Does hell exist? Oh, look at this front page…

THE Pope says hell does not exist – and there was me thinking it was to be found on the front page of the Daily Mail.

That newspaper is an inspiration to me, although perhaps not in the way the editor might hope.

Letting your eyes fall on the Mail’s front page can certainly be a hellish experience – and sometimes hellishly amusing. While Dante’s nine circles of hell ran from treachery to greed, rampant hypocrisy was somehow forgotten. Thankfully, the Mail nails that one for us.

We’ll turn to the Pope in a moment, but let’s enter that tenth circle of hell as marked by the Mail’s tombstone typeface. Today’s typographic gravestones spell out the words: “AN ABUSE OF CAPITALISM” above a story about the hostile £8-billion takeover of engineering firm GKN by Melrose, referred to in the Mail and elsewhere as “asset strippers”.

The Mail stirred a lump or two of nostalgia into this tannic brew the other day when the story of the possible hostile takeover emerged, pointing out that GKN made Spitfires during the war. That doesn’t have much to do with anything, but ‘Spitfire’ is one of those button-pushing words for the Mail.

As it happens, the Mail has a point about this takeover. Or it would do if it wasn’t for the rampant hypocrisy. A newspaper that sings from the capitalist hymn book isn’t best placed to complain about the workings of capitalism.

That’s the thing with the Mail: the paper seems to suffer from convenient amnesia, forgetting its past behaviour to jump on that day’s train and spout indignant steam.

‘Whatever you think of the incoming asset-strippers, that isn’t an abuse of capitalism – it’s just how capitalism works’

It’s fair to argue that an important British engineering firm shouldn’t be subject to such a hostile takeover, especially as the firm makes parts for military aircraft including the Lockheed F-35B fighter jet.

But it’s a bit rich coming from the Mail. That newspaper does like to have its capitalist cake and eat it, then spit out the crumbs while complaining about the bad taste.

Whatever you think of the incoming asset-strippers, that isn’t an abuse of capitalism – it’s just how capitalism works. You can’t be tirelessly in favour of something, then complain when that thing brings about a result you don’t like. Or you can’t unless you are the editor of the Daily Mail.

Anyway, let’s relocate to that other hot-under-the-collar place. According to reports in the Times and elsewhere, the Pope has said that hell does not exist. No red-hot pokers, no fiery flames, no eternal damnation. Francis reportedly told an Italian newspaper columnist that unrepentant sinners were not punished in the afterlife, but simply disappeared.

Pouf! You’re gone.

Is this a better deal for the unrepentant or not? I guess you could argue that eternal damnation is at least a sort of existence, whereas what Francis is now suggesting is an eternity of nothing.

That’s your lot, now you are dust.

If moved to think about such things, as a non-believer I’ve always thought that’s what happened anyway. Heaven and hell are with us, and then we are atoms blown to the four corners of nowhere – or sucked into one of Professor Hawking’s black holes.

Whether you find that to be a comforting thought or not is a down to inclination, I guess. The sort of hell that Pope Francis now hints might not exist was mostly designed to keep people in their place; much as the beautiful cathedrals we see today were put up to remind our forebears of their insignificance.

As for that other hellish place, thanks to the Daily Mail for once again being so inspirational.

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