During a recent interview with former NASCAR driver Danica Patrick, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers explained his upbringing in the church and his turning away, stating that he doesn’t agree with “binary systems” that divide the saved versus unsaved. He said that religion “can be something people have to have to make themselves feel better” and that he doesn’t “know how you can believe in a God who wants to condemn most of the planet to a fiery Hell.”
“Most people that I knew, church was just — you just had to go. Your parents made you go,” Rodgers explained. “You wake up, you put some clothes on and you go. You can’t wait to get back and watch the second game of the day in the NFL on TV.”
Rodgers outlined that he participated in the Chico, California Young Life group when he was a teen, and his leader, Matt Hock, stood out to him as being different because he liked sports and would sometimes use profanity — and he talked about Jesus too.
“Man, this dude swears every now and then, he loves sports, he coaches sports — He’s an awesome dude. He’s just a really rad guy to be around,” he stated. “I kind of like the way that he talks about Jesus, and the way that he talks about what it means to have a relationship with Christ. Like, that’s pretty cool.”
Rodgers explained that he became active with Young Life, helping to build houses in poor countries — an experience that he enjoyed. However, beginning in his teens — and increasing in his college years, Rodgers began to question his beliefs.
“I had some good friendships along the way that helped me to figure out exactly what I wanted I believe in. Ultimately, it was that rules and regulations and binary systems don’t really resonate with me,” Rodgers advised. “[I] enjoyed learning about other religions and meeting the Dali Lama. It’s been a fun path to a different type of spirituality, which, to me, has been more meaningful.”
He further explained his disagreement with “binary systems,” stating that he sees religion as dividing people into groups and making the saved feel better about themselves.
“Young Life … welcomed everyone. It was like, ‘Come as you are. Be there at 7:29, and be ready for some fun.’ And it was fun, and we had a great time,” Rodgers outlined. “Church on Sundays was more like, ‘Make sure you dress a certain way, and don’t bring that person, and this person’s going to get looked at strangely if they show up.’ … [I]t’s very black and white, but I don’t think it’s very welcoming.”
“Religion can be a crutch. [It] can be something people have to have to make themselves feel better,” he continued. “It’s us and them. It’s saved and unsaved. It’s Heaven and Hell. It’s enlightened and heathen. It’s holy and righteous, and sinner and filthy.”
“And I think that makes a lot of people feel better about themselves: ‘Oh, I’ve got Jesus and I’m saved and I’m going to Heaven. And there’s only 144,000 of us going, even though there’s seven billion people on the planet.'”
Rodgers said that he doesn’t understand how people can believe in a God who, comparatively to the mass numbers of people throughout time, only saves a few.
“I don’t know how you can believe in a God who wants to condemn most of the planet to a fiery Hell. Like, what type of loving, sensitive, omnipresent, omnipotent being wants to condemn most of His beautiful creation to a fiery Hell at the end of all this?” he asked.
Rodgers had made similar comments in 2017 to ESPN, stating that he no longer identifies with any “organized religion.” He outlined that one of the influences behind his change in thinking was Rob Bell, the controversial former Mars Hill Church leader most known for his publication “Love Wins : A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.”
“Does God punish people for thousands of years with infinite, eternal torment for things they did in their few finite years of life? This doesn’t just raise disturbing questions about God; it raises questions about the beliefs themselves,” Bell wrote in his book. “If there are only a select few who go to Heaven, which is more terrifying to fathom: the billions who burn forever or of the few who escaped this fate?… What kind of faith is that? Or, more important: what kind of God is that?”
Bell had been invited in 2008 to speak to the Green Bay Packers, and Rodgers introduced himself afterward.
“The two men struck up a friendship,” ESPN reported. “Bell sent Rodgers books on everything from religion to art theory to quantum physics, and the quarterback gave him feedback on his writing. Over time, as he read more, Rodgers grew increasingly convinced that the beliefs he had internalized growing up were wrong, that spirituality could be far more inclusive and less literal than he had been taught.”
In speaking with the publication, Rodgers pointed to Bell’s views on Hell and asserted that the “fiery pit idea … was handed down in the 1700s by the Puritans and influenced Western culture.”
“The Bible opens with a poem,” he also claimed. “It’s a beautiful piece of work, but it was never meant to be interpreted as I think some churches do.”
“Ah! my dear friends, there may be some who rail at God’s justice, but no convinced sinner ever will,” respected preacher Charles Spurgeon once said in a sermon entitled “Unimpeachable Justice.” “He sees God’s law in all its glorious holiness, and he smites his hand upon his breast, and he says, ‘O sinner that I am, that I ever could have sinned against such a reasonable law and such perfect commandments!'”
“He sees God’s love towards him, and that cuts him to the very quick. He says, ‘Oh, that I should ever have spit on the face of that Christ who died for me! Wretch that I am, that I could ever have crowned that bleeding head with the thorns of my sins, which gave itself to slumber in the grave for my redemption!’ Nothing cuts the sinner to the quick more than the fact, that he has sinned against a great amount of mercy.”
“… When you reflect what a deal of mischief you have done by your sin, you will then say, ‘Lord, Thou art clear when Thou judgest; Thou art justified when Thou condemnest.”
“O poor trembling sinner, dost thou now weep? Then come to Christ! O poor haggard sinner, haggard in thy soul, come to Christ! O poor sin-bitten sinner, look to Christ! O poor worthless sinner, come to Christ! O poor trembling, fearing, hungering, thirsting sinner, come to Christ! ‘Ho! everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come, buy wine and milk; yea, come buy wine and milk, without money and without price.’ Come! Come! Come! God help you to come! For Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.”