You’d be surprised at the differences in the concepts of Hell in different religions across the world. The similarities are also fascinating.
Whether Hell exists physically or not is yet another taboo subject like the size, of one’s paycheck. Recently the 79-year-old Pope Benedict said that the Christian Hell was indeed a physical place.
"… Hell, about which little gets said today, exists and is eternal for those who shut their hearts to His love."
A national poll by the Barna Research Group in USA reveals:
- 75% of Americans believe that they will go to heaven after dying
- 1% admitted that Hell would be their next destination after dying
- 39% believe that Hell is being eternally separated from God’s presence
- 32% believe that it is an actual place of eternal torment and suffering
- 13% described Hell as “unknown bad outcome after death.”
African Religions – No Hell in most African religions. Afterlife is a ”land” very similar to this world.
Aztecs - Mictlán, the ninth and lowest level of the underworld, was a physical place in the north. Everyone who died, except warriors dying in battle, women in childbirth and those struck by lightning had to take the four-year journey to Mictlán.
Bahá'í Faith – Hell is only symbolic. When we are spiritually farthest from God, we are in Hell.
There are various sections:
- Chambers of Maggots
- Chambers of Eye-Gouging,
- Chambers of Disembowelment,
- Chambers of Tongue Ripping
- “peeping toms”
- “people who force good women into prostitution”
- “crooks who use loopholes in the law to cheat and engage in malpractice”.
Most graphic descriptions are of the Christian Hell are by Dante Alighieri and Hieronymus Bosch.
Hinduism - No concept of linking Hell with Final Judgement as in Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Naraka is rather a place for purification rather than punishment or retribution.
Swami Vivekananda explains:
" There are heavens, there are hells, there are earths, but they are not permanent. If I am sent to hell, it is not permanent. The same struggle goes on and on whatever I am. How to go beyond all this struggle is the problem. The Indian idea is not to go to Heaven. Get out of this earth, get out of hell, and get out of heaven! What is the goal? It is freedom! You must be free" (Swami Vivekananda Complete Works 6:57)Islam – Jahannam in Islam is the Hell for the vilest tortures and damnations ever conceived and torture is ”earned” according to how much evil you did while alive.
Zamhareer is a special ice-cold section reserved for the hypocrites and for Shirk, which is the sin of polytheism or worshipping other form of divinity than Allah.
Judaism – Sheol is the underworld, more like a waiting and questioning room for everyone who dies. Gehenna, a dark, silent and dusty place, is where the evil people get the full treatment of torment and damnation. Judaism also has traditions of considering Hell to be a state of suffering rather than a place.
Maya – Xibalbá was the nine-levelled underworld ruled by demons. The shamans would banish diseases to Metnal, the lowest level. The road out was steep, thorny and extremely hard.
Mormons – Hell is physical but evildoers can get out when the sentence is served. Outer Darkness is a holding tank for wicked souls. Only those who repeatedly fail to be resurrected return there for eternity.
Native American – Great imagination at work here.
- The Assinniboin and Athapascan tribes believed that Hell was a land of perpetual ice and snow in the north, where there was nothing desirable.
- The Sapona tribe believed that Hell was full of ugly women, who attacked men constantly with their unbridled passions shouting only in shrill tones.
- For the Natchez, Hell was covered with water. The soul was left naked in Hell to mosquitoes and the only food was spoiled fish.
Sikhism – No hell or heaven. Upon death, we merge back into the universal nature, as a drop of rain into the ocean. Hell on earth is seen as the suffering of pain caused by ego.
Shinto – Yomi is a physical place, with its entrance in the Izumo province, where everyone goes after death. Izanami, the goddess of creation and death rules in Yomi, which is more like a purification place than punishment.
Zoroastrianism – Vague mention of Hell as a place. Hell residents freed by three saviours at thousand year intervals.
7th Day Adventists – Wicked people sleep in the grave till the Last Judgement at the end of the world, when Jesus will cast them to Hellfire.