What passes for wit in Rome

More on the Vatican jefe.

Hell is a place where sinners really do burn in an everlasting fire, and not just a religious symbol designed to galvanise the faithful, the Pope has said. Addressing a parish gathering in a northern suburb of Rome, Benedict XVI said that in the modern world many people, including some believers, had forgotten that if they failed to “admit blame and promise to sin no more”, they risked “eternal damnation – the inferno”…God had given men and women free will to choose whether “spontaneously to accept salvation … the Christian faith is not imposed on anyone, it is a gift, an offer to mankind”.

Sorry, jefe, that won’t wash. You can’t call it a gift, you can’t call it an offer, and you certainly can’t say it is not imposed on anyone when it is accompanied by threats, specifically, by threats of being burnt in a fire forever. You can’t do that. Think about it. Seriously – think. Say you’re out for a walk one day and a very large guy comes up to you and offers you a sandwich along with the information that if you refuse it he’ll take this very sharp razor he has handy and carve you up. Would you view that sandwich in the light of a gift, an offer, something that was not being imposed on you? I don’t think you would, jefe. I think you would wonder what the hell was in that sandwich, and want very badly not to accept it and certainly not to eat it, and you would also want to get away from the large guy. Well, that’s how we feel about you and your big pal. We don’t like you, we don’t like your threats, and we don’t view what you’re ‘offering’ as a ‘gift’. Go away; shut up; stop threatening people; stop doing your best to frighten people; repent.

Vatican officials said the Pope – who is also the Bishop of Rome – had been speaking in “straightforward” language “like a parish priest”. He had wanted to reinforce the new Catholic catechism, which holds that hell is a “state of eternal separation from God”, to be understood “symbolically rather than physically”.

So that’s why he mentioned the inferno?

Agostino Paravicini Bagliani, a church historian, said the Pope was “right to remind us that hell is not something to be put on one side” as an inconvenient or embarrassing aspect of belief. It was described by St Matthew as a place of “everlasting fire” (Matthew xxv, 41). “The problem is not only that our sense of sin has declined, but also that the world wars and totalitarianisms of the 20th century created a hell on earth as bad as anything we can imagine in the afterlife,” Professor Bagliani said.

Oh no they didn’t. That’s the point, you bastards. Of course the world wars and totalitarianisms of the 20th century created unparalleled horrors, but they didn’t create eternal torture. Eternal torture is, actually, worse than the horrors of the 20th century or any other real-world tortures, because they don’t stop, ever. That is in fact very very very much worse than anything that happened in the 20th century – and yet you punitive sadistic evil bastards sit around in your embroidered outfits telling us all that’s what’s going to happen to us. What a good thing many of us don’t believe you – but some people, as you know better than I do, do believe you. No, that doesn’t mean it’s okay because they won’t be afraid because they’re the ones who believe – they’ll be afraid anyway; they’ll be afraid they don’t believe enough; they’ll be afraid their belief will fail them. You shits. I don’t wish eternal punishment on you, but I wish your consciences would bother you.

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