I Choose Hell

I choose Hell

If there really is a Heaven and a Hell after we die, I’m pretty damn sure we all know where I am headed.  In fairness, it doesn’t matter if it’s Dante’s Inferno or just a Heaven or Hell-themed cocktail party: Either way, I’m generally veering straight for the lowest floor.  As my literary and personal hero Oscar Wilde once said, “I don’t want to go to Heaven.  None of my friends are there.”  Or, in the immortal words of Billy Joel, “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.  The sinners are much more fun.”  But if you can’t tell by now, I’m placing all my chips on the premise that it’s all a bunch of malarkey anyways.  In my way of thinking, Heaven and Hell are just old wives’ tales told to children to keep them up at night, wondering what they might do to possibly escape the eternal fires of damnation.

Don’t get me wrong here- I’m not knocking anyone else’s religious perspective or belief system.  Anything I say here is just my own worthless opinion, and I certainly don’t have any pretension to thinking that my postulations on this subject are any more valuable than anybody else’s.  But somehow I just can’t see the world framed in that sort of false dichotomy of Heaven and Hell, Good versus evil, Black as compared to White.  For me, the world is composed of a whole lot more shades of grey.

You’ve got two choices???

After all, just who is getting into this super posh after hours club called Heaven anyways?  The easy answer, of course, is “good” people.  But what does that even mean?  Hasn’t our notion of what defines “good” changed over time, suggesting that the standard for entry is more of a loosey-goosey set of arbitrarily applied set of guidelines than a divinely-inspired set of moral precepts sent to us by the Almighty Hand of God?  I remember talking to my Mom once and having her tell me that she had nothing personally against “the gays” (like they were some sort of Motown quartet of background singers, as in “Diane Ross and the Gays”), but that, according to her reading of the Bible, they weren’t getting into Heaven.  What?  So God created human beings just so that He could send them into the flaming pits of Hell?  Wow, that’s an awfully dark sense of humour.  The fact is that all of us have done some bad things in our lives and, hopefully, in the case of everyone other than Charlie Sheen, we have also done some good.  Everyone is just on a spectrum somewhere between Mother Theresa and Donald Trump, so where would God even cut the bell curve for good behaviour?  The margins for the people in the middle ground would be razor-thin.  Does God hold postmortem trials where each of us has to defend the relative merits of our Earthly existences?  Better start racking up those Good Person Points now- they’ll come in handy in the afterlife.

I have heard it said in some Christian circles that the only thing we need to do to enter the kingdom of Heaven is to give our lives to Jesus Christ.  But what about a kid who grew up in a remote village in Somalia?  Sorry little Burhaan, I’m afraid your heathen soul is slated to go to Hell.  You should have had the good foresight to move to Zimbabwe where the Portuguese established monasteries as far back as the 16th century.  No, I just can’t buy into the idea of a God who sets conformity of belief as the standard for entry into eternal paradise.  That seems much more like something humans would do.

Which brings me to the crux of what I think is going on here in the first place.  Do you remember when you were a kid and your parents would use the fear of an omniscient, omnipresent Santa Claus to scare you into good behaviour for the entire month of December?  Of course you do.  “He sees you when you’re sleeping.  He knows when you’re awake.  He knows when you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake.”  Yeah, that’s some really fucked up shit right there.  No wonder every kid in North America behaved themselves as soon as Thanksgiving hit.  And if that kind of Orwellian social control suddenly creeps you out, don’t think we are any better.  What do you think that Elf on the Shelf you hang up every year is?  Yeah, nothing like having an all-seeing elf that reports your every move to Santa each night hanging around your house now is there?  Well, how are the notions of Heaven and Hell any different?

If you’ve ever read Puritan minister Jonathan Edward’s sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, you have a rough idea of what I’m talking about.  In his remarks to his terror-stricken congregation, Edwards imagines us as spiders hanging from a tenuous thread, perilously suspended above the fiery pits of Hell.  He warns them of the dangers of sin.  The fear he manifests is palpable.  Knowing his parishioners would do anything to escape such condemnation, he has them in the palms of his hands.  They will do as he tells them to do.

Many modern churches are more predicated on the rewards of Heaven than the fire and brimstone approach of the Puritan era, but the results are really just the same.  After all, isn’t the fear of missing out just as consequential as the fear of Hell itself?  Believe in Jesus, they say, and you will be given the gift of Heaven.  But if you don’t, well, I guess you’re on your own.

As for me, let’s just say I don’t want to spend eternity hanging out with Mike Pence.  I’ll take my chances in Hell.  And besides, I heard Oscar Wilde and Billy Joel will be there.


Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works.  Read his blog TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com