Monday, May 11, 2009

Destination: Hell.

Oh it's something I've never really given much thought to. Where I'll end up after this life as I know it ends. Where certainty ends and the great unknown begins. Which is ironic given my Christian background and the environment I grew up in, where hellfire and eternal damnation for sinners formed a significant bulk of the perfunctory Sunday sermons. Mind boggling in their sweeping dismissal of the world and the unworthy sinners that populate it.

Sinners go to Hell. Such a facile, careless phrase isn't it? Sinners like cheats, liars, fornicators, homosexuals, pagans, heretics, unbelievers, blasphemers, hoarders, murderers, the list goes on. All consigned to the eternal rubbish dump of humanity otherwise known as Hell. Rejects who failed to repent and turn from their wicked ways. I always find it such delicious irony that the religion I know, or at least the one I grew up knowing, should be so inclusive yet so exclusive in almost every other aspect.

Exclusive in the sense that there is but one way to God and one way to Heaven. Exclusive in the sense that really the said religion is the only way to God and Heaven, pagans be damned. Well, of course they can't say that publicly but that is in essence one of the fundamental tenets of Christianity. Exclusive because 'we (believers) are in this world but we are not of this world'.

Inclusive in its feckless, all encompassing classification of sin and the myriad forms of behaviour that would earn the said participants or sinners a one way ticket to eternal damnation and suffering. Those who fail to repent of course. I have always wondered what the world would be like if the said religion could have expanded half of the vigour that it displays in branding numerous forms of conduct as 'sinful', on being inclusive and tolerant of others different from themselves instead. But such puerile thinking militates against the very core tenet of the religion. In essence perhaps the layman's phrase, 'My Way or the Highway', best describes the religion's approach. In this case, highway meaning the expressway to Hell.

Undoubtedly, there are some forms of behaviour that are universally unacceptable or at least detrimental to society in general. So say for example, murder, rape and theft is detrimental to the society and the actors 'deserve' to be punished if not in this life then in whatever awaits after this life. But it gets ridiculous when sin or the proverbial ticket to hell encompasses stuff like 'deviant' sexuality and desires or even watching various shows or sitcom such as 'Desperate Housewives' which purportedly corrupt and degenerate minds and morals.

When what is different is literally demonised by virtue of being different and the prospect of eternal damnation awaits the unrepentant actor who refuses to conform by repenting. As I have said and I will say again, a religion that condemns me solely on the basis of my sexuality and who I am as a person, that I am a sinner for the simple reason that I do not love women, is not a religion I can countenance and/or accept. Naturally, there are millions who disagree as well as many gay Christians who can seemingly compartmentalise the fact that they are gay along with their lifestyle and the religion they practice which no matter how I look at it appears to be fundamentally incompatible with our 'sinful' lifestyle.

It was not an easy decision to make but one I made once I decided to embrace the fact that I was gay and live the life more than 12 years ago. That coming from a devout pre-pubescent boy who attended cell group regularly but suffered the occasional stab of confusion and guilt every time I attempted the futile exercise of explaining away my attraction towards other guys. But of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and their freedom to believe whatever they want to believe. I do not intend to persuade or coerce anyone to adhere to my point of view. Indeed, those who believe would never be persuaded otherwise anymore than I would be persuaded to subscribe to a religion I have chosen to reject for the aforesaid reasons.

But I digress. Most of you I believe have heard of, if not read Dante's Inferno, the first (and probably most memorable) part of the Divine Comedy. An allegory narrative written by the Italian, Dante Alighieri, in the thirteenth century that portrays the medieval concept of Hell and the different levels of Hell reserved for various forms of sin and the said sinners. Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle wrote Inferno in 1976 depicting a science fiction writer's journey through hell with Benito Mussolini as his guide, updating Hell with a variety of modern day 'sins' and injecting some black humour into an entertaining and fast-moving novel.

It became a classic and 33 years after Inferno was released, its sequel Escape from Hell was released in February this year. I'm still on it. A highly entertaining read, I'd recommend the two books. Though I find it amusing albeit morbidly so, how lawyers always have a special place in Hell or places rather. According to Dante and further elaborated upon by Niven and Pournelle, Lawyers, legalists, unbelievers and the 'lukewarm' are found in the Vestibule of Hell, confined for all eternity to little brass flasks with neither senses nor company.

Lawyers who sow discord such as those who talked people into divorces they didn't want and lawsuits they didn't need get a special place in the eight circle of Hell where they get hacked apart by a sword wielding demon only to heal again and get hacked apart, repeatedly. Gays get consigned to the seventh circle of Hell where they roam a burning desert of flaming sand and get cooked by fiery flakes which rain down from the sky. And you wonder why I don't give the idea of life (assuming there is life) after death much thought.

So after this life has passed, even if I were wrong, that there is but one way to Heaven and I'm on the shinkansen to Hell, I'd still have three places in Hell to choose from. I'd probably opt for the place with fellow gays. Better to be tormented with other guys I can appreciate and commiserate with rather than being locked up in a metallic vessel or get chopped up without decent company.

And if anything, I'd take immense comfort from the fact that Heaven would be a very dreary and boring place indeed without any gay men or women for that matter. I mean how can Heaven be Heaven without other gay men to appreciate, flirt and/or sleep around with?? Otello's Iago puts it succinctly. Credo in un Dio crudel. I believe in a cruel God. How apt.


wildgoose said...

I always thot too, that heaven would be a very boring place with all the goody two shoes. Who would want to be with them for eternity? =P

Aelgtoer said...

Ha ha it would be a real bore. After all, it seems like all the fun people and those who know how to have fun are destined for Hell. haha.

sinlady said...

don't want to discuss heaven. all the people i can't stand now will be there.

i always found it hard to accept the idea of a "hell forever" with no chance for parole, no matter how big or small the transgression.

Aelgtoer said...

SL, then you should really read those two books. The protagonist struggles with that very concept that Hell cannot be a place of eternal punishment without redemption or parole for the said sinners.

Anonymous said...

Hey siao eh, lend me the books ok? Too broke man. =p