Hell bound?

When I was 16, I met a girl who told me my parents were going to hell.

I was at the beach with my friend Michele, who was a year older than me and able to drive us an hour-and-a-half to the seashore.

As we sat on our blanket, listening to classic rock streaming from our boom box, a smiling blond girl approached and asked if she could talk to us.

So innocent was I, that I assumed she just wanted to meet some kids her own age. I scooted over and made room on our blanket. The three of us started to talk about our lives: where we were from, our favorite bands, our schools and friends.

And, then, abruptly, talk turned to religion. Specifically, her religion.

I got a sick feeling in my stomach as I realized that she had joined us with a mission. A mission to convert us to her religion, which happened to be a form of Christianity. Michele and I were Roman Catholics, but not particularly good ones. I mean, we were good kids, but we weren’t heavily versed in the bible and didn’t know much more than what we’d learned in CCD. And, I had not put much deep thought into religion other than to go through the motions at church and in class.

So, on that summer’s day, I got a little prickly as this smiling girl spoke about the need to accept Jesus–to be “born again”–or risk going to hell.

I asked her, flat out, about those people who live good, respectable lives but didn’t accept Jesus as savior. Like. . .her parents (she had mentioned that they did not follow her religion).

“Well, I guess my parents will go to hell”, she said casually, as if she were discussing where they might go on vacation.

“Are you kidding?” I said. “I refuse to believe that my parents, who are good, kind people, will go to hell.”

“Well, yes, they will, unless they accept Jesus into their lives”.

I wasn’t sure if my parents had “accepted Jesus into their lives”, but I was fairly certain their spotty church attendance and inability to quote scripture was not boding well for them.

Somehow we got rid of her, but this episode has never truly left me. It has probably been a big reason I no longer believe in the Christian view of Heaven and Hell.

I decided yesterday that, in addition to my other Resolutions, I wanted to make a real effort to show people more kindness and gratitude for what they do for me. I want to “see” those anonymous people that enter in and out of my life—the kid who bags my groceries, the person selling me coffee from the drive-through window, the man asking for change on the corner. I want to be better about thanking them, saying hello or lending a hand when I can, especially when I am busy, preoccupied, stressed, late.

I want to be a better person here on this earth, right now.

And, while this may not be enough to get me into a Christian heaven, I still think Jesus—man or God, whichever you believe—would approve.


  1. Amen, sister…sorry 😉

    Interesting segment I saw recently about how now it is more important than ever to stop thinking about how things effect “me” and focus on how things effect “everyone”. It all starts with how we treat others – or in some cases how we pretend others just don’t exist.

  2. CoffeeJitters (Judy Haley) says

    I totally understand. i was raised in a house full of those kind of christians. They don’t understand the self-contradiction of their message that Jesus loves you unconditionally, but only if you change

    i like your new resolution, and especially how it contrasts against the behavior of the girl who befriended you for the purpose of using you to get more recruits and therefore more points in heaven

  3. That’s a good plan. I plan on stepping up my evil in 2009 and we need a counterbalance.

  4. SuburbanCorrespondent says

    You’re talking about a fundamentalist Christian vision of heaven and hell; very different indeed from a Roman Catholic one. Pope John Paul II once described hell not as a physical place but as “distance from God.” It is not a punishment, but a logical result of shutting good out of your life. And it is something we do have control over – the free will God gave us allows us to choose to become closer to him here on earth or to push him away.

    Vatican II also produced an ecumenical statement that teaches that people of other religions are not necessarily going to hell.

    CCD classes in the 70’s were notoriously light on substance. You might want to learn more about Catholicism before rejecting it. Or even if you do reject it, learn what it is you are rejecting so that you can explain it to your children!

    Says your Jewish blogger friend…

  5. Oh, The Joys says

    Somehow I think “Heaven” is different for everyone.

    [Or maybe I just read Bridge To Terribithea too many times in my youth.]

  6. I, myself, would rather go to pie heaven. Because, in the immortal words of Jack Haney, “It may be a trick but if not, ohhh boy.”

  7. Traceytreasure says

    I agree! I’ve been noticing the anonymous people in my life since working in retail. I smile at everyone I come in contact with now.
    Great post!!

  8. Blog Antagonist says

    I have to say, that although I have a lot of issues with Christianity, that one is probably at the top of the “I just can’t wrap my brain around that one” list. Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, will all go to hell? People who are doing their best to lead good, just, productive lives? Ain’t buyin’ it.

    And you know what? I’d rather that someone is kind to me because it makes them feel good and makes the world a better place, than because of the threat of punishment. Anybody can be good with eternal damnation looming over their heads. It’s the people who can be good when their is no threat of punishment that I want to know.

    Oy. Sorry about the novel. It’s a hot button issue with me doncha know.

  9. Praise be to you, not in the worshipful sense but in tackling that goal.

  10. heaven/hell issue is one of the things that pushed me away from Christianity. I mean if it’s true then God has to be one of the biggest bullies ever.

  11. obimomkenobi says

    Well, if she’s right and living a good and decent life isn’t enough, it looks like you and I are going to end in the same place. You bring the marshmallows, I’ll bring the chocolate and everyone else can bring their own stick – we’ll make s’mores.

  12. Subspace Beacon says

    My Catholic high school religion class included lessons on recognizing and defusing Christian missionaries. We also learned about mind control cults. Very useful.

  13. Here’s my version of a Christian Heaven: exactly what you’re talking about. I’ve come to believe that “eternity” must be about depth of experience and not length of time – a level of richness rather than a temporal state of existence. I’m not sure that’s right, but thinking about it that way makes me a better person NOW, which is all I can do.

  14. I find it hard to believe that good people that love God will go to “hell” because of what church they go to…. I just don’t buy it. I think you do your best to be kind, good, and generous and God/Jesus or whomever you pray to will be there for you in the afterlife/

  15. Very well said. But I have to warn you, to a lot of people, “heaven” means Texas.

  16. Dysd Housewife says

    I *do* believe in heaven or hell. I have to believe those that knowingly do terrible evil, like say Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy, will go to a hell and be punished. However, I think that “accepting Jesus” is not about accepting the “man” but rather, the gospel he preached.

  17. Chicky Chicky Baby says

    Heaven isn’t too far away.
    Closer to it everyday.
    No matter what your friends might say.
    We’ll find a waaa-aaay.


    That’s my kind of heaven, baby. That and toyfoto’s. Bad 80s music and pie.

  18. Issas Crazy World says

    I think worrying about the after life is no way too live in this one. I’m all for being a good person, just too be a good person. And your goal, seems very worthwhile too me.

    I once had a five year old tell me I was going to hell, because I hadn’t accepted Jebus. They start em young these days. That girl not seeming to care where her parents ended up….man that must score huge points with god. I just wish some of them who sprout this nonsense would look at what they are actually preaching and saying and see the inconsistencies.

    Then again, my kid wants a unicorn and that might be more possible than what I want.

  19. I like your resolution. Reminds me of the story of Johnny The Bagger. He is a teenager with down syndrome who took his job as a grocery store bagger very seriously. One day he decided to make it more interesting so he would pop little notes or words of wisdom in everybody’s grocery bag. Soon everyone wanted to be in his line!

    I don’t like pushy people like that. Scaring you into it is no way to “lead a horse to water”.

    I don’t think Jesus would send people to hell.

  20. I agree with you…I don’t think it’s quite so simplified.

    And just think, with all those blonde girl types up there, just how BORING it would be.

  21. Manic Mommy says

    IMHO, the ‘born again’ choose this lifestyle/belief system to escape guilt for previous misdeeds. If they’re truly born again, then these actions were not committed by this new and better them.

  22. Hi! I stumbled on your blog via Beth’s (what I should have said). Oh my, I so feel you on this. I’ve got lots of stories about these kinds of people and they all end sadly. Mostly because I’ve never met a fundamentalist evangelical Bible thumper who was actually able to walk the talk and practice what s/he preached.

    Also, I find it odd that God would create all kinds of people just to let the vast majority of them burn in Hell simply for being born into the wrong religion or none at all.

    I usually end these types of discussions as gently as possible, usually along the lines of: “Hey, that’s cool if that’s what you want to think is the truth–I don’t want to kill your buzz. But, uh, if I have to hang out with people like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson for all of eternity, and that’s Heaven? Dude, I’ll be perfectly happy down in hell with John Lennon and the Jews, thanks.”

    People are strange, particularly when they think they know it all. 🙂

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