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Those outside religious circles may not recognize the name Rob Bell but the Evangelical pastor caused quite a stir around the religious watercooler two years ago when his book "Love Wins," in which he openly questions the existence of hell, was published. The idea of hell not being a real place doesn't sound like a big deal but in the world of organized religion, where fear of damnation and the constant search for salvation equals large congregations and donations from those looking to be saved, the idea that hell doesn't exist is a very big deal, especially coming from a man with such a large and devout following.

Kevin Miller's feature documentary Hellboud? begins with Bell's book and the question of the existence of hell, and expands on it. Obviously no one has any definitive answers after all, no one has ever literally been to hell and back to tell us whether such a place exists what it looks like and who's there but that doesn't mean that there aren't religious leaders and theologians arguing for both sides. The resulting documentary is an interesting look at an argument that essentially boils down to interpretation: do you believe the bible explicitly or do you teach and practice the teachings? It sounds like a vague distinction but it's one that hasn't just sparked this debate but entire wars.


Hellbound? does a fairly good job of asking and listening to both sides of the discussion but Miller is very clearly in the same boat as Bell and it comes across in the way the documentary unfolds. Evangelicals are given more than enough rope to hang themselves and on more than one occasion they come across as religious radicals who need to be controlled. Among them, and particularly troublesome, are the operators of a Hell House who seem confused by Miller when he questions if Jesus would find their methods appropriate and effective, and then there's the religious zealot protesters who come across as rude and uneducated nitwits. That may not be who they really are but that's how they're portrayed and Miller makes no apology for it, he knows how to push their buttons and he pushes until they're ready to explode.

Miller lets the discussion free flow and it slowly meanders and expands on the central idea of Hellbound? to include the consequences on both sides of the argument. If hell does exist, what does that say about God? Which is the most powerful God, the one who is loving by nature and allows salvation for all or the God that chooses who gets saved and who doesn't? Miller also doesn't shy away from the tough questions at one point asking a Universalist, individuals who believe that everyone is saved, how he feels about the fact that under his beliefs, Hitler is saved and goes to heaven. The gentleman's answer isn't groundbreaking but it could be a tough pill to swallow for many.

In the end, Hellbound? doesn't answer the question it asks but Miller is well aware that no one has an answer and he provides more than enough information on both sides of the argument to generate further discussion.

Hellbound? is available today on VOD, DVD and Blu-ray.

DVD Extras: A good assortment of extras including director's commentary, "To Hell and Back" featurette and nine bonus interview outtakes.

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Digger (7 years ago) Reply

While it is true that no one has literally been to hell and back, there are a great many people who have been through hell, whether it is caused by women (Linda Ann P.), drugs, divorce (back to women again), depression (one could argue the worst form of hell on earth there is) or (insert your choice of hell here)
I don't know if it makes them more religious, or less, but I do know it does not always make you stronger for surviving it, only more scarred.

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Beppe (7 years ago) Reply

Linda Ann P? Excuse me, but I'm Italian and I can't understand.

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Digger (7 years ago) Reply

It's her name, the last name has been witheld to protect the guilty

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Beppe (7 years ago) Reply

Ah ok, mine is E N :-)

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guido_jenkins (7 years ago) Reply

hell?? really??? the bible belongs on the mythology shelf with the rest of the fairy tales... it is good for horror stories in the right hands but otherwise a total bore...


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