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Does it matter which religion you pick? Is there a Hell?


Question & Answer

Q: By Barb

I have months to live. I’m not too hooked into christian symbolism but I would like to communicate with a person.

I get that Spong is saying that we find God in us. And as such, the eternal also resides in us. My questions are more basic: does it matter which religion you pick to express your beliefs? Is there a Hell?

A: By Fred Plumer

Dear Barb,

I am sorry you are having these kinds of concerns as you approach your last days or months on earth. I have said for decades that it does not matter which religion you chose, but rather, to ask: “Does this religion open up the world to me more, or does it close it for me?”

I know of no Biblical scholars who believe in the concept of hell or a place of punishment after we die. Nor do most progressive clergy feel that way. The idea that religion is about punishment is frankly very sick according to most people who are serious scholars of the Bible, or frankly any religion.

I believe life is a wonderful gift; I am 78 years old and closing in on my own death. I have no fear and it is not because I was clergy for over twenty five years; but it is because I have lived a long and wonderful life. It has been a gift and a blessing. And though I am still a progressive Christian by birth, I love the Buddhist tradition and the Jewish one as well. I will feel very lucky if this is all there is.

However, I have been doing some reading on Near Death Experiences. These happen when some people die, sometimes for minutes and sometimes for hours, but then come back and live again to talk about what they experienced. At the very least they seem to suggest that our death can be a positive thing, with the possibility of something afterwards. But the interesting thing is the consistency in the way the literally thousands of people have told the same story, even though their deaths have been so different.

At any rate please do not worry about hell or a judging God. I assure you that those things have been set up over the years as a way to control the masses. The concepts are outdated and wrong.

May you have a pleasant passing without worries.


~ Fred Plumer

This Q&A was originally published on Progressing Spirit – As a member of this online community, you’ll receive insightful weekly essays, access to all of the essay archives (including all of Bishop John Shelby Spong), and answers to your questions in our free weekly Q&A. Click here to see free sample essays.

About the Author
In 1986 Rev. Plumer was called to the Irvine United Congregational Church in Irvine, CA to lead a UCC new start church, where he remained until he retired in 2004. The church became known throughout the denomination as one of the more exciting and progressive mid-size congregations in the nation. He served on the Board of Directors of the Southern California Conference of the United Church of Christ (UCC) for five years, and chaired the Commission for Church Development and Evangelism for three of those years.

In 2006 Fred was elected President of (originally called The Center for Progressive Christianity – TCPC) when it’s founder Jim Adams retired. As a member of the Executive Council for TCPC he wrote The Study Guide for The 8 Points by which we define: Progressive Christianity. He has had several articles published on church development, building faith communities and redefining the purpose of the enlightened Christian Church. His book Drink from the Well is an anthology from speeches, articles in eBulletins, and numerous publications that define the progressive Christianity movement as it evolves to meet new challenges in a rapidly changing world.

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