That certain special place.

19Jan09

It was a last bits of summer kind of trip to the beach. The sun warm on my skin above the meandering chill in the breeze. My toes dug into the sand while I hoped to absorb some radiant heat through my SPF 30. And I was reading Dante’s Inferno. I picked it up off the stack of books I generally keep around to read next. Such an odd contrast, my last trip to the beach for the year, and the nine circles of damnation.

I was raised an evangelical. I heard all the sermons about hellfire and brimstone. We ought to avoid hell, the pit where we will burn in torture for eternity, separated from God. When I was a little kid, my mother read my sister and me the Book of Revelations. I was raised to believe that hellfire awaited the sinner, suffering and agony, forever.

After I left home, I stopped going to church. I kept praying and reading my Bible. And then, slowly, I stopped. It was a period of great confusion. I became an avowed, vehement atheist. The idea of God and the afterlife, how stupid. I didn’t want it.

Eventually, I found my way back to a sort of militant, and then uncertain agnosticism. I find myself thinking that I would be surprised if some form of god or spiritual world didn’t exist. Yet I don’t think it’s anything our five senses can have anything of. Yes, yes, the faith quandary. But I am firmly attached to science. I don’t see science and the spiritual as antithetical. But I want there to be science behind my faith.

And after all this, I still catch myself with the lingering bits of mortal terror that I am going to hell. I used to yell at myself in my head, that there is no hell, no god, there is nothing. But I don’t see the point anymore. I am afraid to go to hell because I have been very, very expertly conditioned to fear it more than anything.

Yet this. Yet I cannot imagine anyone doing anything bad enough and evil enough to deserve hell for all eternity. Maybe a couple of years, a couple hundred years, but forever? I just can’t think of anything that anyone could possibly do that could be bad enough to deserve that. Hell forever.

Pol Pot, Hitler, this son of a bitch. The frequent references I make to the special place in hell for certain people (those who steal from non-profits, those who abuse the mentally or physically ill, etc). Yet I still don’t think anyone could deserve eternal torment. Eternal! It might soothe us now again, the thought of a truly awful or evil person burning forever in the pit of fire. But does it really make sense?

I don’t know. I don’t think so. Maybe it’s more like purgatory in Dante’s writings. Centuries of repenting toward heaven. Or more like samsara, the cycle of reincarnation and karmic outcomes. Or maybe just nothing.

Or maybe you’re one of the sick fucks who keeps tally and celebrates the number of days Matthew Shepard has been “burning in hell” for that horrible sin of falling in love with someone similarly sex-typed. If so, maybe, just maybe, there’s one of those special places awaiting you.

Maybe I am too rational. Maybe I read too many books. Maybe I can’t anything on faith. Does that deserve hellfire for all of time?

Well, what do you think?

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