countries around the world are often arrested for gathering to practice their faith, yet continue to do so.

    I think the stories of the Gospels are so beautiful that most people who encounter them either believe them to be true, or at least wish they were true. Occasionally I meet those who find no more redeeming value in the Gospels than in that of a broken clock, or the writings of an evil genius, but they are more of the anomaly than the norm as far as I can tell. :-) Usually they’ve had a bad experience with a church, or Christians that clouds their judgement.

    I do find your posts interesting, and you seem like a decent individual, but I wonder what motivates you to try and discredit other people’s faith? What makes you the evangelist for atheism that you seem to be. You may think of yourself as an evangelist for rational thought, but as I said, Christians cover the range of cognitive ability. My excuse, following the Book I’m supposed to “share the Good News.” I’m just wondering what drives you?

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    Hi John,
    First, thank you for the kind comments. Likewise and back at you. :-)
    And now for some answers and comments.
    I don’t see a correlation between intelligence and belief because Christians run from one end of the bell curve to the other.
    You don’t see it, because there is none. If you don’t mind, I’d rather not single out Christians here. It’s specific aspects of religion that I have some issues with, but that does not mean that I am against religion. I occasionally attend Universalist Unitarian services and I don’t see any cognitive dissonance at work there. To reply to your point, there are many studies to suggest that there is a direct connection between education and level of religious conviction. That said, I personally know of individuals who are brilliant and educated that are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, etc. I don’t see any connection whatsoever between intelligence and religiosity, arrogant atheist claims to the contrary.
    It’s not completely a cultural phenomenon, because Christians in countries around the world are often arrested for gathering to practice their faith, yet continue to do so.
    True, but that doesn’t mean they are correct in their collective delusion.
    I think the stories of the Gospels are so beautiful that most people who encounter them either believe them to be true, or at least wish they were true.
    My daughter (now 22) once asked me, “Daddy, is there really a Santa Claus?” My response was, “Well, if there isn’t, wouldn’t it be a fun to pretend anyway?” In other words, if Jesus didn’t really exist (and I think he didn’t), it would have been a good idea to make someone like him (and his teachings) up anyway. And, in fact, other cultures already did so.
    “… I wonder what motivates you to try and discredit other people’s faith? What makes you the evangelist for atheism that you seem to be. ..I’m just wondering what drives you?”
    October 23, 1983

  • John

    TGM,
    love Jesus, hate him, or feel a bit indifferent. But saying he doesn’t or never existed? Please. I know that’s a “theory” about Jesus, and I know, in your opinion, I’m probably full of unsubstantiated assertions myself! I’m sorry I’m not familiar with that date in history you mentioned. I was 12.

    I think the Scripture addresses those who are educated to the point of non-reliance on God, but I don’t want to just argue with Scripture, authoritative though I believe it to be, so I’ll have to check out those studies sometime.

    Maybe you could check out some of the correlations between faith and a sense of personal happiness, health, self-actualization etc. I actually read one that correlated wive’s sexual satisfaction to how regularly they attended church. That’s a pretty big case for church attendance, I’d say! :-)

    Hope to see you around these “comment” sections again!

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    @ John,
    <em."I’m sorry I’m not familiar with that date in history you mentioned. I was 12."
    That’s what Google is for. It’ll be at the top of the search results, I’m sure. I was 21.
    My experience with women and sexual satisfaction is that many (not all) get a degree of titillation from the thought of doing something naughty. I’m going to guess (and probably correctly) that this degree of titillation is in direct proportion to the degree of sexual oppressiveness or sexual obsession of the particular congregation or sect she belongs to. The best sex starts in the brain.
    As far as the existence of Jesus, I’ll state for the record that there is no conclusive evidence that he did not exist, either. To me, his existence is not really that important…or relevant. What IS important to me is his message. Mind you, I am NOT speaking of the message of Paul. He never really met Jesus and basically made up what you know as Christianity as he went along, hijacking what was a beautiful message and distorting it to fit his own agenda, whatever that might have been.
    What words are attributed to Jesus are for the most part, good. I want to be and strive to be, Christlike in my behavior. I just don’t buy in the cult that came after Jesus.

  • John

    TGM,

    So, having sex in a controlled environment (relationship) as opposed to indiscriminate sex seems to produce the best response in many people.

    The evidence for the existence of Jesus far outweighs any theories that he never lived, in my opinion. If the claims of Jesus are true, then his existence is relevant, more so than the message, because, I think you pointed out, much of his morality is connected to other religions and mythologies on the surface. Depending on if he’s who he says he is, the man matters the most, or not at all, in my opinion.

    I think Sartre would agree that your desire to be Christlike in behavior is non-justifiable without the existence of God. But I suppose he would also confirm that as an atheist you can choose your own actions, and assign them whatever value you want them to have. However, he would probably conclude that although everything is permissible we are all in despair because life is meaningless and arbitrary.

    1983 Beirut barracks bombing? I don’t want to overstep my bounds, but were you personally affected?

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    So, having sex in a controlled environment (relationship) as opposed to indiscriminate sex seems to produce the best response in many people.

    I’d agree that this is probably true for many.

    …If the claims of Jesus are true, then his existence is relevant, more so than the message…

    There are many from my side that would agree with your argument John. It’s quite possible that my opinion on this matter is completely wrong. For now, it works for me.

    I think Sartre would agree that your desire to be Christlike in behavior is non-justifiable without the existence of God.

    Are you saying that my desire to be Christlike proves the existence of a god?

    “…life is meaningless and arbitrary.

    Even if accepting atheism meant believing that life is meaningless and arbitrary, that still does not constitute an argument for theism.

    1983 Beirut barracks bombing? I don’t want to overstep my bounds, but were you personally affected?
    Yes, and yes…in many ways. I was there as a member of the U.S. Expeditionary Force. I’m also half Lebanese with Shia relatives still living there.

  • John

    That is personal! If you suffered personal tragedy on this day, I have no such experience from which to offer any sympathy, though I would try to! The thing Christianity offers in this case is that accepting the story of the Gospels as true would offer you a God who may or may not explain that day’s tragedy, but would be able to relate to ultimate suffering and lose.

    I want you to do what works for you, but more than that I want you to come back to the “koinonia.”

    On a less personal level, I wouldn’t use Sartre to prove theism. He was an honest atheist. He forced us to look at the empty abyss that existence would be if atheism were true. And he reasoned under that assumption. I just wanted us both to see clearly the consequences of atheism. There is no reason to progress or improve, because that would imply some kind of objective goal, or good exists.

    If there is no God why can’t Hitler be as right as Jesus? Anyone has just as much right to believe anything and call it good or evil, without limit. Who’s to stop one from being another Hitler, or on a smaller scale a local murderer or molester? Inflict whatever good or evil you want, if its illegal, just don’t get caught. It’s may sound sickening, but it seems to be the logical conclusion of atheism for me.

    I didn’t mean to spend so much time online, but you are interesting, and seem to have thought out your life choices. Hope to talk again sometime. I need to get ready for a Wednesday night Bible study. We’re casting a virgin in the volcano to help with the summer crop – Just trying to lighten it up with humor! Sorry! :-)

  • John

    It’s may sound sickening
    Should be, it may sound sickening! Sorry!

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    “If there is no God why can’t Hitler be as right as Jesus? Anyone has just as much right to believe anything and call it good or evil, without limit. Who’s to stop one from being another Hitler, or on a smaller scale a local murderer or molester? Inflict whatever good or evil you want, if its illegal, just don’t get caught. It’s may sound sickening, but it seems to be the logical conclusion of atheism for me.”
    Then explain me. I’m an atheist and I don’t need a book or a god to keep me from killing or for that matter, to keep me from wanting to kill. Something to think on, my friend.
    Enjoy your study tonight, John. I enjoyed conversing with you.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    John: Were you asking ME what drives me? Or the monster?

  • John

    Sorry for not being clear. I was engaged in dialogue with the Monster. But if you’d like to answer the question as well, that’s fine too! :-)

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    LOL. Only if you think i’m defending atheism. etc.

  • John

    Well, you could always tell what motivates your theism, lol!

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    ah! you assume i’m a theist. actually… i am sympathetic to atheism because I feel it often offers valid challenges to the religious and fundamentalist mindset. if one is truly a theist, then one shouldn’t be anxious about the strongest arguments against theism.

  • John

    I think you’re in interesting blogger! Thanks for your insight on so many issues facing the church. And thanks for letting TGM and me use your space to dialogue!


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