Religious fanatics force Poland’s Highway to Hel to change its bus route number.
When I was a small child, there were many things that we expected for the Golden Age of the 21st Century. Yes, flying cars were a given, but there were also the cities in the sky, the end of the need to work thanks to our robot servants, holidays on Mars and a new world of secular tolerance – if there was any prediction that sci-fi films and shows like Star Trek slipped quietly under the radar, it was that religious belief would not stand the test of time and that a new age of science and reason was just around the corner, perhaps only to be scuppered by a second Ice Age.
As we are all aware, religious fanaticism is at an all-time high, from holy wars to believers – or those who see profit in pretending to be believers – seeing Satanism everywhere. Even in things that have existed for years – decades, perhaps – without being a problem but which now attract criticism and pressure from the cranks and the fanatics. The latest case in point – the 666 bus route to Hel in Poland.
Since shaking off the Communist grip, Poland has been one of the more fanatical Roman Catholic countries, sometimes to the point of feeling like a theocracy – so the very fact that there was a bus numbered 666 travelling to the town of Hel in the first place was a bit of an eye-raiser. But it shows that there is still a bit of secular humour at work in the country, one that perhaps went unnoticed by most people there, given that the Polish word for ‘Hell’ is ‘Pieklo’. Still, the route had gained a reputation amongst international tourists who could hardly resist booking a return trip on the highway to Hel – a Baltic seaside resort. Obviously, it was a joke and a cultural nod to everything from The Omen to Iron Maiden – not a serious occult statement. I doubt that anyone was taking the journey for actual occult reasons.
But you know how the religious are: no sense of humour, massive entitlement and the belief that anything and everything that they disapprove of is ‘Satanic’. And they are loud. No matter how much of a minority they are even within their own sects, religious extremists will – like any single-minded control group – gnaw away at an issue until the people that they are targeting often throw in the towel. I imagine that bus operator PKS Gdynia didn’t get much praise for the 666 route, even from those who used it – because why would they? But they were subjected to endless criticism from the extremists and so have finally thrown up their hands and surrendered. This is how this always happens – cranky minorities force their opinions on everyone else because they make themselves sound like the majority through sheer relentlessness. That or become so troublesome that it is easier to appease them than to carry on.
The bus route number is now changing to 669, which effectively ensures that all that tourist money for PKS Gdynia will immediately dry up – you can reach Hel faster by train from most places in Poland, but the novelty of the bus route name made it a tourist attraction in itself. Without the 666 connection, maybe Hel itself will find itself attracting fewer people (though there is little sign that the town really took advantage of the connection – I suspect that a Satanic seaside resort would be too much to expect in a Catholic country). The lunatic fringe, meanwhile, will look for someone else to harass – because they are never satisfied. The number of souls that will be saved by this move: precisely zero.
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