So, I could be wrong. I could end up in Hell, for the sin of finding blasphemy extremely amusing. This is not among the listed sins, at least in any list I’ve read, but I’ve been assured by religious people that it is, and I’m going to Hell for it. There have been a couple of other sins I’ve committed along the way, too.
I’ve always assumed I would end up in the nice Catholic Hell that was promised me by the nuns that slapped me around in grammar school. The best feature of Catholic Hell was ease of entrance. Chewing gum before taking Communion was a one-way ticket there, and skipping Mass on one of the Church’s innumerable Holy Days of Obligation got you a front-row seat, too.
So, there you would be, Mr. Little Gum Chewer, right where you belonged, getting tortured eternally with all the liars, cheats, serial rapists and mass murderers. Even before you learned to masturbate, which assured you of your place in the Fiery Pit, you could get what you deserved, suffering without end.
The nuns were not specific about the torments of Hell per se. It was hot, of course, and random slashings by Satan’s imps were common.
As a Catholic, you could always luck out and go to Purgatory. Purgatory was hard to get into, as the category of sin, venial, that put you there was pretty mild. Lying to your mom about having made your bed could put you in Purgatory, for example. The place had all the torture features of Hell, but your sentence there was only temporary. The best thing about Purgatory was that your mom was probably going to end up there, too, and you could get the bed-making thing straightened out with her between scaldings by hot lava.
But what if Mohammed really was God’s messenger, instead of just a horny bastard who hated booze and wanted a batch of teenage wives? I could end up in Muslim Hell. Muslim Hell has seven layers, kind of like a burrito offering by Taco Bell, and there’s plenty of El Scorcho Sauce in every one. The only redeeming feature of Muslim Hell is that you are surrounded by bad Muslims, which is way more fun than being surrounded by good Muslims. Ask anybody in Kabul, if you don’t believe me.
Jews are kind of half-assed about Hell. You don’t have to believe in eternal life or eternal torture to call yourself a Jew. You can believe in Hell if you want to, but it is a merely a Hell of teeth-gritting inconveniences, like being seated at a table by the kitchen in a restaurant. Instead of a menu, you have a list of all the shitty things you did in life that you ought to be ashamed of. You have to read it, over and over. The good news is that Hell for Jews is only temporary. Eventually they are released and go to Jewish Heaven, which they call “the world to come.”
My girl and her daughter, who are both Jewish, were discussing the World to Come the other day and, me being in the room, the subject of whether atheists would be admitted there came up, and her daughter had a swift answer.
“Of course,” she said. “Because, as soon as they get there, they’re no longer atheists.”
Works for me.