Israel Folau's a helluva rugger player. For those who believe rugby's a religion, they think it only fitting there's a country in the Holy Land named after him.

As a devout Christian, Israel's also no slouch in reminding those who aren't on the straight and narrow – particularly if they're not straight – what certain fate awaits them.

Yes, he says they'll be off to hell in a handcart. Israel's backed by some heavy hitters. His manager's name is Isaac Moses, and, for all we know, Abraham's his masseur and Joseph his bag-man.

But apart from the odd Folau outburst, hell hasn't exactly been front and centre in recent times. They don't call me Snoopdog for nothing, so I thought I'd try and get to the bottom of it by going to the top: I put a call through to 0800HEAVEN.

Advertisement

The phone rang for what seemed like an eternity, but then a stentorian voice suddenly came on the line.

"Hold the line," it boomed. "The Hell delivery guy's just pulled up at the gates with my pizza. We do a contra thing. He gives me a few slices of Hell and I give him a few slices of heaven."

I had to wait another eternity. Occasionally I heard the slurping of lips being licked. Eventually the voice resumed.

"They shorted me on the anchovies again, the little devils. Well, make it snappy, I haven't got all eternity," it barked.

"Well, Sir ... " I ventured, but the voice immediately boomed back: "And what makes you think I'm a He?!"

"Ahhh ... well, the voice – it's, ahhh ... quite deep. My apologies, Madam ..." The voice instantly boomed again: "And what makes you think I'm a She?! Haven't you heard of intersex? Geez, where do these morons come from? Oh, yeah, I made them, so don't ask. But get to the point, dumbo."

"Ahhh, it's about hell, your ... ahhh ... Highness. It doesn't seem to be on the radar much anymore, apart from the odd reference by dodgy evangelists or possibly concussed rugby players. I was just wondering what, you know, happened to it?"

"No-one was buying into it anymore," barked the intersexual voice. 'Sales were shedding quicker than hair off an old dog. It became about as popular as fondue fork sets. I had to let the franchise go before it broke the bank.

"People don't realise the costs. At last count I had about 40 sins that fast-tracked you to hell – idolatry, fornication, drunkenness, profanity, adultery – all the usual ones. But then there were also simony, revellings, pride and foolishness – the list went on and on. You wouldn't believe what I was paying the accountants just to keep track of daily trespasses!"

"So," I asked, "no more hell?"

"Well, I had to split the franchise just to get it off my hands. There's the pizzas, of course, a few bikie gangs, the odd movie – Hellboy and so forth, the Wellington bus services – hell on wheels – but you know, really just nickel and dime stuff."

"And the CEO, the devil himself?"

"Well, the old coot was past his use-by date, too. The horns, the trident, the hooves, the arrowhead tip on the tail – it all got a bit ho-hum."

"So what happened to him?"

"Oh, I just gave him a cardigan, walk shorts and long socks and put him in the public service, where it's the devil's own job getting anything done, and there's hell to pay if he does. After all that brimstone, he reckons it's heaven.

"Now, if you'll excuse me I've got a slice of angel cake to attend to."