Saturday, September 4, 2010

Another look at Hell, a good place to live, but not to visit

Christian Hell.  It's the epitome of a bad situation.  Every bad thing that's ever happened to you, every bad thing you can think of, and every bad thing that you could never think of, but you can probably find online, cannot compare.  And the worst part of it?  It's eternal.

There was an example of eternity that I once heard that was pretty overwhelming.  I think I actually heard it on a sitcom.  This is paraphrased.  Imagine a brass ball the size of the earth floating in space.  Every thousand years, a dove flies by, and a tip of one of the dove's feathers brushes lightly against the brass ball.  By the time that the brass ball is ground down to nothing, eternity will have barely begun.

I was discussing religion in a popular imageboard the other day, and I realized something.  The idea of Hell being eternal actually takes a bit of the sting off of it.  Humans are very very adaptable, and those of us in the worst situations can still find some happiness, just like those of us in the best situations can find despair.

But Hell?  There's no adapting to that, right?

Let's say that one of the features of Hell is the opportunity of being gutted by a scimitar, and being allowed to lie on the ground with your entrails spread in front of you, perhaps with dogs chewing on them.  The first time this happens, it's a harrowing experience.  The tenth time this happens, you know what to expect.  The hundredth time this happens, you flip the guy off before his guts you.  The thousandth time, you're used to the pain, and you're scratching the dogs behind their ears.  The millionth time?  "Here, give me the sword, let me show you how it's done.  Damned amateurs."

Over time, you lose fear.  The primary animal fear is one of death, but in the afterlife there is no death, and when you're in Hell the idea of death wouldn't be that scary, anyway.

Let's say you've been in Hell for thirty million years.  You don't even remember any other kind of existence, pain means very little, and loss is just par for the course.  You're more skilled than any living person at finding ways to entertain yourself.  You've been through a lot, and you're able to appreciate the little things, and sweating the small stuff (or even the big stuff) is just a part of the forgotten and unimaginable past.  You're probably a very likeable person.

And what if we apply the idea of eternity to Heaven?  A place that is always happy, and without sin?  A place with no obstacles to overcome, no pain to make you stronger, and no bad times to make the good times sweeter?

If the ideas of Heaven and Hell are, as I suspect, constructs of the human mind, it's only natural that they would include very obvious positive/negative rewards and punishments for your  behavior in life.  But joy and pain don't exist outside of our own minds, and when we're faced with a different level of comfort, our standards naturally change over time, until we reach our own, personal equilibrium.  So Mary, who seems to complain no matter what's going on, probably would have the same attitude in the afterlife.  But Joan, who is generally happy, and accepts life as it comes without making a big stink every time the computer freezes up or she accidentally breaks an egg yolk, will probably do just fine, even if she's not a good Christian.

I can imagine people that would disagree, perhaps thinking of ways that Hell could stay bad, even after a trillion years, but unless someone has been there, and done that, it's just a guess.

And if you're really curious what Hell is like, I'll try to drop you a line after I die.  Because, if it's a real place, they've probably already embroidered my name on the sheets.

1 comment:

  1. interesting thoughts on eternity, but you haven't touched on the biggest difference between after-life and our mortal life that we enjoy (sometimes). that difference, sir, is TIME. Is there a time difference between Heaven and Hell? If it is lunchtime in Heaven then is the same for Hell? Sure the menus will be different is the time different too?

    My inclination is that death does NOT destroy the conscious mind, but, rather, removes the consciousness from our perception of time/space.

    The concept of eternity is impossible for us to grasp as we cannot imagine a reality that is separate from time and space. Therefore, we cannot begin to imagine what pleasures or tribulations are held for us in the hereafter.

    Perhaps dreams give us an inkling into what eternity will be like. In dreams, time has no bearing (it seems like a whole lifetime could be lived in dreams in the ten minute span between my alarm clocks snooze interval) nor does space (one instant you are at your work the next at a place from a distant memory). In dreams nothing is tangible. Food or sex, no matter how strong our desire, offer us no satisfaction in dreams. The strongest connection in dreams to our waking state is in the emotions we feel in dreams; the fear, the lust, the humor, the absurdity, etc.

    Now, mind you, I am a fellow who takes sleep seriously, so I have 'studied' it for decades!

    My thought is that any 'punishment' or 'reward' found in the afterlife will center around decisions made in life. I would imagine that, inessence, the fire and brimstone will turn out to be shame and regret and the cloudy harp playing will be satisfaction and pride.

    I detected a bit of subtle humor in your post so I am not here to try and overtly prove you wrong. i enjoy your posts and appreciate your insights. These are just thoughts that I offer. Of course, I haven't experienced death or the afterlife (though, when watching the latest Pirates of the Carribean, I fell into a deathlike state).