GO TO HELL
By Peter Fredson
Far back in history, before there were kings, politicians, economists and priests, some Neanderthals left the first evidences of people trying to fathom the phenomenon of death. They buried their dead with food, drink, clothing and possessions, in formal graves. Previously, dead bodies were left where they had fallen, to rot or be scavenged by other predators. In one instance some Neanderthals put flowers on a prepared grave, evincing concern and undying affection for the deceased. They sprinkled a red pigment on the body before burial, and sometimes put skulls of bears or goats around the grave. However, we aren’t able to reproduce their thoughts as they left no drawings or writings to commemorate the sad rituals. Conjecture is our fallible tool concerning early burial customs of humans and the beliefs they held.
With the passage of time came fallible explanations of the mystery of death. Formal burials, with prepared graves were also accompanied by ceremonies and rituals, very likely attended by remarks concerning the deceased, and some type of consolation for the survivors. The grave site was marked by some type of monument, and when writing was invented the name and other pertinent details of the deceased were recorded. Community wise-men, (shamans and medicine men,) were introduced as intermediaries and interpreters of death and other unforeseen and mysterious events. With the growth of cities and empires, Religion raised its imaginative head, and a priesthood dedicated to invisible powerful supernatural entities took charge of funerals and other kinds of emotional human events.
A priesthood educated in religious dogma commanded much of the literary activity of their societies. Writing hardened imagination into fantastic fiction merged with social realities and became a source of livelihood for the newly emergent class of priests. They took over from the story-telling around campfires of hunters, gatherers and herders, and their tales, gradually intensified by imaginative suppositions concerning life and death, became rigorous dogma.
At some point in history the idea that a dead person survived someplace, somehow, was tackled by the priesthood with the invention of another dimension where the dead are housed. The indisputable fact that there was a dead body lying in a grave was refuted by the literary invention of “the soul.” The soul then inhabited another literary fiction, the “after-world.” And the “after world” was ruled by an even greater literary fiction, a supernatural entity. Finally came the greatest literary invention of all. Priests discovered “sin.” They not only defined sin but assigned punishments for transgressions. That part of the circle was then complete. People were born, lived, sinned or obeyed their priests, died, went to the afterworld, and in some societies were reborn, resurrected, restored, reincarnated or transmigrated into another body that was being born.
The mystery of death was then “solved” by the mystery of the after-life and an even more mysterious supernatural entity. Fiction became hardened into Fact by the priesthood, by millions of repetitions of the mythology, inculcated into the young people as revealed dogma which had to be received under grave penalty. Hundreds of thousands of priests infest this world, all thumping sacred books or pointing to ridiculous quotations concerning sin and supernatural desires.
The priesthood, feathering its nest, evolved a complex network which could only be interpreted by priests. They also found an accommodation with political authorities that needed a submissive public. The combination of church and state is more than sufficient to turn any society into a theocracy.
A major device of proselytizing was to “scare the Hell out of them.” by putting the fear of Hell into them. The priesthood evolved a labyrinth of fiction by which people would be punished in an afterlife, for failing to abide by the lucubrations of priests. And the problem of suspecting an Evil Creator was solved by creating another entity that was Pure Evil. Once you create a creator, nothing stops fiction writers from creating other supernatural entities like angels, cherubim, devils, demons, tooth fairies, leprechauns and pixies. And why stop at one Creator? Why not make a 3-in-1 kind of oily creator who not only is the Father but his own Son, and his own Uncle to boot…all wrapped into one package for economy if not lucidity. The priests explain it with a glib “It’s a divine mystery.”
Once the priesthood became literate, their imaginings and fantasies could be passed intact to other selected people, who made their living by thumping the sacred scrolls and pointing to passages priests had written but alleging that some supernatural entity had really done the job, probably “inspiring” the nutty originators of myth. Thus writing became a tool for oppression, deceit, empty ritual and a fine source of priestly employment by a credulous and gullible public.
Fear of the Unknown has been exploited by priests in most religions, with few exceptions. This fear is augmented by alleging a future life of either Paradise or Hell, determined by violating taboos and dogma originated by priests who attribute universal judgment to some invisible intangible omnipotent omnipresent eternal unchanging supernatural entity.
New Testament mythology, concerning a divine messiah who supposedly died, rose up into clouds, and is expected back soon, contains some of the most terrible and fearsome hogwash priests have either invented or stolen from other similar societies around them. The Christian idea concerning their Hell has frightened children from their earliest days. Parsons, circuit riders, nutty evangelists have thundered the fearful fate awaiting everyone unless they follow the fanciful instructions which priests have devised.
Invariably the preachers point straight up into the sky to show where the delights of Heaven await everyone, while they point downward to show where people will scream their lungs out for eternity in some gruesome furnace like place, with little demons poking the unfortunate souls with pitchforks.
For centuries they have asserted that Heaven is an actual location, and that Hell also is very close by. Some Christian web sites state that the shrieks of the damned can be heard coming out of deep holes in the ground. Others assert that Heaven is fairly close by. But no priest in thousands of years, despite all their rhetoric and terrifying tales has ever given any geographical location. Nowadays, with Geographic Positioning technology, with Astronomical maps of the Universe, with the Hubble Telescope, no one has ever enlightened the general public as to the actual location of either Heaven or Hell.
And when the more sophisticated priests are pressed to be more specific about location, they invariably remark that they are not talking about actual geographic localities, but about metaphorical loci that represent a distancing from their God.
No god has ever told any human about any new material, any new invention, anything new about nature, anything new about geography, mathematics, geology or biology, anything new about the universe or any of the stars that inhabit it, or increased human knowledge one tiny bit beyond what it already knew before a god “inspired” some writer. The only additions any fanciful entity has supposedly given humanity are assertions about supernatural activity or domains, which are unprovable, unknowable, unverifiable, and usually ludicrously beyond any rational thought, and therefore must be assigned to the category of myth, legend, fable or fairy tale. In fact, it was never any “god”, but a series of credulous humans, pretending that a “god” spoke to them, that wrote these stories.
For an interesting review of this situation I heartily recommend the article by Robert G. Ingersoll on Hell. Here are a few quotes:
“The idea of a hell was born of revenge and brutality on the one side, and cowardice on the other. In my judgment the American people are too brave, too charitable, too generous, too magnanimous to believe in the infamous doctrine of an eternal hell.”
“In my judgment man has made every religion and made every book. Man has invented every god that he worships, has created from his imagination every hell, and every heaven.”
“Man has produced every religion in the world? And why? Because each generation bodes forth the knowledge and the belief of people at the time it was made, and in no book is there any knowledge found except that of the people who wrote it. In no book is there found any knowledge except that of the time in which it was written.”
“The doctrine of hell is infamous beyond all power to express. I wish there were words that mean enough to express my feelings of loathing on this subject. What harm has it not done? What waste places has it not made?”
“It has planted misery and wretchedness in this world; peopled the future with selfish joys and lurid abysses of eternal flame.
But we are getting more sense every day. We begin to despise those monstrous doctrines. If you want to better men and women, change their conditions here.”
“Don’t promise them something somewhere else. One biscuit will do more good than all the tracts that were ever peddled in the world.”
Or, as the International Workers of the World once chanted:
“Long-haired preachers come out every night,
Try to tell you what’s wrong and what’s right;
But when asked how ‘bout something to eat
They will answer with voices so sweet:”
”You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.”