I've been told that I was going to hell more times than I can remember.
Usually when someone uses the phrase, it's in a jocular manner, or is a rash retort to an offense committed. Rarely is the phrase used literally.
However, when I am told to "go to hell," I'm usually informed of my destination with the utmost seriousness under the strictest meaning possible.
My first condemnation was as a young boy when my Lutheran friend alerted me as to the setting to which I was eternally destined. Apparently, he discerned that I was going to hell because I didn't go to church like normal kids.
He's probably doing coke lines on a urinal at a truck stop somewhere in central Ohio right now. He should have paid a little more attention to where he was going instead of being so concerned with my destiny.
I rejected religion at an early age. My mom was a semi-practicing Catholic and my dad was an atheist. While my mother went to church on Sundays and believed in a superior being, my dad enjoyed his Sunday mornings at home in front of the tube. My dad's rationale made him the superior being in my book.
When my mom would attempt to say Grace before dinner, my little brother and I would explosively release the constipated laughter that we could no longer hold some time after my mother thanked His Holiness for the green beans.
In the third grade, my parents sent me to a Bible camp where the counselors shamelessly brainwashed me into believing that I'd go to hell if I didn't accept Jesus into my soul.
They described my potential residence as a place underground, probably near the earth's core, where my skin would burn forever and some big red dude called Satan would intermittently brand my ass. Fearful for my soul, I let Jesus in.
Upon coming home, wild-eyed and fervently religious, I told my dad that he was going to hell for his atheist ways.
But after a few weeks, I guzzled a healthy dosage of videogames and TV to detoxify myself from the crap they wormed into my young mind. I thereafter kicked Jesus the hell out, locked the door, turned off the lights and apologized to my dad about the condemnation.
My worst experience with religion was with an ex-girlfriend. I went into the relationship knowing that she was a hardcore Baptist, but I thought it would be closed-minded of me to reject a relationship based on her religious affiliation.
I noticed that she hauled an eight-pound Bible in her purse wherever she went. Upon asking her for an explanation, she said she "liked to have Jesus nearby."
After a few weeks, our courtship took a turn for the worse when the subject of my religious affiliation was brought up. I disclosed that I had none, and she replied that I was "obstructing her walk with Jesus."
"You're going to hell," she told me with the utmost sincerity. "You don't how it feels to have Jesus inside of you."
Since having a man inside of me wasn't my idea of a day in heaven, I swiftly exited the relationship like Moses left Egypt.
I've had so many run-ins with religious fanatics it's ri-goddamn-diculous. It's not just their pushy ways that annoy me but also their "country club" mentality which dictates that only those belonging to their religion get to enjoy some ludicrous vision of an afterlife in the clouds.
I also don't agree with how some practitioners esteem that you can only have morals with religion. I don't need a threat of eternal damnation to be a good man-just a conscience and good will. In fact, if morals and religion are doing anything, they're having hot and sweaty relations in God-knows-what positions in a confession booth somewhere.
Religion is a pillar that has been holding up our society's high levels of ignorance and intolerance for eons. It has been the cause of wars, hatred and bigotry. I think we ought to sledgehammer away at this so-called foundation to make way for a new wave of altruistic benevolence and charity without having to fear God's wrath.
While I do admit that religion has some upsides, it's many downsides will be keeping my Sundays wide open.