• Mauri

AN ATHEIST'S DEATH

After a short and relatively painless agony, an inveterate atheist dies. Much to his surprise, it is not the eternal night, the dreamless silence of the soul and the definitive dissolution of the conscience that follows the termination of his body activities. He wakes up instead, in a different place than that of his departure, and in the company of other human beings. The scenery that breaks before his eyes is quite a peaceful and agrestic one: little woods, smooth green hills, here and there a small lake; little one-storey wooden houses are scattered across the green with no apparent scheme, and all around the area people, either chilling out by themselves, or gathered in small and playful parties. But above all, a lot of average space between each human being. Not a densely populated region at all. As the spot where he regains consciousness happen to be at the end of a small queue of some four people, he decides that, given the circumstances, there are not much better things to do than to wait for his turn. To greet him at the end of the short wait is an archangel, who, after a quick look at a big registry book laid on his table, informs him: “Welcome to afterlife. In your lifetime you have stubbornly refused to affiliate to any established religion, you have dismissed any irrational explanation to the mystery of existence among all those that were repeatedly offered to you from the priesthood and the sacred books, and because of this conduct you have been assigned to Hell”. “Hell – the atheist thinks – so this is it; I would have never expected it, but here I am, facing eternal damnation. Well, not much else to do but go with it”. His reply to the archangel is firm: “All my life I have been faithful to myself; I have lived according to the needs of my inquisitive spirit, and I have been passionately committed to the search for my personal freedom. I have no regrets, and I am ready to accept the consequences of my choices. Take me to Hell, and so be it”. “Oh, but this IS Hell - is the archangel's reply – in fact, if you give me a minute to close today’s registry, I’d like to show you a bit around”. Our hero is puzzled, and not sure what to think, but he decides to play the game for the time being. “Before you start building you own hut you should go and check one of the existing ones out: many times people just move to a different area, and there are always empty dwellings available around. “That there is the tennis ground, if you’re into this sort of things, and on that pier you can just help yourself to any of the anchored boats to go fishing on the lake. There there’s the open air cinema, plus few small projection rooms for private views. We have an amazing collection of movies here; in fact we have ALL movies that were ever made. Me, personally, I like to hang around live music venues better; there are about fifty just in this sector” The resurrected is beginning to make sense of all this: “I know what’s going on: he wants me to taste all earthly delights for the last time, to make my damnation even more bitter; he wants me to beg for mercy... But he’s not going to have it: I’m going to stand straight and face my destiny with courage”. The archangel continues his little sightseeing: “You are welcome to help yourself to any fruits on the trees, but as you have just resurrected you must be starving, and you sure can do with a proper meal; besides, I want to show you the restaurant. And, you must not let your first day in Hell finish without tasting the fabulous wine that we produce round here”... As they rush towards their next stop they walk along the sharp edge of a high plateau, and the atheist is suddenly distracted by a fearsome view. The plain right below, as far as eyes can see, is an endless stretch of sterile land, covered with huge holes in the ground, where thousands, hundreds of thousands of people, screaming off their throats, are amassed naked, devoured by flames. He’s speechless, hardly able to blink, or move a muscle. Red eyed and dry mouthed by the sudden wave of heat that just hit his face, he shouts to the archangel, who’s way ahead and urging him to walk on. “That is Hell isn’t it? Damn you archangel, I knew this from the start! Now you’re taking me for the last meal and then this is what there is for me for the rest of eternity! Fire and pain!” The archangel points to the plain with his thumb, avoiding looking at it. “What, that? Oh no, no; those are the Christians: they... that's the way they want it!”

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