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Twitter will damn your soul, Saudi cleric says

Concern is mounting in Saudi Arabia that more and more people are using Twitter. So the head of the country's religious police condemns its use.

A light in the darkness? Twitter/YouTube Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Life becomes more meaningful when someone from a long way away reflects your own thoughts.

It makes you feel less alone, less forlorn on your island of one.

I was, therefore, lifted to heights previously unimagined on hearing that the head of Saudi Arabia's religious police has declared that Twitter is an appalling waste of time, mind, and soul.

Actually, it's worse than that.

As the BBC reports, Sheikh Abdul Latif Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh mused that anyone who uses Twitter "has lost this world and his afterlife."

It may well be that the Sheikh's biggest concern is that so many of his people are now enthusiastically posting uncensored thoughts on Twitter. Saudi Arabia is said to be the fastest-growing tweeting nation.

However, it's hard to disagree with his ultimate sentiment.

Part of the purpose of Twitter is to try to make contact with the world one has lost. One sends out short messages in the hope that someone will notice, someone will hear, and -- in an exalted moment of magic -- someone will reply.

Twitter is a cry in the wilderness of the world for contact, attention, and care. It is, indeed, a soul thing.

Perhaps that's why so many Saudi Arabians are ululating down its lines. Perhaps they feel their cries in the usual channels are falling on reluctant ears.

Still, it's interesting that, by tweeting, one might also lose one's afterlife.

It's true that so many of us Thomases and Thomasinas -- who spend our lives mired in the glue of doubt -- are concerned about whether there is an afterlife at all.

Sometimes, it seems as if those that might be up there aren't too concerned about those of us down here. So concerned that, even if there is an afterlife, they might not let us into it.

Why, only yesterday I was walking through San Francisco's Union Square when I heard that I was "already condemned."

There was a man on a raised stage, a sign next to him reading reading "Jesus: Open Your Heart, Open Your Mind."

He was explaining that the fate of unbelievers was that they were going to hell -- which didn't seem terribly open-hearted.

I looked around me to see if anyone cared. All I could see were vacant smiles. Well, this was San Francisco.

I didn't know what to do. I was momentarily panicked. So I turned to the world and tweeted my alarm.

Within seconds, a Twitter follower called Barbara was trying to reassure me. She, too, was concerned that I was going to hell.

So she wrote: "No worries, Chris. I'll save you a seat."

We've never met, though I know she's a big Nascar fan. But we began a conversation about whether hell would have a bar and whether it would only serve one drink -- fire water.

Suddenly, my soul didn't feel quite so lost. Nor condemned. I wasn't alone.

This didn't stop the man onstage from picking up his guitar and singing about lifting up the lord's name and condemning mine (or something like that).

Just as I was ready to weep again for my fate, ReadWrite blogger Matt Asay tweeted me: "I think people who talk like that don't understand Christianity very well (I say as a devout Christian)."

That's why people go on Twitter, dear clerics. For a little salvation.