Ten per cent of Brits believe they're going to Hell – I think I might be one of them

I'm not one to believe in the invisible sky person, but even I sometimes wonder whether I might be going to Hell.


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“I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious,” fictional idiot David Brent’s American counterpart, Michael Scott, once said.

Realising that you identify with an idiot is hard. Realising that you identify with a caricature of an idiot is harder. But I am, sadly, a little stitious myself.

Much like the ten per cent of the British population who, according to a recent YouGov survey, believe that Hell exists and they’re going straight there when they die. OK, there’s a difference between being religious and being superstitious (or slightly stitious, even). But it’s often hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. And I suspect that many of those who think their souls are Hell-bound are the kind of people who, like me, avoid walking under ladders.

It’s all just a matter of believing in silly things because “what if..?” And believing you’re going to have a shit day because of some ladder you don’t even know is about the same level of silly as believing that there’s a special place where dead people are eternally punished for not having followed an extraordinarily specific set of moral guidelines devised by an invisible sky person.

I know that the only logical reason to avoid walking under a ladder is a slightly tenuous health and safety one. Ladders probably fall on people sometimes. To do so because of some playground-devised notion of “bad luck” is infantile. And yet I still do it.

And sometimes, just sometimes, I wonder if I’m going to Hell. I’m 99.9 per cent sure that Hell (along with invisible sky people and the ability to walk on water) doesn’t exist. But that 0.01 per cent of uncertainty haunts me. After all, I’ve broken six of the Ten Commandments. Possibly seven, as the honouring my mother and father one is debateable. What if God was watching when, aged three, I stole a plastic bunch of grapes from the Early Learning Centre? And when I coveted my neighbour’s ox (you should see my neighbour’s ox though. Jesus H CHRIST, what an ox). And don’t get me started on the Seven Deadly Sins and how I’m committing them all, simultaneously, as I write this.

Plus, let’s not beat around the burning bush here, I’ve done an excellent job of hiding it up until now, but I’m a homosexual and, apparently (especially if that Westboro lot are to be taken seriously), that’s my bus fare, ticket and backstage pass to eternal damnation.

So, what if? What if? And don’t give me that “all the cool people are going to Hell” schtick. Have you read Dante’s Inferno? There’s this guy in the Seventh Circle of Hell who’s been turned into a tree and every time someone breaks off one of his twigs, he can feel it. And blood comes out. When I’m a sentient tree capable of feeling pain, I’m not going to give a fuck that I’m part of the same misery forest as Oscar Wilde and Divine. Just try having a coke-fuelled orgy with all of your heroes when you’re in constant pain and you’re a tree. And let’s not forget that the shit people would be there too. I can’t see any reason why all the Hitlers and Saviles wouldn’t have made the naughty list, just because all the cool people did too.

I realise that the alternative to this is a life governed by pointless and arbitrary rules, followed by an eternity surrounded by people who say “gosh” and think that touching yourself makes the baby Jesus cry. But Hell just sounds… awful. Really, really awful. And, monumentally unlikely as it may be, it might exist.

I suppose worrying about going to Hell is just another fun part of the “what if?” disease that is anxiety. It’s not just “what if I die alone?”. No. It’s, “what if I die alone then go to Hell and spend eternity (have you even begun to consider just how long that is?) as a pained tree.”

If Hell does exist and I am going there because I’m gay, I’d just like to take a moment to call God out on his extreme arseholery.

OK. Now I’m super-super going to Hell. Maybe. Possibly. Probably not. But what if?

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist.