Why the ancients invented hell
I don’t think hell exists,” said the Reverend John Shelby Spong, a retired American bishop of the Episcopal Church.
Spong served from 1979 to 2000 at the Bish Newark Diocese in the state of New Jersey, United States (US).
“I happen to believe in life after death, but I don’t think it’s got anything to do with reward and punishment,” Spong continued.
He shard his view that hell was invented by the early church to control people, and his comments have since gone viral, reaching millions of people worldwide.
Religion invents ideas and concepts, just like any creative human enterprise. Some of these doctrines have helped people find meaning and fulfillment from their lives.
Yet, many of the concepts invented by religion were aimed to get people conform to a system of behaviour that guarantees an interactive reward in the afterlife.
As Spong says: “Religion is always in the control business, and that is something people don’t really understand.
“In the guilt-producing control business, if you have heaven as where you are rewarded for your goodness and hell as where you are punished for your evil, then you will have control over the population.”
The effect of threatening to punish people for bad behaviour is to stifle their natural curiosity.
Spong continues: “So, they create this fiery place, which has scared the hell out of many people throughout Christian history (and Islamic history too) as part of its control tactic.”
Spong suggests that hell is a myth, which requires people to fear its existence in order to help the church to continue to survive.
Many people turn to religion for guidance in this chaotic world. But the implication of this myth to religion, according to Spong, results in people being less responsible for their actions.
As he says: “The church does not like the people to grow up, because you cannot control grownups. That is why the church talks about being born-again. When you are born-again, you are still a child.
“The people don’t need to be born-again; they need to grow up, accept responsibility for themselves in the world.
“It is impossible to verify where human souls go after death, yet Christianity created such places as heaven and hell. These places were created to keep people in fear, where they turn to the church as their saviour,” according to Spong.
“Every church claims that it is the true church. They have some ultimate authority. We have the infallible Pope; we have the inerrant Bible. The idea that the truth of God can be bound in any human system, any human creed, by any human book is almost beyond imagination for me.”
Spong ended the interview with a powerful call for the people to see religion in a different way: “God is not a Christian, God isn’t not a Jew or Muslim, a Hindu or a Buddhist. Those are human systems, which human beings created to help us walk into the mystery of God.”
This columnist first personally came into contact with this idea while reading Tuesday Lobsang Rampa books.
Rampa, the Tibetan lama, wrote many books, 27 of which I read. He taught ideas similar to those espoused by Bishop Spong.
However, a new theory based on quantum physics says there is life after death. It says everything you see exists only as a result of an active process occurring in your mind.