Standing On A Chair

Telling it like I see it…

Rants from the Chair: On Hellfire and Damnation

A recent topic has re-surfaced lately:  Is there really a Hell?  This is a subject I’ve been interested in for my whole life.  Perhaps this is so for most of us, since Hell has been dangled in front of our faces from religious leaders as a surefire punishment if we’re not “good.”

My first encounter of this notion happened when I was about ten years old.  I was invited by my Baptist girlfriend to attend her church’s Snow Camp during the Christmas holiday season.  I was jacked!  Five days of rollicking in the snow covered San Bernardino Mountains, sleeping in cabins, roasting marshmallows in a campfire underneath a canopy of redwoods and pines.  Yee Haw!

Wrong.

We did have a good time, don’t get me wrong.  But each night, instead of roasting marshmallows, we were assembled in a sanctuary and forced to listen to furious diatribes against The Devil from a handful of different preachers, each one scarier than the other.  “Save yourselves!” they commanded.  “Align yourselves with Jesus now!” they ordered.  “If you don’t save yourself, you will spend eternity in the fiery pits!”

On our last night there, I was so frightened, I finally joined in the line of other crying children waiting to step onto the stage to stand with the preacher at the podium, who placed his cold palm on our foreheads and declared us to be Saved Souls Who Will Be Rewarded In Heaven, but only after we each promise to read the Bible every day and live a Christian life following the word of Jesus. 

My parents did not recognize me when I came home from Church Camp.  “She asked me for our family Bible, Frank!” my mother said to my father.  “She stays in her room reading it every day after school!  She cries all the time!  I haven’t heard her laugh in a week!”

Then, to top it off, there lived an Italian family in our neighborhood.  They had four children, all attending a private Catholic school.  One of their daughters, we’ll call her Antonia, was my age and we spent our weekends together hula-hooping and pogo-sticking on the sidewalk in front of my house.  One day Antonia introduced me to the notion of “Purgatory” which scared me so bad I ran sobbing inside to my mother.

Not to worry.  I obviously recovered from these childhood traumas and lived life as a pretty happy kid most of the time.  But you can bet my take on organized religion is pretty much one of disdain and a total lack of trust.

I do believe in God.  One who is loving, forgiving and kind.  Not one who judges and punishes.

Is there a Hell?  You bet your sweet ass there is.  Right here on Earth.  Just watch the news, read the papers and the internet, and witness the horrors, the atrocities people thrust upon each other.

And my guess is, if we can glean any joy at all in the midst of it, and we don’t intentionally hurt others too much, and we try to stay honest and true to ourselves, and we learn a few important lessons, we will finally graduate with honors and move right on through those “Pearly Gates” we’ve heard so much about.

Remember, this is my take on the thing.  Just sayin’.

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April 5, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. Right on, Sistah!

    Here’s my endo-skeleton/exo-skeleton theory of faith and religion …in brief, those of us who got it growing up developed an inner skeleton of faith of some type. The inner skeleton is organic, flexible and able to change.

    Folks who didn’t, but came to religion later, had to make do with an exoskeleton which is hard and inflexible, and visible to everyone (although usually not very attractive. The exos like to spout a lot, but don’t really have the inner core that supports a person through just faith. I feel for the exos, but don’t have any desire to become one.

    Does this make sense to you, or does it only work inside my own, strange mind 🙂 ?

    Comment by Becky Day Wilson | April 5, 2011 | Reply

  2. Jill, your take on religion is about the same as mine. I grew up as a Catholic, feeling guilty, and scared to death of places like Purgatory. Once I got away from the church and started figuring it out for myself I’ve done okay. Becky, I think you’re right about the inner skeleton of faith, if you don’t have that when you “find” God your views are pretty ridged. I think the older you are when you come to religion you seem to only accept the views of who or whatever brought you there. And by gosh nobody is going to change your mind about how right you are! I have to just shake my head at that outlook, love them any way, but distance myself from them at times. I have a cousin that I see once a year, that is like that. I love her to death, but some years I seem to bite my tongue more than the year before. The year I explained that I had been married 3 times because I thought that is what I had to do before sleeping with someone I thought she was going to pass out. She did hyperventilate when I explained I now knew that wasn’t the case, that in fact I could sleep with 10 guys at once with out marrying any of them. And yes, I did add the last part just to see what her reaction would be.

    Comment by Linda Wines Stokes | April 5, 2011 | Reply

  3. Lmao. I remember as a kid at my first communion learning about confession. You had to sit in a small box with a priest & tell him all your sins to ask forgiveness. I remember being so f’ing scared that the priest was going to turn into some demon & punish me right there & then. Then there is your actual first communion of the blood & body of Christ that you finally get to take part in. Um gross I don’t want to drink blood or eat someone. I was still traumatized that meet came from animals now they want me to eat a person???? Wtf…..so I go through it all. No demon came out I was just told to say some prayers…a few hail mary’s & a few our fathers. Which as a child I thought how the hell will that change anything?? Then the blood & body of Christ…..wine which was disgusting & the thought of drinking after everyone equally grossed me out & a small piece of dried flat bread. I didn’t get it all & the whole thing was a let down & disappointment. I never did get many of the teachings in the catholic church & got in arguments with my ccd (the child version of mass where they taught us about the catholic religion) teachers when I asked questions or challenged what they were teaching. So I started skipping ccd 🙂 Then my mom used to tell me God was punishing me for being bad when things weren’t going my way or something bad happened to me but the min I turnEd it around on her & said God was punishing her when she would complain about us not listening or acting up but her come back to that “God doesn’t punish” ok that was my first lesson in hypocrisy & that religion was not all that is was made out to be.

    Comment by Brenda | April 5, 2011 | Reply

  4. Linda, I’m so glad I found you (and Jill!) again!

    My cousins were all Southern Baptists (dad’s side, anyway) when I was growing up. Within their group there were those called Hard Shell and those called Soft Shell…just like the crabs 🙂 Maybe that’s where my skeleton theory came from. You didn’t want the hard shell ones to catch you doing bad and you didn’t want either type to say grace when you were very hungry! I love them all and treasure them, but never envied their religious beliefs….

    Comment by Becky Day Wilson | April 5, 2011 | Reply

    • Becky, I love the Hard and Soft Shell reference! My Mom’s side is from Kentucky and are all Southern Baptists also, so I totally understand the concept, just had never heard the shell reference to describe them. Now when I see them I’m sure they are all going to look like crabs when I look at them!
      I’m so glad you found us too, Becky!

      Comment by Linda Wines Stokes | April 5, 2011 | Reply


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