Retired Priest Claims Hell Was Made Up By The Church To Control People

A retired priest has said that hell doesn’t exist and is purely an invention of the Christian church to control people. Bishop John Shelby Spong, who is outspoken in his desire for a critical deconstruction of traditional religious beliefs, said that while life after death is a core part of his faith, it has nothing to do with the pearly streets of heaven or the flames of hell because they don’t exist.

Religion is all about control, Spong says.

After all, Christian doctrine requires believers to adhere to a very strict set of rules in the name of God, and many of those restrictions have literally zero to do with whether or not you’re a good person. “Religion is always in the control business and that’s something people don’t really understand, it’s a guilt-producing control business,” Spong explained.

According to him, hell doesn’t really exist.

In a 2006 interview, Spong accused the church of inventing the very ideas of heaven and hell as a method of forcing people to live a certain way in the hopes of avoiding one place and gaining entry to the other. “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,” he explained. “So they create this fiery place which has quite literally scared the hell out of a lot of people.” He clarified that he truly believes the church invented hell, saying, “Yes, I think the church fired its furnace hotter than anybody else.”

It’s not just the afterlife the Church is guilty of manipulating.

He also discussed the idea of being “born again” and how it functions within the Christian community. “The church doesn’t like for people to grow up because you can’t control grown-ups. That’s why we talk about being born again, when you’re born again ur still a child,” Spong explained. “People don’t need to be born again they need to grow up. They need to accept their responsibility for themselves and the world.”

Christianity isn’t even the one true religion.

While every religion believes its members are the only ones with a true connection to God, Spong says that’s ridiculous and a completely man-made prospect, which makes so much sense. “Every church claims we are the true church and we have some ultimate authority. 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,” he said. “God is not a Christian or a Jew or a Hindu or a Buddhist. All of those are human systems that human beings have created.” I think this is the most sense I’ve ever heard a religious leader make!

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Jennifer Still is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience. The managing editor of Bolde, she has bylines in Vanity Fair, Business Insider, The New York Times, Glamour, Bon Appetit, and many more. You can follow her on Twitter @jenniferlstill