Hell on Earth

Pope Francis stunned the ecclesiastical world last month when he seemed to deny the existence of Hell or to imply that it had been abolished, as one newspaper headline put it. This seemed to follow his previous statements that God wanted to stress his mercy rather than the threat of punishment. To many conservative Catholics the pope has become like your crazy Uncle Fred who you are afraid to take out in public because he no longer has a filter and you don’t know what he is going to say next.

Not understanding what Pope Francis was talking about, I phoned Satan to find out what the hell was going on in Hell. Here is the transcript of our conversation:

Devil: Who the hell is this?

Me: Hi Prince of Darkness. It’s me, John. We spoke a few months ago (see Unhinged Magazine, “A Special Place in Hell”).

Devil: What the devil do you want?

Me: Well, the pope recently said that there was no such place as Hell or that it has been eliminated. Is this true?

Devil: FAKE NEWS. It’s here and it has been since the beginning of time. In fact, business is booming. The sinners just keep on coming. I was just planning on expanding all seven circles of Hell. They are all nearly at full capacity, especially the second circle where we store the souls of those indicted for overindulging in the fleshly pleasures. I had to move some of the fornicators into the first circle, Limbo, with the unbaptized. The original inhabitants are livid, as you can imagine. But I recently had to cancel the expansion.

Me: Why is that?

Devil: God has decided that the operating expenses of the underworld are too high. The cost of heating this place is astronomical. Not to mention the fact that the price of brimstone has gone through the roof. Also, we are still trying to recover from the unexpected charges related to reheating the place after it froze over in 2016 when the Cubs won the World Series. We weren’t insured for what we thought was a once in 500 year event. I have to admit our finances are in shambles. You just can’t find a good accountant in Hades. So the Lord wants to restructure. He has asked me to cut back to only one or two circles. I tried to fight him on this but I didn’t have a snowball’s chance. I think this is what the pope was referring to.

It was the event of 2016 that nobody saw coming.

Me: That must be it.

Devil: With the big reduction in inmates I will need to eliminate jobs. I’m going to have to let most of my demons go.

Me: I’m sorry. What will they do?

Devil: They will land on their feet. The goblins won’t have any trouble finding employment on Earth. They will make great auditors, lawyers and politicians. The better ones will probably get scooped up by the IRS [Note the author of this article thinks highly of the IRS. His tax returns are accurate. No need to audit them].

Plus, we kinda look alike.

Me: What are you going to do with all of those wretched souls that are currently in hell?

Devil: The worst ones like Hitler and Stalin will have to stay here and I’ll keep enough room for some who are on the road to perdition like Bill Belichick and the guy who directed Daddy’s Home 2.

Me: What about all the other tormented beings in the underworld?

Devil: Oh, they will still be tortured. But God thinks that in the future, thanks to global warming, Earth and Hell won’t be all that different so why not send their souls back to Earth. That will also eliminate the cost of shipping new souls to Hell and ferrying them across the river Styx.

Me: Will there be sufficient horror and torment on Earth?

Devil: It will be pretty bad. I’ll make sure of that. Besides managing what’s left of hell, I will continue to be responsible for the damned souls that will be transferred back to Earth. Due to global warming it will be hot. Just imagine what future afternoon baseball games will be like in St. Louis in August, especially if I make them go into extra innings. And there will be more and more hurricanes, floods and wild fires, not to mention war, pestilence, higher tariffs and unaffordable medical care. Add to that the constant morning tweets from you know who and the return of the T.V. show Rosanne and voila, you have hell on earth.

Plus, we have an undercover agent or two.

Me: Wow, I guess you’re right.

Devil: In all fairness Earth won’t be as bad as hell. The pope was correct when he said that, in seeking righteous behavior, God wants to stress his mercy as opposed to the horrors of eternal damnation. Also God is fearful of damning someone unjustly.

Me: Doesn’t God know who has been righteous?

Devil: Usually, but to be honest it’s getting harder to tell if someone should be on the virtuous list or the naughty list. There’s no magical sorting hat. Just think about the characters in the Harry Potter books. Harry and Hermione Granger were definitely good while Voldemort was without a doubt evil. But what about Severus Snape? He seemed evil in the beginning and then he was good. It can be confusing. And the Wicked Witch of the West was evil incarnate until we learned from the Broadway show Wicked that she was just misunderstood. There are a lot of people like Snape and the Witch who you are never too sure about. God doesn’t want eternal damnation to be too horrible in case he gets one wrong.

So there you have it. The pope was mistaken. Hell does exist. It’s just being scaled back and will now only be for the truly evil among us. The rest of us will just have to put up with Hell on Earth for now and perhaps for eternity, unless we make it to the Good Place.

John Wade, a frequent contributor to Unhinged Magazine, is a retired Chief Financial Officer who lives in Wildwood, Missouri.

If you want to read John Wade’s list of crazy nicknames through history, go here.