The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked. His wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the fire.
This weekend Don, Laney and I went to Home Depot. Twenty minutes in, it was only the lack of a licensed attorney and a notary public that kept Don and me from divorcing and Laney from suing for minor emancipation. Those of you ensconced in families are familiar with trips to Home Depot like this. Young lovers walking past us delayed planned marriage proposals. Biological clocks all around ticked much more quietly.
But we got out. And a bit later, when we all liked each other once again, I thought "That was hell, man."
At which point I took one of the big mental leaps that most people keep to themselves but I like to make public, because, why the hell not?
Laney is familiar with the term, but she's not familiar with the concept. And for a second I was more grateful for that than the grateful realization that, horrible trips to Home Depot aside, I did still love my husband and daughter.
Hell tortured me as a child so much so that still, despite my deep commitment to rational atheism, my certainty in the absurdity of the supernatural (except in fiction - I do love a good ghost story), I am still wont to sit up in the dead of night terrified by perdition's flames.
And, you guys, I didn't go to a hellfire and brimstone church! I went to a socially conscious church. A church for hippies. A church with a second collection that went to help pay the bills of the poor folks who lived in the neighborhood not for opulent Catholic swag. The church I went to was run down and raggedy, handed out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the poor at lunch. They called it "Reconciliation" not "Confession." They eschewed the angry god and embraced the loving one.
But still, hell was out there. Hell is impossible to avoid when you grow up Catholic. Once in school (a far less liberal Catholic environment than church) the priest got mad at us antsy kids anticipating a snow day by telling us "You all better enjoy that snow! Where you're going, you won't see much!"
I was eight.
Hell. What toxic bullshit. What hateful nonsense. And how impossible to avoid if you're coming up Catholic.
I am, in a large part, fond of my Catholic upbringing. I like the shared history, the ritual passed down through countless generations, I liked a lot of the Jesus stories. But that hell stuff... hell no.
I know I can't protect my girl from all the bugbears out there, from all the things that go bump in the night. But I am damned if I'l put her under the authority of anyone who tries to scare her into submission.