Well, looks like it's going to be an interesting afterlife. If you believe the Pope—and why wouldn't you, since he's infallible—the fires of hell are real and eternal.
This news comes on the heels (oops, I typed "hells" first time around; guess the Devil made me do it) of my condemning myself to hell for a free DVD. And providing video proof which, unexpectedly, has been viewed by 755 people in less than three months (only a few of whom were me).
Despite being a devoutly unfaithful lapsed Catholic, I figured that it was safe to take the blasphemy challenge. After all, Pope John Paul II had rejected the reality of a literal hell.
Pope Benedict XVI has overturned the Paulian good news that hell is just the condition of separation from God. Since I'm also separated from the Tooth Fairy, Bigfoot, and the Easter Bunny, none of which I believe in either, I can handle Pope John Paul's form of damnation.
Pope Benedict's vision of hell is a lot hotter. And longer, since it's eternal.
Hopefully my Catholic baptism and first communion will stand me in good stead after I die. Limbo wouldn't be so bad, though the last time I checked Benedict wasn't big on limbo as a hellfire alternative.
On Fox News I saw an ex-ambassador to the Vatican interviewed about the Pope's "hell is real" announcement. This foursquare Catholic was asked if non-Christians are going to hell, even if they're otherwise good people.
He prevaricated a bit, but ending up saying that he's pleased the Pope is telling it like it is now (in comparison to John Paul's feel-good Catholicism, I assume). In other words, nonbelievers in Jesus are screwed.
Benedict won't be Pope forever, though. So if pagans like me are able to outlive him, we've got a good chance of seeing the "is hell real?" question take another turn around the wheel of Catholic dogma. The infallibility of the Papacy is strangely mutable.
It reminds me of another supposedly infallible line of religious leaders, the gurus of Radha Soami Satsang Beas. They're considered to be God in human form, seemingly a step up the divinity ladder from the Pope.
Charan Singh, who served as guru until his death in 1990, said that it was okay for vegetarian disciples to eat cheese even though it contained rennet—which usually is derived from animals. However, Gurinder Singh, his successor, put out the word that rennet should be shunned if you want to keep your karmic load light.
That led to a flurry of quasi-panicked research into rennetless cheeses among the faithful. Of whom I was one, back then. We'd spend many anxious moments reading the small print on cheese packages, not to mention driving pizza parlors crazy with cheesy questions they'd likely never encountered before.
It's interesting how the God-given truth can change so quickly. Sort of makes you wonder whether we're speaking of truthiness here, rather than the really real variety.
I'm betting that hell isn't real. And that a bit of rennet won't doom me to transmigration into a lower form of life, such as a neo-conservative.
If I find myself worrying about whether my bets will pay off, I've found that doubling down is a good strategy. I break another Radha Soami Satsang Beas vow and sip a glass of organic red wine.
With some cheese. Usually rennetless, I have to admit. Karma or no karma, I prefer not to eat the stomach of calves. Ick! That's hellish!