'Troubled Youth Such as You Burn in Hell'

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During my freshman year of college, I had a roommate whose subversive sense of humor was rivaled only by my own. One day, while wandering around in a thrift store, she spotted a picture of Jesus with his arms around two forlorn teenagers. My roommate bought the picture and penned an inscription at the top.

"Dear Wendy," the inscription read. "Troubled youth such as you burn in hell. Love, Jesus."

I suppose my roommate considered herself a lapsed Catholic, and I didn't consider myself much of anything. We joked a lot in those days about how we were both destined to wind up in hell but how we weren't worried because that's where all the cool kids were going to end up anyway.

My favorite part of the picture is the pretty handwriting she used to pen the note, and the addition of the word "love." Because there's nothing unloving about telling someone they're going to hell. Not when it's the truth. Not when Jesus is saying it.

After 20 years, I don't guess I fall into the "youth" category anymore. But I'm pretty certain a good number of people still think I'm heading to the underworld— what with my decision to write a public blog about raising kids without the many comforting images of heaven, eternal life and an almighty protector walking beside us on sandy beaches.

I guess I've always assumed that, if a benevolent god did exist, such a god would not punish skeptics or freethinkers simply for being skeptical or freethinking. But I suppose it's possible that I'm wrong. It's possible that somewhere, out there, a vengeful god is waiting to send me straight to hell, to burn alongside all those other poor souls who believed the wrong way.

Then again, all you guys are probably going to be there, too. So how bad could it be?