"This Was Your Life" is one of dozens of cartoon pamphlets distributed by Evangelical publisher, Chick Publications. Nearly one billion tracts have been produced by Jack T. Chick's organization since 1970. (In retrospect, it seemed that at least half of these copies were piled high on shelves in my childhood charismatic church.)
You can view the entire damnable Chick Publications catalog here. Some other classic Chick titles include "Are Roman Catholics Christians?", "A Demon's Nightmare," and "Allah Had No Son."
It is a bit of a consolation now to see that Chick Publications has been blacklisted on the Southern Poverty Law Center "Active General Hate Group" list. Yet I truly wonder how many millions of children (and adults!) have spent decades of their lives following Christ's teachings from Chick-inspired, pants-on-fire fear rather than because goodness, in essence, is its own reward.
And in the centuries prior to Chick Publications, how many millions more Christians followed the tenets of the Faith more from a dread of the manifestation of a Hieronymus Bosch horror-scape than because the Golden Rule was sufficient in and of itself?
Sadly,"This Was Your Life" doesn't hold an infernal candle to the depths of 21st-century fundamentalist fire and brimstone-mongering.
I'm about to send you to a vision of hell (viewed by nearly 1.5 million people at the link below alone) designed to scare the ever-Belial-bejesus out of viewers. It's called "8 Minutes in Hell." As near as I can tell, it originates from a website that goes by the moniker DoomsDayTube. And it appears to have been produced by a group of Christians who think that Rob Zombie and H.R. Giger are author-illustrators of a lost fifth gospel.
Do not let a child click this link!
Almost as disturbing as "8 Minutes in Hell" are the 13,000-plus viewer comments, many of which have been posted by believers in a God who designed a universe expressly to cast the majority of his sentient creations into eternal suffering. This, in the end, was the line of thinking that drove me to a categorical rejection of the centuries-long theological accretions of Gehenna, Hades, and the whole Abaddon Gang that were intimate parts of my Evangelical upbringing.
Could I really imagine that a Creator had gone to such trouble to create a universe so complex and vast, only to damn eternally those whom he had granted his image?
The answer that kept coming back was: No.
Of course, a traditional belief in hell wasn't about to go by the wayside without some colossal mental arm wrestling. There were, after all, The Screwtape Letters standing in my way. And, of course, that most famous of youth group apothegms: "Satan's greatest lie is getting you to believe he doesn't exist." And all those bloodcurdling tracts discussed above.
One by one I shed them. And here I stand, with this to say:
To hell with hell. Infinite suffering, be damned.
Pause for possible incoming lightning bolt strike.
Let us continue.
Earlier this summer, former Archbishop Desmond Tutu drew quite a bit of attention when he said that he "would not worship a God who is homophobic". That's a pretty bold stand to take against an immortal, omnipotent being. If we lived in ancient Greece, religious media likely would have speculated that his Former Grace's rash words were enough to put him in line for being transformed into a shrubbery.
In reality, however, I believe Tutu was taking an axe of righteous indignation to a god created in the image of human hatred. A believer can engage in endless biblical criticism and survey, but at the end of the day, the mind itself, engaged in rational thought, is an incredibly powerful hermeneutical tool. Tutu, in my opinion, took a false god to the woodshed.
I find myself in a similar place. I am blazingly sick and tired of the manmade Masochistic Maker with his Lump-of-Coal Netherworld who has it out for the likes of Brutus and Cassius, Judas Iscariot, Adolf Hitler, and the billions of others who failed "to accept Christ" during their tenure on our Little Blue Planet.
Yes, evil is a problem. A big "problem," in the sense of a theological phenomenon. Yet theologians, like Nature herself, abhor an explanation vacuum. Just as the Old Testament Yahweh gave those grumbling, monarch-envious Israelites their King Saul, thus religious leaders and theologians through the ages have responded to the human desire to see that "people much worse than everyone else" get their just deserts.