Ash Wednesday: What is hell to you?

I opined that the old guy was in his own hell, and Catbird agreed.

I don’t think a whole lot about hell. Well, not since I was growing up with the concept constantly slipped into every third sermon I heard.

One of the things that started my long withdrawal from church in my twenties had a hell of a lot to do with what some said happened after death.

Specifically, it was the notion that everyone who didn’t accept Jesus as their savior was going to some fiery pit in the next life. That would include someone in a remote village in Nepal or person on a tiny island in the Pacific. (This is why we “needed” so many missionaries.)

Still, I think there is a “hell.” My good friend Catbird is reading “The Da Vinci Code,” which I’ve never even started. The motivation was partly because the book is on the PBS “Great American Read” list.

But it was also because some old acquaintance of Catbird’s said it was the work of the devil, which made it more enticing. My friend emailed the acquaintance to ask what event or character had informed his opinion, figuring he had never actually read the story. He replied that Catbird was going to hell and that his words were a warning.

Catbird shared the opinion that both heaven and hell are what one chooses to make of one’s circumstances. A life-altering experience has deeply informed my friend that death is nothing to fear.

I opined that the old guy was in his own hell, and Catbird agreed. And from appearances, it seems “entirely self-inflicted… and possibly addictive.” Catbird heard on the radio about the door to hell being locked from the inside and thought that it applied especially well to him.

So what is hell to you? Is it a physical place after we leave this mortal coil? Is it something else? Does it not exist at all? Maybe you’re hedging your bet.

This Lenten discussion immediately brought to mind a song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong: You Make Your Own Heaven And Hell Right Here On Earth, recorded by The Temptations and Undisputed Truth.