Archaeologists say they have discovered the ‘Gates of Hell’, the mythical portal to the underworld in Greek and Roman legend. The site, in southwestern Turkey, is said to closely match historical descriptions of what was, once upon a time, a small temple with traditional Greco-Roman pillars said to have stood next to a wall with steps leading down to a cave doorway filled with foul and noxious gasses.
Describing the site over 2 thousand years ago, the Greek geographer Strabo said: “any animal that passes inside meets instant death.” In fact the portal still spews noxious carbon dioxide fumes which are still lethal to those who breath it.
It seems strange however, that such a deadly place would have a visitors center. What were people thinking when they visited there? Was this just a clever way for the ancient Greeks to eliminate malcontents and trouble makers that they didn’t want around anymore? “Hey Nikki, show these people the gates of hell. They’ll love it! And don’t worry about the fumes folks because…you know…the place is mythical.”
But then again religious beliefs and those who believe in them unquestioningly have always baffled me. Once upon a time hell was underground and heaven was up on the highest mountain tops. Then once humans visited those places we believed that heaven and hell were just a little further out of reach. Now we are sure that they must be in another dimension because we can’t find them anywhere in this one.
It has always amazed me how people who seem to question the validity of just about everything these days never seem to have any questions about the efficacy of Bible stories…even when they seem to make very little sense or are childishly whimsical… For instance: How did Adam and Eve populate the world all by themselves without the help of incest? How come Jesus and all of his Jewish friends walked around Judea calling each other by Greek names? Or why did all mothers back in the day think that sending their babies down rivers in little baskets was a great way to get their kids adopted into a royal and loving family? 8 people and 2 of every animal species on 1 boat? What divinely inspired writer could possibly have thought that the sun moved? (not to mention the creation of daylight savings time just to have more time for killing people) And no matter how old the Shroud of Turin is, why isn’t anyone curious as to why Jesus’ sweat shadow looks like a medieval knight from Prince Valiant’s Nordic castle?
Anyway, maybe that’s just me, but people once believed that the underworld was a place where souls went after death and at that moment of death the soul was separated from the corpse, taking on the shape of the former person, and transported to the entrance of Hades.
Nowadays many still believe in the soul separation thing and an afterlife in some other-where where living people cannot go…But curiously, even if most of us believe that we are headed to someplace nice and wonderful like Heaven where God and all of our family and friends are waiting to be reunited with us, no one is in a hurry to “smell the vapors” and get there any time soon. And if we meet someone who is we call them crazy and write them a prescription for Prozac!
We even have laws prohibiting the voluntary passage through that portal by any humans at anytime other than their God’s chosen, naturally prescribed, day of reckoning… no matter how ready they are or how much pain they are in, or are suffering etc… We don’t want to hear it! There will be no going to that wonderful place of bliss unless God says so, or there’s some kind of unavoidable man made collateral damage… or whichever comes first.
Why is that? What do we all have against death if happiness beyond compare awaits? Even Jesus said, “To conquer death you only have to die.” But even so, for a paradise that we only have to die to get into… there really is no one who is dying to get into it… is there?