Thursday, November 26, 2009
* Bring Hell Back (on Steroids)
I don't know who invented Hell AKA eternal damnation. An underworld called Sheol is mentioned in the Old Testament, but no concept of eternal punishment is associated with it.
The New Testament obviously gets the blame for this happy idea. And it is one of the reasons Bertrand Russell rejects Christianity in his essay Why I am Not a Christian. If I recall correctly, he says something like this (only more eloquently): Any religion which introduced the idea of eternal damnation into the world is evil and I cannot subscribe to it.
Well, if he didn't say that, he should have.
Around the time the music of the Beatles began saving the world from hypocrisy (1960), secular American society began ignoring hell until today when no one ---except very old and literal-minded Christians (Ted Kennedy writing the Pope?)--- is actually frightened by hell any more as a real, potential destination on the lower floor of a triple decker universe where evil doers spend eternity being savagely punished.
Or if they do, they believe in it as a place OTHER people are going to wind up in, or as a psychological state in THIS world which can be worked out of by improved behavior AKA contrition and rectitude.
The trouble with the trivialization of hell is that it was a good Skinner Box technique for training socially acceptable behavior. Like an electric shock, the fear of hell would keep others from transgressing too much, at least in personal issues. (Except for Huck Finn who decided to go to hell for lying rather than betray his slave friend Jim. Good choice, Huck!)
Unfortunately, that Skinner Box didn't seem to work in war (the one exception allowed to the "Thou Shalt Not Kill" one-way-trip-to-hell-violation). Read these statistics for the Twentieth Century from a book by one of our former National Security Advisors:
Zbigniew Brzezinski, Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the Twenty-first Century (1993)
"Lives deliberately extinguished by politically motivated carnage":
167,000,000 to 175,000,000
War Dead: 87,500,000
Military war dead:
Civilian war dead:
Not-war Dead: 80,000,000
Even Abraham Lincoln, in the century prior, cooked up a way to justify the killing he ordered and escape the Skinner-Box of hell: "For every drop of blood from the lash, a drop of blood from the sword." Thus he came to believe that the Civil War deaths of both Union and Confederate soldiers were Providence's way of balancing the scales of divine justice for the evil of slavery.
Who knows. Sounds pretty. But it's rather blood-thirsty of the deity, don't you think?
Dead is dead. And those statistics above are MILLIONS not THOUSANDS.
I say, bring hell back and make it twice as bad and totally inflexible: You kill (or order others to kill): you go to hell and suffer in flaming torture forever.
That would have included Honest Abe, Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Eisenhower, Churchill, Kennedy,McNamara, Johnson, Nixon, Bush, and perhaps now, Obama. (Notice they're all males? Maybe we need to give a few more women the power to kill, besides Golda Meir and Margaret Thatcher.)
Posted by Paul D. Keane at 5:16 PM