Posts Tagged “hell”

Side of Polk cty (FL) school bus, via the (Lakeland, FL) LedgerWe all know that militant Christianists are a sanctimonious and hateful bunch. They think nothing of going after whoever they want, whenever their overpowering sense of moral superiority overcomes them. (Which happens quite often.) Their problem is, they’re infantile, so when they get caught up in whatever made them sanctimoniously angry, they can’t — and more importantly, won’t — control themselves.

A great example of this took place in Florida. A Polk county bus driver, as the (Lakeland, FL) Ledger reports, told the child of two mothers that his entire family is hell-bound (WebCite cached article):

The Polk County School District has placed a bus driver on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation into accusations that she told a second-grade boy he and his moms are going to hell because of his parents’ same-sex relationship.

Bus driver Violeta Jacobo didn’t face disciplinary action after an initial review of the incident, causing community members to speak out in support of the boy’s mom, Nathaly Encarnacion, and their family.

Initially, the school district had “investigated” and determined nothing untoward had happened. Jacobo’s paid administrative leave, and the promise of a second investigation, only came about due to an online petition. Some courage the Polk county school district has … they had to be pushed into doing the right thing!

First, and most obviously, I have to ask what this “paid administrative leave” bullshit is? How is this any kind of meaningful punishment? It’s actually a free vacation.

Second, what ethical person goes after a child when it’s his/her parents that s/he has a beef with? Seriously!? How is this behavior acceptable, even in dour Christianist terms? What is the point in doing such a thing? I think it’s all about cowardice; Jacobo didn’t have the courage to speak with the two mothers, so instead she felt free to demean a second-grader.

Photo credit: The (Lakeland, FL) Ledger.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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Rick Fenbers / CreepyCincinnati.Com, via WCPO-TVAs I’ve said so many times, the ubiquity of “ghost hunting” shows on television has caused the numbers of “paranormal investigators” in the US to proliferate ridiculously. Anyone can now grab a light meter or EMF detector and pretend to be able to locate ghosts, demons, specters, goblins, poltergeists, devils, orbs, wraiths, etc. Really, it’s anybody’s game now, since there are no specific methods, no rules, no certification, no specifics, no credentials … just tromp around like an idiot waving your device around and yammer about “entities” and “auras” and all of that assorted parapsychological gibberish.

Most of the time this is harmless stuff. Sure, you have the occasional bonehead standing on a railroad track waiting for a “ghost train” to come along only to be killed by a real one, or the occasional ghost-hunter who trespasses and gets arrested (WebCite cached article) … but for the most part the only cost is the amount of time paranormal investigators waste on their fluff and nonsense.

That said, the good people of the Cincinnati suburb of Blue Ash, OH are dealing with folks who think there’s a “portal to hell” there. As WCPO-TV reports, a neighborhood is disrupted and police have been getting lots of calls (cached):

There’s a portal to hell in Blue Ash.

That is, if you listen to paranormal investigators, teenagers and folks who like to get spooked.

“It’s one of the best known, but least seen, urban legends around here,” CreepyCincinnati.com blogger Rick Fenbers said. “A group of Satanists supposedly used to meet there in some type of altar room and conduct their rituals… They must have been pretty good, because the legend claims they managed to open a doorway to hell.”

But what Fenbers and others call “Satan’s Hollow,” neighbors and cops call a nightmare.…

“It’s rough on the homeowners,” Blue Ash Police Lt. Steve Schueler said. “People park in their driveway and try to get into the drainage system and nobody likes that. (The owner) has had to chase off some people, for sure.”

Now, if I were the superstitious type and truly thought this was an actual “portal to hell,” I definitely wouldn’t be going anywhere near it. So I’m not sure why “true believers” would want to venture there. Then again, their way of thinking is alien to me, so how could I hope to comprehend it?

The bottom line is that people need to fucking grow the hell up, put away the Mel meters and EVP recorders and all of that assorted trash, and get on with their little lives already. Don’t disrupt the lives of others just because you think you can venture into hell via a storm sewer just outside Cincinnati. Enough is enough, fercryinoutloud!

Photo credit: Rick Fenbers / CreepyCincinnati.Com, via WCPO-TV.

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Francesco D'Andria / The remains of the site in Pamukkale, Turkey / via Digital SpyAn odd discovery has made headlines around the world. As the Christian Science Monitor reports, a team of archaeologists claim they’ve found a “gate to Hell” in the ruins of Hierapolis in Turkey (WebCite cached article):

Archaeologists say they have pinpointed an ancient — and lethal — cave that was once believed to be the entrance to the underworld.

Working at the World Heritage Site of Hierapolis in southwestern Turkey, Francesco D’Andria of the Italian University of Salento and his team found a cave featuring Ionic semi columns with inscriptions dedicated to Pluto and Kore, the underworld’s deities.

D’Andria and his team also found the remains of a temple, a pool, and multiple steps placed above the cave, which is said to closely fit the ancient writings on the site.…

Writing in the first century BC, the Greek geographer Strabo portrayed the cave as follows: “[T]his space is full of a vapour so misty and dense that one can scarcely see the ground. Now to those who approach the handrail anywhere round the enclosure the air is harmless, since the outside is free from that vapour in calm weather, but any animal that passes inside meets instant death. At any rate, bulls that are led into it fall and are dragged out dead; and I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell.”

Strabo’s deadly “vapour” — actually CO2 gas — remains in the cave, said D’Andria, who presented his findings at a recent conference on Italian archaeology in Istanbul.

It’s not difficult to comprehend why the ancients might have believed this about the toxic cave, and constructed a temple there. This is one of the rare cases in which a religious belief actually had a simple, mundane, and understandable, explanation.

Photo credit: Francesco D’Andria, via Digital Spy.

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First Assembly of God, Torrington, CT / Stay cool with Jesus sign / Mike Angogliati / Torrington Register-CitizenI know I’m going to get complaints about this, so let me straighten this out, right at the start. There are many sorts of “terror” in the world. Only a little of it is what we generally connect with the word “terror” — i.e. suicide hijackers and abortion-clinic bombers. By using the word “terror” in the title of this post, I am not, by any means, asserting any kind of equivalence among these events. “Terror” does not always mean “killing many innocent bystanders at once.” Many sorts of threats can constitute “terror,” even if those threats are never manifested in violence. There are degrees of terror, some much worse than others. But still, they all remain “terror” in some way or another.

Which brings me to the topic of this post. Most Christians — especially of the fundamentalist sort — will not accept this as an example of “terrorism.” They don’t view it that way, but that doesn’t mean it’s anything other than a form of terror by threat.

The nearby Torrington Register-Citizen ran a story today about the heatwave which is gripping much of the country (WebCite cached article). It included a picture of a Torrington church’s sign:

MIKE AGOGLIATI / Register Citizen / A sign of the times. This sign at the First Assembly of God Church on New Harwinton Road offers advice for keeping cool in the summer heat. 'Think it's hot here? Imagine Hell.'

Mike Agogliati / Register Citizen / A sign of the times. This sign at the First Assembly of God Church on New Harwinton Road offers advice for keeping cool in the summer heat. Their 'loving' message? 'Think it's hot here? Imagine Hell.'

I can think of no better example of what is wrong with fundamentalist / evangelical Christianity, than this sign. It carries the threat of this particular religion, which claims that, if one fails to believe precisely what it teaches, one will be condemned to an eternity of torment.

Those who adhere to this sort of thinking haven’t the slightest clue how horrific it is. To them, it’s “fact,” and its ramifications don’t matter to them. They do not realize theirs is a campaign of terror: “Believe what we order you to believe, or you will FRY with the Satan’s demons in ‘the Lake of Fire’!”

Consider if what they believe is true … that their angry, sin-hating, almighty God will condemn people to eternal torment merely because of what they happen to believe. Why should mere “belief” provide relief from eternal perdition? What being worth worshipping should care so much about what the beings he ostensibly loves “believe” rather than what they “do” or what they “are”? How does this sort of threat differ from any other kind of extortion?

To put it bluntly — it doesn’t. It’s a threat. Nothing more, nothing less. Any being who feels the need to threaten people, in order to coerce their adoration and worship, is not worth adoring or worshipping. Period.

Photo credit: Mike Agogliati / Torrington Register Citizen.

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Picard Facepalm: Because expressing how dumb that was in words just doesnt workThe Rob Bell controversy has been kicked up anew because of the Time magazine article I blogged about a couple days ago. Mediate reports that it even became a topic of discussion on Chris Matthews’s weekly show (WebCite cached article):

On Sunday morning’s The Chris Matthews Show, host Chris Matthews asked his panel to debate Time Magazine’s recent cover story on the existence of Hell.

Mediate offers video of this segment, which thankfully is just under 4 minutes long:

The panel was all over the place:

Veering off-topic somewhat, Matthews asked “Why does the right wing love the Old Testament so much?”

Joe Klein noted that they “like Revelation better,” while Andrew Sullivan offered that “Jesus loved the poor. He thought they were better than the rich.”

I’m not sure how useful this discussion was. It’s painful to watch Sullivan pontificate on what Hell is and isn’t. Just goes to show how, when a discussion of religion comes up within the mass media, the floodgates of “stupid” tend to open wide and pretty soon we’re all up to our knees in idiocy.

Nevertheless, Matthews had a good point about the Right’s obsession with the Old Testament, as did Joe Klein in his remark about how the Right loves the book of Revelation “better.”

Photo credit: Picard Facepalm.

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Hell: If you think Christianity exists only to help you avoid it, you're doing it wrong.The hubbub over evangelical pastor Rob Bell and his supposed universalism hasn’t let up yet. Perhaps in memory of a momentous article that magazine published decades ago (cached), Time magazine — in its cover-article overview of the Bell/universalism controversy — asks the question, “Is Hell Dead?” (WebCite cached article):

The standard Christian view of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is summed up in the Gospel of John, which promises “eternal life” to “whosoever believeth in Him.” Traditionally, the key is the acknowledgment that Jesus is the Son of God, who, in the words of the ancient creed, “for us and for our salvation came down from heaven … and was made man.” In the Evangelical ethos, one either accepts this and goes to heaven or refuses and goes to hell.

Bell, a tall, 40-year-old son of a Michigan federal judge, begs to differ. He suggests that the redemptive work of Jesus may be universal — meaning that, as his book’s subtitle puts it, “every person who ever lived” could have a place in heaven, whatever that turns out to be. Such a simple premise, but with Easter at hand, this slim, lively book has ignited a new holy war in Christian circles and beyond.

The Time article is in five pieces in its online form; here’s page 2 (cached), page 3 (cached), page 4 (cached), and page 5 (cached).

I’ve blogged a couple times already about this particular controversy and the fierce anger it’s engendered within the evangelical Christian community. The assumption seems to be that, if you take away the possibility that people might end up in Hell, Christianity suddenly becomes useless and moot.

This view is hypersimplistic, juvenile and short-sighted. It basically obviates all of Jesus’ teachings, and relegates him to the role of a cosmic magician whose death and resurrection are the only things about him that matter.

At the risk of — ironically — appearing to be a skeptical, cynical, godless agnostic heathen who dares to deliver a sermon on the meaning and importance of Christianity, I must point out that (if the gospels are to be believed, anyway) Christianity is about more than just “Hell-avoidance.”

Consider, for example, the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain. These two discourses are not just about getting a “Get out of Hell free” pass; they’re about humility and sacrifice, as expressions of divinity on earth. While they state that humility and sacrifice will be rewarded, the content of these is not about the reward itself (which is avoiding Hell), they are instead about the hard work of being humble and of the godliness of sacrifice, and about how doing it will make “the Kingdom of Heaven” real.

Moreover, these discourses were the product of Jesus’ apocalypticism, a view which held that the end of all things was imminent, so concerning oneself with the present, with the physical, and with triviality, was useless. Giving everything — and I do mean everything, even one’s own personal welfare and survival — up to God was far preferable. That’s what holiness was about, to Jesus himself while he walked the earth and preached. Evangelicals’ obsession with (what they view as) the horror of Bell’s “heresy” is, by contrast, perhaps the height of triviality itself.

Any Christians who think Hell-avoidance is the entire point of being a Christian, therefore, cannot really be Christians. They’re doing it wrong. They would do well to put a crowbar to their Bibles, crack them upen just a tiny bit, and deign to read the gospels they claim to revere but know little or nothing about.

Photo credit: PsiCop original based on Signorelli’s Hell, via diy.despair.com.

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Last Judgment (Arkhangelsk)I’ve blogged twice about the controversy over evangelical pastor Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins. Supposedly, Bell is an evil, Satan-loving heretic who dares promote the vile and disgusting heresy known as “universalism,” or the idea that all human beings will somehow — eventually — be saved. The uproar over his book hasn’t abated, though, and it’s even had some casualties. The AP (via MSNBC) reports that one of them is a pastor in Henderson, NC who lost his job over it (WebCite cached article):

The pastor of a rural United Methodist church in North Carolina wrote a note on his Facebook page supporting a new book by Rob Bell, a prominent young evangelical pastor and critic of the traditional view of hell as a place of eternal torment for billions of damned souls.

Two days later, [Chad] Holtz was told complaints from church members prompted his dismissal from Marrow’s Chapel in Henderson.

Although Holtz’s Facebook posting triggered his firing, it’s not the only point of disagreement he had with his own congregation:

Church members had also been unhappy with Internet posts about subjects like gay marriage and the mix of religion and patriotism, Holtz said, and the hell post was probably the last straw.

I guess modern thinking is objectionable to evangelical southern Christians. They would, of course, be better off if they would just stop the spiritual/psychological terror campaign they conduct against others (e.g. “You MUST believe what I tell you to believe, or you’ll spend eternity IN FLAMES!!!”). But they’re too childish to do that … so they won’t.

Hat tip: RozMarija at Skeptics & Heretics Forum at Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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