“And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” Revelation 14:11
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What does Hell look like? While the Old Testament (Torah) describes it as a quiet valley just outside of the Old City of Jerusalem (actually, right here) where people used to burn garbage, the New Testament provides us with scarier descriptions of Hell, such as 14:11 in the Book of Revelation.
As a young kid with wild imagination and later on as a teenager junkie of horror movies, the image of Hell as a giant field of fire always seemed to impress me as scary enough. However now the more I grow up, the more I come to the conclusion that if God really wishes to make us pay for our sins, He can go well beyond a large furnace to inflict pain on our souls. In fact, all he needs to do it is to take a look at the sample we have created on Earth and branded BUREAUCRACY.
Yes, hellfire can inflict terrible physical pain via burning our tissues (and via follow-on infections, though I am not sure if blasphemous bacteria also go to Hell) but nonetheless the agony remains only a physical one. Too one-dimensional, I would say…
Now imagine an immense building instead, one with infinite number of floors and eternal queues lining up in front of miserable-looking, low-level bureaucrats manning the counters. You enter, get your queue ticket with the number “∞” on it. You still hope to make it to the counter some time. So you try to find a seat among a bunch of grumpy, smelly men and women, who talk loudly on the phone, then to themselves, then look around awkwardly, pick their noses, sneeze on you, and go back to talking on their phones. Worse, there is a stack of forms you have to fill out but your pen doesn’t seem to work. No one lends you a pen and you are not allowed to leave Hell to get a new one.
I can go on and on describing my imaginary Hell, but I think you get the picture because you have already been there! It is the perfect combination of physicial pain, which slowly builds up due to exhaustion and rising cortisol levels, and a spiritual torment slowly burning through your mental health.
In my Hell, Satan’s helpers don’t hold spears but rather big stamps. They are low-level government employees, hired only to make the unemployment rate look less than it actually is. A bunch who have already given up on all joys of life and are as determined to make yours similarly miserable with their yelling and power-tripping.
I am serious. If God really wants us to never sin again, he should up the ante from “you have to earn your bread, Adam” and “you will suffer labor pains, Eve” to threats of unleashing on us millions of bureaucrats with stamps forcing on us an endless amount of paperwork to be signed, co-signed, counter-signed, photocopied, faxed, translated, notarized, taxed, stamped, re-stamped, re-re-stamped, and then bunch of fees to be paid, taxed, documented, re-documented and then just when you seem to be done, there will appear a typo in the document, which will require going through the same process from scratch…
But most importantly, the biggest loophole that allows us to remain sane through secular bureaucracy would be closed: In my Hell, there is no power of attorney. It’s every man for himself! You know, like the UK embassy that requires me to travel to a different city to give my fingerprints each time I need to renew my visa (who knows, maybe I am getting finger transplants every year!)… In a nutshell, my Hell’s bureaucracy is lonelier than the secular one. It is lots of poor lonely souls forever trying to get that registration or that licensing done…until the soul is completely void of all energy, afterliving in eternal agony.
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There you go… Now to sum up on a positive note, I’d like to think that maybe one day the governments, which WE have created to serve US, will give up insisting on having monopoly over bureaucratic affairs concerning citizens. Since they are so inefficient, maybe they will let others –those who are more competent that they are– to do the job and more importantly, compete with each other to do a better job. Then one day, we might choose to get our passports, driver’s licenses, registrations, certificates of residence, work permits, tax documents, land registrations, funeral permits and countless other documents from Company (or Government) A or B, depending on which one serves us better –and only pay them the fee/tax that they would charge to cover the service. Now that I think about it, I can’t even begin to imagine how much more heavenly that world would be!
Post Scriptum: My favorite artistic depiction of Hell. It has nothing to do with this post’s content but makes a good after-thought. 🙂
“The Garden of Earthly Delights” by H. Bosch (ca. 1490)