With approximately 71% of Americans identifying as Christian in some form, it is no wonder that the conversation of heaven and hell, and where we will ultimately find ourselves plays into many of the decisions that we make in our lives. In fact, despite the fact that we, as a nation, are built on the concept of the separation of church and state, we find that many of our political platforms and discussions have a religious undertone.

With that being said, those who don’t share in these beliefs find themselves questioning the logic behind many of these decisions, especially those pertaining to heaven and hell, and the concept of the afterlife. If you don’t subscribe to religious beliefs, the idea is a little ‘out there’ – Choose wisely when deciding how you are going to live your life today, or you may find yourself tortured for your sins for the rest of eternity. It’s even harder to buy into with the lack of any tangible evidence of its existence with the exception of those that claim to have been there (there are people who have claimed to see Bigfoot and be abducted by aliens as well).

Despite the overwhelming questions, religiously-minded individuals still hold onto their faith, trusting that the teachings are true. Or do they? A 2006 interview on Dateline NBC is once again making its rounds online. The interview was with retired Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong, and the message is one that has caught many off guard.

When asked about the theology of heaven and hell, Spong responds by saying, “I don’t think Hell exists. I happen to believe in life after death, but I don’t think it’s got a thing to do with reward and punishment. Religion is always in the control business, and that’s something people don’t really understand. It’s in a guilt-producing control business. And if you have Heaven as a place where you’re punished for your evil, then you sort of have control of the population. And so they create this fiery place which has quite literally scared the Hell out of a lot of people, throughout Christian history. And it’s part of a control tactic.”

It’s an opinion that mirrors that shared by many of the greatest religious critics, however, not one you would have expected to hear from someone in a position of authority within the church. If a retired bishop can share this opinion, maybe there is more to it?

Check out this clip from Spong’s interview with Dateline NBC:

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