My Devil-story-part-two effort continues…um…not as quickly as I had hoped. I get stuck on tangents. I’ll share one tonight.
According to most Christian doctrine, Yahweh was pretty stingy with passes to Heaven, but due to a shortage of anthropological data (and important factors like the true age of humankind) it was never clear exactly how much. Even in the 1990s the notion that the living outnumber the dead was still fairly commonplace and believed.
How wrong it was.
Our academic anthropology departments estimate that 100 Billion people have lived before the common era, and while a few Hebrews might have ascended to Heaven, most of them have not. This means according to most denominations of Christianity, a really astounding number of souls suffer in the Hell-of-the-Damned for all eternity.*
That’s 100-billion-people-plus in Hell, in contrast to 2-billion-if-we’re-generous in Heaven. That’s today. And some folks, human or otherwise might find these figures a bit awkward. If there is a contest between Heaven and Hell, Hell is winning by far, and the suffering in Hell is such that it completely drowns out the glory of Heaven the way a singularity drinks light.**
And I had observed that by the power of canonical jurisdiction the Pope could free everyone who ever lived from the eternal agony of Hell, allowing them all to go to Heaven. This uses the same dogmatic ruling applied in the movie Dogma (1999) by which Cardinal Glick’s plenary indulgence at the Buddy-Christ re-dedication could apply to angels. And yes widespread abuse of canonical jurisdiction is why Protestants reject it in favor of the purer interpretation of scripture (A policy subject to it’s own abuses, if ones more subtle and nuanced.)
I also asked why doesn’t Pope Francis do this? Sure, it’d create a massive political upheaval, and the Protestants wouldn’t personally accept it, but most of the one billion baptised Catholics would. It would be the greatest act of ecclesiastic mercy of all time, and we’re talking about the immortal souls of one hundred billion people. Which is still a crazy awkward population of Hell, and makes for a crazy awkward victory ratio.
It would certainly turn the soul-gathering contest around.
That’s when I came up with a good (if unlikely) reason.
See, Alastor, Trafficker In Orphans has been playing softball for a while. In the dark ages He used to toss around plagues and volcano eruptions and conflagrations and earthquakes because there was nothing more that He wanted than the human species annihilated and extinct. Given a decisive victory is at hand, there is no cause to continue the contest. It’s apocalypse time!
Unless there’s a standing order in the Church, a secret papal bull, that grants salvation to all human souls, whether living or in Hell or otherwise, but only in the final hour of domesday. People continue to go to Hell in alarming numbers, but only so long as the Human race perseveres. Once the last naked ape falls, Hell empties.
That would explain why the Church doesn’t pass the great indulgence and why Legion, Uploader of hello.jpg doesn’t align a distant but imminent hypernova so that its gamma ray burst would cook the Earth to crispy golden brown. It’s sort of a dogmatic MAD.
More Incarnations of Immortality than The Da Vinci Code. Maybe worthy of a treatment.
* That part of Hell is commonly called Hades, though I find the term cringe-worthy, since Hades was not a terrible god. The Greek afterlife-where-bad-people-go was Tartarus.
** Is there a soul-gathering contest? While not official, the narrative of Naberius, The Abominably Fluffy and Adorable (Yes He Is!) makes it clear He is invested in the ruin of humanity, and the eternal suffering of each individual is His meat and bone.