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.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

4 thoughts on “Ash Wednesday: What is hell to you?”

  1. I’m not sure. I guess I mostly believe that hell is caused by an individual’s conscious rejection….rejection of love, rejection of community, rejection of forgiveness that is offered. But the person who is doing the rejecting doesn’t really see that they are doing it. It’s like a situation I remember when someone threatened to leave the congregation (and their partner ultimately did) because they took as a personal slight something I absolutely knew was an oversight/mistake on someone else’s part, and no amount of explanation or apologizing would help that. Whereas many other people I know, as soon as the first explanation was offered, they’d laugh, and say “oh, what a relief! Of course it’s that.”

    I was struck the other day, driving by one of the churches in town where they had a message board sign about Satan, I realized I don’t think about Satan/the devil much at all, because I tend to believe that natural human tendencies are sufficient to explain the evil we see in the world.

  2. I myself simply do not believe in the Supernatural, it’s just us and what we do to ourselves or others, or what happens when we’re caught between greater and lesser physical forces. We live, we die, we vanish, which is why those of us who have briefly opened our eyes as a piece of the universe becoming self-aware are lucky, and we should appreciate whatever we get.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.