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Talking faith: What is hell like?

I was surprised. I had always heard that "you can't take it with you." But, somehow the people in hell did. They had money ... PILES of money and stocks and bonds ... which they were always counting. And, yes, they even had income tax in hell.

There were all kinds of people, but there was no connectedness, no community. Everyone was talking ... but no one was listening.

There was always something to be busy about. When I asked people, "How are you?" they said, "Busy, very busy."

People in hell were always doing several things simultaneously, like watching TV, reading the newspaper and eating, all at the same time.

While there is no work in hell, there is no leisure either. In fact, all their time is filled with restlessness. They spend most of their time playing ... well, not really playing; rather, they were engaged in games of competition. Since there are no children in hell and since there are no persons for whom the "child-within" is still alive, they compete in games like who can be the most hated and most feared.

Those in hell are all polite, but there's no love, nor are there friends. They all are just putting up with each other. There are no words like "thank you," "I'm sorry," "I love you," or "I forgive you." These words are not in their vocabulary.

One of the things that impressed me about hell was that no one ever made any mistakes. Oh, they all had "good intentions" but no one ever risked trying something new. There were lots of perfectionists and they fit right in. For perfectionists are never happy. No, those in hell just kept doing the things that take no risk at all ... like complaining and gossiping.

Where there are gates in hell ... large, ugly, rusted-iron ones ... they are not locked or guarded. For good reason ... the people in hell could not imagine being anywhere else.

Esty is pastor at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in St. Paul Park.