June 21, 2018

Last Judgement by Fra Angelico

Last Judgement by Fra Angelico

If you look back over church history, Annihilationism has always been around, coming and going as a theological talking point, and the usual way to get rid of it is to consult the Virgin Mary. The last time she spoke on the subject was in 1917 when she appeared to a Carmelite nun at Fátima, Portugal, and showed her not just the Lake of Fire but the Sea of Fire (maybe she was exaggerating a little bit to make her point), and on that sea she revealed demons floating on the surface of the water, glowing like fiery embers, the way your charcoal briquettes continue to glow red three hours after you’ve finished the burgers.

In other words, Catholics have pretty much signed off on human bodies burning up in the Lake of Fire as a reality, and this nonsense about sinners just sort of vaporizing into nothingness, like a scene in The Matrix, is heretical. And I’m fine with that. I’m not Catholic, but I kind of like the way this Pope keeps saying what’s on his mind, putting his foot in his mouth, indicating he might believe that the Church does not have every answer to every question—so I don’t want him getting in trouble.

And I have to admit that Protestants don’t really do much better. Calvin believed you have a conscious existence after death that can suffer eternally. Luther believed you just went into a deep sleep. And the weird thing about all the ideas of hell is that they’re ridiculously focused on the physical body.

Wouldn’t that be the last thing you would worry about? Especially old people. So you wanna burn up my physical body? Fine! Half of it stopped working thirty years ago. I might be scared of the Lake of Fire if you had given me a better bod to begin with, but instead you just gave me an assembly-line junker and Obamacare. Ask me how that worked out.

But Annihilationism—which is, let’s face it, what every atheist already believes—that’s scary on a whole new level.

Nothingness. Jean-Paul Sartre without having to sit through a play. Alzheimer’s from the age of 2. You pick any highlight moment out of your life—like the time you climbed Machu Picchu with a Peruvian babe and chewed coca leaves so you could have sex for three days—and that whole event doesn’t exist anymore. You’re not just separated from God, you’re separated from yourself.

God could have at least had the decency to put an asterisk next to your name, like Roger Maris’ home run record. Give us credit for trying. But no, we get some kind of cosmic zap, disappearing into the time-space continuum like a drop of evaporating rainwater.

But consider this. If I’m judging the two hells just on what we can do with them mediawise—Lake of Fire on the one hand, Cosmic Zap on the other—I’ve gotta say there’s lots more potential with the second one. It’s the age of special effects. It’s the age of the bluescreen. It’s the age of seeing stuff that’s not there. If you really wanna scare people into doing the right thing, show them what happens when everything becomes bluescreen.

That life you think you just lived? Sorry—bluescreen. Once we turn on the houselights, there’s nothing there. You don’t exist. Next.

Pope Francis undoubtedly watches a lot of Syfy channel. He knows this. He just can’t say it.

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