Hellbound; or, Curse God and Live

Thu, 3 Feb 2022

I’ve been watching Hellbound on Netflix. It feels like an existential horror show, an exploration of how people cope with an arbitrary and indifferent universe where people who have apparently done nothing wrong can be condemned to a hideous death (and quite possibly eternal torment afterward).

It also reminds me of a sf novel I first read a couple of decades ago.

After fifty-five years of dedicating his life and work to the study of ethical systems, Sol Weintraub had come to a single, unshakable conclusion: any allegiance to a deity or concept or universal principal which put obedience above decent behavior toward an innocent human being was evil.

Dan Simmons, Hyperion

Think about it: if an ideal leads you to be cruel to the innocent, then that ideal is evil and you should discard it. It doesn’t matter what the ideal is, whether it’s democracy, freedom of speech, social justice, or obedience to God. If it becomes an excuse for cruelty, you need to discard it.

spoilers for Hellbound

And yet many of the people in Hellbound do not do this. When a single mother receives the decree, people start digging into her private life, slut-shaming her, and accusing her of child abuse. Why? Because they need a reason for this woman to be condemned to death and damnation instead of accepting that her situation is fundamentally unjust and that a God who allows things like this to happen is no god at all, but a demon.

The police officers and attorneys who help the woman’s children escape to Canada rather than be taken and used as pawns by the New Truth cult are likewise targeted. Why? Because they are presumably thwarting the will of God by ensuring the safety and liberty of two innocent children.

Likewise with cancer. It doesn’t care how good a person you are. You could do everything right, eat all the right things, get enough sleep and exercise, and still get cancer. Some people will find a way to justify blaming you for getting it. And if you survive, people will give God the credit instead of the doctors who treated you. Never mind that this is the same God that created a world in which people can get cancer in the first place.

I form the light, and create darkness, I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord that do all these things.

Isaiah 45:7 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)

Maybe it’s time we put our gods to the sword. They’re more trouble than they’re worth. Then again, it’s not like they were ever real in the first place. Every god is a God of the Gaps, but the gaps they fill are not those left by the limits of human science. Instead, they inhabit our inability to accept that the universe is arbitrary and insouciant, and that our morals and feelings don’t matter to anybody but us.

Human concerns are no concern of God’s, so curse God and live. If he doesn’t like it, then to Hell with him.