How to Go to Hell and Have a Good Time

Posted on 2011/11/07 by


Feature Image - How to Go to Hell and Have a Good Time

“What if you’re wrong?” is the noise I often hear after discussing religion for a while. I take it as a synonym for, “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand a single thing you just said.” It is Pascal’s Wager, in the tone of a smug joyous threat.

I maintain that the questioner makes the faulty assumption that there is a possibility of knowledge concerning questions of heaven and hell. There is no experiment that would provide a possibility of demonstrating their assertions to be false. Their ideas are therefore unfalsifiable and so no one can claim to know about these things. ["I'm sorry, I didn't understand a single thing you just said."]

A religionist presumably disagree (if they understand) and this is why they are a member of their religion and not one of the competitors. They think they know that their religion is true.

But even if we allow that I am correct about this, the question about hell is still salient, for all of us. Just because we can’t know about heaven and hell, it doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. Is there anything we can do to ensure we don’t end up in hell?

Let’s assume like me, you’ve either: done something (or not done something), said something (or not said something), believed in something (or not believed in something) so that someone on the planet thinks you are going to everlasting hell.

That pretty much covers everybody. Let’s just consider ‘belief’. Whether you’re a believer, or non-believer, we all don’t believe in someone’s stupid religion. And so, logically, it only takes two contradicting religions that require belief as a qualification for heaven, for each of us to be doomed to hell, from someone’s point of view.

It so happens that certain denominations within Christianity and Islam hold this position. So, we know for sure that at least one of these religions thinks you’re going to hell.

You can’t even get out of this by trying to believe in both religions. Their gods don’t seem to like you maintaining mutually-contradictory statements, despite filling two books full of them.

Then there are all the religions where you’ve done, said or thought something wrong. Sometimes, there is a possibility of correcting your apparent mistake; sometimes not. For example, in Islam idolatry can never be forgiven. This is why muslims get so annoyed when you draw a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed. They don’t seem to be able to tell the difference between idolatry and ridicule.

In certain denominations of Christianity, it’s possible to get in to heaven no matter what you’ve done wrong. The only two necessary qualifications are: belief and death. Despite this sounding rather straightforward, the thing you need to believe is really quite silly. And, they say it doesn’t count as “believing” if you can’t keep a straight face while thinking about it.

Given all this, there seems to be no strategy that will prevent the possibility of going to hell. Also, considering the sheer number of religions, we might suppose to all stand a rather high chance of eternal damnation.

Rather than dwell on this rather bleak analysis, let’s accept the worst case scenario and see what we could do to make it more enjoyable. Let’s assume that we are going to hell. Firstly, it’s not as bad as you might think. Imagine having to sit about in heaven offering constant praise for an omnipotent being with insecurity issues, full of sycophantic credulous religionists. Hell might seem the preferable option.

Nevertheless, there still the troubling prospect of everlasting punishment.

Let me offer you a strategy that will make this punishment altogether less bothersome.

How to Make the Best of Hell

Would Satan sign off your application for a week’s holiday from hell? You could argue as follows:

“Am I presently serving the sentence of everlasting punishment?”

“Yes,” he agrees.

You continue. “The punishment stands no chance of early release, and is not for the purpose of my rehabilitation. What’s the duration of my punishment?”

“Forever!” Satan says with a the air of someone who has practiced this in a mirror.

“How many days is that exactly?”

“An infinite number of days!” he booms.

“So, if I take a week off, I will still have time to serve the same sentence. We could move tomorrow’s punishment schedule to 8 days from now. The day after’s retributionary events can be moved to 9 day’s time. And so on. Everything get’s rescheduled one week in the future.”

Satan thinks about this for a while and say, “Oh, yes. You’re right. I hadn’t thought of that.” He might be the tormentor of souls, but he can’t deny mathematical logic. He also seems to be grinning.

One week later, you arrive back, snowboard over your shoulder.

“I’ve had another idea while I was away.” As you say this, you notice that Satan has an Hawaiian shirt on and is holding a coconut with a straw in it.

“Yes, puny human? What is it?” He takes a sip of his drink.

“What if you punish me for one day, and then give me a week off? Then punish me for half a day, and give me two weeks off? Then a third of a day, with three weeks off? And so on. What do you think of that?”

“Well, I’d be punishing you for 1 + 1/2 + 1/3 + …” He thinks about this for a while. “Well, that infinite series doesn’t converge, it just get’s bigger and bigger.”

“Exactly. That way, you’ll still be able to punish me for an infinite number of days.”

“Think of all the Hawaiian shirts I could wear,” says Satan with a grin on his face. “The coconuts I could drink.”

“Yes,” you say gently. You always thought that Satan was rather unimaginative. “And I could go about my business, doing whatever I wanted in between.”

You figure that after a million cycles of this, you’ll be taking 19 thousand years off, with a punishment of half a second. And the ratio just gets better and better as you delve further and further into eternity.