Wednesday, December 16, 2009


In many religious traditions, Hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife, often in the underworld. Religions with a linear divine history often depict Hell as endless (for example, see Hell in Christian beliefs). Religions with a cyclic history often depict Hell as an intermediary period between incarnations (for example, see Chinese Diyu).

Punishment in Hell typically corresponds to sins committed in life. Sometimes these distinctions are specific, with damned souls suffering for each wrong committed (see for example Plato's myth of Er or Dante's The Divine Comedy), and sometimes they are general, with sinners being relegated to one or more chamber of Hell or level of suffering. In Islam and Christianity, however, faith and repentance play a larger role than actions in determining a soul's afterlife destiny.

In Christianity and Islam, Hell is traditionally depicted as fiery and painful, inflicting guilt and suffering. Some other traditions, however, portray Hell as cold and gloomy. Despite the common depictions of Hell as a fire, Dante's Inferno portrays the innermost (9th) circle of Hell as a frozen lake of blood and guilt. Hell is often portrayed as populated with demons, who torment the damned. Many are ruled by a death god, such as Nergal or the Christian/Islamic Devil.

In contrast to Hell, other types of afterlives are abodes of the dead and paradises. Abodes of the dead are neutral places for all the dead (for example, see sheol) rather than prisons of punishment for sinners. A paradise is a happy afterlife for some or all the dead (for example, see heaven). Modern understandings of Hell often depict it abstractly, as a state of loss rather than as fiery torture literally under the ground.

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