Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Invention of Hell

This video is over a year old.  But it just came to my attention:

Why would Spong say such a thing?  The church invented hell? Well, not the church alone, but the church in cooperation with the state (government).  The church took the pagan notion of hell, invented by ancient governments to control the masses, and used it for its own intentions.

Polybius, the ancient historian, says: 
"Since the multitude is ever fickle, full of lawless desires, irrational passions and violence, there is no other way to keep them in order but by the fear
and terror of the invisible world; on which account our ancestors seem to me to have acted judiciously,
when they contrived to bring into the popular belief these notions of the gods, and of the infernal

Strabo, the geographer, says:  
"The multitude are restrained from vice by the punishments the gods are said to inflict upon offenders, and by those terrors and threatenings which certain dreadful words and monstrous forms imprint upon their minds...For it is impossible to govern the crowd of women, and all the common rabble, by philosophical reasoning, and lead them to piety, holiness and virtue - but this must be done by superstition, or the fear of the gods, by means of fables and wonders; for the thunder, the aegis, the trident, the torches (of the Furies), the dragons, &c., are all fables, as is also all the ancient theology.  These things the legislators used as scarecrows to terrify the childish multitude."

Timaeus Locrus, the Pythagorean, after stating that the doctrine of rewards and punishments after
death is necessary to society, proceeds as follows:  
"For as we sometimes  cure the body with unwholesome remedies, when such as are most wholesome produce no effect, so  we restrain
those minds with false relations, which will not be persuaded by the truth.  There is a necessity,
therefore, of instilling the dread of those foreign torments: as that the  soul changes its habitation;
that the coward is ignominiously thrust into the body of a woman; the murderer imprisoned within the form of a savage beast; the vain and inconstant changed into birds, and 
the slothful and ignorant into fishes."
Seneca says:  

"Those things which make the infernal regions terrible, the darkness, the prison, the river of flaming fire, the judgment seat, &c., are all a fable, with which the poets amuse themselves, and by them agitate us with vain terrors." 

Sextus Empiricus calls them "poetic fables of hell;" and Cicero speaks of them as "silly absurdities and fables" (ineptiis ac fabulis). 


"It has been handed down in mythical form from earliest times to posterity, that there are gods, and that the divine (Deity) compasses all nature. All beside this has been added, after the mythical style, for the purpose of persuading the multitude, and for the interests of the laws, and the advantage of the state."


Joe said...

Apparently Spong doesn't believe in everlasting torture in the afterlife for the unsaved.

Is Hell only for Satan and the fallen angels?

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Great clip! I can totally relate to this bit: "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."

Someday said...

I do not have a lot of respect for Spong's general theology. His denial of the resurrection in the strongest terms, for example, along with other beliefs he calls "facts" have caused me to consider his scholarship suspect.
That's why it pains me to agree with him even a little bit when it comes to eternal torture. I am sure that it was not invented by the Church, but it was historically pushed by the Church. Many of the church leaders easily believed in eternal torture because of their Pagan roots for one thing, and it also proved itself to be a nifty way to regulate and control the masses.

Brian said...

I may or may not agree with other things Spong has said. But, in this case, I happen to think he's right. Being wrong about something else doesn't change that. And, I admire his willingness to speak out for what he thinks is right. For example, his stand on the church's condemnation of homosexuals.

Hell was invented by the ruling class (government/religion) to control the masses. It's probably not accurate to say it was invented by the church. But, it was quickly embraced for the purposes of control. And, religion, to this day, is still very interested in control. The history of the church and state (which is how we got "orthodox" Christianity is a fascinating tale. Most Christians have no clue how we got our Bible or some of our doctrines. I'm glad Spong's statements at least cause people to think.

kc bob said...

I suspect that Spong rejects the idea of Satan or fallen angels Joe.

Brian said...

It seems to me that discussing what Spong thinks of the resurrection or of the eternal fate of Satan and fallen angels is to miss the point of this post (at least what I thought the point was).

To me, what is more important is the eternal fate of human beings, not a creature or creature none of us has ever seen and whose existence is really not all that relevant. What happens to Satan and the demons/fallen angels has zero impact on my day-to-day life in the here and now while the issue of what I believe about God potentially tormenting me, or my child or my neighbor is of a lot more concern to me. It will impact how I view God, how I view myself and how I view my neighbor.

Of course, you're free to view it any way you choose. But, history shows the origin of hell and its myths predate the Christian church but do not come from Torah (the Old Testament). Hell is mentioned no where in Torah. Not a whisper of eternal punishment in the Law given to Moses. Not a whisper of eternal torment in the warnings given to Adam in the garden. Hell is a pagan concept that got rolled into Christianity when Christianity was seeking power and control and was merged with the government that helped perpetrate the pagan mythology. Regardless of what Spong thinks about the resurrection or Satan's fate, his point about hell is still valid, IMO.

kc bob said...

You and I have had many conversations about hell Brian and I respect your view. My response was trying to respond to Joe's question.

The existence of Satan and demons may be debatable for some.. I accept that Jesus referred to Satan and cast out demons in the gospels.. and I believe that Satan will not be in heaven.

Apparently you do not believe in Satan or demons (am I wrong?).. I am okay with that.. it is consistent.. if you accepted their existence then it would be problematic with your views on the afterlife.

Brian said...


I don't see how my view about Satan is related to what I believe G-d will do to His children in the afterlife. Please explain. Does the existence of Satan somehow justify G-d torturing people for falling for Satan's tricks?

To answer your question, I don't give Satan a lot of thought. If there is such a creature, he is certainly less powerful than God and created by God. I don't see Satan as a nearly omniscient/omnipotent being as many Christians do, giving him the power to be everywhere at once and whispering into our deepest thoughts.

I understand your response was to Joe's question. And, of course, please feel free to discuss anything you want. I just think going down the path of Satan, his destiny and his purpose is a distraction from what I consider to be a much more important topic. If we take the view that God created Hell for Satan and his demons, what does that have to do with God throwing His children in there also?

kc bob said...

Here is my thinking Brian:

1) God created Satan.. he is a sentient member of His creation.

2) How God treats one sentient member of His creation is important.

3) It seems that God would be inconsistent if He treated Satan and demons differently than humans.

Does that help you to understand where I was coming from?

Brian said...

Thanks for explaining Bob. But, I think we're really opening a HUGE can of worms here:

1.) Angels supposedly don't have "free will" yet some angels revolted. This doesn't make any sense to me. One can't have it both ways. If Satan and the fallen angels were created to fall, it's all a put up job and they ultimately are not any more responsible for their fallen state than we are. God set the whole thing up. Then, He condemns them to eternal torment for doing what they were created to do. Calvinists don't have a problem with that logic. But, I do.

2.) God created a creature as powerful as Satan and turned him loose on the universe. Either God didn't know the risk He was taking or He's did know and decided to create Satan anyway. Presumably God is still more powerful than Satan and could take him out any time He likes. Yet, He allows Satan to continue to suck His children into Hell. If Satan is truly an adversary, why doesn't God stop him? This is a really high stakes game.

3.) If Satan was created to be the "Adversary", God has given us an "Adversary" that is infinitely more powerful than we are, yet we are responsible for resisting him. He has eons of experience and the power to literally get inside of our heads. What chance do we have? How could we possibly be responsible to face up to such a being?

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

It's so much easier not believing in either Satan or God. ;-)

I agree, Bob, it would be important how God treats any sentient creation of his, whether angel or human.

Brian said...


I agree with you, it would be easier to not believe in God or Satan. Christian theology can drive one to abandon a belief in either because it is so confusing, inconsistent and often depressing.

For me though rather to reject a belief in G-d (whose existence is quite evident and I cannot deny) I had to attempt to find out what G-d is really like.

kc bob said...

So what is your bottom line on Satan and demons? Just mythology?

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

A lot of what people "know" about Satan and demons is extra-biblical. However, Jesus and Paul as represented in the NT certainly believe in him and them.

I used to believe very much in them, even more so after reading Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness series. We prayed for defense against them all the time.

Brian said...

My bottom line on Satan/demons/evil spirits/etc. is not that I know definitively they don't exist. I have more of a negative demonology than a positive one. IOW, I can say more about what I don't believe than what I do. I don't believe God created an adversary that is really "at war" with God. God could take out any adversary He wants any time He wants. I don't believe God put His children's eternal destiny in the hands of someone who could possibly lure them away eternally. I don't believe that God was surprised by any revolt in heaven.

Brian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian said...

(my earlier post got cut off).

Yes, Jesus spoke of a "Satan". But, the Buddha spoke of Mara, a personification of his temptations. Jesus taught in parables. Just because He spoke of Satan does not mean He necessarily believed in such a literal being.

Bottom line, I don't discount the possibility there may be a Satan-like creature though I highly, highly doubt it. If such a creature exists, I don't believe he's nearly as powerful as many Christians think he is. I don't spend a moment thinking or worrying about him unless someone else brings it up.

kc bob said...

So where do you think a "Satan-like creature" will end up? It seems that if one does not believe in hell then this creature be with us in heaven? Of course if time exists after death (big if) he could go to purgatory with others to temporarily suffer?

kc bob said...

Of course the gospels do seem to indicate that Jesus more than assented to the existence of demons as he dealt directly with many of them. Same heaven/hell/purgatory issues exist for them as well as Satan.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

He could just cease to exist.

Brian said...


I really don't speculate on the eternal fate of a creature I think probably doesn't exist. If Satan exists and G-d is omnipotent/omniscient then I hold G-d responsible for Satan's behavior because Satan is doing what he was created to do. If forced to speculate on his fate, I would go with the church fathers who thought Satan and the demons would also be "saved".

kc bob said...

I think that understand the issue for you Brian. If demons really do exist then a person who holds a view that there is no hell has to either explain away their existence or come to grips with the idea that they will be in heaven with angels and the rest of us.

About holding the creator responsible for the creation.. do you also hold God responsible for all of the evil done in the world? I am sure you do not. So I wonder why you would hold God responsible for the behavior of Satan? Do you believe that God created Satan evil or do you think that Satan (like humans) made choices that resulted in who he became?

Enjoying the conversation Brian. As always you cause me to think.

Peace, Bob

Brian said...


This is difficult to say in this format. I wish we could have this conversation face-to-face. It's extremely difficult to discuss Satan "theology" (for lack of a better word) because the Christian concept of Satan is incomplete and inconsistent, IMO. So, I'm not sure which Satan to discuss.

Some say angels have no free will. If we accept that, then obviously, G-d is responsible for their behavior because they can only do what they are programmed to do. When God created Satan and the fallen angels, He foreknew what they would do. I don't know how one can justly hold a being with no free will responsible for anything.

Let's assume Satan and the fallen angels do have free will. Could they possibly be so incredibly evil without a semblance of good left in them if God didn't create them defective in the first place? And, these evil almost omnipotent and omnipresent being(s) are left to suck G-d's own children into the eternal fiery pits of hell? That's quite a price to pay for the "gift" of "free will". What type of parent would leave such a creature roaming about to destroy His children?

I don't know that you and I necessarily view Heaven the same way. I don't see the afterlife as a binary thing, either one is in a place called Heaven, a place of eternal bliss or a place called Hell, a place of eternal torment. This life isn't like that. Jesus talked an "eternal" or Kingdom life that could begin in ther here and now. I believe that hell also can be experienced (to a degree) in the here and now. If there is torment after death, I believe it is just, it is self-inflicted and it is temporary. The book of Revelation speaks of death and hell both being destroyed. So, how could either be eternal?

I hope this makes some sense. I find this speculation on Satan to be distracting from the larger point of what G-d does with real, live beings that we all interact with everyday. But, if you think it important in determining whether God would subject His children to eternal torment, I respect that.

kc bob said...

"I find this speculation on Satan to be distracting from the larger point of what G-d does with real, live beings that we all interact with everyday."

I think that the existence of demons and angels are clear in the scriptures. As a result I find it a necessary part of dealing with the afterlife. IMO it is an incomplete theology that doesn't deal with the destination of angels and demons.

The subject of demons and the existence of evil is not one that I can answer for you or anyone else. Evil exists in the world - that is a fact. God allows evil and all sorts of bad stuff (including demons) to exist in this world.. I am content to understand that God will eventually deal with it.

I guess my view is a simple one that believes that demonic beings will not share the afterlife with us. Okay if you do not share that view.

Peace, Bob

Brian said...

Bob, because you read the Bible differently than I do, it is necessary for you to figure out what will happen to demons in the afterlife. For me, even if demons exist, I'm not really all that concerned about where they end up in the afterlife, at least relatively speaking. I'm much more concerned about where we end up. If we end up hob-nobbing with angels, cool. But, it's not as important for me to figure that out as to figure out what happens with me, my family, my neighbor or even Hitler, for that matter.

Yes, my theology is incomplete. But, frankly, Christian theology on demons and angels is both incomplete and inconsistent. Sometimes angels are said to be totally subservient to G-d with no free will of their own. Other times, as in the case of Satan, they are not only said to have free will but almost unlimited power. It's a problem that is rather difficult to address. It's kind of like trying to hit a moving target when I'm supposed to figure out what their fate is supposed to be.

I think we've come to about as final a conclusion as we're going to on this one.

kc bob said...

As always I enjoyed the dialog Brian. Thanks!

Brian said...

Yeah, Bob. I always love talking with you even though we don't always see eye-to-eye. I appreciate the fact that we can disagree without being disagreeable.


Someday said...

I have to agree with Brian that there is no place of eternal torment. I do however believe that Satan is a persona created by God. I have tried to figure out why this "Lucifer" character in Isiah, who is clearly referring to a mortal king, has become so widely believed by Christians to be the equivalent of Satan.
Nevertheless, Satan can be seen in Job as a being more in character with the real Satan. We find in Job that he is our adversary. He is not God's adversary. Never was. He seems to exist to put us through the trials of our faith. He is given to us to refine us with the refiners fire, to help to purify us in this world, in the same way that gold is refined. Even Jesus was put through the trials of faith by the Adversary.

I genuinely believe that someday, "EVERY knee shall bow and every tongue CONFESS that Jesus Christ is Lord". Even Satan and any minions appointed to him.

I agree with the early church Fathers concerning the fate of Satan. Why wouldn't they be reconciled to the Father? What are they doing against God after all? (I mean if you don't believe that lucifer is Satan). I respect the words of the early church fathers not just because they happen to support my belief, but also because they were closer to the original witnesses than we are.

How can God Become All in All, and all things be reconciled unto Him if there are still pockets of beings burning eternally, or sent off to exist apart from God? That's not "reconciling all things unto himself". That's reconciling Some things.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Suddenly I'm reminded of this post:

Who has killed more, Satan or God?

kc bob said...

I suspect the writer of that post to be a one-time fundamentalist Mike :)

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

I'm sure you are right, Bob. :-)

Joe said...

I, too, don't believe in a fire and brimestone Hell. I think that our consciences will provide the punishment we deserve. I think that judgement could be as inescapable as God's.

Anonymous said...

once again, your writings and findings give me another slice of peace. thank you for sharing.

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Hal Lindsey


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Datacide said...

Hell is a invention as described by the church, however, the seven planes are most likely the truth in comparison. There are lower heavens and higher heavens or planes. Evil does exist on the lower planes. Obviously there is evil in the lowest plane-planet earth. The higher planes or levels of consciousness the word evil and its beings do not exist by comparison.

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