I’ve been thinking a lot about religion lately. Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church recently protested the funeral of a woman and her four kids who were killed by a drunk driver. The reason? She lived in Maryland, a state where an $11 million judgment was recently won against the WBC for protesting a funeral of a soldier killed in Iraq.
Somebody’s going to hell because they lived in the same state where you just lost a lawsuit. Makes perfect sense to me.
Hell is not a new concept to Phelps, of course. His WBC (why do those initials make me want to go bowling?) is notorious for protesting the funerals of everybody from gay people to U.S. soldiers on the premise that they are all in hell. His primary fixation is on gay people, as evidenced by the title of his website, godhatesfags.com. Since 9/11, he has extended his venom toward the U.S. military (due to “don’t ask, don’t tell”), then America in general, and any other country that he sees as especially gay-friendly. Hence the following websites: godhatesamerica.com, godhatescanada.com, godhatesmexico.com, godhatesireland.com, and godhatessweden.com. Even Mr. Rogers is in hell, according to Phelps! “It’s a beautiful day in the AAAAAAAAAAGH!”
Of course, it doesn’t take too much Googling to find sites that soundly refute Phelps. This site, for example, uses Bible verses to cut through Phelps’ crap like a chainsaw through a bowl of mush. (And you have to love the guy’s name: Darwin Fish.) Not that Fish is exactly a relativist. He has a whole list of religious figures—including Billy Graham!—that he places in hell for taking liberties with Scripture.
So the question is—assuming there is a hell (and there are plenty of eyewitness accounts of people who claim to have been there), who’s going there?
Many people, such as Fish, think that hell is reserved for people who don’t accept a certain religion—which, not coincidentally, happens to be their own religion. Phelps apparently consigns anybody to hell who has ever looked upon a gay person with less than absolute loathing.
One thing I have noticed about Biblical interpretations (and the same probably goes for other religious texts, too): the more literal the interpretation, the crueler it is. The more chapter-and-verse references you see, the more the interpreter claims to be “objective,” the more people are likely to be damned.
So I have come to one of two conclusions:
1) Religious texts simply can’t be read in the same way that one might read The World Almanac or The Encyclopaedia Brittanica.
2) God hates everything.