Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hell is Real

A few weeks back we were working our way upstream on a typical Friday at the Charlottesville Downtown Mall. Upstream is toward the Pavilion, at least when the beer concessions shut down.

We came upon a hellfire and damnation event in front of Zocalo. These kids were on something. The person pictured was sort of yelling directly at the rather confused looking person standing in front of him. Maybe half of the statements were actually questions, although not a moment was left open for a reply. It was like an enactment of some stereotype of fire and brimstone preaching. We continued on upstream.

I went to Catholic School in New York through the eighth grade. The nuns also tried to impress the notion of suffering for eternity on us. Some of the technical details; suffering in hell is not possible to become accustomed to. The nuns also had some nifty ways of allowing us to visualize damnation as eternal.

While reading a James Joyce story, many years later, it became evident these ideas might have even been taken from his writings. The quote below from “Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man” used the same metaphor (specifically, the bird) as I heard, to explain the notion of eternity. It was used in the same manner also: to impress on a young mind just how horrible eternal damnation is.

“Now imagine a mountain of that sand, a million miles high, reaching from the earth to the farthest heavens, and a million miles broad, extending to remotest space, and a million miles in thickness; and imagine such an enormous mass of countless particles of sand multiplied as often as there are leaves in the forest, drops of water in the mighty ocean, feathers on birds, scales on fish, hairs on animals, atoms in the vast expanse of the air: and imagine that at the end of every million years a little bird came to that mountain and carried away in its beak a tiny grain of that sand. How many millions upon millions of centuries would pass before that bird had carried away even a square foot of that mountain, how many eons upon eons of ages before it had carried away all?”

If you want the entire chapter, including the description of hell also, it’s shared here; http://www.online-literature.com/james_joyce/portrait_artist_young_man/3/ .

So, just putting “everlasting punishment” on a sign doesn’t impress me.

In fairness to the current Church, I doubt very much they talk about hell is this manner anymore.

It should be possible to update this for “modern times.” How about, you have to go to DMV to convince them that a speeding ticket added to your record was actually an error. . . .

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