Hell hath no fury

August 2, 2006

In 1996 the Church of England produced a report called “The Mystery of Salvation” which declared that Hell is “just ultimate non-being,” abolishing the traditional view because it left people with “psychological scars.” “Christians”, they conclude, “have professed appalling theologies which made God into a sadistic monster. .”. Somehow this momentous event passed me by as a result of which I no doubt have many “psychological scars.” Perhaps I should sue- but sue who, the Church of England, God? But as ever, the devil is in the fine print. I was looking forward to a rather cosy view of Hell with maybe the odd stern lecture from a headmaster figure but the report goes on to say that everyone still faces a day of judgment. Those who fail the test are annihilated, i.e. terminated, rubbed out, zapped, taken out, snuffed out. In other words the choice is the angels and the harps or “total non-being”. Apparently many Christians now describe hell in terms of souls undergoing treatments from a “divine therapist”, the assumption being that a perfect God will — given eternity — heal even the most incorrigible sinners. Eternal counselling? Heaven forbid, that really would be Hell! I’m looking forward to the next Church of England report on the subject, presumably to be called “The Mystery of Damnation” in which the idea of Hell will be thoroughly modernised. I can suggest Divine health and safety inspectors who would check on the temperature of the flames to ensure that there is discomfort without actual torture in accordance with National Discomfort Standards. Inmates might be able to opt for a period of community service, sweeping the streets of Heaven.

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