The Devil’s Lonely Boy, part 3: The One Unforgivable Sin

17 Jun

If I were sick and didn’t go to church, I had to watch a sermon on television. This was worse than church in a way, because the television didn’t provide the distractions of real church—the polyester people, the cute girls, the reeking, bedraggled bums who wandered in off the street. I could sleep in church, often did in fact. Something about the shape of the pew just got me all the time.

As a child I had no real concept of God. I sort of imagined him as a bearded face in a silvery mist, like Professor Marvel’s projection of the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz, minus the fat man hiding behind the curtain. He had huge blazing eyes, like suns gone supernova; his face was the size of the Milky Way. I didn’t believe in aliens; I didn’t believe in ghosts, not really; I didn’t believe in evolution (“We did not come from monkeys.”); I simply believed in an all-knowing face floating somewhere out in space, staring a frown at me the size of Texas.

One morning I didn’t go to church; I was probably pretending to be sick. The television was on, and some country preacher on low fidelity sound and cheap cameras began his sermon. I tried not to pay attention. I looked out the window, I twiddled my thumbs, but there’s something about television that was impossible to ignore. So I watched. And I heard him mention an unforgivable sin, something that would condemn you to the lake of fire, forever. He didn’t say what it was. This mysterious sin tantalized me.

The comic books and sci fi novels were in full effect. I was beginning to dream of space operas, of laser blasts and demon queens and super powers and princesses with enormous breasts wearing gold gilded bikinis.

The next week, in church, I began to wonder. The pastor was talking, pacing up and down red-faced on the dais. What if, I thought, the God we’re praying to is actually the devil? What if all the songs and rituals are an elaborate ruse to trick humans into worshiping Satan? And Satan, it turns out, is actually God?

We drove home that afternoon, my mom and older sister and me. I wanted to ask my mom, “How do you know God is God and not the devil? That Jesus isn’t a devil spawn? That the pastor isn’t in fact a fire-breathing Satanist? That we aren’t all held in thrall by Lucifer? That a giant cosmic trap laid millennia ago hasn’t sprung, catching most of humanity in its iron jaws?”

I knew how my mom would react to these questions, so I instead asked her what the unforgivable sin was. “I thought there weren’t any,” I said.

She smiled. “No, there’s only one, Ben. The one unforgivable sin is thinking that God is actually the Devil. But no one really does that. It’s a monstrous pride.”

I didn’t say anything the rest of the drive. When we got home, I went up to my room and closed the door. I knelt and begged God for forgiveness. Please, I prayed, I didn’t know. Please please please please please please please please please please please

I walked around in a stupor for days. I was convinced that I was doomed. To the burning place. Where your bones are dried husks and your eyes scrambled eggs and taloned demons impale you on rusty spikes, where the only language is groaning, crying, and screaming, where for an eternity, all you can do is suffer. Pain and humiliation and torture and agony and despair and the burning, a fire that crisps the skin and bakes the organs and barbecues all of the doubts about God’s existence right out of you.

I didn’t talk about it. I smiled and said my prayers at dinner, acting as though nothing were wrong. But inside, I was a roiling mess.

The world looked different through my doomed eyes. Food lost its taste. Sports were pointless. The sky was yellowish with clouds of weedy bracken, the trees and grass and air all tainted with decay. Conversation was a waste of time. Board games were trite and inconsequential. My comics smelled like mildew and colors seemed to bleed into each other so that everything was a dull gray. I fixated on what Hell was really like. Would it be all that bad? Maybe I could occasionally take a break from the torture and gnashing of teeth to play cards or eat a grilled cheese sandwich. Maybe it’s only a few millennia of pain and suffering and then you get to kick your feet up at a heated pool.

I knew I was just fooling myself. I could feel the Devil smiling into my ear, whispering a sweet little message just for me. “I’ve got you,” he said, softly, his ruffled shirt collar tickling my neck. “You are forever mine.” His breath smelled like perfume with the subtlest hint of rotting meat.

I prayed. And prayed. And prayed. I looked for answers in the Bible. I begged. I pleaded. I gave extra from my allowance at tithing time. But I couldn’t find peace anywhere. I could only imagine the sweating glaze of eternal damnation. I could think of nothing else.

But like the greatest childhood calamities, this too faded with time. As the weeks passed into months, the feeling faded and I forgot I was going to hell. But every once in while the feeling returns, and I fear that I signed my life away in one moment of cavalier youthful caprice.

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One Response to “The Devil’s Lonely Boy, part 3: The One Unforgivable Sin”

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  1. The boy with a thorn in his side, part 1: Saint Simulacra. | simoneandthesilversurfer - October 18, 2014

    […] I was, in two words, fucked up. […]

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