A retired US priest claims that hell is just an idea and was invented by the church to control and scare people.
Retired Bishop John Shelby Spong —who is known for his different Christian beliefs away from traditional doctrines — said that he believes in life after death, but that concept has nothing to do with punishment and rewards.
In 2006, Spong made the claim during an interview with NBC, in which he said that hell does not exist.
“Religion is always in the control business and that’s something people don’t really understand, it’s a guilt-producing control business,” Spong told NBC. “If you have heaven as a place where you’re rewarded for your goodness and hell as a place where you’re punished for your evil, then you sort of have control of the population.”
“So they create this fiery place which has quite literally scared the hell out of a lot of people.”
When asked if the now-retired priest believes that hell is just a made-up idea of the church, Spong said: “Yes, I think the church fired its furnace hotter than anybody else.”
Spong also believes that traditional Christian teachings are just about gaining control, particularly the idea of being ‘born again’.
“The church doesn’t like for people to grow up because you can’t control grown-ups,” he said at that time. “That’s why we talk about being born again, when you’re born again you are still a child.”
“People don’t need to be born again, they need to grow up,” Spong said. “They need to accept their responsibility for themselves and the world.”
Spong also did not believe that the only sure way to avoid hell is by doing and following the teachings of Jesus Christ.
“Every church claims we are the true church and we have some ultimate authority,” Spong said. “The idea that the truth of God can be bound in any human system, by any human creed, by any human book is beyond imagination for me.”
“God is not a Christian or a Jew or a Hindu or a Buddhist,” he said. “All of those are human systems that human beings have created.”
Spong also added that he doesn’t believe that his faith defines God, but only points him towards Him.
The retired priest has faced backlash in the past for his out-of-norm comments, specifically from other religious figures.
Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary said that Spong is a heretic, saying that he ‘has denied virtually every major conceivable doctrine’.