This is a clever, well researched, darkly funny, and occasionally sad book, listing the inhabitants of Hell, what they did to deserve it, and the legion of demons who administer their punishments. It quickly becomes clear that the authors, despite their claim to take Hell's existence literally, probably don't believe a word of it, and often as not seem to show support and sympathy for the wretched inhabitants of the nether regions.
So, who is there? Everyone you would expect, naturally, Stalin, Genghis Khan, etc.There are also a number of atheists and heretics there. Voltaire, Thomas Paine and Robert Ingersoll. (so we won't be short of good conversation on our arrival). Voltaire's Atheism examples include the time when greeting the sunrise with a friend, prayed out loud "I believe in you, Powerful God, I believe! As for Monsieur the son, and Madame his Mother, that is another thing.'
Other people awaiting a parole hearing that will never happen are more surprising; Al Jolson was cast down for vanity, say the authors. He once retaliated on a critic by waving a fistful of dollar bills at the poor man and shouting '"This is mine. Where's yours?" He was also given to upstaging his then wife, Ruby Keeler by jumping up unannounced at her shows to sing and steal the audience's attention for himself.
Walt Disney (if not cryogenically frozen) was dammed for 'sowing discord' of a highly racist nature. He was known to guest at the social gatherings of Georg Gyssling, Nazi Consul General to Hollywood, he denounced alleged Communist Cartoonists to the McCarthy House Of Un-American Activities Committee, ensuring that many good men never worked again, and refused to employ Jews at his studios.
While some people seemed to have it coming, others seem less deserving of their fate. George Sanders (English actor) was sent downstairs for giving in to despair and leaving a suicide note reading simply "Dear World, I am leaving you because I am bored." Rather sad, really.
Even when mentioning people who's damnation will surprise few, WHO IN HELL raises some surprises. Hitler's fate seems inevitable, especially as he died suicidal and therefore unrepentant, but the authors remind us that he was no atheist, but a fallen Catholic. The authors add that "…. It must be admitted that Hitler remained faithful to the Church's teachings. He kept his virginity and strongly opposed abortion (stating in Mien Kampf) "I'll put an end to the idea that a woman's body belongs to her ….. The practice of abortion shall be exterminated." We should quote that to any Christian pro-life fanatic who tries to slanderously compare pro-choice supporters like Humanists to Hitler and his supporters.
The saddest entry is that on pagan babies; St. Augustine proclaimed that all unbaptised children go to Hell, but the idea was challenged by Origen, who ridiculed such notions, before they were revived by John Calvin. The authors add that "the only 'Christians' who continue to condemn 'pagan babies' to an eternity of Hellfire are the boobs who get their Old-time religion from the blow-dried flimflam men known as televangelists. " Quite.
There are lots of references to the hells of non-Christian faiths too.
Of all Hell's demons, (Baal, Satan, Lucifer, Wormwood, etc.) I was particularly pleased to read about Frimost, who only comes out on a Tuesday between nine and ten PM and if spotted, must be handed a white pebble. He seems quite cute, really. If Hell does exist, (Ha) I look forward to meeting him.
A terrific book for browsing through once in a while.
© Copyright. Arthur Chappell
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