I’m going to Hell. (A character Study)

As an author, I like to study people who are very different from me.  I try to figure them out… what makes them tick… why do they do the things they do?  Why do they think like they do?

I started pondering this last week when I wrote the last lines of my “Book Banning” article, and asked you guys not to bash any of the groups (probably religious groups) for not liking the books on the list.  I was thinking over why it was so important to me to make sure that no one singled out a religion.

Several years ago, I found out that I’m going to Hell.  Someone who is unfortunately bound to me by marriage informed me of this.  Kind of makes things awkward during Thanksgiving dinner.

Hmmm… Didn’t the Pilgrims come to America to avoid religious persecution?

Let’s think about that…

Until I met this guy, I was the most religious person I knew.  My friends and co-workers knew this.  They always apologized when they cursed in front of me (jokingly) and many asked me to pray for them if they were in need.  No problem for me.  I’m happy to do it.  God and I are pretty tight.

But now, apparently, I am going to Hell—so, I asked this guy “why”.  What do you believe in that I don’t?  Through discussion, I found out that we both believe EXACTLY the same thing.  So, why am I going to Hell?

Because I do not worship in the same church he does.  And apparently, everyone but his church is going to Hell.

I hope Hell is a pretty big place.

Unfortunately for me, this snowballed.  I moved.  Now I find myself in an environment where almost EVERYONE around me believes this, and they openly condemn my religion.  Holy cow!  Talk about the “Don’t know don’t tell” policy.  I’ve learned to live with this, though.  Rather than “coming out” and putting my head on a block for being “that religion” I just keep my mouth shut.   (Yeah, sounds meek, but it’s just not something I want to deal with.  It’s personal.  Politics and religion – keep it to yourself.)

What really bought this to my boiling point, was a recent dinner I had with a bunch friends.  Out of the blue, they started bashing my religion.  It was mild, and none of them said I was going to Hell, but it shocked me.

These people didn’t even think to ask if anyone was of that religion before they started bashing.

Now, I could have answered all their questions, and set them straight.  In retrospect, I probably should have— but in an eight-on-one situation, self-preservation instinct took over.  I kept my mouth shut, and just “observed”.

From a character study perspective, I try to understand how people like this can think of themselves as so much better than anyone else.  How can they quote scripture, while going against scripture at the same time?  I’d love to really get inside one of these people’s heads just to “understand.”

Any one of them would make a great character in a novel.  Talk about adding tension!  The problem is without completely understanding how these people are wired, I am not sure I could do them justice without making them seem like….  Ummmm…  Well…  let’s just say without letting my personal opinion of their outlook slipping in.

Creating a monomaniacal villain is easy.  They are a little tainted in the head.  That’s accepted.  But these people are “normal”, but really contradictory.

How do I create a character that thinks they are humble, preaches how humble they are, but actually has the worst case of a superiority complex I can think of?  Hmmmm.  Tough one.

I wonder though…. I hope I’m not the one with the superiority complex because I don’t think everyone in the world is going to Hell.

Since I am in the minority now, maybe I need to do a character study on myself?  Maybe I can ask the Little Blue lady from Mars to help me.

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75 responses to “I’m going to Hell. (A character Study)

  1. This reminds me of a joke my husband tells about a man entering the gates of heaven and Saint Peter is showing him around all the beauty when he approaches a door and motions for the man to be quiet, he opens the door quickly and the man sees a bunch of people in the room, then he closes it quickly and says “those are the baptists they think they are the only ones up here”. **** That said i don’t believe all roads led to heaven and i share my belief that you need to accept Jesus Christ as your savior and follow him, yet God knows all,not me that is for sure.

  2. Oh, and to address the writing characters part of this blog … I have come up with an idea for some characters and a storyline regarding this very issue, but have not figured out a way to put it into words … yet. :-P

  3. First let me say thanks for stopping by my blog. I clicked on this link from my email notification, and boy, this is some subject that can get people talking. I have so much I want to say because you hit on something I’ve thought about posting on my blog, but don’t want to make my blog about religion and/or politics. Sigh. So, thank you for giving me an outlet here. In brief, I consider myself spiritually liberal but politically conservative. As you can guess, I don’t fit in anywhere. Christians have told me I’m not a “real Christian” for not believing certain people go to hell. Political liberals have labeled me a fundamentalist bigot. No one really gets to know me. I fear this is a harshly divided country. I really don’t feel I have a spiritual home besides in my own private place with God. And no political home either. And trust me, I’m not the type to change my core values in order to fit in. Anyway, that’s as brief as I can get in a comment on such a hot topic. Thanks again.

  4. Sorry you are going through this. And if you pick one of them as a bad character for a story I wouldn’t worry about painting in a bad light if that is how you feel. It will make them seem more real to you on paper. But I imagine your friends wouldn’t have spoken in such a fashion if they had known your religion, or at least if they had known it upset you, be honest with them, even if you do it in a joking manner. And if they do still upset you then perhaps you better friends.

  5. Jennifer, it’s scary how much alike you and I are. Perhaps we are from the same planet which I do believe is beyond the known galaxy. To quote you, “How do I create a character that thinks they are humble, preaches how humble they are, but actually has the worst case of a superiority complex I can think of? Hmmmm. Tough one,” I just have one interjection on this and it’s that this character is really not tough to create at all for they are all around us. They come from the land of Hypocrisity (don’t steal, that’s mine! ha!) and they stand upright in the mirror of their own mind.

  6. jim lockey

    Isn’t more accurate to say that the pilgrims came to America so that they could persecute people?

    • Jeremy Cook

      No, pilgrims came for religious freedom since they were being persecuted in england. You’re thinking of the Puritans (yes they both start with a P) that everyone likes to rag on because of the witch trial scandals, never mind all the good they did outside of this nasty blip in history or the fact that they were not alone in doing such acts, either in America or Europe. One more example of how a theocracy doesn’t work out though. Christianity was never meant to be institutionalized or made into a form of government.

      • jim lockey

        Thanks Jeremy, I wasn’t confused actually, I was being rhetorical. The Pilgrims were responsible for more persecution than they ever suffered in England.

        • Jeremy Cook

          Really? Can you name an instance of Pilgrim (who again, are separate from the Puritans) persecution of anyone?
          I’ll wait :)
          *sits back and takes a nap*
          Please, use reason, logic and actual facts rather than rhetoric. I think you’ll find they work better ;)

          • You are having too much fun.

          • jim lockey

            The Pilgrims were a group of separatist puritans… i.e. where-as the puritan movement sought to reform government the pilgrims decided to leave and govern themselves. Their views were still recognisably puritanical. The notion of oppression in England is also pretty erroneous, the puritan movement was clearly strong, and was sympathetic to the Pilgrims. Ironically this tolerance in England was one of the things the pilgrims disagreed with – they wanted everyone to agree with them, tolerance wasn’t in their vocabulary. The pilgrims left to be able to govern themselves and set up a society according to their beliefs, which is not ignoble. You can verify this in a half-rigorous history book, you can look up their oppression of other peoples at the same time

            There is a different between history and propaganda

            • There is. The Pilgrim leaders were in disagreement with Puritan policy and theology, so while they had some similarities and were both seperatists, they were different. An offshoot if you will. Pilgrims and puritans suffered fines, imprisonment and some of the Pilgrim founders were killed as well–gotten from a half rigerous history book. Think that qualifies as persecution. Their quest to found a society based on their own views is also well acknowledged. But you veer into speculation and bias when you start making judgment on their view on tolerance. I asked you to give me one example of persecution peformed by the pilgrims, which would prove the intolerance you claim when you said “they brought more persecution”. The fact is there are none, which disproves your point, leaving your statement in the realm of petty and biased speculation, not history, let alone fact.

  7. Fantastic post.

    • There is. The Pilgrim leaders were in disagreement with Puritan policy and theology, so while they had some similarities and were both seperatists, they were different. An offshoot if you will. Pilgrims and puritans suffered fines, imprisonment and some of the Pilgrim founders were killed as well–gotten from a half rigerous history book. Think that qualifies as persecution. Their quest to found a society based on their own views is also well acknowledged. But you veer into speculation and bias when you start making judgment on their view on tolerance. I asked you to give me one example of persecution peformed by the pilgrims, which would prove the intolerance you claim when you said “they brought more persecution”. The fact is there are none, which disproves your point, leaving your statement in the realm of petty and biased speculation, not history, let alone fact.

    • forgive me…posted on wrong thread

  8. It could be a lot worse – don’t atheists have a tough time in the US?

    • Jeremy Cook

      Pssshh…not at all. Regardless of what other countries think of us, America has a (increasingly rapidly deteriorating) Christianizing influence in the culture, but it’s far more secular than not. Atheists aren’t the ones being laughed at and made fun of in media, culture, etc. I’ve read comments from even atheists who have noticed that to say you’re a Christian in many circles actually has the same social pariah effect that used to be experienced by saying you’re gay. If I stand up on a college campus and start preaching or talking about my faith, you can be sure I’ll be attacked for it. If I were to stand up and start talking about my materialistic views, I’d be part of the group.

      • That’s very interesting – particularly talking about materialist/consumerist views! Try being anti that!

        • Jeremy Cook

          By materialist I meant the philosophical belief that only matter exists, no supernatural activity, that takes its most common form in atheism. But in either case, set up a materialist/atheist side by side with a preacher in a park and see which one recieves more cat calls ;)

          • The park sounds terrible! I was basing my views on this article: Atheism in America – worth a read if you have time. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/d2239780-4d4e-11e1-8741-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1ttLGYUyA

            • Jeremy Cook

              I don’t know, I think that park would be fun! :)
              Yes, I’ve heard of this report and the numbers they quote, but while they have some statistics in there, I suspect they reflect a mental preference, but not an acted on preference. His account seems to rely more on anecdotal evidence. But who knows. I admit my evidence is anecdotal too. I’ve experienced the mocking for being a believer first hand, and have tons of similar experiences from other members of my faith, but I’ve never witnessed or heard of anyone persecuted for being an atheist.

  9. I am constantly blown away by the amount of people (within the same religion) that make claims to have all the answers. This seems to be especially true of Christianity.

    “Ooh, what that? You don’t use the KJV? You are going to hell!!”

    • Jeremy Cook

      It’s not just true of religions. Every belief system that makes absolute claims must, by definition, denigrate any other opposing belief system. This is true of christianity, islam, communism, relativism or materialism.
      *shrugs* It’s the nature of the human beast.

      • That is a good point. I was just watching a study that talked about human’s fear of death and how that affects our religious beliefs….including our need to prove everyone’s beliefs wrong so that we can be right; and ultimately obtain what ever prize at the end of life they are hoping for.

        • Jeremy Cook

          Hmmm, that’s one interpretation. I always marked it down to simple pride though. lol As in, I’m right and therefore you must be wrong. Seems a bit simpler and more immediate than going back to your feelings on death. As I said in another post, all of us believe we’re right until given sufficient evidence to prove otherwise.

          • I think that has a lot to do with it. However, the question remains of why does that pride exist? Some would say that its reactionary based on fear that their own ideology is in jeopardy.

            • Jeremy Cook

              Perhaps. We always defend what we believe to be ours, whether it be land, family, culture or ideas. They are perceived to be part of who we are. But in your system pride is rooted in and a reaction to the threat. threat->pride. I think it’s vice versa. Pride doesn’t exist because of the threat, the threat is percieved because of the pride already existing. pride->threat. When the pride is challenged, then there’s the percieved threat to self culminating in a reaction.
              Oi, Jen, you should have known bringing up religion in a blog posting would start the philosophical wheels rolling! ;)

              • That is a very interesting observation. I think that has a real possibility of being true. I suppose were in a philosophical chicken/egg scenario now haha

  10. I think we should honor the dignity of people whether we agree with them or not. Not sure why this person would say you’re going to hell but if you read the Bible, Jesus said anyone, even a half-breed with five husbands or a thief dying on a cross, was welcome to heaven. I don’t know why people feel the need to shout at each other, drawing a line in the sand and screaming, “I’m right! You’re wrong!” Jesus’s love cuts across lines, not draw them, and dispenses grace and love and humility and if we don’t represent those things, then they are the one betraying the kingdom of God–not you. I’m sorry you’ve been so hurt and I pray the little blue alien lady lends some help for sure;) ~peace, love, & hugs

    • He He… I thought about inviting her to Easter dinner. But the Easter Bunny was already there. Oh! I let an evil little bunny in my house! Blasphemer!

  11. Love this! And you’re sooo right. I experience the same with my own religious community and I just shake my head, dust myself off, and keep moving forward to the principles (as the people can be soooo far from the practice). Sigh. If it makes you feel any better, in Islam we say that the one who accuses the other person of going to Hell, can actually end up going to Hell themselves for being so judgey with all that pride. So, just sayin’. You should feel pretty safe. :D

    Pink.

  12. Jeremy Cook

    From the flip side, I’ve spent most of my life defending my faith and enjoy doing so. Guess I’m naturally contrary. But I’ve found the exact same mentality present among atheists and agnostics, which was always a source of bitter irony to me and I love pointing it out. I actually have an entire planet as the setting for my final climactic scene in my trilogy that exemplifies this mentality. Imagine a world filled with Richard Dawkins. :P I have plenty of character studies from people I’ve talked with over the years to use as source material ;)
    The fact is it’s not the focus of the faith that makes people like that, it’s the fact we’re human and naturally are like this. We’re clannish. But don’t judge them too harshly lest you become like them. The most “open-minded” advocates I’ve known in my life have been the most closed-minded and judgmental as well.
    “all beliefs are equally true and should be respected”
    “I don’t agree with that.”
    “Well then you’re wrong you fundamentalist idiot!”
    “…”
    We all believe we’re right until we’re given reason to believe otherwise. It’s the only way we can function. And if you believe something is right, of course you’re going to denigrate something you believe isn’t. The trick is to seperate the people from their beliefs. Some of my best friends growing up have been people I argue most fiercely with. The fact they’re wrong *wink* doesn’t mean I take offense at their beliefs or love them any less. I swear people in our society are so quick to take offense and want to walk on eggshells around people who believe differently, it creates an environment on the opposite extreme from what they oppose. If you believe your beliefs are true, then talk about them. If you don’t then do you really believe them, or are you just trying to create a hothouse environment where you can protect the fragile growth of your ill-concieved ideas?
    *Statements directed at society in general, not you Jen*

  13. Oh religion. I just had a friend whip out his…. Bible during dinner and start showing me how all religions are wrong and that ‘these are the words of Jesus’ but any attempt to reason with him was laughed at. He was so smug about how he is going to heaven because he knows the bible better than most churches and how he is ‘totally open to people’ I could not help but laugh.

    I love bad guys who are simply on the other side of the fence but are so enthusiastic about that side that they become the bad guy. The villan who really believes he is saving everyone else and is just making the tough choices. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson gives a great example.

    Question, what happens when you write a bad guy who believes in his methods but is defeated by the good guys, only to discover the bad guy was right all along?

    • Jeremy Cook

      And there’s a seed for a great story twist :) What if the people who believe so strongly in their “rightness” are correct after all? ;)

      • Seriously, I just read Mistborn and he uses that a lot. It is fantastic when the edges get blurred. Also look at your protagonist and think of who would consider them the bad guy. I am not saying get all Skywalker with the transition, but its a good practice.

        • Jeremy Cook

          Yup yup, I always enjoy a good plot twist. Another I’m dying to play with in another book I have in mind is to mess with the whole “fated hero” idea. Guy winds up in another world somehow, well then he’s bound to be the “chosen one” right? Well what if he isn’t?

      • What about if both sides are right and wrong? The truth always lies somewhere in the middle.

  14. writerwendyreid

    Good post, even though I would never touch this subject on my blog. I believe that anyone who believes should be considered a “believer”…end of story. I don’t think it matters what church you attend or if you even go to church at all. God meets us where we are.

    • Well said, Wendy.

      • writerwendyreid

        Thanks Carrie. Believe it or not, I am a born again christian but stopped going to church because of all the insane prerequisites and hypocrisy. I’m happy now with my faith and I’m sure that God is as well. :-)

        • I think if more people had that attitude, the world would be a better place.

          • writerwendyreid

            Maybe…but then there’d be more perverts too and I think that the world has enough of those already…hehehe

            • Jeremy Cook

              –>*tongue in cheek**end tongue in cheek*<– ;)
              Sorry, couldn't resist. The irony fairy made me do it ;) I agree with you though. And this is why there NEED to be absolutes and standards. You can't make value judgments without them. (which is what makes the morally indigant moral relativist such a laughable sight) The arguement just comes down to where those standards come from and if their foundation is secure.

              • writerwendyreid

                Do we really need to make value judgements to begin with? I think religion, like sexual preference and politics, should be seen from a “live and let live” mindset. We shouldn’t be eternally trying to change those of us who aren’t like us. Variety is what makes the world a fun and entertaining place. :-)

            • Jeremy Cook

              Oops…strange…somehow my tongue in cheek brackets elminated all the content I put between them o.O?
              To understand the joke I had said (within the tongue in cheek bracket) “How judgmental! Who are you to say they are perverts? Isn’t that hypocritical?”

              • writerwendyreid

                lol…I meant if everyone had a mind like mine..and I am a self proclaimed pervert. :-P

  15. That blue alien lady scares me. I’ve been told on too mant occasions that I’m going to hell for not subscribing to this or that religion. It’s always hard not to reply back that it’s fine, I’ll see them there too. When my daughter was in fourth grade a very well-meaning (read: not) friend told her she was going to hell. I had an issue with that, but the mom thought her daughter did my daughter a huge favor by pointing it out to her. Um, no. When I think of the smug character you described, I think of that woman and it’s not so hard to write. Live and let live, people!

    • Ugh. Your poor daughter. At least I was old enough to laugh. Well, at least inside, and after a while. When we first got married, I was terrified of the guy.

  16. Hmm, this has me curious. Do you bite heads off chickens and run around a fire with a spear, dressed in a grass skirt and a bra made of coconuts while chanting in tongues? Interesting image. Or, maybe you’re an extra-terrestrial and you’re here to mate with earthlings but you can only do so with the planet’s elders. After which, you’ll create a UFO, escape with all your hatchlings and then explode the planet, (because we all know how you like to explode things). Maybeee…you’re a subterranean earth dweller, taken on human form and risen to the surface to outst the evil-doers of the earth. You will then use your highly-persuasive powers to convert us all to Wormism, and take us back to your underground palace where giant, florescent earthworms are “The ones to Follow”.

    No wait, don’t tell me. The hellacious religious organizations I’m imagining you belonging to are just too vast. The imagery, the cults, my draw to your hedonistic character…Oh my! Shut the front door. This means I’m going to hell, too. Guilty by association. *shrug*. oh well, at least you and I won’t be alone.

  17. I think about this a lot. I am a Methodist born of a Christian Scientist and a Baptist with a sister who is a Jehovah’s Witness, and am married into a family of Catholics, some who are devout and some who are varying degrees of lapsed. I have an aunt by marriage who is Buddhist. I have friends who are atheists and agnostics. I love the gifts that faith brings to my life, but I hate the conversations that erupt around the subject because I am not great with conflict. I never know what to say. But the tension you describe and the smugness, the avidity, even the glee that I have observed when people are professing their superior faith (or lack thereof) does make for compelling material.

  18. Excellent posts. I subscribe to the “never discuss politics or religion” philosophy, especially around in in-laws. Their views and mine are diametrically opposed. I’m all for having intelligent discussions on those topics, but it’s hard to do that when one of the parties is close minded and can’t see any other way. You’re right, though, makes for wonderful character studies!

  19. Wow, loved that. I really enjoy reading posts by insightful people who are aware enough to have a perspective, see others perspectives AND try to see their own persoectives from the perspective of the others perspectives (which is often wrong). Definitely a smart way to create a character. The character who is right but wrong and doesnt know it. Or wrong, but right, and prefers to be wrong. Ive had lovely folks here try to instruct me on how my (baptised only) religion is pluralistic, because of the trinity. I remind them…theres one God (universal intelligence), just one. Yours/mine/theirs…all the same, just one. Strangely, youd think this would bond us. It doesnt. Apparently i dont know my own as well as others believe they know my own… people are fascinating to observe. :)

    • Religion and politics are just such boiling points. That’s why I don’t like to get into it with anyone.

      • I love the conversations if/when it’s about the history or philosophy, or the similarities of concepts over the ages. The academic discussions. Sadly the people who can do this without getting riled up are few and far between. I’m so detached from the *feelings* of it so talking to the faithful is always confusing for me. I remember when my sons adoptive father told me (at his 5 years old baptism) that it was sad I wasn’t going to be “up there” with them after we die, because they love me. Man, that hurt. Who says that? I GAVE you my BABY, man… lol. People are endlessly fascinating. I’m sure you’ll make fantastic characters out of them, Jennifer. :)