14 October 2013

We Might All Be in Hell

NPR just finished a series where it talked to prominent theologians about the nature of the afterlife.

One of the segments was immediately followed (it might have been preceeded) by a story about the government shutdown and potential debt default.

Then it hit me:  No one that they had talked to even mentioned the possibility that we might already be in hell.

Of course, Gnosticism, the religion that most closely hews to this philosophy, no longer exists as an organized religion, but it does seem to me that this is a reasonable conclusion.

As a Jew, I find the discussion of the afterlife largely irrelevant.   The afterlife is simply not a significant of Jewish theology.

The consensus on the afterlife in Judaism is, "Yes," with some people going with a conventional heaven and hell, and some people, particularly Kabbalists, believe in reincarnation, and a whole range in between.

In Judaism, the important thing is that to whatever degree our world resembles hell, it is our job to fix it.

This concept is called Tikkun olam (תיקון עולם).

This reminds me of an old joke:
A Shmuel dies and is sent to hell, and he boards an elevator going down.

The elevator operators calls out, "Hell, level 1, all Atheists and Agnostics out."

Shmuel looks out, and sees a bleak landscape, black sands, and a merciless sun beating down, and the air smells like.

The elevator moves further downward, and comes to a stop.

"Hell, level 2, all Muslims out."

Shmuel smells brimstone, hears screams, and sees rivers of flowing lava under a black sky.

Shmuel is now rather concerned.

The doors close with a sepulchral finality, and the elevator drops.

"Hell, all Christians out."

The door opens, and Shmuel can see nothing but flames in front of the door. He can feel his skin blisters from the heat even as he pushes himself against the back of the elevator.

As the doors close, Shmuel is now terrified.

"Hell, all Jews out.

The doors open, Shmuel feels a cool breeze on his face. He sees lush, green rolling hills. He smells citrus in the air.

Shmuel is stunned. To no one in particular, he says, "But ……… I thought it would be worse!"

The elevator operator looks up, and says, "It was. You cannot believe what they can do with irrigation.
Perhaps we should all spend some more time irrigating.


Post a Comment