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Hell: A Unified Theory

by tommy kirchhoff

OK, we're gonna talk about Hell. In order to do that, we need to make a basis for the discussion. That relies directly on reader religion.

Mormons don't believe in Hell. The Mormon version of Hell is reserved for those who have known the "True word of God," and renounced it. JackMo's (or whatever you call people like this) go to a place called Perdition. There's no fire and burning. In fact, it's very cold, absolutely dark, and very lifeless.

The Christian semblance of Hell is the quintessential Hell. It is almost diametrically opposite of Mormon Perdition. Here, the souls of sinners are sent south to eternally burn for committing acts on earth deemed inappropriate by God. By Christian methodology, the Mormon practice of polygamy gets an automatic, one-way ticket to Hell.

And just to further exemplify the subjective nature of Hell's design, let's consider the Buddhist approach. In the "Vimalakirti Sutra 8" (a book of Buddhist teachings), Hell is put into these terms:

'If there is such a place as Hell, we enlightened beings should certainly go there because that is where they need the help. In order to save people, we volunteer to descend into all the hells that are attached to all the infinite worlds.'

Hell sounds more like a soup kitchen in this instance. Hot enough to make you sweat, but real people have real needs there.

Given that Hell is seen so differently through eyes of varying religions, I offer my own vision. Please, think of this only as patent balderdash-as a Mormon would Christian Hell, and as a Christian would Mormon Perdition. (I openly discern Mormonism from Christianity with no apology to anyone. There are many Christians-but none who become gods.)

Being raised part Catholic and part Protestant, and then converting by choice to Buddhism, I have inherent cultural biases that direct my vision of Hell toward the Christian construct. But I ask myself, "Why is it that a pious Christian makes it into heaven for an eternity of pious existence, but a somewhat sinning Christian, who may be a good person but didn't fulfill some requirement, goes to Hell for eternal damnation?" I mean, you're good here, so you get to go be good there. But if you're bad here, you go there to burn, burn, burn. Doesn't seem very balanced.

So because I'm a Buddhist with a Christian upbringing, I'm led to believe that a pious life on earth will reciprocate a pious eternity. And a "sinning" life gets you a like eternity. I don't actually believe in heaven or Hell; it's my story, you're readin' it. (By the way, 11 million Mormons worldwide may envision Hell as Perdition, but our planet is home to almost a half a billion Buddhists like me. Hell, South Korea has 11 million Buddhists all by itself!)

So let's say I die, but I'm enlightened. I've "killed the Buddha," which is what the Buddhist teachers taught me to do. There is a Hell, and that's where I'm going-to help people.

I'm in the lotus position.

Being an enlightened Buddha, my eyes are dimly open, and I smile at the beauty of the absolute. My body slips beneath the topsoil, down through a mile of Utah aquifers and breccia, and continues until I can faintly hear the distant tapping beat of Hell.

As I finally come through the last layer of molten earth, I think, 'I have arrived.' The music is surprisingly loud. AC/DC is onstage growling out the Back in Black tune, "Have a drink on me." I laugh when I hear the line, "so don't worry about tomorrow, take it today; forget about the tip, we'll get Hell to pay!"

As I look around, I'm shocked at the scenery. Hell looks amazingly like a Cancun during Spring Break. Paganism abounds as beer-drinking frat-boy types are soaked in keggersplash, and topless bikini-girls are dancing everywhere. Not exactly what I expected, but it seems so much more likely than flames and torture.

The acts are vigorous, but not exceptionally vulgar. A "Modern Maturity" type couple is tucked under a cabana, voraciously sucking face. It's the kind of thing a very conservative person might take offense to, however, there seem to be few conservatives around here, and this guy is really taking his time in the pickle between first and second base. Looks like Prozak could be readily available without a perscription.

I stroll over and order a drink. Make it a pitcher…of martinis. Oh my hell, I have people to help. I notice that lounging to my right are Hugh Hefner, David Koresh and JFK. They're talking about Madonna, and sharing a bowl of some incredibly potent smelling KGB…the kind of rope the guys from Amtrak smoke.

I eavesdrop for a minute, and suddenly it dawns on me that there is nothing particularly artistic about Hell. It's a wild party, but its nature is considerably pedestrian. Maybe they do need my help.

The pool hosts an exhilarating game of water volleyball, played exclusively by nude TV news anchors. Now I'm wondering if there is a heaven. As a very wet and well-endowed Walter Kronkite leaps up to spike the ball, he catches himself in the net. He backflops onto the surface of the water, tearing the net away from its posts. As he quickly reaches to untangle his assets, two gorgeous, female news-anchors rush to his aid. They shake their heads, tell him that this ruse is way overused, and that this would (again) be the last time they help him.

Suddenly, a bullhorn appears in my hand. I begin to raise it toward my mouth as if my body was on autopilot. An anxiety rushes over me as I have no idea what to say. These people are partying; who am I to get in the way of that? And I haven't finished my martinis yet.

As the microphone reaches my mouth, my finger pulls the trigger. I think to myself 'well, this will be interesting.'

"You damned people listen up. I've come to Hell to help you."

Immediately, alcoholic fruit is fastballed at me from every angle. What have I done? I pissed off Hell! Everyone is laughing hard. Two former Dali Lamas load liquored melons into a massive slingshot and third mans the pull to open fire.

Then in the blink of an eye, I'm a grasshopper in a giant field of corn. My whole life, I thought that if reincarnation was the way things really happened, I'd certainly become a grasshopper.

I would so much to have rather been a dog.