That fear is on full display throughout HBO’s new documentary Questioning Darwin, which features a series of intimate interviews with biblical fundamentalists. Creationism, the documentary reveals, isn’t a harmless,compartmentalized fantasy. It’s a suffocating, oppressive worldview through which believers must interpret reality—and its primary target is children. For creationists, intellectual inquiry is a sin, and anyone who dares to doubt the wisdom of their doctrine invites eternal damnation. That’s the perverse brilliance of creationism, the key to its self-perpetuation: First it locks kids in the dungeon of ignorance and dogmatic fundamentalism. Then it throws away the key.

And that dungeon is much darker than most Americans realize. The creationists interviewed in Questioning Darwin—including their abominable doyen, Ken Ham, a wily businessman who is already fundraising off his ill-conceived recent debate with Bill Nye—returned again and again to the same depressing subjects. Death, suffering, pain, sorrow, disease: These, creationists inform us, are what await any skeptic, anyone who questions the word of God.