Propaganda 101: HEAVEN or HELL (Fellowship Tract League Tract #115)

So: HEAVEN or HELL, which do you choose?

Ah, false dichotomy, how long has it been since we last danced? It seems but yesterday I held you in my arms, as you whispered sweet nothings; but I have so many dance partners and you imagine yourself the only one.

Are you going to heaven or to hell?” asks the first line of this tract. “The Bible teaches that many seemingly good people are going to hell, because … Sin has a price. You might be wondering what happens to people when they die in their sins.” And so on. The parts that I’m skipping are lengthy references to the Bible that don’t mean very much to the message that’s being demonstrated here. Except maybe the bit where it mentions people being “cast into a lake of fire.”

Does anyone else find it strange that the word “hell” in these doesn’t have a capital letter? To me this is a weird modification of English grammar; here I thought that Christians considered Hell to be an actual place—or at least a proper noun. Heaven doesn’t get a capital in this tract either, so maybe it’s a style issue.

The tract goes on to say, “The Bible tells us God desires to save everyone. … Do you want to be saved? The Bible teaches that there are several things you must do in order to be saved.

The propagandist here makes several assumptions that haven’t been addressed. The first: the reader may not believe in the concept of sin. Without sin this threat is totally moot. Can’t die in your sin if there is none. It also assumes that Heaven and Hell are meaningful places to the reader. As if they don’t believe in Olympus, Valhalla, Elysium, any other afterlife–or none!

I’ve been looking at a lot of these tracts and this type seems to be directed at other Christians.

The way to be saved is so simple! Yet many refuse to be saved. They will not accept Jesus Christ alone for salvation from sin and its penalty. They refuse to believe that Lord Jesus is powerful enough to save them by Himself. Do you?

Or, Mr. False Dichotomy, maybe there isn’t a Jesus.

Parsing this tract gives me a unique segue into something that I’d like to talk about, not just false dichotomies, but the implementation of “conversion by threat.” To instantiate such a piece of propaganda first I must set up a paradigm that includes the elements that I am going to threaten with: in this case Heaven and Hell. Then I set up a balance between them by exploiting the human reaction to threats: explicit focus.

When presented with danger or stress things get really simple: safe and not safe. So, I set up something extremely dangerous, “Eternal torture in Hell!” and on the other side of the proverbial coin, I put something extremely safe, “Eternal bliss in Heaven.” Although, oddly, neither Heaven nor Hell are described in this entire tract, so really it’s not offering Heaven except in the title, only being rescued from the threat of Hell. Saved.

Once I’ve got that threat up, and I have my audience hooked on it, I sell my solution. At this layer of abstraction the human mind sees the two necessary elements of a stress action and, of course, chooses the case that doesn’t involve the serious danger. Threatening people with eternal torture to get them to agree must be one of the most cynical mechanics that I have ever seen in Christian propaganda.

“Do as I say or this bad thing will happen.”

In the parlance of my academic peers this is called an appeal to fear. It works by instilling fear, in this case via threat, in the reader and then feeding on that in order to make the rest of its case. This appeal is particularly fragile in that it has no depth to it. Appeals to fear require that the reader not examine the appeal too deeply, in this tract, not to question the assumptions made in the tract:

If there is no Heaven or Hell then this threat is moot.

22 thoughts on “Propaganda 101: HEAVEN or HELL (Fellowship Tract League Tract #115)

  1. Why thank you, EndGameOmega. I do try my best! Everyone can look forward to a few more of these; there is no shortage of clever propaganda pamphlets and tracts that I’ve received from people who visit Mill Ave on weekends.

  2. I’ve chosen Heaven, by believing in my Lord and Savor Jesus Christ! Each of you can do the same, just believe and confess your sins unto him and you shall be saved! Every man has a chance at redemption, please don’t waste yours.
    God Bless

  3. Carol, we do not believe in sin as an abstract concept and most of us do not believe in gods.

    Your closing remark reminds me of something one of my favorite Youtubers says at the end of his videos: “May God B Less”. May he ever, if he can indeed become less than nonexistent. He is God, after all.

  4. Hello, Carol, I would like to introduce you to a superior alternative to Heaven. I have selected it out of the untold billions of afterlives that exist in the latent human unconscious, each one equally valid based upon the profound lack of evidence for any afterlife—although one might readily argue that some are surreal to the point of illogic. Like your Heaven, for example.


    As a place Bliss is full of people who may or may not choose to get along. The majority of the population of Bliss are happy, receive everything they could desire in a multiverse of possibility without harming the psyche of other sentient beings during their own mental processes.

    Unlike Heaven, if you choose to go to Bliss you will not have to fear for your family members who might have chosen to go to a different afterlife. In fact, by its very nature, Bliss gives you the ability to remove your family members from whatever afterlife they have ended up in (say something like Hell awaits them according to their mythology) and import them into Bliss. This resolves the problem of Hell involved with going to Heaven.

    Have you thought about exactly what kind of a person you have to be to enjoy the fact that your family members who didn’t believe in Heaven would be tortured horribly and eternally in Hell while you watched? You, being in Heaven, would be sated and joyous about the fact that your loved ones would be suffering beneath your feet. Why must the afterlife turn you into a callous, hard-hearted monster? I cannot actually speak for you, but I’d like to believe that you’re not so ghastly as to not feel pangs of sorrow for people suffering torture while you sit in the lap of luxury.

    Bliss solves this problem by not putting the onus of this guilt on you; nor does it change who you are so that you can numbly accept the horrifying mistreatment of your loved ones and friends.

    Why not choose Bliss? It’s just as justifiable an afterlife as Heaven, Hades, Xibalba, Shangri-la, et cetera… Or at least have a tall, cool glass of “Think about it.”

  5. I follow God, and his will. He is the maker of all things, and I have no right to question him. Since God is all loving and knows everything surely he would have a better understanding of things then I do. You see it isn’t God who sends people to hell, it’s people, and their refusal to accept God’s will and his forgiveness. My father was a Muslim, and my mother was a Buddhist. I did what I could to warn them of their fate, but they would not listen. If it is Gods will that they burn in hell for eternity, then so be it. They where warned by God that they would be punished for their sins, and so they are. If not for Jesus and his gift to mankind I would likely be there as well. Your idea of bliss is simply a human construct and ignores the grace and gift of God’s will.

  6. Of course this idea of “bliss” is a human construct. The point is that your ideas of “heaven” and “hell” are exactly the same thing. You go on and on with Christian dogma as if there were something special about it, but there isn’t. There is no more, and perhaps less reason to believe in Christianity than in other religions.

    At least Siddhārtha Gautama (Buddha) generally gave good advice, and even admonished followers not to believe the things he said just because he said them. He encouraged people to question things and learn the truth for themselves.

    Your religion demands strict obedience to “divine” mandates, regardless of whether or not they make any sense, and in a great many matters it allows for no real questioning or thought beyond “What am I being told to do here?” Not only is it a terrible mistake to unquestioningly follow anyone’s teachings, but to strictly follow the teachings of an ancient and barbaric religious text in the modern world is ludicrous.

    I feel sorry for you if you really can’t see how horrible the things you’re saying are, but please try again to think about it. If this supposedly all-loving god really didn’t want people to go to Hell, he could either do away with Hell entirely or he could reveal himself to each of us in a way that would make us understand him and allow us to believe and follow him.

    The fact that he does not do this for us, but supposedly does it for so many Christians, proves that either he really does want to send us to Hell, or that you are the ones misunderstanding things, and perhaps that feeling of “God” is actually something else.

    Please don’t go through the rest of your life not only believing in an eternal punishment that doesn’t exist, but believing that we non-Christians, even the ones closest to you, deserve to burn there for eternity and that we all are or will be doing just that. The whole thing is a sick idea, and the sooner people realize that it is, and that we have no reason to believe it, the better.


  8. But fucks us what? You don’t mean…teh buttsex?

    Silly troll. Comments are for people who can string words together into coherent sentences.

  9. Fucking atheist cunts beats fucking theist cunts every time.
    But I wonder if this fellow’s perverse desire to watch demons perform sodomy on the damned transgresses Jesus’ purported proscription of lusting in one’s heart?

  10. Wow, Sinners, the profanity to signal ratio of your comment is over 1.5. That’s almost two times the white-noise, slobbering nonsense vs. actually saying something! Add in the appearance of having a broken keyboard (fix that CAPSLOCK already) and your strange inability to spell correctly and I might have been too charitable about which parts of your comment were actually meaningful.

    smeggo, I think that’s an excellent point. Perhaps someone from the Way of the Master evangelicals who so love that immoral Good Person Test can answer that question satisfactorily.

  11. this is about the most inane tract i have ever seen and i am a bible thumper
    why don’t you review something more interesting carmina?

  12. Sure thing! Got something more interesting for me to break down into its nascent atomic propaganda elements?

    Sadly, this sort of literature appears to be par for the course from the pile that I’ve been handed by my friends. I do have more dissections to come, but you may need to approach the publishers and distributors to get them to produce something with more substance.

  13. Are you referring to the response you made to the tract involving Elisha and children mocking him? That was ridiculous. As I recall, your main point was that the term translated as “children” could have meant anyone up to age 30. Of course it’s perfectly moral of God to sic bears on people who might possibly be in their twenties! What a spectacular specimen of an all-loving, all-understanding deity.

    Seriously, Vocab, that one was kind of embarrassing.

  14. gadfly –
    there is no Christian tract of any kind you would like
    - i accept and understand that.

    my question was if carmina wanted to review it.
    i am not under the impression carmina will like it or anything.
    i am just willing to supply “fodder” for carmina’s quest of critiquing
    Christian literature in order to produce an more enlightened culture …

    cause i am just that nice =)

  15. some folks need to lay off the LSD,you know who you are!here’s a clue, there’s 2 billion
    plus strong!quite impressive.

  16. I have just read both the tract in question and comments from both sides of the fence. I used to be an atheist, then agnostic, who held the same position as some of the folk above. I am now a fundamentalist Bible believing Christian. I wish I could revert, but now I realise I cannot.I had an unmistakable experience in which I was convinced that the GOSPEL is TRUE. It is at great personal risk that I leave you my private E mail address.I am prepared to take this risk because I am certain. So if you want to find out more, I will gladly tell you.I do not want to give my story out with asking first. I think this is the best way. With every good wish- to all parties. Shaun’s E mail:

  17. I find it a little disingenuous to claim some life altering experience then fail to share it openly. While it is your right to do so it makes it sound like your story is flimsy before anyone even hears it. It makes it sound as if you’ve ether told people before and had them tare it apart or you realize that it would be unconvincing to an empiricist or a skeptic and don’t want your story looked down upon publicly (Thought I believe that you likely believe it what ever it might be). If you wish to actually share your story openly we will consider it, but if not then you’ve given us nothing to consider.

    If you have the truth then you should share it openly rather then hide it.

  18. At Stan,

    Wait. God is cake? No wonder why he is so tasty. And why he is dead. Someone like me must have come up and eaten him right up.

    And I always found the concepts of heaven and hell, as they were explained to me by different Christians of varying religiosity. Whenever they explained it, they spoke about it as if there weren’t a doubt in their mind that they were going to go to heaven. When I was old enough to think about it more fully, it occurred to me that Heave and Hell are constructs that are terribly personal. By which I mean, Heaven is for you and those you cherish. Hell on the other than is for that asshole Steve down the street who has a better car, hotter wife and finely manicured lawn. In essence, hell is for those you dislike or hate. Now this isn’t what is taught in any church to my knowledge, but it seems to be the unspoken consensus among those not in the clergy. And perhaps in the clergy. I don’t know about the latter statement.

    It’s one of many things that drove me from the church and to study other religions. Only to find out that they’re all basically nonsense.

    Sorry to anyone named Steve. It was just the first name in my head.

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