Hell, Yes!


“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Matthew 23:33)

I like hell. Not that I want to go there, but I do think it’s a hell of a great idea.

The concept of a state of ultimate punishment may be repugnant to some. The thought that a loving God could consign some of his very own creatures to everlasting torment (or at least permanent erasure) is to them inconceivable. I, on the other hand, actually appreciate the possibility. A God who can say “I’ve had it with you people” is a God with chutzpah. I just can’t do a namby-pamby deity.

There’s a ton of information about hell out there if you want to know how the idea developed and what different traditions think about it. The Greeks, for example, had Hades, a sort of grungy, windowless bar in the netherworld where hero and chump alike sat around drinking cheap cocktails and dreaming about the old days. Not scary, but maddeningly boring. Most other traditions, however, portray hell as a bad place. Bad bad bad.

As a last resort, you can read the Bible to see what those guys believed. In the scriptures you’ll find hellish concepts like punishment, torment, wrath, fire, darkness, destruction, and even worms (yuck). Whether these are literal descriptions or metaphorical conceits is not the point. The point is that hell is a decidedly rotten place for a timeshare.

Personally, I’d add a few more nodes to the infernal neighborhood. In my hell all the restaurants are Mexican. There’s not a coffee shop in sight. Everybody has at least three dogs and is covered with tattoos. There’s no toilet paper. No matter where you sit, a crying kid is next to you. Somebody has always just farted. And even if you don’t want anything you still have to wait in line. Come to think of it, my version of hell looks a lot like the DMV.

So who ends up in hell? Pretty much anybody you and God don’t like. (And it’s highly unlikely that any God worth his salt is going to disagree with you.) For most of us, hell is not really a religious issue, but a grudge wish. We want the jerks smacked, screwed, skewered, scalded, and scraped until they scream—and we want to watch too. Otherwise, heaven (which is, of course, where you’re going) promises to be a lot like Hades, except with windows, potted plants, and organic fruit juices—kind of like a hotel lobby. If we’re lucky, heaven might be a bunch of RVs parked by the lake of fire with the saints, cold brews in hand, watching the fireworks from lawn chairs. Now that’s something worth getting saved for.

If it weren’t for the pain part, hell actually seems kind of cool (in a hot sort of way). Sure, it may be a transitional neighborhood, but it definitely has character. Heaven, hell’s nice sister, is pretty and gracious, but not much fun on a date. In fact, I’m thinking that heaven wouldn’t be nearly so attractive without the looming threat of utter doom.

Ultimately, hell seems relative. It’s whatever we want for the jerks and what the jerks want for us. From what I’ve seen, most of us are only concerned about keeping our own keisters out of there. The idiots be damned. Besides, we don’t really want them in paradise anyway.

That’s why there’s a hell in the first place. They gotta go somewhere.


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