I think it’s an obvious concept, but Richard in (I think) Connecticut writes:
I hope I don’t sound too dense but I don’t understand your GOOHF cards. I know they are based on the Monopoly cards. What I don’t understand is when one would use them. I wouldn’t necessarily want to give them to someone I don’t like or someone I thought was doing something wrong because I probably wouldn’t want to joke with them. I wouldn’t necessarily want to give them to someone I do like, because that implies I think they would otherwise go to hell. Plus I wouldn’t want to seem so arrogant that I thought I had the power to influence God about something as important as whether someone’s soul spends eternity in hell or not. I know it is just a joke and I shouldn’t try to read too much into it but I just don’t understand it (and that is a little bit frustrating). Obviously a lot of people do get it (everyone who buys the cards for example) and I feel left out.
I hand out a lot of Get Out Of Hell Free cards myself, but never to people I don’t like.
Yes, the GOOHF card is a parody of the Monopoly® “Get Out of Jail Free” card, which trivializes the concept of getting out of trouble with the police. The GOOHF card trivializes the concept of getting out of even worse trouble in the sense that there are SO many people who demand the right to tell you what to think, what to believe, what to do — and where you’re going to go if you don’t think exactly like they do, which is not usually a bad thing since so often they’re total whackjobs.
I created the card in response to a True reader who told me in no uncertain terms I am going to hell for a story I wrote because, she said, it was “anti-Christian.” (In fact, the story was about the Chinese art of feng shui, which is not at all a religion, pro-religion, or anti-religion.)
My reaction to her freaking out was to simply be fed up with people thinking their brand of Christianity was the only “right” one, and anyone who thought any differently at all was condemned to hell — as if they had any say whatever over what happened to my soul.
Now and then, someone gets offended by the cards. Oh well: sorry they have no sense of humor or perspective. Should any Christian be offended by the card? I don’t think so, and neither do the two different priests at the Vatican who have them in their wallets (and one also has a GOOHF t-shirt!), nor the many other Christian ministers who have ordered the cards, nor the vast majority of other everyday people in at least 25 countries who have ordered the cards, many (perhaps the majority?) of which are Christians.
Recipients Love Them
I mostly hand them out to people who are harried: waitresses, postal clerks, anyone who seems to be having a bad day. It reminds them that the “hellish” day they’re having is mostly in their head; they can snap out of their bad mood and smile (and most of them do smile as they “get” the card), and realize their day doesn’t have to continue being bad. And I especially give them to people who have been told what to think, what to believe, and that they’re somehow “bad people” because they don’t believe the exact same things as someone trying to play God.
Yes, most people do seem to get the joke: we have shipped out as many as 12,000 cards in one week, but more typically lately we ship out 10,000-20,000 per month. It’s an amazing “side business” for us, especially considering we originally priced them merely to break even on the printing, packing and shipping. (The price has not gone up in 5 years, even though postage has, since we “make it up in volume.”)
There’s more at the GOOHF site — see especially the pages linked from the first paragraph about their origin and why I think they’re so popular, and the pages of buyers who provide some “stories” about reactions when they give the cards away.
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The price eventually did have to go up — by adding shipping costs — thanks to numerous postage increases. The average order is an astounding 500 cards.
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