A month or so ago the Pope was reported denying the existence of Hell. Vatican said that is not true and affirmed that the Pope does believe in Hell. Whatever ...
As it was burned into my then pliable brain by my mother, the education system and the Sunday school, the story goes as follows: God planted Paradise and spent some six days endowing it with features and decorating it, making it comfy and lovely. Then, for no apparent reason, God decided he did not want to live there himself. But Paradise was too good let to go to rack and ruin. So, God took some mud and made a man, Adam, to caretake the place in exchange for shelter, food and other amenities. It was a good deal all around.
But it did not work as expected. God quickly realized that the creation was imbalanced and went on to make things right. He surgically removed a rib from Adam and made it Eve, just like gardeners grow trees from cuttings. Eve was to complement Adam. God also created Hell to counterweight Heaven.
Eve turned out to be remarkably virile and with Adam went on to enjoy Paradise, this against God’s strict ban on having fun. This irked God and drove him to withdrew benefits he had granted to Paradise dwellers so as to impress upon them the need to abstain from fun and to be subservient to Him.
Hell was designed to be a bad prison. It was given to Devil to manage it with a mandated to torture the inmates. Devil proved good at that and Hell acquired a bad reputation. Word spread that living there was markedly inferior to the alternative of living in Paradise. The pairings worked quite well for a long time.
The Heaven / Hell arrangement still “works” albeit not as well as did in the Dark Ages which is when it attained its heyday. It will continue to work, it may never eclipse from the human scene. This because no matter where one happens to be at any time, there is better and worse. Individuals have varying ambitions for Better and equally diverse resentment for Bad, which make for turbulence within society.
The capacity of the Heaven / Hell system to entice social order proved to be not in sync with the needs of Earthly “establishments”, whoever may be at a particular point in time. To cope with such extraordinary demands the system needs a booster, some push to complement the pull. The need was addressed by introducing Hell “branch-plants” on Earth. This degraded Paradise to a mere “promise”, while making Hell readily available to be experienced right here, on Earth. With this Paradise / Hell arrangement, the “Establishments” make us subservient to those whose power Democracy was invented to eliminate. Hence the popularity with despots and the longevity of the Heaven and Hell duet.
Aristotle suggested we forever seek to excel. Socrates told us that “learning how to obey” is not the thing to do; to boost our innate capacity to understand what is good and what is bad, that is to do. Desideratum is the ability to “separate the wheat from the chaff”, the ability to “scrutinize”, to be inquisitive, to disdain unexamined living.
Establishments dispense with, or outright suppress, the developing of the inborn characteristics of the mind to think critically. Those “corrupted by power” want to do the “thinking” and serve the product to us ready-to-obey. They tell us the “truth” and demand obedience in exchange for eternal life in a harp-concert place; forever threatening to confine us to Hell forever and ever, amen.
Certain is that Hell on Earth is not quickly coming to an end. The question is: what does the future hold for the religions in a Hell-less universe?
It is a drama underway when the head of a religion which has no less than other religions benefitted from the “existence” of Hell seeks refuge from it.