The Mass-Marketing of Hell
November 9, 2008 § 66 Comments
A number of people reacted rather strongly to this post (cross posted here), as if I had said something shocking. The part that got the strongest reaction is where I re-state the Catholic doctrine that formal cooperation with grave evil is mortal sin, and that when we commit mortal sin that means we will go to Hell for eternal damnation unless we repent, confess, and do penance.
(As I mentioned in the comments, I don’t know if God in His grace grants some or all a final chance at repentance upon death: I hope so, but too much of that kind of hope can easily turn into presumption, and in any case my hopes are not doctrine.)
I have a suspicion as to why the reaction to a simple restatement of doctrine in plain terms is so strong.
When we think about the phenomenon of mass democratic elections, of course we ourselves are very cognizant of Catholic doctrine with respect to remote material cooperation with grave evil. But we all know that the guy next door, the man sitting next to me at the ball game, my brother in law and even my brother, etc are not cognizant of Catholic doctrine nor do they much care to be cognizant of Catholic doctrine, even in many cases if they are Catholics, and even when we talk to them about it. We know, for example, that a lot of folks voted for Obama because they saw him as “tolerant” on abortion, that is, because he supports the legality and even expanded legality of abortion.
In other words, we know that for most people, including all these real faces and names surrounding us in our own day to day lives, and even if not for our enlightened and virtuous selves, mass democratic elections provide new and easy opportunities to engage in formal cooperation with grave evil: grave evil which is remote enough in real terms from a person’s actual life that it would not normally be one of his strong personal temptations. How many people, in their day to day lives, are faced with the real prospect and temptation to declare an unjust war? How many people, in their day to day lives, are faced with the real prospect and temptation to sign an executive order permitting abortions on military bases or releasing millions in funds for Planned Parenthood? How many people, in their day to day lives, are faced with the real prospect and temptation to authorize the torture of captives to extract information? Not many. But the phenomenon of mass democratic elections presents the opportunity for everyman to formally cooperate with these and many other grave evils.
I’ve mentioned before that engaging in hypotheticals about acts very far from the reality one actually personally faces presents new and unnecessary opportunities to formally cooperate with grave evil. Mass democratic elections ensure that this is extended to the populace at large and embodied in concrete acts of formal cooperation through voting. Just as with hypotheticals more generally, it isn’t strictly necessary for individual acts of voting in mass democratic elections to involve formal cooperation with grave evil. But as a mass social phenomenon, for most people it does.
Giving everyday people many opportunities to formally cooperate with grave evil which would not ordinarily impinge on their own day to day lives seems to be part of the mass marketing strategy of Hell. And it seems to be working.