[Originally aired August 2008.]
As the thermometer topped 100 degrees in Portland today, I began wondering about Hell, and I'm not talking about another season of MTV's Real World. It was hot today, but was it hotter than Hell? After living in Tucson, AZ for seven years, a few 100 degree days in Portland is uncomfortable, sure, but hardly the end of the world. That got me thinking about what Hell might actually be like. However, before I get to that, an observation: I find it odd that people think their earthly life is so bad they have to imagine Heaven, so wouldn't that practically equate life on Earth with life in Hell for these same people? (It would make sense after all; life, what with its endless array of nuisances.) If life is so bad that people have to imagine Heaven beyond a life on Earth, do they need to even imagine Hell? I mean, if it could get worse (i.e., go to Hell) than why would anyone complain about their terrestrial downtime? I figure that if Hell were so bad, religious folk would be doing a lot more to avoid going there.
So what is Hell like that makes it such an uncompelling place to avoid? For most of us who grew up in the U.S., we're familiar with Hell as a fire and brimstone kinda place, where your flesh is seared off your bones on a daily basis, the only beer available is Budweiser, and Los Del Rio's Macarena is on eternal rotation. If the proprietor of Hell were a little more ingenious, I think Hell would be more like forever living out our worst fears. For example, a binge-eating bulimic who can't throw up. Nauseating, right? That said, I know what hell would be for me, but I don't know how other people imagine Hell, if they do at all. The whole concept doesn't seem to be thought out very well, for it doesn't seem to be much of a deterrent to bad behavior.
Similarly, what is so great about Heaven that I should want to go there? I've heard that you get to forever be in God's presence and that alone is worth the agony of living a pious life. However, this seems like it would get boring after a few days. For the gentlemen though, Islam is particularly attractive it seems; just martyr yourself and you'll wind up with a divine harem of virgins! (In Hell, the guy is awarded a harem but is afflicted with erectile dysfunction.) Yet questions remain: In Heaven, do I need free will anymore? If so, why? Can I do whatever I want in Heaven if I do have free will, such as commit evil (because I so would)? Are there activities, like shuffleboard, or Bingo? Will I be the young me, the old me, the way I am when I die, or simply disembodied? How big is Heaven? What's the weather like? Does God have an "open door" policy for handling complaints? I'm curious to know if anyone has really thought their visions of Heaven through.
I'll leave it at that for now. The computer is overheating, but that's not the weather's fault. It's just a Dell piece of crap, compliments of Satan. I would try to go on but…ack, BSOD!!
"The only Hell there is, is the one we're living in." Ron Ruiz, circa 1988; high school classmate and eventual penitentiary inhabitant.