Some fundamentalist Christians are in a bit of a twist over the ominous 6/6/6 abbreviation of today’s date. I don’t know that it would make them feel any better if I said that I renounce Satan and his evil ways inasmuch as I can, given that I don’t believe he exists except as a metaphor for human frailties, failures, and fascinations. Probably wouldn’t make them feel any better, no.

But what can you do with folks who see the world in black and white instead of the more interesting and realistic shades of grey? Even the Catholic Church, an institution typically a good 50-100 years behind the times (for better or worse), stopped looking at everything in a literal fashion some time ago. Remember in the mid ’90s when they said that Hell was not a place but a state of being? (Obviously they’d never been to Cleveland. Bah-dump-bump.) The Church has long supported a position of reading 666 (or 616 in some translations) as a symbol for the Roman Emperor Nero. Indeed Revelation is a coded text precisely because the code provided a plausible deniability (to use a modern term) necessary to keep Christians from being slaughtered by the Romans (which they were at times anyway).

Literalist interpretations of scripture quickly fall apart for thinking individuals. Take for example the notion that at the time the Book of Revelation—where all this 666 nonsense derives—people did not use the Gregorian calendar. So today is not “the day” of the Beast or any other kind of silliness. In fact, as one wag recently noted, if Hell has a calendar it doesn’t have 666 on it. It’s got an infinite number of pages, and they’re all labeled “Monday.”