It is with no great pleasure that I press on my fellow earthlings this unarguable environmental threat: heaven is out to get us. At least by what science fiction writers name “outer space.” By “heaven,” of course I don’t mean that religious construction where selective, saintly beings get rewarded for goodness – a paradise gained from good works, piety, obedience, or predestination. That space beyond the beyond – still stubbornly invisible to our latest deep-space photography – is not only outtasight but “out of time.” So, some relief: we’re not likely threatened by immaterial fire and brimstone, whatever the scriptural projections.
How soulful heavenly inhabitants can be out of time, and immensely far away, yet monitor the daily plight of human sinners – well, that’s about faith, not knowledge or logical discussion. I do accept profound mysteries high up and far away, especially dark matter and dark energy, if not dark holes, but we’re way off from en-LIGHT-en-ment on such scientific shadow worlds. We can certainly ponder infinite space (and time) to experience transcendence, but are we stuck only with western models of Heaven, or Hell for that matter (“below” somewhere? hiding in our molten fire-core?)?
Gosh, Hell even made global news this Easter weekend as “Vatican scrambles after pope appears to deny existence of hell.” What, you mean even Catholics aren’t talking properly after 2000 years of the most truly foundational threat in western civilization? Church officials were quick to backtrack, “The Catholic church’s teachings affirm the existence of hell and its eternity, saying ‘the chief punishment of hell is eternal separation of God.’” Only eleven years, Pope Benedict XVI said hell “really exists and is eternal, even if nobody talks about it much anymore”
Well, this pope talks about it – and what am I, a nobody? Back to our conversation – the utterly inevitable planetary extinction, aside from my finale on our irresistible push to overcapacity and depletion. That cheerful outside prospect looms from one of a million, football field-sized rock wanderers, or a meandering comet that smacks us hard with ice and rock. There’s even a notion that an asteroid could hit Mars or Venus and bounce enough mass into into our orbit as we’re whisking around the sun at thousands of miles per hour. Kaboom! Talk about shock and awe, if not stupefaction and horror.
Future will be bright
Look, there’s nothing fixed in stone, or ice as it were, whether planetary disorder, unknown projectiles, even what astronomers anticipate with some surety: the unimaginable combustion furnace when our Milky Way gang decides to eat another solar system, or vice versa. Imagine a hundred billion stars colliding with our semi-local star grouping just because both want to own the same vacuous “real estate.” Not, mercifully, for billions of years. Let Mikey deal with it.
Plus, there’s even less doubt that our great sun, or Sol as soul of life, will follow the inevitable march of solar evolution and implode, then explode, expanding so wide its super-heated arms embrace the earth’s orbit. High drama, and alas the end of all our life forms. That won’t be pleasant, but quick, as every molecule of oxygen, rocks, oceans, even our hot magnetic iron core, will vaporize into gases and tiny particulate matter. “Burnt to a crisp” will barely apply if the earth continues to exist at all. Otherwise it’s katy-bar-the-door — except there won’t be doors, windows, or framework left to ponder. Hamlet was right, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
In that sense, belief in Biblical Armageddon, nothing less than the divinely-ordained end of the world as we know it, should engage modern skeptics more than than variations of heavenly pie in the sky. I don’t much concern myself about bad people being sent to Hell (not me, for sure!), but if Heaven is way, way up there, beyond the bounds of light years, where is down? And if there is an indescribably infinite space “out there,” what sort of personal awareness will human brethren have when arrival, billions of light years hence.
Which disaster is first up?
What actually propels souls upward is another mystery, but with gobs of dark matter out there, Hell looks more likely than Heaven. And that’s why, for storytellers who depend on tension and suspense, Satan and his crew, let alone perpetual, inventive tortures, provide more hot-blooded plot lines – a mix of what Greek myth makers, Jewish scribes, but especially imaginative Christian fathers and Dante, depict as Hell. Then, to top it all off in the late medieval period, Catholic fabulists invented the middle ground called Purgatory. But, alas, even theology has fashions and Purgatory, attacked by Reformation Protestants as a mere popish money-making fraud, is now disowned by the very Vatican whose “indulgences” so enriched it.
True, before the drama of solar implosion, or discovering Hell beneath us, our species is hell-bent on making this earth uninhabitable for our species. And only really for the last 200 years, a smidgen in time and space. No matter – it makes little difference to a nasty, earth-bound asteroid whether it crashes and burns into an overpopulated earth or one extinct of conscious life. Perhaps after all, and as opposed to all the cyclical faiths affirming perpetual reincarnations, the Book of Revelations rightly cautions us that our seemingly solid planet is a fragile life source on the brink. And before these outside forces loom, humanity looks to soil its own nest and jeopardize our lives, plus fellow species, with a deadly greenhouse sauna that will dry out so much greenery on which we depend.
Who knew our species’ brainpower could conceive in advance, and with tragic specificity, the looming, incremental, not so Little Bang that awaits us? Unless the planet comes together to address the elephantine menace that escapes Republicans, fossil fuel purveyors and other science deniers: climate change for the worse. And no one gets off, not those now shielded behind gated walls that will crumble along with our already neglected, disintegrating American infrastructure.
The good news, I suppose, is the greater sympathy we can all feel for helpless, newly-born earthlings: they truly face daunting. death-defying challenges humanity has never faced – how to sustain a world with a growing population and diminishing resources. Now that will take a revolution – and no tribe or nation will escape being part of the problem – or the varied solutions. Comprehension of this unilateral, potentially unifying, self-made bomb looks to be our only longterm hope.