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Congratulations! You’re Going to Hell! 3. Best Place Ever

Hell doesn’t exist. But before I realized that, I was very much looking forward to going. Why no fear?

Well, for one thing, I was pretty sure that whatever the Divine was, he/she/they/it had absolutely no interest in torturing people forever. I mean, come on. Do we get so mad at ants or amoeba or our dogs, cats, parrots, fish, etc. that we plot to keep them alive forever just so we can punish them horrifically? Do we become outraged when bacteria don’t bow down and proclaim us the ultimate? Do we seek a personal relationship with protozoa, and throw a tantrum when they don’t proclaim their undying love? Would you, given the option, consign any member of the animal kingdom to everlasting torment for daring to go their own way?

Do you lie awake at night feverishly writing up rules on How to Have Acceptable Sex for various species, and become obsessed with them forcing them to follow your rules to the letter? Do you wish to fricassee them endlessly for Doing It wrong?

(I hope you said no to all of the above. If not, please immediately seek help from a licensed secular therapist.)

Whatever this god-thing is, I thought, cannot possibly be more fucked in the head than the worst human ever born. Besides, that punish-you-if-you’re-bad/reward-you-if-you’re-good, all-seeing, all-knowing pervert type of god sounded an awful lot like Santa Claus, and I’d known what he was invented for ever since my friend’s mother and I used the “Santa is watching” myth to make her son behave while we were sewing Barbie clothes. This Vengeful Lord character sounded awfully like the kind of god a dude would make up to keep people under control. Fuck that noise.

But what if God really was such a petty, obsessive, jealous, abusive asshole? What if I really did end up in Hell for not following his rules?

Fantastic! Super-great! Sign me up!

Why? Plenty o’ reasons:

For one, if God was such a raging fuckwad, I wanted to be as far from him as possible, and I’d been told Hell is as distant from God as you can get. Perfect!

Image is Buddy Jesus. Caption says, "You're going to hell. LOL."

Heaven sounded bloody boring. “You’ll be reunited with your family!” they said. I don’t actually like most of my family – you think I’m wanting to spend eternity with them when I can’t take five minutes at Christmas? Oh, and this singing-praises-to-God crap sounded awful. People babbled about pearly gates and streets of gold and I’m all like, “Dude, that stuff’s valuable because it’s rare. Put it on everything and it just gets tacky.” The music? Heard it, hate it. Never feel pain, sorrow, etc.? I’m a writer, you dipshits, I thrive on conflict!

“But you’ll be with Jesus!” the Christians cried.

Awgawd, you mean the egotistical fuck who reminded me of a cross (ha) between every horrible cult leader ever and the worst moments of my unmedicated bipolar relatives? I get to spend the rest of all eternity in the embrace of someone who makes me deeply uncomfortable? Yeah… um, excuse me while I go blaspheme the Holy Spirit.

Then I discovered that by the criteria of many branches of Christianity, none of the interesting people were going to make it to heaven. Carl Sagan? Atheist. So were almost all scientists ever. Emily Dickinson was probably there. The greatest writers, poets, philosophers; the endlessly fascinating people of other faiths or no faiths at all; condemned. You know something, if I’ve gotta spend all eternity somewhere, I’d rather spend it with people who are actually interesting, even if the thermostat’s broken.

Besides, I’m not fond of freezing. Being in the warm sounded nice.

Oh, and this Lucifer fellow? Better fashion sense than the head cheese. Got kicked out of heaven for using his own brain rather than mindlessly obeying. Slipped humanity knowledge on the sly. Clever bloke. Great taste in entertainment. Sounds like a better sort than god, actually, and far more likely to be the kind of person you’d want to drink with. And seriously, after what God did to the poor fucker, I seriously doubt he’d be spending his time torturing the souls God doesn’t like. Far more likely he’s trying to win all the best, most clever and talented souls so he can march on heaven and initiate a regime change. Considering the kind of sick, twisted fuck a God is who’s willing to burn you forever for not stroking his ego enough, allow me to just register with the Resistance.

And for all those silly shites babbling to me about God’s love and mercy: do you really think the best father in all of creation would inflict unfathomable agony on his children, without reprieve, just because they struck out on their own? I mean, seriously. What rot.

No, if that was the case, Hell sounded like the place to be, and I was rather looking forward to it. My fear of it vanished once I’d had a chance to calmly think it through. Seemed like the only way to lose Pascal’s Wager was to stake my life on that legalistic shit of a god the fundies were always on about.

That hasn’t changed now I’m an atheist. I’m not fussed about the possibility of being wrong. No matter which way the coin falls, I win.

Besides: there’s a serious contingent of Christians who assure me, with utmost sincerity, that Hell is actually the absence of God.

Hey… I’m an atheist. There’s no god in my life. Total absence. ZOMG. This is Hell!

Moi at Crater Lake.

Moi at Crater Lake.

Nice. So glad I ended up here! Okay, so, yes, I did get burned. But I got better.

And so, my darlings, the next time the deadly-earnest and oh-so-concerned Christian (or other hell-believing religious person) threatens you with Hell if you don’t submit to Jesus (or other deity) right now, just remember: Hell isn’t necessarily the worst place you could end up. Perhaps they should threaten you with Heaven instead….

Comments

  1. Karen Locke says

    Don Henley, on his Actual Miles album, has an interesting song about the whole heaven/hell issue. Couldn’t find it on YouTube, alas. Title is “In the garden of Allah”.

  2. rq says

    Do we become outraged when bacteria don’t bow down and proclaim us the ultimate?

    “Just try keeping track of all our billions,” cackle the bacteria, “Just try! Know each of us by name!”
    (I mean, seriously – knowing so many people from the beginning of time to the end of it, each and every one individually, by name, well enough to condemn or to raise up to Heaven… That’s just impossible, I don’t care how omnipotent you are!)

    Happily living in Hell with you. That whole things about the company of thieves and kings is definitely true. ;) (Seconding Karen’s #2.)

  3. Lithified Detritus says

    Great stuff.

    And appropriately, Crater Lake is more or less the entrance to Hell. It is also knock-your-socks-off beautiful. Right up there with the Grand Canyon in my book.

    BTW, preview has goon all wonky again.

  4. says

    The best takedown of the heaven myth, ever, is Mark Twain’s “extract from Capt Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven” (which can be had free from Project Gutenberg here: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1044 )

    It’s typical Twain – in other words: funny, maddeningly sarcastic, and beautifully written. There are wonderful bits about the gigantic piles of cast-off halos and harps inside the pearly gates, from all the newly arrived who realize that they can’t play harp, and the halos are heavy and annoying. And then there’s the description of the humongous fanboi crowds whenever an apostle puts in an appearance – crowds that are mostly there from sheer boredom and a desire to see what the whole point of the eternal exercise is. It starts off slow but give it a chance. I wish he’d done “A Conneticut Yankee Goes to Hell” and wrote about how Sir Boss dethroned Satan and made the place into an efficiently run libertarian paradise, or something.

  5. Scr... Archivist says

    Good post. It reminds me of a book I read eons ago called “Waiting for the Galactic Bus”. Ever heard of it?

    Also, I have to ask. In that lovely picture from Crater Lake, are you wearing the One Ring? That would be an appropriate place to bring it.

  6. says

    Do we become outraged when bacteria don’t bow down and proclaim us the ultimate?

    I have my very own version of bacteria in my intestines, and when they don’t worship me adequately, I occasionally poop them out into a tub of cold water. But in all their teeming billions, none of them are gay, so I don’t have to really do much.

  7. moarscienceplz says

    Do we seek a personal relationship with protozoa, and throw a tantrum when they don’t proclaim their undying love?

    Personally, I’m planning on putting lots of e. coli in flasks, starving them for years while taunting them with citrate, and then when they finally evolve the ability to eat citrate – I will take the citrate away! Mwah haa haa!

  8. DonDueed says

    Dana, the first part of your post reminded me of Vonnegut’s “Church of God the Utterly Indifferent”, from (IIRC) The Sirens of Titan.

    Their prayer went something like, “Oh Lord, what could we possibly do for you that you could not do a million times better for yourself?”

    Torturing ants, indeed.

    Of course, it’s all rather silly considering the likelihood of any sort of afterlife. (Hint: it’s not very likely.)

  9. says

    considering the likelihood of any sort of afterlife.

    You will almost certainly be reincarnated by the various bacteria that eat your remains when you’re done living. I know that when people talk about afterlife they are usually imagining it’s sort of in the form that they’re in now – which isn’t going to happen – but I’m sort of contented by the idea that maybe I can make some crows and buzzards happy someday, and be reincarnated as a piece of them. Maybe I can poop on a cop car. Or get pooped on a cop car! See? The afterlife isn’t so bad!

    • rq says

      This poem is the closest I’ve seen that gets this sentiment: the idea that, in dying, all our bits and pieces go on living in different form and with different function. But still, alive. :)

      Do not stand at my grave and weep
      I am not there. I do not sleep.
      I am a thousand winds that blow.
      I am the diamond glints on snow.
      I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
      I am the gentle autumn rain.
      When you awaken in the morning’s hush
      I am the swift uplifting rush
      Of quiet birds in circled flight.
      I am the soft stars that shine at night.
      Do not stand at my grave and cry;
      I am not there. I did not die.

      - Mary Elizabeth Frye

  10. says

    Here’s one of my favorite atheist goes to hell joke:

    An atheist who lived well, was kind and generous was killed by falling timbers in an apartment fire while trying to rescue some trapped children. To her surprise, she found herself at the entrance to heaven. There, the doorman, St Peter stopped her before she could go through the gates.

    St Peter shakes his head and says, “Sorry, since you did not repent and believed in Jesus before you died, I’m afraid I can not let you in, so your only option is to go to hell”. The atheist was somewhat disheartened, but St Peter continued, “don’t feel so bad, hell is where you will find most of your friends and some of your family, as well as many interesting famous people. You just won’t find any connection to God, but since you never believed in him, it shouldn’t be a big loss for you .”

    So down to hell she went. She was met by Satan himself. She was surprised that instead of a huge scary dude with a pitchfork, Satan was dressed in business casual, had no unpleasant smells and seemed quite pleasant. Satan led the atheist through the gates of hell and inside she found what appeared to be a nice warm sunny day at a meadow by a pristine blue lake. What was more remarkable was a big pavilion tent was set up with several large picnic tables filled with good food and lots of her favorite music playing. Lots and lots of people were talking, dancing, playing games. Satan takes the atheist and introduces her to old friends, family famous celebrities. athletes and scientists.

    After a while, the atheist was busy chatting when suddenly, the wind over the lake whipped up… lightning and thunder started and the lake waters parted to show hot sulfurous lava glowing. Satan excuses himself from the partiers and bursts into flames and a giant barb trident appears in his hand as he grows to 10x his prior size. Down from the dark sky a figure of a man falls, screaming… Satan takes his barbed trident, stabs the man and flings him into the fiery lava pit which then closes… Then clouds part and it’s a nice sunny day again. The lake waters return and become pristine again. Satan shrinks down and is in his business casual again. The partiers giggle a little bit and resume their revelry.

    The atheist is aghast and seeks out Satan and asks what the hell just happened. Satan shakes his head sadly and says, “that was a Christian fundamentalist. He wouldn’t of been happy if hell did not meet his expectations”.

  11. Darkling says

    But if I go to hell then I hope I burn well,
    I’ll spend my days with J.F.K., Marvin Gaye, Martha Raye, and Lawrence Welk,
    And Kurt Cobain, Kojak, Mark Twain and Jimi Hendrix’s poltergeist,
    And Webster yeah Emmanuel Lewis cause he’s the anti-christ,

    The song just came up on my music player and I couldn’t stop myself from sharing.

  12. pianoman, Heathen & Torontophile says

    Where do bad folks go when they die?
    They don’t go to heaven where the angels fly
    They go to the lake of fire and fry
    Won’t see them again ’till the fourth of July