Catholics, Mormons, and Stephen Crane

My Organized Response to an LDS Missionary

Chapter 12 - God the Bouncer

July 2001


God fashioned the ship of the world carefully.
With the infinite skill of an All-Master
Made He the hull and the sails,
Held He the rudder
Ready for adjustment.
Erect stood He, scanning His work proudly.
Then-at fateful time-a wrong called,
And God turned, heeding.
Lo, the ship, at this opportunity,
slipped slyly,
Making cunning noiseless travel down the ways.
So that, forever rudderless, it went upon the seas
Going ridiculous voyages,
Making quaint progress,
Turning as with serious purpose
Before stupid winds.
And there were many in the sky
Who laughed at this thing.


Stephen Crane:Black Riders #6

Catholics have a very delineated definition and explanation of the afterlife. They have Heaven and Hell, Purgatory and Limbo. There are half a dozen other places, as I recall, but I lost interest midway through my research just about the time I lost interest in the Telestial and Celestial Kingdoms and starting my own planet. Schoolyard games and fairy tales eventually begin to bore the adult intellect.

The Catholics believe that "good" souls are accepted into Heaven, by St Peter (with either his famous balance scales or that golden book titled "This Is Your Life"). The ones that were baptized with holy water and confirmed Catholic by the bishop, that received holy communion (the actual "body of Christ") and the sacred oils of last rites. The ones that married, used neither condoms or the pill, that confessed their sins and said prayers in penance. The ones that raised their own children to do the same (raising children that question the "living prophet" is grounds for dismissal) are on their way to bliss. Do the promises of such rituals seem bizarre and ridiculous to one not "steeped" in their "tradition"? Of course another word for traditions forcibly passed down from role models and based upon fear, is "brainwashing", but that is a harsh word.

So Catholic elevators are going up for the good souls and down for the bad. The nuns were able to delineate elaborate stories for us 10 year olds about what one could expect to find in each place. And just like any snake oil salesman, they used open ended descriptions like "a marvelous place of wonders... what would YOU find there?" so that each person could mentally fill in the blank with a tangible personal fantasy and attribute it (incorrectly) either to the nun, the bible, or to God himself. Of course, equally open ended descriptions of Hell were given of a place of "terrible suffering and torture like ... what would YOU find there" so that each person could mentally fill in that blank with their own personal nightmare, and literally scare the hell out of themselves. Such mental games are demented, especially when played upon the young.

But setting aside the self-finished "Fantasy Island" and island of chained souls, leaves the middle ground of Purgatory. I was taught that people neither "good enough" nor "bad enough" were sent here. Is this a bizarre notion? I was told that it was prayers from living souls on earth that would provide these residence of nowhere-ville with the grace to enter heaven. Is this not fantastic ridiculous Catholic fiction? Yes, I was told, I should pray for my ancestors, my grand and great grand parents on the off-hand chance that they are stuck in Purgatory and that my prayers might lift their souls to the divine place that has all of those things that I was told to conger up in my imagination. And at the age of eight, I immediately instinctively tried to imagine this elaborate hoax from the other side.

I was befuddled and I was disbelievant. Here is a dead ancestor, stuck in God's waiting room, and me kneeling at by bedside in my jammies, putting in a good word for somebody that was just a name on a piece of paper (or even less) to me. And the nuns expected me to believe that my pure childhood act would improve the outcome of the divine status of these total strangers in the eyes of our "all-loving" God?

Yet Mormons believe something pathetically similar. Secret rituals, sacred words, people invoking others names that they personally neither know anything of or about. Souls lost in the ether released by these silly carnival sideshow acts. Where are the chicken bones, wizard hats and Masonic aprons?

What kind of God would do that? An all-knowing all-loving one? Are we to believe that God, who suffered and died on the cross to forgive our sins, is now leading some giant parlor game of "mother may I" or "simon says"? That fantastic charade was taught to both you and I as children. And it was the beginning of the doubt that our all-loving God sowed into my head for the Catholic religion. Why was it not the same for you and yours?

Imagine for a minute, that you find yourself in this eternal "middle of nowhere". Suppose all the Catholics learn, upon death, that the Mormons were right. Suppose instead that all the Mormons learn that the Catholics were right. To keep things simple, I will leave out the Jews and the Pagans and the Scientologists.

These billions of decent people; God fearing, trying to live a good life, raising their children to worship their particular belief, just happened to follow the "wrong" set of rituals. They zigged when God actually wanted them to zag. And now there stuck like some bug on flypaper.

Suddenly a voice comes over a loudspeaker. You hear an unknown soul, your great-great offspring or your surrogate Mormon sponsor utter your name and (depending) "please, God, let their souls out of Purgatory" or "I accept Jesus in their name". And suddenly a bell rings and flasher starts to swirl and an angel appears and grabs your elbow. You are on your way to Heaven! You are saved! You have had the "correct" earth-bound ritual blindly performed in your name. You are free. You rolled doubles. You drew God's "get out of jail free" card.

Would you really want to go to THAT heaven? I mean really. You lead this good Mormon life only to find out that it was Catholics with the "right" dogma. Or you lead this good Catholic life only to find out that the Mormons had the "right" dogma. You bought the wrong stock. You built your house in the wrong neighborhood. You enrolled yourself in the wrong school.

And people that are EXACTLY like yourself. The same foibles and fears, heroics and heartbreaks, are already in. They picked the right horse. They bought Microsoft at 10 instead of Xerox at 100. And God, it turns out, is little more than a chump change bookie or stockbroker. Lead a good life? Yeah, sure. Do a set of rituals that your parents taught you were biblically revealed? Whatever. Pick the right horse, and YOU'RE A WINNER of eternal divine salvation! Is that your vision of God?

And when you heard the soft earthly voice speak your name, saw the siren, and the angel came to get you, would you really want to go in?

It would be like having reservations at a restaurant, only to be greeted by a surly maitre d' that says "I do not see your name, please wait, I will try to squeeze you in". You might step aside and complain, but would be aghast if you saw that same greeter begin to seat people no less deserving than yourself because they did some insignificant act. Maybe they slipped him a ten-spot. Maybe they said "Joe sent me". Maybe they waived a certain business card, or were dressed in a tuxedo while you were wearing a plaid sport coat. You had made a reservation and believed that was enough. And now some snivelly small man is playing favorites due to something that has nothing to do with you? You did your part, held up your end of the bargain as you understoodit, but now learn that there was some other act, some "secret" ritual, that you did not know but were supposed to perform? And suppose now that a total stranger comes up and hands you something (even though they don't know you from Adam) and says "show him this and he'll seat you". Do you really want to go into that restaurant? Even if the food is said to be the "best in the city"?

I would not. Like Huckleberry Finn, I expect fairness and decency out of heaven, not third rate carnival tricks and banana-republic style power plays. Heaven, in my book, is not a tree-house full of eight year olds.

If you stood in line to enter a popular dance club, only to be kept behind the velvet rope. How long would you stand there if you had to watch others, neither more nor less "deserving" of entrance, be whisked inside because they arrived in a limo instead of a taxi, or wore white instead of blue. How long until you said "I want nothing to do with this place. This is a load of crap." I know that I might stand for ten or twenty minutes, allow five or six people to pass me by, before I would step out of line and just walk away.

And what about when that snotty little Maitre d' or that star-struck bouncer turns to you and says "OK, buddy, its your turn. You can go in"? No rhyme or reason. Nothing to do with what you are or what you have done or not done. Just simply because some other person in some other dimension went into a darkened room and read your name off of a piece of paper. Would you go in or would there be some greater principle at stake? Would the fact that some people were arbitrarily bestowed riches where others that were equally committed and equally deserving were arbitrarily denied them make a difference to your intellect or conscience? Does your religion encourage you to use your intellect and your conscience in matters of dogma about the afterlife? The Catholics certainly did not. Cults do not. To my knowledge, the LDS church does not. Each institution wishes to dictate the details of the afterlife and then have unquestioning acceptance and adherence by their followers. And in those institutions, the less thinking done by us riffraff the better.

Be careful about rubbing your hands together anticipating your eternal reward. You can't be sure if you are on the "inside looking out" or the "outside looking in" ritual-wise. You have only your own faith, and the words of YOUR "living prophet" to guide you. You had better hope HE was right.


Copyright, 2001, All rights reserved

Chapter 11 Return to Main Page Chapter 13

Introduction & Background


I'm Right and They're Wrong


Serene Futility


Under Duress


Damning Hypocrisy


Money in the Bank


Institutional Corruption


The Carrot and the Stick


God's Voice


Heaven Must Be Laughing


"All Religions are Corrupt"


God the Bouncer


Sealed with Chains


Unlock the Temple Doors

Catholic & Mormon Links Page

Originally Written: April 2001
First Upload: July 2001
Last Update: November 4, 2001