March 31, 2010

Hell is Real

In a stunning development, hell is real. The announcement began appearing recently on billboards across rural Kentucky. The news is expected to have implications for nearly every human being.

Local citizens and leaders from the political, religious, business and entertainment communities reacted in stunned silence as interstate billboards across Kentucky proclaimed in stark, correctly spelled uppercase letters what many heretofore believed to be myth, folklore or religious superstition. The “HELL IS REAL” billboards do not specify where hell is, who might inhabit it or what it might be like.

“This totally sucks,” said Gary Pederasty, a truck driver from Cleveland, who saw one of the signs after emerging from the Lion’s Den Adult Superstore at Exit 76 on I-65 near Upton, Ky. “I always figured hell was just something the church made up to keep people in line. I didn’t figure it was real. This changes everything. I’m probably going to have trouble concentrating now,” he said, nodding at the magazines and DVDs inside his Lion’s Den bag.

“This certainly comes as a surprise,” agreed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in a rare interview with LEO Weekly. “Over the years, I’ve helped send thousands to their deaths in unnecessary wars, stolen from the poor, and pretty much single-handedly given the money-changers the keys to the temple. Not to mention my complicity in the wanton destruction of the environment. As my friends Dick Cheney and Joe Biden would say, ‘I’m fucked.’”

Religious leaders were similarly nonplussed. When asked to comment, Pope Benedict XVI said simply, “Uh-oh.” Meanwhile, during a visit to Silicon Valley to promote his Enlightenment app for the iPhone, His Holiness The Dalai Lama said, “That hell is deeply rooted in reality is no longer in doubt. What reality is rooted in is another matter entirely.” He then burst into laughter and pretended to pee on reporters.

Before the highway proclamations, few people believed hell was a real place, records show. A longtime staple of many world religions, hell also has a rich history in literature and the arts but has typically been ignored by all but a handful of the world’s people. A 2009 Zogby/Newsmax survey revealed only three people actually believed hell was real: televangelist Pat Robertson, author Tim LaHaye and your Aunt Clara, the one who ate lead paint as a child and ruins every Thanksgiving by talking loudly about homosexuals. The poll has a three-person margin of error.

Despite its conviction, the billboard message seems to ask more questions than it answers. Perhaps foremost among these is the very nature of hell itself: Is it transitory, eternal or, as some biblical scholars contend, “everlasting torture plus an extra day so God can really savor the suffering?” And where is hell: deep underground, somewhere external to earth or, as many have posited, in Lexington?

Further, what is day-to-day life like in hell? Is it Dante’s frozen lake of blood or Islam’s fiery blisterpalooza? Or is it more metaphysical: Blake’s banishment from God’s grace, say, or Sartre’s “other people?” Another possibility altogether is one many in Hollywood have envisaged: a never-ending totally awesome keg party with free drugs and no-consequence Cool Ranch Doritos and cheesy fries.

On his popular television show “The 700 Club,” televangelist Robertson rejoiced in his vindication that hell is real but cautioned against any notions of a fun-filled perdition. “First of all, you’ll definitely be on fire, but you won’t burn up,” he said. “And worms will crawl inside your nose holes. And, um, Satan drives this huge Lexus and he slams your thumb in the door. Oh, and it smells really bad, like cafeteria beans. And nobody sends you money even if you talk about fornicating a lot…”

Elsewhere, speculation about hell’s nature ran wild on Facebook, with groups theorizing that hell is everything from eternal irritable bowel syndrome to a non-stop loop of Darius Rucker music to an everlasting cross-country car ride with Jay Leno.

Perhaps of most interest to hell-watchers like McConnell and Pederasty is this ultimate question: What exact evil behavior qualifies people for damnation? Is hell reserved for society’s most egregious sinners or can one qualify by, say, repeatedly refusing to yield the floor at a staff meeting or texting during a movie? At press time, millions were flocking to Kentucky’s rural interstates, desperately searching billboards for the answers.