~from Zenit an interview with Paul Thigpen on his book My Visit to Hell. Thigpen is editor of The Catholic Answer, director of the Stella Maris Center for Faith and Culture, and an award-winning journalist and best-selling author of 34 books.
Q: You have written a novel, "My Visit to Hell," about just that -- a young man's visit to hell. What prompted this?
Thigpen: The Holy Father recently lamented the fact that so few people in our day ever talk about hell. Maybe this book can contribute in some small way to changing that situation.
Why should people talk more about hell? Many of our contemporaries, including some Catholics, refuse to believe that hell truly exists.
And several surveys show that even among those who believe in the existence of hell, the great majority think they have little or no chance of ending up there.
Nevertheless, in the Gospels Our Lord has warned us solemnly and repeatedly about the terrors of hell. So what we have here is a very dangerous kind of wishful thinking, a comfortable fantasy that needs to be challenged.
We should be thinking about hell, and heaven as well, because our destiny profoundly shapes our identity.
The more we know about our possible destinations, the more we'll know about who we are, why we're here, and which way we should be headed.
I certainly don't enjoy thinking and writing about sin and its tormenting consequences, but given the widespread denial of hell in our day, and the avoidance of any discussion about it, the time seems right for a book such as this.
Q: How has your book been received? Do you think it has appeal to those who do not claim to be Catholic?
Thigpen: Catholic readers often comment that the book has sent them running to the sacrament of confession, and for that I'm grateful.
It's not intended to condemn people for their sins, but rather to encourage them to flee to God for forgiveness and healing.
As for non-Catholic Christians, I've had an enthusiastic response from readers representing a variety of religious backgrounds.
The main themes of the story -- the horror of sin, the hope of grace, the dignity and danger of human freedom -- lie at the heart of the Gospel that all Christians embrace.
As for atheists, agnostics, and other non-Christians, my hope is that they can identify to some degree with several characters in the book who share their situation.
The main character is in fact an agnostic who must reconsider his position in light of what he encounters on this terrifying journey.