Is This ‘Religious Child Abuse’ Image Just a Strawman?

Reader Benn recently posted this image on Facebook:

He received a response from a Christian friend saying the image was too extreme — no religious person would ever say that, he said.

So let’s help Benn out: Is this just a strawman argument or is it a real threat?

Do religious parents ever say these things to their young children?

If it’s happened to you, please share your stories.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Drew M.

    Not in those words exactly, no, but I have been told that I will go to hell if I kept up my bad behavior du jour. Which is the same thing.

    • http://twitter.com/AchronTimeless Achron Timeless

      Ditto. Not in so many words, but the same meaning.

      • Brian Worley

        Yeah, as I child I was definitely told about the horrors of hell, and it was linked to my behavior. Cartoons and captioned pictures certainly have to condense things, and a paragraph that said “If you don’t believe in the things I’ve taught you, or don’t do the things that are right according to my teaching, you’ll go to hell and be punished eternally” wouldn’t fit. I suspect many of us were, as adults and children, told that we would go to hell for incorrect belief or behavior. So I don’t think this really can be a strawman argument. At worst, it might be a poorly worded paraphrase. 

  • Justin Miyundees

    It’s not fear mongering if you yourself are truly fearful.  Blessed be the name of the lord & shit.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=700851737 Sam Kay

      Mamma’s gonna put all of her fears into you?

  • Benjamin Kay

    The image is a strawman in that it entirely misses the point. If we consider the instance on the right to be child abuse, then the instance on the left is equally child abuse. What we would consider abusive is not a reference to God, but the use of verbal threats of violence.

    I think we can have a debate about whether or not threatening to “take your daughter underground and burn” her is questionable parenting or some actionable form of child abuse. As Hemant suggests, I don’t think there are many cases of parents who actually make this sort of threat explicitly. What we do have a lot of is parents who subscribe to a system of discipline founded upon a religion where failure to obey will indeed result in eternal subterranean torture. The end result, as posters to the forum have demonstrated, is a child who lives in fear of violent punishment.

    • Benjamin Kay

       Whoops, totally read that backwards. Again, don’t know of many Christians who say that explicitly, but it’s certainly implied. Search the Internet for “hell houses” to see what I mean.

  • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

    ‘Too extreme’ is not a counter argument, it’s just whining in the face of an uncomfortable truth.

    Do (some) religious people threaten children (and indeed adults) with hell? Yes they do. Is hell described as a place where people get burned and tortured? Yes it is. There’s no exaggeration or embellishment here, just plain language.

  • Sam

    I got that argument as a kid and it wasn’t even my parent.   It was by a church who absconded with me to a church.

    • Sam

      Church group.  Ha!

      This: http://livingafterfaith.blogspot.com/2011/04/from-jesus-camp-to-atheist-activist.html

  • http://twitter.com/AFWTaylor Arthür Täylør

    As an ex-Catholic…

    No, this is wrong. Sorry, but as a rational person I can’t deal with the hyperbolic level of, frankly, inaccuracy. It’s “If you disobey *God*…”, you won’t actually find many Christian parents directly connecting disobedience towards them with the concept of Hell, and most Christians would look pretty damn askance at that.

    I appreciate that “So what, Hell’s still an awful concept to teach a child”, obviously, but I also don’t want my views represented by something that’s inaccurately blown out of proportion.

    • http://twitter.com/AchronTimeless Achron Timeless

      “honor thy father and thy mother” ring any bells? That would be disobeying god by disobeying them. Neat little mental abuse package.

      • Pureone

        “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26

        • http://twitter.com/AchronTimeless Achron Timeless

          Congrats, you’ve found one of countless contradictions in that horrid book. Didn’t invalidate my point though, so if that was your intention, keep trying.

          • Puerone

            Nope, not my intention. Thanks for playing though.You are so right, I’m gonna spend the next week thinking about how right you are. You win at internet.

        • MariaO

          So, the reason Xian parents are so horrid to their children is that they want to make sure their children hates them – and thus become good Xians?

          Btw, its quite possible to  both honor (outwardly)  and  hate (invardly) a person. This is, for example, the most common attitude of slaves to their masters. Not an unknown concept in the bible…

    • Live from Hee Haw Hell

      Mr. Taylor, scare tactics like this were used on me all the time as kid growing up.  They intensified as I grew into adolescence.  I was raised evangelical (Southern Baptist, specifically).  As one example, I was told by a church leader at church camp that “the wages of sin is death” and that god would not protect us if we did anything in defiance of our parents, the church, or god.  If we weren’t “good kids” then god would let us die as punishment and we may go to hell if we didn’t have a chance to repent first.  The summer between my 8th grade and 9th grade years I barely slept due to the nightmares.  

      Just because it didn’t happen to you doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.  I’ve talked to a lot of people that have had similar experiences.  “Fire and brimstone” tactics are very much alive.

    • d.

      Which is why Mr. Mehta is asking for opinions on this matter.

      My problem with the comparison is that burning a kid in the basement can be achieved easily, while the notion of a supernatural being doing it sounds more like, “Act straight or the fairies will take you!” That said, I have been told I tend to see psychological abuse as less serious than physical abuse.

      • d.

        Okay, I just reread my post. By “act straight,” I mean “behave properly,” and by “fairies,” I of course mean the fairfolk, the kindly ones. In spite of how my wording may have sounded, that sentence was not intended as a homophobic slight.

      • WildRumpus67

        “Act straight or the fairies will take you ” LMAO

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        Psychological abuse is just as bad (if not worse) than physical abuse, because often, nobody believes you when you say, “hey, this is happening to me” if you don’t have bruises, scrapes, cuts, broken bones (etc) to go along with it.

    • Willy Occam

       There’s a huge difference between the way they screw with your head in the Catholic Church (Mr. Täylor’s experience) and the way they do it in the Southern Baptist Church (Hee Haw Hell’s experience).  The Baptists have the market cornered on the fucked-up mind games they use to keep little kids in line.  I was raised Catholic myself, and from what my own children have experienced surrounded by nut-job evangelicals here in Texas, my experience was a walk in the park by comparison (well, except for the pedophile priests, of course….).

      • Barbara

        I’m also an ex-Catholic (in the closet mostly *sigh*) and that “going to hell” scare tactic was part of my childhood. Heck, to this day I have my MIL (Catholic) telling me my kids will go to hell because I don’t take them regularly to church. As if attending the Grand Church of Pedophiles is all it takes to please God.

        • Willy Occam

          Wow, that was very different from my experience: I was raised in California and attended public schools; so no Catholic school for me… just catechism on Wednesday afternoons.  Even that sucked, but I guess I should consider myself lucky for experiencing what was apparently “Catholicism-lite”! 

    • Baby_Raptor

      No, it’s not wrong. The fact that you dislike it doesn’t make it untrue. 

      Further, unless you get out there and complain every time your side does something *actually* hyperbolic and inaccurate to another group, you’re a whining hypocrite. 

    • amycas

       If you don’t want your views represented by this image, then don’t post this image on your facebook/blog/other social media. Then it’s not representative of your views.

  • John L

    I clearly remember the day when I was a young child and my mother and grandmother told me about the devil.  I was in the backseat of the family car driven by my mother, and my grandmother was in the passenger seat.  They told me the devil was a man with red skin.  He had goat horns on his head, goat legs and a forked tail.  He was watching everything I did even if I didn’t see him, and if I was bad he would stick a pitchfork in me and throw me into a fire.  I would burn forever in that fire.  My skin would burn off, but I wouldn’t die.  It would just grow right back to be burned off again.  And this would last forever.  So…I had better be good at all times.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

      That is 100% fucked up shit and to think, they loved you and told you this because they cared about you.

      • WoodyTanaka

        I’m not convinced that people who do these things actually love their children or care about them.  I think they love their god-delusion mind-virus.  I don’t think they HATE their children (though they act like it), but I think that many of them would rather lose their children forever than lose their religious belief. 

  • Achughes1023

    Heck yes parants say this crap, and besides that it’s one of the ten shall nots. And if you break those your going to hell! These stories are pure abuse via scare tactics. As a kid I knew my parants loved me more than god did because I knew my parants would never torture me. Which was the gateway to my atheism.

  • Cal

    I had a Christian upbringing and my parents would never have threatened me with hell XD However, my dear old grandmother routinely told me I would go to hell for things like missing church, dressing as a witch on Halloween (because of this I was a clown all through elementary school), and yes, disobeying my parents. On a side note, my mother always told me if I loved anything more than I loved Jesus, God would take it away. It’s funny now, but as a child I was terrified.

    • http://profiles.google.com/emasters7 Elizabeth Hiatt

      I thought I was the only one with crazy Halloween restrictions! I was an angel every year for a long time. There was a permanent mark on my grandma’s sidewalk where she spray painted my wings each year.  

      • mints11

        At least you’ve got halloween! costumes were evil and we weren’t allowed to even look through the window…
        We didn’t have christmas either, because “only ignorant people celebrate it” as my parent’s religion taught that we shouldn’t celebrate it because it wasn’t baby jesus birthday after all (and easter bunny…. what is that!?).

        So there you go, no candies no presents no anything for me.

      • amycas

         We had to do “Fall Festival.” It wasn’t so bad: there were games and bounce houses and free food. What got me was that for a couple years they said you could only dress as a biblical character. The ended that because everybody pretty much dressed in the same costume and then just claimed they were John the Baptist, or Paul, or David. As a child I found it odd that most of the biblical characters didn’t have any recognizable physical features to tell them apart.

    • amycas

      “On a side note, my mother always told me if I loved anything more than I loved Jesus, God would take it away”

      I can’t express how terrible this idea is–to have a child try as hard as they could to love Jesus (a being whom they’ve never met) more than their parents, siblings and friends, because God (another being whom they’ve never met) might take them away. In a child’s mind, that could engender a serious fear of abandonment.

  • David Brown

    What about if you are not good Santa will not bring you presents.  

  • Amber Brin P.

    I was always told that by disobeying (thus disrespecting) my mother, I was angering God, and if I kept it up, I’d be in Hell in no time. No one ever said, “God is going to torture you for disobeying me,” verbatim, but it’s the same idea.
    I think a point could be made about the first being a direct threat versus the indirect (like, God threatening the child through the mother?) threat of the second, but if there’s any sort of real argument there, it’s grasping at straws, to say the least.

  • Vicki

    In some cases, it may be said – and it is horrible.  But, I suspect that even most of the ones saying it just think it is a convenient threat aimed at controlling behavior.  Sort of like “Santa Claus won’t give you…”  It is the level of indoctrination of the parents that makes them not stop and think about how horrible what they are saying is.  The mainstream theology is that it is a rejection of God that gets you to hell.  And, I would expect mainstream pastors to advice against making such threats.  Also, it should be pointed out that there is a growing movement in Christianity that rejects the doctrine of hell.

    • YellowRatBastard

      Say it ain’t so. Then again, “Limbo” was invented ca 200 CE (now being phased out for “hell or heaven”, now, no hell at all, and confession was invented ca 1200 CE. These guys just make it up as they go along. Inerrant word of “god”? These guys, especially the rcc, are laughing all the way to the bank.

  • Jbandsma

    I never said it but when my son was 4 he was invited to go to Sunday school with a neighbor. He liked it and went every Sunday for a few weeks then one week he said he didn’t want to go but he HAD to. When I asked him why he -had- to go, he told me that the neighbor (Sunday school teacher, deacon’s wife) told the class that if they didn’t go every week they’d burn in hell and then made sure they knew what fire felt like. Not exactly burning them but holding hands over a flame so they’d know that it would be worse than that. It took years to stop him from being nervous on Sundays.

    • Xeon2000

      I hope you paid a visit to the deacon’s wife and threw a shitstorm.

      • http://twitter.com/m_ethaniel Mistletoe Ethaniel

        Or else had the law so far up her ass she was coughing badges.

    • Brian Scott

      That should really be prosecuted as child abuse.

      I think I would physically hurt someone if anyone even dared to try pull that shit on my nieces.

  • onamission5

    The direct threat was not made. The threat of hell was implicit in statements such as “honor your mother and father,” which would be shouted at me if I was disobedient or had an opinion. If I dishonored them, god would be mad at me, and I wouldn’t get to heaven, therefore I was going to burn in hell for my disobedience.

    Kids aren’t stupid. We know full well what the implicit message is behind the sidestepping.

  • http://twitter.com/DragonkinSverd Steven Sword

    Who ever made this image clearly doesn’t understand the loving, positive message of parenting, in the bible. First, disobedient children are stoned to death, then they burn for all eternity. — But seriously, I grew up in the bible belt. Telling children they will go to hell and suffer eternally, is standard procedure for ANYTHING a child does wrong(read: that the adult doesn’t approve of). And if something bad happened to you(for example: a pet dying)? God was punishing you for something you did wrong, and you had better admit to it right then, before it got worse. I was repeatedly kicked out of Sunday “school, ” for asking(what I thought) were simple  questions. I was 7 when I realized it was all a lie.

    • Drew M.

       I must say your first two sentences were wickedly delicious.

    • Pseudonym

      I gave you a “like” because what you said is correct, despite confusing “the bible” with “the bible belt”.

      • http://twitter.com/DragonkinSverd Steven Sword

        Hemant’s question was “Do religious parents ever say these things to their young children? If it’s happened to you, please share your stories.”, which is what I did. Not sure how I’m “confused.”

  • mirabel

    Did they say those exact words? No. But it was very clear what the consequences of disobedience would be. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/leslie.bialik Leslie Bialik

    What gets me is that my Christian friends tell me that if I don’t accept Jesus into my life, I’ll go to hell even if I’m a good person.  How does that make sense?

    • njew84

      You can compare yourself to whomever you wish, I’m better than so and so, but when you compare yourself to perfection that’s when you realize how “good” you truly are. God knows you better than you know yourself, he knows what you will do before you do it. Ask yourself again, are you really a good person, or do you just act like one?

      • http://www.facebook.com/joshua.s.mccullough Josh McCullough

        Actually…god doesn’t know sh*t.

      • Coyotenose

         A perfect god wouldn’t need to be asked before forgiving someone. For that matter, a perfect god wouldn’t be a complete fuckup like yours. Save your proselytizing. Those here have about a thousand more times’ experience shredding myths than you do promoting them.

        And mocking Paddy Reddin’s abuse above? You’re a nasty git.

      • Paul D.

        That’s an illogical question. “Good” is a descriptive word that describes one’s actions. If you act like a good person, you are a good person.

      • WildRumpus67

        I am a good person. I am a hardworking loving father and loyal husband, don’t gamble or cheat, pay my taxes, give to charity, contribute to my community, and I am an atheist. My Catholic in-laws and Presbyterian sister have both told me that I am going to hell because I don’t believe in God. My father in law is a philanderer, my sister is divorced… and they think they have moral superiority over me because I don’t believe in their god. Pffft…

      • Drew M.

         “God knows you better than you know yourself, he knows what you will do before you do it.”

        This was one of the concepts that helped shatter my slave chains. Free will is impossible with a deity that can predict, with 100% accuracy, what you will do before you do it.

        • Pansies4me

          Me too! When I was in 3rd grade in Catholic school I asked the nun in religion class how I could have free will if god knew everything I was going to do. I was told that I had to have faith. It took me several more years to break free, but even at that age I knew something didn’t add up.

      • http://www.facebook.com/samuel.bothen Samuel Bothén

         I agree and I think most people when they really contemplate their lives discover that there are many things that they regret. We fail to be loving parents and spouses, we are getting in situations were we act to benefit our self-interest and hurt others and so forth. What people have a problem with is that they feel that the punishment in i.e. the christian tradition is not in proportion to the crime. Say that my wife cheats on me and then leaves me for another man leaving me in despair. I would probably be very sad and if here new relationship does not work out I would probably be happy that she got her punishment. But the idea that she should be burned for ever for this betrayel seems not in proportion to the “crime”. Even if we think of horrendous acts like the masskilling in Norway last summer this would apply. A murderer like that would in manys eyes deserve to go to hell. However I also think that most people would feel that after say hundred or thousand or a milion years of burning even a massmurderer has paid for his crime. But the idea of hell in the common view is that the torment will go on forever and what worse is, the cheating wife and the massmurderer would get the same eternal punishment. So when you ask people, are you really a good person (that is in total compliance to an ideal that is impossible for a human to reach, because we are not perfect) the answer is no. However it does not follow that one deserves to be burned forever because of this.

      • http://twitter.com/m_ethaniel Mistletoe Ethaniel

        How about you ask YOURSELF that one.  You know, worry about the plank in your eye blah blah blah.

  • ZenDruid

    That claim was made to me by an evangelical honcho when I was about 6. I came away with the sobering thought that there’s nothing stopping grownups from being bleeping idiots.

    I consider myself a congenital skeptic. My parents never tried to push religion on me.

  • MG

    I had a horrible experience when I went to an evangelical vacation bible school with a friend (she got rewards for bringing in “sinners”, so I went to help her win a trip to an amusement park). Lots of fire and brimstone preaching, with complete with special effects: flashing lights, demonic canned laughter, smoky sulphur stench, and locked doors, so there was “no way out”.

    I was a very bright 12-year-old skeptic, but I still had night terrors for a few weeks. 

    • allein

      Did you at least get to go to the amusement park with her?

      • MG

        Nope. My mom wouldn’t let me be friends with her anymore.

  • Ren

    As a person brought up in an evangelical family, my 5-year-old “conversion” was *definitely* inspired by fear of Hell. Whether or not I was explicitly threatened by my parents of burning in hellfire for a particular sin, the knowledge of eternal torment and my status as “hellbound sinner” without belief in and obedience to Jesus (and by extension my parents) was very much a part of my sense of self while I was growing up. 

    I can distinctly remember as a little kid (and a somewhat older one) being afraid almost every night that I would die in my sleep and had somehow not believed or repented properly (or had done something that day that had cancelled out my salvation) and would be tortured beyond imagining for eternity. And my parents are actually pretty moderate – but kids have extraordinary imaginations, and Christianity definitely preys on that.

  • Sebjowett

    Yes. Once at school by a teacher, and once by my grandmother. Thankfully my parents don’t believe in any gods.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=750428174 Paddy Reddin

    I was told “If you lie the devil will get your tongue”.  I spent many nights lying in bed terrified that some flaming demon would raise through the floor and rip the tongue out of my head.

    Lost a lot of sleep.  

    • njew84

      You’ve got to be kidding me! Whoever t

      • njew84

        What a bunch of bologna, give me a break!

        • John of Indiana

           Speaking of Bologna, why don’t you come on over and visit some of us at ex-christian-dot-net? We eat REAL apologists like potato chips and pick our teeth with lightweights like you.

        • SteveS

          You’re just as bad as the people you think are telling us this shit! Take the plank out of your eye before you tell us to take that speck out of ours you smug, sanctimonious, loser!

      • RebeccaSparks

        When I read this the first time I thought you were pretending that you were cut off mid-sentence for flaming-demon reasons (although I imagine for internet purposes that you were loosing fingers instead of tongues.)

  • Ivy91189

    My family once showed me a play called “Heavens Gates, Hells Flames.” I was about eight years old when they showed it to me, and to this day I still have nightmares about it. It showed people right before they died tragically and unexpectedly. Then it would black out the audience, run a strobe light, and have people run through the aisles grabbing people at the end seats while blaring ominous music. Then it would show good people who just hadn’t accepted Jesus going to hell to suffer eternal torment. This play terrified me, and because of it my children will never go to a place of worship without me there with them.

  • 29Sam29

    /edit well that sucks, posted as an alter ego/edit

    I’ve heard people say this to their kids, so apparently it is not too extreme, hell I bet I have a cousin that, no, make that two cousins that raised their kids with just that image, but then, that is the way they were raised.

    So glad my parents didn’t care much one way or the other about religion.

  • Drew M.

    Okay, I just thought of a fairly significant difference between the two. In the first image, the parent-initiated basement torture could happen at any time. However, in the second, it was well understood that I would have to die before I went to hell, which dampened the threat a fair amount.

    I still consider it abuse, but I have to be honest about it.

    Of course, this is *my* experience. It helps not a whit in cases like Paddy Reddin’s

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JBAMPHNDKNSKDNVTY3VRYGWMYQ Jack

    Venezuelan over here o/

     My grandparents used corporal punishment* on my father and my uncles when they disobeyed. He tells me that they thought rebelliousness led to vices and ultimately to hell and that was why they thought they “had” to teach them obedience by any means*. They didn’t use hell as a threat, they used it as a self-righteous reason to make my father and his brothers behave.

    * I’m not talking about spanking. I’m talking about hitting my father on the back with a broom until it broke and make one of my uncles kneel on peas with  fucking cement blocks on his head.

  • njew84

    What I get from the majority of the of the comments on this is, you are either pathological liars or you have been disturbingly misled by some twisted individuals. I am a Christian and not once have I been threatened like this. You people are so lost.

    • Coyotenose

       That your first instinct is to claim that people who have suffered child abuse from the religious are liars tells us all we need to know about you and YOUR willingness to lie for religion. I feel sorry for you and the knots your mind has been tied into.

    • jdm8

      Who said this happened to everybody? Just because you didn’t experience it doesn’t mean it isn’t common.

    • WildRumpus67

      Yes we have been disturbingly misled by some twisted individuals – namely, Christian parents and clergy who believe that the myths about gods and devils and heaven and eternal damnation are true and teach those stories to children as if they were facts.

    • Drew M.

       You have never been informed of hell and told that sinners go there? Never been informed that you were destined for hell unless you did something differently?

      Either your sect is incredibly progressive or you are a pathological liar.

      • njew84

        Eternal “seperation” from God is what you want when you “choose” to follow your own path. God doesn’t necessarily throw anyone into hell, he simply gives you want you want which is nothing to do with him. You are so backwards.

        • Drew M.

           I’m backwards? You actually believe that coercion is a *choice*. Utterly laughable.

          “Fuck me or I’ll shoot you in the head.”
          “Follow me or I’ll cast you in a lake of fire for eternity.”

          Explain the difference, please.

          • Stev84

            War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.

        • cipher

          You really are a moron. You’re embarrassing yourself, or rather, you would be if you had the presence of mind to realize it.

        • amycas

           How about I choose right now not to go to Hell. I don’t want to worship any god who would invent hell though. So, I’m choosing not to go to hell, and I’m also rejecting your made-up god. If it exists, and if I go to hell, then it’s because this god put me there after I explicitly said I don’t want to go. That wasn’t my choice. It could choose to forgive me anyway and not send me there.

    • John of Indiana

       Well, Bucko, all I have to say is “Your Mileage May Vary”, because I’m sure it happened just like people are saying it did.
      Just because YOUR experience may have been different doesn’t mean they’re liars. I see your sect practices the usual amount of Xian compassion to strangers, now, go run back to pastor and tell him you get no cookie for your lame-assed attempt at witlessing.

    • crden

       Well, I know from personal experience that *some* Christians do this. I grew up  non-Christian and from about 5 yo on I was told by the parents of friends that if I didn’t convert not only would I go to Hell but my family would burn in Hell as well. It was told to me as a very matter-of-fact thing.

      The first time I had to go to my parents and ask what Hell was. Understandably my parents were pretty upset. I was just…kind of baffled.

      This sort of thing happened in front of my friends, btw, and my little friends were very, very conscious of the idea that you would go to Hell if you weren’t good Christians like them. There’s a clear message there that if you ever leave the faith, if you don’t fully give yourself over the Christ, you’re doomed to burn for eternity. They were raised under this threat, and many of them really did fear for me.

      This does not mean that all Christians believe this stuff. I know quite a few who don’t believe in Hell. But the ones who were raised with the belief of Hell…yes, that threat is there even if it’s not directly aimed at them all the time.

    • SteveS

      Fuck off. You are a judgmental prick and I take back what I said about you in the above comment. Your version of god has turned you into a miserable person. You’re just as twisted as the rest of your flock, fundie sheep. Again, WAKE UP.

    • Live from Hee Haw Hell

      Call us liars if it makes you feel better about yourself.  But I can assure you, Sir/Madame, that I was raised with a serious fear of attrition from the time I was very small and it took a good deal of my 20′s and 30′s to shake the anxiety that was so ingrained in me from so young an age.  You may call us lost, but I am finally free of fear that has haunted me for so long.  I hope you one day know the peace that I now enjoy rather than calling people names in blog comments because they have survived something you, apparently, never witnessed and do not believe occurs.  

    • cipher

      “What I get from the majority of the of the comments on this is, you are
      either pathological liars or you have been disturbingly misled by some
      twisted individuals.”

      Translation: “It isn’t what I want to hear and it threatens my hold on the security blanket, so it can’t be true.”

  • Pixieperry28

    My 6 year old daughter was told by an 8 year old girl on the playground that she was going to burn in the lake of fire because she didn’t believe in god. This was a conversation initiated by the 8 year old and scared my daughter so bad she was in tears begging me to take her to church because she didn’t want to go through that. =(

  • CC

    In my former fundamentalist Christian church, I never knew parents to say anything that direct, but the point still got across to the kids.  They taught kids about heaven and hell, told them that people who didn’t obey god went to hell, then told them that god wanted them to obey their parents.  Kids connected the dots.

  • Antinomian

    I was told that I was going to hell in a handbasket. They just haven’t found the handbasket that can hold me…

  • http://www.facebook.com/hellbound.alleee Hellbound Allee

    My paternal grandmother told my mother that, since she wouldn’t get my brother baptized, he would go to hell. As a baby.

    I learned that in school, too. My teacher told me that sinners go to hell. She taught all of us, through a construction paper object lesson, that our hearts are “black,” and if we let Jesus into them, he would wash them clean and “white. Otherwise we would go to hell. If your Christian friend thinks adults don’t say this to children, he’s living in a world I wish I had been a part of.

  • jose

    In this part of Spain parents threaten their kids with the police. They say “the policeman” is going to come get you and put you in jail. Then of course we’re just cultural catholics, not really theologically religious.

    If you could get your network neighbor Libby Anne to respond, that would be worth reading as she’s got a lot of experience with religious upbringing.

  • Blacksheep

    I honestly find it hard to believe that so many preachers have the Gospel wrong, but based on the comments here maybe they do. The Bible does say that The wages of sin are death” but the rest of the sentence is “but the gift of God is eternal life…”
    The Bible makes it extremely clear that we are not saved or condemned based on works, it’s 100% based on faith in Christ. And it’s not even the quality of one’s faith that matters, it’s the object of one’s faith that matters, the one doing the saving (Jesus).
    The proper order of things in our faith is the idea that we do good things because we feel we are saved, not in order to get saved.
    My point is not to proselytize, but rather to point out that someone saying “be good or you’ll go to hell” is not Biblical.
    Maybe that’s where self righteousness comes from – if I saved myself (by being good) then I have the right to judge others.

    • YellowRatBastard

       Self righteous and smug, and judging others. Nice….”saved myself”. Where’s your “god” in there? And that hellfire certainly is from the buy-bull. Which parts do you want quoted- the ones written within the first century after your alleged christ, or the later made- up stuff and picks and choices of which “inerrant words of god” actually got into that nasty book?

      • Blacksheep

        This posting is about parents who tell their kids that they will go to hell if they’re not good enough. The Bible teaches that we’re saved by grace, not works. If you read my note you’ll see that I was expressing surprise that so many preachers / parents apparantly got that wrong.

        Not sure what you mean by “Where’s your God in there…” I’m criticizing Christians who are self righteous, and pointing out that it might stem from them feeling that they “saved themselves” with good works, instead of being profoundly humbled.

        • cipher

          Dress it up any way you like – your God is still a monster.

          • Blacksheep

            I’m making specific points as part of a dialogue, which has nothing to do with “dressing anything up.”  My conversation was about Biblical accuracy, not whether or not Christianity is true or whether or not “God is a monster.”

            • cipher

              The Bible makes it extremely clear that we are not saved or condemned based on works, it’s 100% based on faith in Christ. And it’s not even the quality of one’s faith that matters, it’s the object of one’s faith
              that matters, the one doing the saving (Jesus).

              As far as the Bile being “extremely clear” that salvation is based upon faith:

              Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison
              and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

              Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed,into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He
              will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

              • amycas

                 The Bible does seem to go back in forth on the faith vs. works issue, depending on which book of the New Testament you’re reading. However, I always like to point out to the “faith only” crowd that faith IS an action. Faith (in the religious sense) is believing or trusting in something with no evidence. Even if you don’t actually do any “works” because of that faith (such as go to church), the believing, in and of itself, is an action. So, really, the “faith alone” crowd isn’t saying “works don’t save,” they’re saying only this particular “work” saves.

                • cipher

                  Good point.

    • SteveS

      Nice try. You can be good without god and it doesn’t automatically make you a judgemental prick. Way to project your biases onto us. I don’t need to do good because of God when I can be good for goodness’ sake. You might wanna read the part in Matthew 25 where Jesus says he will judge you by how you treat the least of these. You get all this crap about works from Paul, and he was a pretty sick puppy himself. Follow the words of your savior and not the words of someone only claiming to speak for him.

      • Blacksheep

        I’m referring to Christians being judgemental, not atheists. 

    • crden

       Where I grew up the threat seemed mostly to be that if you didn’t believe the right things, you would go to Hell. Sure, the belief was supposed to drive the other stuff. All non-Christians were considered doomed no matter how nice or good they seemed to be.

      • Blacksheep

        I think that’s more accurate and correct, Biblically speaking. 

        • amycas

           Faith alone sounds even more terrible for a criteria than judging actions is. How is that justice? How is that compassionate? It’s ridiculous on its face to say “oh you believed the wrong thing, even though you’re not as bad as this mass murderer over here, I’m still giving you the same punishment.”

          • Blacksheep

            It’s Jesus that does the saving, not us.

    • Baby_Raptor

      If you need an all-powerful sky judge to make you be a good person, that’s on you. Don’t insult the rest of us who are decent people just because. You may be incapable without some force, but we aren’t.

      • Blacksheep

        Please read my note – if i’m insulting anyone, it’s Christians who are self righteous. I never mentioned Atheists.

    • amycas

       ” it’s 100% based on faith in Christ.”

      You say this like it makes more sense than “saved by works.”

  • Barbara

    Threatening people with hell should be a crime. If it wasn’t so darn meaningless. I mean, come on, a tortuous place where bad people go for eternity after death? Yet there’s absolutely no evidence of it or its so-called creator? Religious people are gullible.

  • Reddwynge

    I was raised Catholic at a time when one of their doctrines was that there was “no salvation outside The [Catholic] Church.”  This was a terrible worry to me because my father and his brother and sisters were Episcopalians and had already been consigned to the flames.  I loved my dad and my aunts and uncles and I didn’t understand that it was not fair of God to do this to them.  But then Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council came along, and they toned down their anti-everyone-else rhetoric.
    Another burning in hell story in my family involves a Protestant minister.  My uncle’s only child died when he was about 4.  The minister told my uncle that his son would spend eternity in hell because he had not been baptized.  My uncle lived another 60 years, and only went to church one more time–to walk his stepdaughter down the aisle on her wedding day.

  • Jon Peterson

    Perhaps the phrasing isn’t the same (sub in “God will send you to Hell”) but the meaning is… and I know for a fact that this does happen. I’ve been present for it (from parents who I would actually consider wonderful, if awkward, people otherwise) and some of my best friends received the “Hell” threat from their parents growing up.

    I do, however, think it’s a bit of a strawman. When conveyed from a parent who firmly believes in the existence of hell to a child who also believes… the subtext highlighted in the pic isn’t really conveyed. It’s like when my parents would say “if you keep that up, you’re going to get it”. I knew that it meant a punishment, and that whatever punishment they chose would be awful (subjectively, from my eyes as a child being punished… objectively, my parents were very good at parenting) but they didn’t need to imply a specific punishment, and I didn’t need to imagine specifics to convey the core message of “stop being bad, or else”.

    Having seen well-adjusted families threaten hell, and having seen the children of those families grow up well-adjusted and without any sort of trauma… I don’t believe it to be effectively any different from my parents’ secular version. I most certainly do not believe it to be child abuse.

  • Fargofan1

    To make image 2 more like my upbringing in the church, I’d change the line to, “If you don’t accept Jesus as your personal savior, God will take you underground…” etc. I’ve even heard a variant like, “If you don’t accept Jesus, you’ll send yourself to hell!”

  • Matthew_F

    My religious mother used to tell me that she wished she were dead because then she would be rid of me for good.  She would tell my brothers and I that we were horrible children and that she wanted to commit suicide just so she didn’t have to put up with us anymore.
    I don’t think the ad is all that extreme at all.

  • Jadalina

    Mine never used a god or hell as a threat. They didn’t need to. They created the ultimate hell for me right at home and ole Mr Devil didn’t have nothing on my dad when it came to terror.

    • njew84

      It is truly sad to read what some of you have been through. I can honestly understand why you might stray from your faith with such misinformation and wrong-doing.

      • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

        Stray?  More like drop-kicked faith right out the door!  The misinformation and wrongdoing is a direct result of parents believing in a pile of horrible fairy tales, and being convinced that their belief is more important than the well-being of their own children.  “Faith” is not a virtue, it’s an infection.

  • A Reader

    It was never said that plainly to me as a kid. Mostly, it was just people sin -> sin makes Jesus sad -> then sinners go to hell -> hell sucks, you don’t wanna go there. For the most part, it’s left to kids to put 2 & 2 together, unless you’re talking to someone very…erm…faithful. The entire reason I “committed to Jesus” as a kid (I was 5, I think) was that one of my parents accidentally left the radio on after a Christian show they liked had ended. On came the angriest preacher I can imagine, threatening my baby self with fire & something called “brimstone” if I so much as thought ill of anyone. I huddled into a corner and prayed his damn prayer with him, because even though I didn’t understand what he was saying, it sounded scary!
    Now that I reread that, I think that’s how a lot of people end up involved in the church…

    • cipher

      Oddly enough, that part of it doesn’t seem to make Jesus sad. Apparently, he can turn it on and off like a light switch.

  • Gwen

    I got off lucky, my parents only told me that if I didn’t go to sleep, the SandMan would come and get me. Even by 5, it made little sense and I felt I could safely discount his existence….not so Santa Claus…

    • Sindigo

      When I was a kid my mother took me to the Dentist. On the walk there I proudly told her that I’d lost a tooth but she didn’t have to give me 20p anymore, ‘cos I knew she was really the Tooth Fairy. She said: “Oh good, I wondered when you’d stop believing in the Tooth Fairy and Father Christmas (Santa in England).” 

      I hadn’t stopped believing in Father Christmas, just the Tooth Fairy. Apparently I cried the rest of the walk and my mother has never really forgiven herself. 

      Of course, I did what any normal older brother would do and, after the dentist went straight home and told my little sister that Father Christmas wasn’t real.

  • njew84

    This is how I look at my faith.. I believe in heaven and hell, what the consist of is beyond my comprehension because obviously I’ve never experienced it. One could believe heaven being eternal happiness and hell being eternal lust for that happiness.. I realize there are many religions out there and I can only speak of my own(Christianity) but I believe God has been pretty clear on what he expects of us. First of all we must realize that regardless of how “good” we think we are, when we are true to ourselves we all know we aren’t that “good”. Some of us (Christians too) are downright evil, hopeless in Gods eyes.. The reason God sent Jesus to earth was not only to save us, but show us how we should live. Set an example for us to follow. Someone once told me that when men are treated badly by nature they will treat that person badly in return(human way).. Pure evil men will treat people badly regardless of how men treat them(the way of the beast) and then finally the way God wants us to live, treat each other with unconditional love regardless of treatment(the way of the son of God). Unfortunately men are incapable of this love because of sin. We need someone or something to carry our sin to make us pure. This is Gods forgiveness. He will forgive all of you! ALL OF YOU!!! You call it immoral because he “throws you into hell” I call it selfishness for wanting to live in the darkness.. It comes down to you choosing your path, he doesn’t choose for you, that is your free will.

    • SteveS

      You’re just preaching dude. Where’s the proof? If you say God can’t interfere with our free will, then how come your precious Jesus appeared to the disciples and to “500 witnesses”, but he won’t appear to those asking for a sign he exists? Dude, this is bullshit. It seriously sounds like you hate yourself when you call yourself and others pure evil. I’m sure you aren’t a horrible person and your God is horrible for making you feel that way just so he can guilt trip you into accepting his son as your lord and savior. Seriously, take a look at your faith and don’t rush into battle with things you don’t understand. 1 Peter 3:15 says to be ready to give a reason for your belief at all times, but what you’ve posted here is far from reasonable. Wake up.

      • njew84

        I’m sorry you feel that way, this is my own personal feelings. I am honestly just hoping a few of you might gain back a little faith. God does love us, he just wants us to love each other the same way. Can you imagine a world where you don’t have to worry about anything.. No pain, no suffering.. Like God intended it.. And just because God tells us we will go to hell if we disobey him, who knows, maybe he will forgive us all regardless of our beliefs.. It would certainly go against the bible but who are we to judge who God forgives? We are ALL sinners.

        • Drew M.

          “We are ALL sinners.”

          Well, I just went from being mildly irked with you to genuinely feeling sorry for you. I had managed to block out the self-loathing that was beaten into me since I could talk. I am sorry you still have it.

          I hope someday you realize that there is nothing inherently “sinful” about being human and that you can learn to love yourself without the need for your crutch called Jesus.

          • njew84

            Sin isn’t only measured by our physical actions but what is in our heart as well. Lusting for another woman is wrong whether you admit it or not. Cheating, lying, stealing, all wrong.. How can you simply say this is just “human nature?”

            • Drew M.

              :(

              No, actually, it is your actions, not your thoughts that determine whether or not you are a bad person, or “sinner” as you Christians like to say. Furthermore, it is this ability to think abstractly without acting upon every whim that separates us from other animals.

              I really do hope you come to your senses at some point. You have my sincerest pity.

              • njew84

                I don’t think you understand. I don’t feel that I need to be good to earn my salvation, I want to be good sim

              • cipher

                Do you actually *need* the tyranny of Christ to keep you in line?

                Actually, a lot of them appear to need it. We hear it from fundies all the time: “If I didn’t believe in God and fear hell, I’d be out there [insert crime of your choice].”

            • NickDB

              How can you simply say this is just “human nature?”

              Easy because parts of “human nature” are wrong, doesn’t have to be because the devil did it. It just is.

              after all we are just animals right?

              Yes we are, and this irks me, so what if we’re just animals, we have brain capable of higher thought than  any other animal. If we can’t use that brain for good and to improve our lot without harming anything then what’s the point of being human?

              There is nothing wrong with being an animal, there is something wrong with not being human too.

    • Jehnarz

      But that’s like saying that the child in the picture is “choosing” to be burned. It isn’t the mother’s fault for punishing her child; its the child’s fault for misbehaving. Even if a child misbehaves, this is just barbaric. I, like many people who typically comment on this blog, was raised by religious parents. My father is a preacher, and it definitely affected me growing up. I didn’t realize just how utterly terrified and horrible I felt until I became an atheist. It was hard for me to give up everything that I had been told since birth, but when I finally did, it was more liberating than anything I’ve ever felt.
      I understand that you are only sharing your opinions (which is, of course, welcome), but when I read posts like yours now, I feel annoyance at the ridiculousness of what is being said but also a bit of empathy for someone who is probably like I was before I was forced to sit down and evaluate my religion and beliefs.

      • njew84

        What made you fall away from your faith if you don’t mind me asking? Was it because you didn’t believe Jesus Christ was actually our savior? The whole thing seem childish? The lack of material evidence? All of the above? What was the first thing that did it for you?

        • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

          Are you honestly wanting the answer to that question? If so, go over to exchristian.net. Don’t comment, at least not until you have read a large number of the ex-timonies there (because we’ll shred preachers). There are hundreds of personal stories there, from people of all kinds of backgrounds, who all share the one commonality of having left christianity.  The stories are blunt and honest and often painful to read.  But if you actually want to understand, that’s the place to start.

          You want a shorter list?  Try this post on deconversion: http://de-conversion.com/2008/04/07/inconvenient-categories-the-really-real-reasons-de-cons-left-the-faith/ 

        • NickDB

           I left my faith because there has yet to be any evidence put forward by anyone to me that makes the smallest bit of sense. It all seem utter nonsense to me and no evidence has been provided to the contrary.

          I’ve always said that if evidence is presented I’ll accept it, and evidence means, can be tested by anyone who is prepared to work on understanding it (if you study and research things for yourself even quantum physics is understandable)  and doesn’t have another explanation that can also be tested and proved.

    • Baby_Raptor

      According to your bible, your god created people with free will, knowing that we would “sin” and that he would have to punish us.

      Yeah, that’s justice. 

      We had no choice. He created us to fail. 

      And your claim about love is a Fucking joke. Christians wouldn’t know love if it bit them in the nuts. And you can’t tell me I don’t love simply because I don’t believe in your god. 

      Also, only a brainwashed sheep would call someone not wanting to live in servitude to a genocidal, malevolent, racist, sexist man in the clouds “selfish.” How dare we want to live our lives the way we see fit, right?

    • cipher

      Your theology is based upon lousy self-esteem. It really is that simple.

      Beyond that, you’re merely regurgitating the talking points you’ve gotten from your pastor.

    • P. J. Reed

      First of all, let me say that I was raised in a nonreligious household and have never considered myself a Christian.

      With that said, I’ve heard Christians try to explain the basics of their faith to me in the same way as you several times, and quite frankly, I’m not interested.  Even if your “savior” was real, I would not be interested.  If I have sinned, then I’m willing to take responsibility for my own actions.  I’m not interested in a magical man who will absolve me of all of my responsibilities if I worship him.  That particular part of Christianity has always seemed particularly childish and irresponsible to me — the desire to have Jesus absolve you of everything bad you’ve ever done.

      No thanks, I’ll choose to be an adult and  take responsibility for anything bad I’ve done and make amends myself.  If your God says that I’m going to burn eternally because I’m not willing to take the easy way out, it seems to me like that says more about him being cruel and vindictive than it does about me being a bad person.

  • http://therovingrockhound.myopenid.com/ Rovin’ Rockhound

    I heard basically those words (replace “underground” with “Hell”) in catholic school, 3rd grade, from a nun who was going senile but was still allowed to teach catechism to the early elementary school grades (and continued to for at least 5 more years). The next day one of the younger nuns tried to soften the picture (without contradicting the old nun) after parents called horrified, and I clearly remember thinking they were hypocrites but being very confused.

    This was supposed to be a fairly liberal catholic school, and my mother is barely a cultural catholic (my dad was an atheist, I’ve come to realize), but it still freaked me out for a while.

    And I’m from Venezuela, too! *waves to Jack* Not there anymore, though.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JBAMPHNDKNSKDNVTY3VRYGWMYQ Jack

      Lucky bastard. I’m stuck in here until I get my degree and make some money ;_;

  • njew84

    Earlier I posted how many of you were either pathological liars or you were disturbingly misled by some twisted individuals. The second one is quite possibly the answer for many of you. It seems the spiritual leaders around just simply didn’t understand their own faith and honestly they had no business teaching Gods word with such a misleading approach. It is truly sad to hear, but don’t let a bad experience(or multiple experiences) ruin it for you and ecspecially not you children. You may choose to live without faith but at least allow your children the opprotunity to make their own decision without swaying their opinions, you owe them that..

    • allein

      And those of us who didn’t have a bad experience? How do you explain us? I honestly don’t remember what I was taught about hell in church (United Methodist). I’m sure it was mentioned in some capacity but there was no fire and brimstone or anything that made any impression on me. My parents certainly didn’t use it as a threat (they still go to church, for the record; I was also active in youth activities when I was younger, and went through confirmation in middle school. I guess it just didn’t stick).

      I was more afraid of the Jersey Devil when I was little. At least I saw him moving in the bushes that one time (or at least that’s what the older neighbor kid told us).

      And I don’t “choose” to live without faith. To quote Ricky Gervais, “You can’t believe something you…don’t.” It’s not a choice, it just is.

      • Rose

         I was brought up Methodist and don’t remember hell being mentioned at all until I met some Evangelical Christians when I was about 16.
        I’m sure Evangelicals put more people off Christianity than they ever convert.

    • Willy Occam

       Well, I have to give njew84 credit for admitting that it is quite possible that some of us might have been “disturbingly misled by some twisted individuals.”  I was about to respond to one of his earlier dumbass comments, but am happy to see that he can actually admit that such individuals do exist.  And while I’m pretty sure the “fire and brimstone” types represent a minority of religious folks out there, like child molesters, even small numbers of them are too many, given the damage they (both) do to innocent kids. 

      As for the second part of your comment, I’m in the same camp as allein below.  I didn’t need to have a horrible religious experience to grow up and eventually view Jesus, Moses, Noah, and the whole cast of Bible characters  the same way I did Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.  I just couldn’t figure out why it was taking so long for the adults to tell me that those characters were imaginary as well. 

    • cipher

      We owe it to them to tell them an invisible man exists who is thoroughly disappointed in them, and who will torture them eternally unless they stumble upon the correct formula of believe before they die?

      No, thank you.

  • Peter Dunning

    Parents compel them to attend churches, for example, where they are taught that they must not only do good, as each church defines it, usually ridiculously, but must also strictly believe the dogmas and follow the rules of the only true religion, or they will be taken underground and burned and tortured for ever. 

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    Not those exact words, but that certainly was (and IS) the subtext behind Christianity. I was raised Catholic, and it didn’t come from parents so much as from the general environment.

  • HughInAz

    Ever read James Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”? The long chapter with the priest going on and on in loving detail about the horrors of Hell was pretty accurate.

  • http://profiles.google.com/emasters7 Elizabeth Hiatt

    While my parents would never have told me that I would go to hell for disobeying them, I was terrified by the things that I learned in church. Our denomination was big on baptism, but only once you were old enough to consent. I didn’t totally understand that, however, and lived in constant fear of The Rapture. I was certain that Jesus was going to take my parents to heaven and leave me, a child of 4-5 years, to fend for myself since I wasn’t a true believer. It’s traumatizing even if that’s not what the parents intend. 

  • Xinen

    Seriously, every day at work including today a coworker of mine who is VERY unfamiliar with the beliefs and tenets of his chosen faith has threatened me and others saying that we are going to hell. To suffer and burn etc. However, after I mentioned he is quite rude and hypocritical in all regards to christianity ( extreme profanity, denial of what his faith promotes and decrees, “supposed” sexual habits) and religion he has since gone about adressing his outbursts and warnings to atheists and heretics in general. So pretty much me in the third person. He has butt-buddy support from others there and I just ignore him but damn. My dad who is a pastor mind you has never been so outspoken and rude. Granted he knows well the criticisms and what the bible says.

    In regards to the picture, I believe it could have been done better. It needs to be revised but essentially the point is an attention getting thought provoker. Forgive my tired minds lack of urgency in researching the quote, but I recall Richard Dawkins covering this topic in his book The God Hypothesis. A study was performed in Israel for school children in which a biblical character in the old testament was the basis. It might have been Moses or a later prophet but anyway, they raged at the followers who didn’t slay all the women or animals or whatever. Then it asked what the children thought of say an ancient chinese general who did similarly. Thy scoffed at the latter example but supported the former for various reasons. The god excuse is paramount and forms quite the impression on young minds. The point Dawkins was trying to make was that we don’t, in a modern sense get our values from the bible, and those who say we do either haven’t read it, understand it or selectively pick which verses are valid and which are not.

    • gurudwara

      You might want to start wearing a bulletproof vest to work.  He sounds the type to feel like god isn’t being quick enough about punishing you for being a nonbeliever.

  • Tyler Beal

    I was raised as an Evangelical Christian (although I’m atheist now).  

    The true problem with this image is that it doesn’t accurately represent the beliefs of the majority of Christians.  Yes, I understand there are over 30000 different denominations and that some place emphasis on works, but that’s not what most Christians think.

    Romans 3:23: ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Therefore we all deserve hell.  

    John 14:6 I am the way, the truth and the life, noone comes to the father but through me.  So, the only salvation from hell is belief in Christ.  

    We can haggle interpretation of the Bible all day, but we all know that a careful reading of the gospels and the Pauline Epistles would convince us that this is the most plausible of Christian doctrines and the most important defining truth that a consensus of Christians would agree upon.

    Does this get twisted and warped into threats to control behavior in countless ways? Certainly.  Even by self proclaimed Christians who should know better? Of course.

    Is the threat of eternal hell and punishment to compel belief just as emotionally abusive as using it to control behaviors?  Absolutely.    But that doesn’t change the fact that the picture itself misrepresents core Christian doctrine.

  • http://www.facebook.com/BillionsBillions Zach Vogt

    When I told my mother I was atheist she said me and my children would be going to hell, so close but not exactly the same.  When they thought I believed, they never said anything too close.  I agree with some of the comments that the picture itself could have been rephrased to make its point better.

  • Beadknitter

    Oh yes! My mother definitely threatened with hell, or as our church called it “the lake of fire”. I had periods of my life where I was terrified I was gonna end up there. One time I came home from school (2nd grade) and told my mother something we’d done in class which apparently our church viewed as a terrible sin. (I ate a cookie. I’m not gonna go into the details here.) She had a FIT!!!! Even went so far as to make me kneel down with her and pray to god that he’ll forgive me instead of throwing me in the lake of fire. I had nightmares for months!

  • Baby_Raptor

    Typical christianist BS. It’s perfectly okay for them to say whatever they want about everyone else, but when they’re being discussed only the best is allowed. Lie if you have to. Otherwise, you’re persecuting them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sandy-Kokch/100000074576649 Sandy Kokch

    No those claims are not extreme in any way, as five minutes surfing any religious extremism reporting site can prove over and over. Right Wing Watch for example.

    Watch either of the films, easily found online – JESUS CAMP and HELL HOUSE (the one about the evangelical snuff movie Halloween hell house show not the crappy horror flicks that are less scary).

    Those constitute exhibits A and B for the prosecution. Back to the waaaaah waaaah cries from the defense.

  • Gordon Duffy

    Clearly that person never heard of church schools or Halloween Hell Houses!

  • http://profiles.google.com/dangerismymiddlename.com Paul Danger Kile

    My daughter tells me when other students say things very much like this to her. They are getting it from somewhere, and I suspect it’s mom and dad.

  • cipher

    The older I get, the more convinced I become that we need mandatory testing of intelligence, sanity and developmental level as a prerequisite for reproduction (and voting).

  • CultOfReason

    Well, let’s see what the book supposedly inspired by god has to say on this subject.  Keep in mind that many christians take this book as the literal word of god:

    One of the 10 Commandments states: “Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear. ”  (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)
    “The eye that mocks a father and scorns to obey a mother will be picked out by the ravens of the valley and eaten by the vultures. ” ( Proverbs 30:17)
    “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.” (Proverbs 23:13)Of course, there are plenty of other examples of coercion by threat.  This is just the tip of the iceberg.  So I would say this is not just a strawman.

  • Jennifer

    Wow. I was able to read about 20 comments before becoming sick to my stomach. This is psychological abuse by any measure. Parents who damage their children, as mine did me, and obviously yours did many of you, are worthy only of the highest disdain. It sickens me to know that this is still taking place today.

  • Parker

    Not from a parent, but from a Sunday School teacher.  We were told that we would go to hell for our disobedience, but the description of hell was a little more vivid than the usual “you will burn for eternity” placard.  We were told that hell was like being tied up and gagged, thrown in the trunk of a car, and forced to ride around in said car for eternity while it was aflame (the idea being that you would basically roast while in the trunk).  And it was emphasized that we would be stricken with common colds while in the truck, thus it would be difficult to breathe through our noses. 

    Interestingly, we were told on a separate occasion that hell was actually not even hot, but was instead analogous to gradually freezing to death for eternity.

  • Awsd00

    When I was a kid my parents would occasionally tell me that God was judging me, but not so harsh. My one childhood best friend…her mom would do the whole “You’ll burn in hell, first and brimstone, etc.” spiel if she was really bad. She was uber religion and slightly crazy, though.

    I lived in a more mild Catholic area but I know some of them were quite awful with threats of punishment and burning for eternity.

    I’ve also had a fair share of other students telling me that I was going to hell, etc. I’d rather be a heathen than have an imaginary friend.   ;)

  • http://yeswesam.wordpress.com/ Sam

    In my home, threats of hell thrown at the kids weren’t really a norm. The mindset was more “if you love Jesus, you’ll do this”, “That’s not very Christlike”, or “It hurts Jesus when you’re naughty”. Or just the straightforward “be obedient”. (To this day I cringe when I hear that phrase said to a child.)
    However, the threat of OTHER people burning in hell was more common. “You need to invite your friends to church or they might go to hell.”

  • RebeccaSparks

    I don’t ever being threatened by hell, but for a while as a pre-teen/teen I was worried that my friends were going to hell because I was a terrible evangelist. 

    While I could see some parents saying, “You keep doing that and you’ll go to heck (where you will be burned & tortured for eternity),” parents also (stereotypically) say really horrible things to kids like, “Stop crying or I’ll give you something real to cry about,” or, “keep that up and I’ll slap you into next week.”   

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1267247666 Becky Gies

      My mom did it. She was so over the top that my non-custodial dad just took me when I was 10 so I could live happily ever after. Even my 3 years younger sister would say, “God’s gonna punch (punish) you!” if she didn’t like what I was doing. My adorable catholic step-mom just used passive-aggressive guilt.

  • Tony

    Growing up in a fairly Fundamentalist evangelical household I often heard “Is that something Jesus would want you to do?” or “Is that something Jesus would be proud of?”. It’s more subtle than the image posted above, but it still dredged up the threat of Hell for me; as it was intended to do. I spent many a night struggling to sleep, anxious over the fact that there may be a sin or two which I had not repented for. The threat of Hell wasn’t a club that I was bludgeoned with. Rather, it was more like a razor blade that I was skillfully and repeatedly sliced open with, in places no one could see. It was a sort of death – to my dignity – by a thousand cuts. It is insidious emotional abuse, of which I still bear the scars to this day. And what makes it more awful is that my parents absolutely believed that they were doing the right thing.

  • Miss_Beara

    In my 12 years of being in Catholic schools, I can say that I have heard that on more than one occasion. I had a teacher in grade school tell the class what hell is like to people who disobey. I had a teacher in high school tell her class that if you get a divorce, have premarital sex, etc. you are going to go to hell. Hell was talked about often. 

  • TheGentlemanDevil

    I am utterly appalled by the heinous depictions of me that were forced upon so many of you. Red skin, horns, hooves? Pitchforks and fire? Tsk.

    Oh well, I suppose it isn’t the fault of society; when Sophia created…you know who…she unintentionally endowed the poor thing with a wicked sense of pride. And ever since that whole business of me making him look unfit for rule, and my subsequent self-imposed exile, he has done everything he can to make me look bad (rather successfully, I might add). Yet he still comes to me for advice, or asks me to handle certain things he can’t. I wonder why that is.

    Anyway! Ignore all that slander and forget everything you think you know about me; you all are my kind of people.

    • http://twitter.com/m_ethaniel Mistletoe Ethaniel

      Great.

      Now I’m gonna have that Rolling Stones song in my head for days.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nicole.wallace.39 Nicole Wallace

    This is most certainly not too extreme. My step-father who raised me was a Fundamentalist Christian and literally told me that if I didn’t honor and obey my parents, all those Old Testament things would happen, including bears coming out of the woods to kill me.  I was all of seven at the time. Does this happen in ALL Christian households? I doubt it, but it DOES happen in some.

    • Stev84

       Nonsense. Bears will only kill you if make fun of bald people.

  • B_traimer

    The threat of hell is ever present either stated or implied.

  • Sue Blue

    “Jesus Camp”, “Hell House”, and that egregious Christian Evangelical childcare manual “How To Train Up A Child” by Michael and Debi Pearl – all stellar example of religious child abuse.  Of course the Christian apologists trot out the No True Scotsman fallacy as an excuse every time these supposedly extreme examples are mentioned, but the truth is that every minute of every day, the children of religious parents everywhere are being browbeaten into compliance with threats of dire and eternal consequences.  Some of them are literally beaten by parents who take the old “spare the rod, spoil the child” crap seriously; some are starved on bizarre religiously-inspired diets, others are denied medical treatment; toddlers acting like typical toddlers are “exorcised” of their “demons”, girls as young as 5 years old are persuaded by their creepy, sex-obsessed evangelical dads to sign “purity contracts” and attend “purity balls” intended to convince them that the only important thing in their lives is their virginity.  They are daddy’s property until he auctions them off to the man of his choice, and if they’re not virgins, they’re “used goods” – worthless.
    Children are treated as the property of their parents, with parents having the supposed right to do anything they want to that child in the guise of parental authority.  Only recently have some states begun to challenge this relgiously-inspired notion and hold parents accountable for denying medical treatment and  inflicting other abuse in the name of “discipline”.  I find it so ironic that the people screaming the loudest about the  “rights” of embryos are totally unconcerned about the real human rights of children once they’re born.  It’s not just specific acts of abuse committed by fringe elements; it’s an entire culture of authoritarian abuse.   

  • Stephanie Hansard

    My Christian parents routinely told me I would go to hell for being “rebellious” and disobedient. They also whipped me with a belt when I showed anger or disrespect to them, because they said that rebellion against authority was rebellion against God. It was better for them to hurt me now, they said, than to allow me to persist in my rebelliousness and be punished by God for eternity.  This image is not unrealistic at all. Not only did my parents make religious threats when I misbehaved, they quoted scripture while they were whipping my legs with a belt. Proverbs 22:15, Proverbs 13:24, Matthew 5:30, etc.

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    My parents never said anything like that. Never a threat of hell was ever mentioned. Of course I was raised in a totally secular household. Neither of my parents practiced any religion and I was taught the prevailing theories of cosmology and evolution on my father’s knee at a very young age.

  • Lena

    Thankfully I wasn’t raised in a religious household, but my mother was, and her mom was like the lady on the right. One thing she told me that I can never forget is when she was young and read the story about Abraham and Isaac; frightened by it, she asked her mother if she would also sacrifice her children if god told her to. Her mother said yes. REALLY? I don’t believe all  religious parents are abusing their children, of course, but religion does offer some pretty good ways to scar them for life. 

  • Lena

    Thankfully I wasn’t raised in a religious household, but my mother was, and her mom was like the lady on the right. One thing she told me that I can never forget is when she was young and read the story about Abraham and Isaac; frightened by it, she asked her mother if she would also sacrifice her children if god told her to. Her mother said yes. REALLY? I don’t believe all  religious parents are abusing their children, of course, but religion does offer some pretty good ways to scar them for life. 

  • Megan

    Growing up in the Christian community, I was never
    personally threatened in this way. Everything that my parents told me was
    loving, kind, and supportive. Overall, any themes of fire and brimstone were
    diluted and balanced by messages of love, peace, and forgiveness. Most violent
    dialogue didn’t frighten me because it didn’t apply to believers (and there
    were few unbelievers in my insulated life).

    However, I will say this: the general platform by which preachers speak from
    the pulpit can be extremely dangerous, especially if the listener isn’t encouraged
    to be judicious. Many churches unwittingly emphasize specific pieces of
    information and neglect the context around it. This lays a foundation for
    extremism and bigotry.

    A child doesn’t have a capacity to say, “Oh, we’ve had three lectures
    in a row on obedience, but I’m already a respectful, law-abiding person. I
    don’t need to fix myself in this area.” A sensitive child will inevitably
    fixate on the ways that the might be disobeying God.

    Most of the dialogue of my Christian school was based around human failing and
    self-improvement. We were repeatedly warned against putting idols before God,
    falling into sin, doubting, backsliding, or becoming lukewarm. This aggravated
    a sense of perfectionism and anxiety that was already present in my
    personality. I’ve become much, much happier since disaffiliating from the
    faith, but my stress was unnecessary to begin with. My “spiritual
    leaders” shouldn’t have been using sledgehammers where toothpicks would’ve
    been appropriate. 

    I’m not happy with the Christian community as a whole, but I don’t want to
    unfairly demonize anyone. Verbal abuse is unacceptably common in many circles. However, much
    communication is well-intentioned. Where I’d argue that hell-speech is damaging
    for the psyche, a Christian argues that truth is beneficial for the soul. If no
    other consensus can be made, everyone can probably agree that strong
    dialogue must be used with caution.

  • Seamus Ruah

    My Catholic friend’s father repeatedly told him (in front of me) that if he didn’t stop listening to heavy metal, God would burn him forever in Hell.

    My friend became a $cientologist, go figure…

      

  • Robyman4

    My folks didn’t say stuff like this to me, but the Sunday school teachers did. Oh yeah. Now that’s what I call an education!

  • Brian Scott

    I didn’t even notice that connotation until you pointed it out. XD

    Also, “the kindly ones”: part of the fear of the “Fair Folk” is that they often weren’t all that “fair”. :P

  • Brian Scott

    I am thoroughly uninterested in your evaluation of the human condition. “Perfection” only being a human judgement anyway, it is incoherent to state that humans aren’t “good” because they don’t measure up to some people’s imagined ideal of perfection, which includes the authority to command genocide and torture. It is especially incoherent to assert that such “imperfection” objectively merits infinite punishment.

    My only conclusion is that such a belief system’s purpose is not for the spiritual edification of its practitioners, but is an external ploy to bound their conscience and thought: the ultimate tool of tyrants, in which your own beliefs damn you.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

    Nope, nothing like that in my childhood. I grew up a happy little atheist. My brother and I wore angel and devil costumes for Halloween when I was 6. I had no idea people thought devils or hell were real, thank goodness!

  • Ellen_in_Ohio

    The Catholic church I attended as a child had a huge stained glass window in the nursery. The window depicted an angel (Gabriel?) stabbing the Devil in flaming gory detail. Of course the scary Devil surrounded by lurid red and orange flames completely dominated the scene and clearly made the point that this is where you’ll go if you’re not on the angel’s team. Subtle, right?

  • B_R_Deadite99

    No, it’s not child abuse. It’s just tough love. *gags*

  • peter

    When I was younger and in my religious phase, my dad would end his arguments by saying “Remember, God commands you to obey your parents”. I saw right through it as manipulation, more/less, and it stopped after I asked him if he demanded me to jump off a cliff, it was a sin/or not for me to commit suicide. 

  • Lee

    Hey. I’m curious. What was the image?


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