Will Your Child End Up in Hell?

I was raised to believe in the eternal punishment of a burning hell. Many times as a child, I worried about my latter end. Long before my brain was fully formed, it was traumatized by stories so extreme, so rife with torture, so grim that it's a wonder that I was able to recover from the internalized trauma. I'm really not sure that one can truly fully recover from such a horrendous message after  having it pounded into your head from the pulpit on a regular basis. When the preacher is your dad, it becomes even more convoluted in your brain. 

Many have said that this kind of treatment constitutes child abuse, and I wholeheartedly agree. Yet, if I am to be totally honest, children fall dead last on the list of those receiving protection in the world. There were 29,000 cases of child abuse in the state of Indiana alone in 2016. More than 7000 American children are killed every year by their parents and caretakers. More children are killed than American soldiers. And, more children are tortured behind closed doors in American homes than prisoners of war abroad. Clearly, we keep having children but often we shouldn't be parents.

If there's anything that causes me to lose a popularity contest, it's when I start dispelling the myth of the "gift of life" and the universal right to bear offspring. I have to say, even among atheists who fully understand the need to expose religious myths, I find a stubborn reluctance to take an equally honest look at the many other harmful myths that are perpetuated by our cultures. The right to have children simply because it's biologically possible is one of those myths that is teetering on the edge of exposure because we are beginning to understand responsibility in a way that our ancestors couldn't. 

The more you know, the more responsibility you have.

So, when I think about the lasting damage done to my childish brain many years ago by these fiery stories about hell, Satan, evil demons and a vengeful god, I begin to feel my blood boil. Add on top of that the idea that my parents felt it was their godly duty to whip their children in order to break their spirit and that the entire US supported the beating of little kids, I'm certain that many children raised in a religious household didn't fare as well as I did once they were grown and on their own. Their brains never recovered.

But here's another thing that clearly let's me know that critical thinking skills are direly missing from most life decisions humans make including that of having children. If indeed my parents, for example, believed that I was born a fallen creature in need of redemption, and that I stood a good chance of ending up in hell when I died, why on earth would they risk bringing me into this world in the first place? The odds were clearly against me. How could ANY parent even contemplate the idea of their beautiful child ending up in a place so horrible for eternity? The absurdness of it all staggers the mind. 

Yet, I know that there are religions out there where young girls are murdered at the hands of their parents for shaming the family by sinning. 

Breaking the rules of any god is deemed most worthy of punishment by many right here on earth. Let's bury them up to their necks and pommel them with stones until they're dead seems like a reasonable solution even an obligation to many, many humans.  More humans would throw the first stone than most of us are willing to believe. They become just as mean and vengeful as the gods they worship. And, our brains, forever struggling to help us survive, cover this horrendous truth with an old human standby — DENIAL. Otherwise, how would those of us with an ounce of empathy manage to cling to sanity?

To make matters even worse, at least in the Christian religion, god issued this promise ...

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6

What's wrong with this promise, you might ask. Well, god just managed to shift the entire burden of guilt to parents if indeed their child decides on a different path in life that the one they were brainwashed, I mean trained, to follow. The parents MUST have failed in their duty to properly coerce, I mean train, their child into compliance with god's law. 

If their child ends up in hell, god is off the hook. 

Once again, I am left to marvel at the ability that staunch christians have to accept this very likely outcome. Lots of children set out on paths of their own. Many never return to the religion of their parents especially once they're exposed to other ideas and perspectives. Plus even if they had chosen to live out their days exactly the way they were trained to do, there is good reason to believe that they will instead carry impure thoughts and desires to live differently, constantly experiencing internal conflict only to die and go to hell in the end.

So what are these parents thinking? 

Maybe they have no trouble bringing a new life into this world because if after all of their attempts to brainwash their offspring the child deviates from the path of perceived righteousness, they honestly believe they wouldn't deserve to live in the heavenly kingdom. Are these parents willing to help Peter close the gate to their willful children and rejoice in Jesus for eternity. Sounds a bit like the gestapo but hey ...

Furthermore, according to scripture, the righteous will be able to look down on the sinner writhing in torment in Hell whenever they take the notion. What kind of a sicko would want to do that even if it wasn't their child? It brings a whole new meaning to the practice of capital punishment in the public square with an audience of onlookers. Remember, there are still devoutly religious countries that practice these kinds of punitive measures. If your earthly leaders can persuade you to take part in such atrocities, I suppose an omnipotent god could easily sway a crowd to participate.

I feel sorry for all children. I watch them playing, skipping, hugging their parents and I know they didn't get to choose their parents. They just woke up one day and — hoo hah — there they were peering down at them with a crazy gleam in their eye. The random lottery of birth is harsh and unrelenting. We don't get to choose much of anything about our starting point. Yet, we continue to celebrate the myth of the "gift of life" without thinking about consequences or our responsibility. And, religious parents are the worst of the lot. They have a duty to cast the first stone at their own child's head if their child fails to follow the path of righteousness.   

Humans are the animals with the big brains or so I'm told.  

Teresa Roberts is a myth buster. Her recently published book - Have We Been Screwed? Trading Freedom for Fairy Tales - can be purchased on Amazon.