The latest poll results on religious belief in America indicates that atheism is making headway in America. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is something for you to decide. Me? I can’t decide. I suppose that makes me an agnostic.
An agnostic is one who believes nothing can be known. Which is what I wrote on my tests in college. It’s why I’ve reached the intellectual status of a glow worm. The “glow” is for my sunny disposition. Actually, agnostics are referring specifically to the existence or nature of a God as a subject they don’t know anything about. They seem to be know-it-alls when it comes to anything else. I DO believe some things can be known. If I forget to take my medicine, my potassium level WILL go up. My wife is still the best-looking gal in town (I add this note in case she decides to read this column). But my faith in the Baltimore Catechism is about as shaky as my faith in Baltimore (reference: Freddie Gray).
About an afterlife: The entire concept of eternal life is frightening to me. “Eternal” is a long time. I was raised a Catholic. Back in the day, we believed that Catholics had a monopoly on Heaven. Being a Catholic was like being a golfer and getting accepted into Merion Golf Club. We had this great set-up. We had Heaven all to ourselves. No Protestants, Muslims or Jews got our tee time. And the best thing? You didn’t have to be a good person. You could party up until the time you were ready to draw your last breath, but if you sincerely repented at that moment, Badda Boom, you got into Heaven. Ahead of a Tibetan monk. I don’t know who’s responsible for screwing up this great deal, but Catholics no longer believe they have a monopoly on Heaven. Maybe they had to let non-Catholics in for diversity reasons?
I was quite a precocious kid. I told my parents that we were all part of a giant’s dream. I was afraid the giant was going to wake up, and then what would happen to me? My father slapped me behind the ears and told me to snap out of it. ”And I thought the only thing I had to worry about,” he uttered, “was this kid turning queer.” I admit that I always had a fondness for Robin over Batman.
I was taught the afterlife was made up of Heaven, Purgatory and Hell. We also believed in Limbo back in the day. Limbo was supposed to be the place where unbaptized babies would go for all eternity. Some non-Catholic guy around my corner thought that physically flexible people were the ones who landed in Limbo, where they practiced dancing to Bob Marley’s music. But that’s not the case. I don’t think. I’m an agnostic. What do I know? What I do know is that the Roman Catholic Church abolished the concept of Limbo. I think because they ran out of babysitters and clean diapers. Maybe even baby formula. There were a lot of unbaptized babies around when Limbo was abolished. Where the hell did they all go? (Or did I just answer my own question?)
Speaking of Hell. The problem with Hell is that it seems that’s the place with the more interesting people. Imagine dining with Oscar Wilde or Lucretia Borgia (I’d pass on the mashed potatoes, which is where Lucretia usually hid the poison). The fly in the ointment, so to speak, is eternal hellfire. You think your fuel bills are high? Imagine what they are in Hell.
You have no hope of ever getting out of Hell. It’s the mother of all barbecues and you’re the brisket. The fear of Hell, I suppose, is what keeps you putting money into the collection basket on Sunday mornings.
It seems to me that Purgatory is the most complicated status of all. Non-Catholics have always had a tough time understanding Purgatory. I’m not an authority on the subject, but since you’re idling your time reading my column, I’m the best you have right now.
Purgatory is a kind of halfway house. You’re still going to get your ass burned for a long time, but the folks in Purgatory have a better lawyer than the folks in Hell. One day you WILL get out. You can also figure it this way. The folks in Purgatory had the good fortune to be charged by District Attorney Larry Krasner and not former DA Lynne Abraham.
Purgatory is for politicians like the ones who voted for a toothless gun control bill last week. The hardcore gun nuts are in Hell. Being in Purgatory is painful. Sort of like being a political moderate who never gets anything passed in Congress. Moderates can also be a pain-in-the ass. Like Joe Manchin. He’s going to wind up in Purgatory. Moderates would be in Limbo if there was still a Limbo. Each area has its own TV channel. In Purgatory, they watch CNN. Conservatives in Hell are forced to watch MSNBC. Non-stop Rachel Maddow. Liberals are stuck with Fox. Hannity and Tucker Carlson.
The thing about Purgatory as I understand it is that you don’t know how long you’re going to be there. You’re like a character out of a Franz Kafka novel. When the hell am I getting out of here? And how do I eventually get out?
If you’re in Purgatory, you can plead out your case. The way you do that is you need the prayers of the schmucks who’re still living. These schmucks — otherwise known as your friends and family — are down the shore or traveling to the Caribbean while you’re roasting in Purgatory. You think they’re spending their time praying for YOU?
This is where celebrity counts. Marilyn Monroe spent about three seconds in Purgatory before she was prayed up to Heaven by her fans. On the other hand, some poor unknown regular Joe (not DiMaggio) will likely spend a very long time in Purgatory because his relatives have already forgotten him.
But then again, what do I know?