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By Francis X. Maier, The Catholic Thing, June 3, 2020
Francis X. Maier is a Senior Fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
About 60 percent of Americans believe in the existence of Hell. For those who don’t, a pretty good working replica has been on display in our streets since the May 25 police killing of George Floyd. Or if Hell is too strong an image, think Weimar Republic. But Hell is closer to the truth.
People tend to imagine Hell as a lake of fire, thanks to Scripture, or nine descending circles of torment, thanks to Dante. But I suspect the real Hell is both more prosaic and more terrifying. It’s something akin to the answer Faustus got when he asked the devil Mephistopheles how, since he’d been damned, he could manage to leave Hell: “Why, this is hell,” said the demon, “nor am I out of it.”
Just as love is the furnace powering heaven, rage – with all of its subcurrents of confusion, despair, frustration, and conflict – irradiates hell. The damned cannot escape it because they cannot escape themselves. Hell is the shape they have made for themselves. …