Monday, June 19, 2006

Professors from Hogwarts

Jeffrey Russell is dismayed by what he sees as the deterioration American Christians' understanding of the concepts of heaven and hell. He says their beliefs are practically superstitious.

Belief in hell is going to you-know-where. And belief in heaven is in trouble, too.

That's the concern of some Christian thinkers, including Jeffrey Burton Russell, an emeritus professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of the new book "Paradise Mislaid: How We Lost Heaven and How We Can Regain It" (Oxford).

So, Prof. Remus, I mean, Russell, please edify and tell us what in fact are heaven and hell.

"For Christians, basically, heaven underneath all of the decorations means living in harmony with God and the cosmos and your neighbors and being grateful," said Russell, who studied hell and Satan for 15 years before turning his attention to heaven in a 1997 book.

I guess those who arrive in heaven have all been sanitized, whitewashed, brainwashed, and end up just exchanging namby-pamby, touchy-feely hogwash. While 99% of the time they're sucking up to and kissing His Holeliness' you know what.

What about hell and its fire and brimstone? "There is a tendency to overdramatize hell in order to get [it] across to people," he said. But it's simply "the absence of God, the absence of heaven."

So hell is like, umm, uhh, the here and now. Like being on earth and having not a glimpse or whiff of Big Daddy while obsessively fantasizing about meeting and being with him, and all the time having to pray just to gain his ear but not getting any registered mail of what the fuck his reply really is. Yeah, I bet that's hell.

And can you dig that? Russell studied hell and Satan for a decade and a half. What a vacation that must've been--flitting off to fantasia for that long. Well I'm taking my cue from him. I'm filing for a 10-year sabbatical and when I come back I'll be the world expert in Dementors. You see, I've been meaning to correct your false understanding of what they really are. Right now what you think you know about them borders on superstitious. So watch out for my book: Demented: How We Lost Our Brains and Misunderstood the Dementors. (Advance credits: My thanks to A. Dumbledore for the encouragement to embark on this project and for setting up the invaluable interviews with the Dementors.)

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