I consider myself to be a good person. I mean, I’m not a murderer, or a smoker, or someone unsavory like that, so let’s talk about these concentric circles of Hell of which I’ve heard so much. No, I’m not talking about the Beltway around D.C. or any cloverleaf highway across the country. I’m talking about one version of Hell.
Now in my belief there is no such thing as Hell, yet I also believe Hell exists in the minds of man in different forms and we each have our separate Hell with which to contend. For some Hell might be an endless broadcast of Oprah, complete with tears and group hugs. I know I shudder at the thought of an eternity of an Oprah moment.
As I said up front, I consider myself a good person. I’m not perfect; not a saint by far, but not the most evil of evil either. Sure I sometimes don’t clean up after my dog when he decides to fertilize one of the neighbor’s lawns. And sure I have told some neighbors that in America it is considered good luck if the local dogs crap on your lawn, only to discover my new neighbors weren’t as third world as I thought and they had already learned some of the more vulgar words in the English language.
It isn’t like my dog singles them out. He also freely waters the lawn of the elderly woman down the block who has lived in town since America was just a colony. She too knows most of the more vulgar words in the English language.
So am I condemned to the Doggie Crap circle of Hell for my lazy ways?
I’ve committed bigger sins, I’m sure. Some would call me arrogant, selfish, bitchy, nasty, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. I’ve heard it all before, and I have to say I disagree with the definition of these terms as negative connotations. Oh sure, if you look at arrogance as a negative trait instead of being a virtue then I suppose it’s not a good thing. Try telling Dick Cheney arrogance isn’t a good thing. Do it on a hunting trip. I dare you.
So is there a Bitchy circle of Hell? Is Arrogance separate from Bitchy? And what of Selfishness? Is one worse than the other? How would I be judged if I believed in judgment in those terms? Is the Bitchy circle worse than the Doggie Crap circle? Surely it smells better, but how else does it compare?
And still I’m sure I have greater sins than those requiring an attitude adjustment. I suppose web surfing for porn is considered bad also, but I can only figure the Porn circle is already booked and whatever universal power than might judge me would have to find some other sin to punish me for until the Porn circle has an opening. And I’m guessing the naked Internet photos also falls under the Porn circle, so the Universe will just have to move on to my other imagined sins.
I’m not the best driver in the world. I mean I’m careful, but I have occasionally rolled a stop sign, or buzzed the amber light, or parked in the handicap parking (especially since mom got one of those nifty little tags that hangs from the rearview mirror allowing me to park there when she’s with me. I mean, I fake a limp at those times). So is there a Driver’s circle of Hell? I mean one outside of Route One in New Jersey at rush hour?
As I’ve confessed in the previous paragraph, I’ve occasionally lied. I’ve faked a limp on many occasions, just for the front parking, so what is the Liar’s circle like? That would be hell for me because I’m sure George W. Bush would be there with me for some of his sins, and eternity with him suddenly makes the Oprah circle of Hell look really good.
Of course this is all relevant only if I believed in Hell in this form or in Hell at all. However, the real point is sin. Each sin is defined by the individual. I don’t really considered most of the things I do to be a sin. Yet, while in my eyes I’m not a sinner, in the eyes of others I very well may be a sinner.
According to Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell, and a percentage of the human race, the mere fact I am gay makes me a worse sinner than a murderer in some of their eyes. Now some religions actually condone killing the sinner who commits the sin of homosexuality. Naturally I don’t define homosexuality as a sin, unless you’re doing it wrong. However, I do consider murder, for any reason, a sin. I’m not really an eye for an eye kind of guy.
Yet with the religious fervor sweeping the nation, how can I not pay attention to the concept of sin? How can I just go on my merry way, enjoying life and living fast and loose with the pooper scooper when I walk my dog without wondering if there is something to all this talk of sin and Hell and judgment?
I suppose it all comes down to faith. I am a practicing Wiccan. I try to harm none while living my life as I see fit and simply be the best person I can. I am secure in my beliefs. I’m not a fanatic who would blow myself up to make a point, nor would I wage a war against those who don’t share my beliefs, but I will defend my beliefs and fight for my right to have my beliefs and even question those beliefs if they lead me to a point where I find the questioning necessary.
I don’t believe in Hell in the form Dante or Jerry Falwell, or Pat Robertson or any suicide bomber believes in. If there is any Hell each individual creates their own version, like personalizing your Windows background. I don’t see a need to create something to fear beyond this world, when there is more than enough right here in the present in reality to fear.
Alas I’m sure there is no Doggie Crap circle of Hell, for which my neighbors are greatly sorry because I know they would condemn me to it in a heartbeat.
Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.
ABOUT ROBERT A. MELOS
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
3.13.06 @ 8:05a
Things you can believe in: yourself as a good person.
That beautiful dawg can crap on my lawn anytime he/she wants to.
The universe is not fair, it is random.
The big bang (or whatever cosmic theory will replace it any day now) was BIG.
Hell (which does not exist but to which G. W. Bush is definitely going) hath no fury like anybody scorned.
Some people are born bad but most of us are born neutral and learn to be good or bad.
Bad is in the eye of the beholder.
That's all I can think of right now, but it's a start.
Great column. Thanks.
3.14.06 @ 1:03a
Evil is a learned behavior. I can't imagine all politicians where born evil. They grew into it.
3.20.06 @ 9:17p
I don't believe in Hell, either. Not really. But I know of a few people I'd like to send into it and thus, must hope for it in some peculiar way...
3.20.06 @ 9:18p
That's probably bad, isn't it?
3.21.06 @ 12:57a
I've heard Hell is for children, and love is a battlefield, but a hopeful Hell might suggest an evil streak. I'm thinking you might have a bit of the Devil in you. That isn't always a bad thing.
4.14.06 @ 12:36p
"Try telling Dick Cheney arrogance isn’t a good thing. Do it on a hunting trip. I dare you."
Oh Cruelty, thy name is Robert. I love your sense of humour. I enjoy reading your columns. Just thought I'd let you know.
And yes, I'll see you in Hell. I'll be on the decorating committee.
4.14.06 @ 3:55p
Maigen, I'm a fan of your sense of humor as well. Hint: papier-mâché and lots of confetti. Demons love that stuff.