The Course of Reason

Music Monday: The Vandals “People that are Going to Hell”

June 11, 2012

I’m a Vandals fan and have quite a few of their tunes in my disorganized library of MP3s going back to the advent of MP3s (or at least it felt like the advent-remember listening to .wav clips on AOL? I do). I was jamming to my Pandora playlist of NOFX radio today when “People that are Going to Hell” by The Vandals came on. I rocked out, as usual, but then I looked up the lyrics because I realized it might be a good song for #MusicMonday. Turns out it was kind of the opposite of what I figured the song was about.

Being that I am a secular humanist and don’t generally think about the concept of heaven or hell, I guess I just assumed that the song from this notoriously snarky and silly band (come on, they released the albums “Live Fast, Diarrhea” and “BBC Sessions and Other Polished Turds”) was satirical, or at least tongue-in-cheek. Plus, the quick, upbeat and happy tempo of the song didn’t seem to be about, you know, eternal damnation. After reviewing the lyrics, I think I am wrong. I think that it is very much a song about how bad people will spend the rest of forever in a hot place among other terrible people (not Florida). Why would a band that jokes about everything write an up-tempo song about hell?

Well, my guess is for the same reason that others think about damnation, karma, or some justice-enforcing spirit of the universe: it’s comforting. It’s nice to know that terrible people will be punished. It makes us feel like we’re doing something good by not being a terrible person, and that we’d have the same uncomfortable outcome if we were to switch sides and join the team of abusers, jerks, and careless sung about in The Vandals song. But, for people who don’t believe in karma or hell or what have you, what are we to do? What do you do to make your brain come to terms with people being jerks?

For me, when it’s a stranger, it’s easy to think that the person probably has something wrong that makes them mean, self-absorbed, or sadistic. I find myself thinking, in the case of the generally pissy, that they are not well-balanced, or have a crappy life, if the only thing they’ve got to do is yell at store clerks, or try to run me off the road because they don’t know how to merge. When it’s someone I know and they seem to have a fine life, maybe even a rewarding one, yet they are an awful person, I can’t find any comfort in cosmic forces. I just hope that they develop a condition that makes them bite their tongues or stub their toes or date people that like really stupid movies and reality TV.

Those are my thoughts for Music Monday. Now back to the show. 

As always, if you get a chance, send your suggestions for future Music Mondays to Cody at, leave a comment below, or @tweet us at @CFIOnCampus. Your suggestions, along with future and past songs, may end up in the official Course of Reason Music Monday Grooveshark playlist or Spofity playlist that anyone can listen to.    



About the Author: Dren Asselmeier

Dren Asselmeier's photo

Dren Asselmeier does student outreach as a campus organizer at the Center for Inquiry. She got her start as an organizer while interning at Center for Inquiry–Michigan in 2008. She stayed until 2010 as a volunteer campus coordinator, and was CFI–Michigan Freethinker of the Year in 2009, as well as president of Center for Inquiry–Grand Valley State University. Dren has a B.A. in English from Grand Valley State University. She is the president of Buffalo Area Non-Profit Professionals, an event volunteer at Buffalo Subversive Theatre, and a contributor to the Buffalo Storyteller Hour. 




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