There is no RationalWiki without you. We are a small non-profit with no staff – we are hundreds of volunteers who document pseudoscience and crankery around the world every day. We will never allow ads because we must remain independent. We cannot rely on big donors with corresponding big agendas. We are not the largest website around, but we believe we play an important role in defending truth and objectivity.
If everyone who saw this today donated $5, we would meet our goal for 2019.
| Fighting pseudoscience isn't free.|
We are 100% user-supported! Help and donate $5, $20 or whatever you can today with !
| The dreams of man|
|Disturbing your sleep|
Pat Benatar tells us that Hell is for children. There is even a music video.
Hell is four-fifths of the way to saying "hi" to someone (except in Kleberg County, Texas).
On an LED calculator 7734 spells hELL upside down.
In the United States, if someone tells you to "go to Hell", they probably mean the village in Livingston County, Michigan. Hell is located just north of the Washtenaw County line, about 15 miles northwest of Ann Arbor and about three miles southwest of Pinckney, the nearest town. In January 2014, due to some unusual meteorological processes, this Hell literally 'froze over.' Alternatively, they could mean Los Angeles. There is also a Bumpass Hell in California's Lassen Volcanic National Park, which smells as sulfurous as you might imagine Hell to be. In New Jersey, "Camden" is often used as a substitute when there is a (rare) desire to be polite. A possible four-letter word for which the clue "a very bad place" is not only "Hell" but possibly "Gary", as in Gary, Indiana.
California had a small community named Hell between Indio and Blythe in the Mojave Desert on what was US 60 and US 70 (then the same highway). It was a roadside business consisting of a service station and beer tavern; it had (surprising for its name) a good supply of water. It was abandoned with a relocation of the highway. As befits its name it had a hot desert climate. The location was abandoned after the replacement of the highway with the Interstate 10 freeway, California preferring to buy out the location to building an interchange to serve the business. The site was demolished and its remains burned in a fire; no traces of it exist except on topographic maps of a certain vintage.
Is there anything else special about hell? Read on...
Okay, so you wanted to know what Hell is. Hell is also an effective mechanism of control developed in its present form by human beings about 2,000 years ago. You know, "Give me ten percent of your gross income or your soul will burn for all eternity in hell." The hell meme developed from Gehenna, which was the name of the Jerusalem city dump. Gehenna was constantly smoldering with spot fires which never went out and Jesus taught several parables about the worthy going to see Abraham after they died while the unworthy were thrown into Gehenna. Fundamentalist preachers, seeing the real power of the fear motive, have interpreted these parables as reports about actual conditions in the afterlife. Numerous religions have their own version of Hell, but not all were a land of punishment.
For example, in Norse mythology people who died as the result of old age or disease rather than in battle went to Helheimr, the under region of Niflheim, the land of ice and snow. Interestingly, the Norse heaven of Asgard and all those in it are to be destroyed in Ragnarök but those in Helheimr will survive to reclaim and rebuild reality after Ragnarök. Many elements of the Norse religion were used in the formation of Star Trek's Klingon religion with Sto-vo-kor becoming the Klingon Asgard, Gre'Thor becoming Helheimr with the idea of Purgatory from Roman Catholic Christianity thrown in (acts of heroic sacrifice by a family member can redeem someone in Gre'Thor).
More modern versions of Hell have done away with the fire and brimstone of Christianity for a more personalized punishment.
For example, in Twilight Zone episode "Nice Place to Visit" and Theater Five radio story "The Land of Milk and Honey" you have a person who believes they have gone to Heaven as they have everything they ever wanted in life but quickly get bored and ask to go to The Other Place (Hell) and find out that they are already in the other place.
In Night Gallery's "Hell's Bells" a hippie goes to Hell and after spending time in a waiting room is let into a room with records as far as the eye can see but they are all of music he finds "square". He then find a farmer who quickly bores him, then a couple appears with their 8,500-strong collection of their Tijuana vacation slides. Exasperated, the hippy demands that the Devil show up and explain this. The Devil appears and explains the exact same experience can be found in Heaven but for the hippy this is Hell and then leaves the hippy to his very personal Hell.
In the Twilight Zone episode "Judgement Night" Kapitan Lieutenant Carl Lanser experiences the last hours of the ship he sank with no warning over and over again. As Geordi La Forge said in the "Time Squared" episode of Star Trek Next Generation, "Sounds like someone's idea of hell to me."
Steven Brust's 1984 To Reign in Hell is another version of Hell where it is a third stronghold against a wave of raw chaos (cacoastrum) formed out of political fallout regarding the cost (the lives of at least 1000 Angels) to create the second stronghold of Earth.
The fairness of Hell
“”Infinite torture can only be a punishment for infinite evil, and I don't believe that infinite evil can be said to exist even in the case of Hitler.
“”SOME time ago a Clergyman was proving to me by arguments many and strong that hell was right, necessary and just; that it brought glory to God and good to man; that the holiness of God required it as a preventive, and the justice of God exacted it as a penalty, of sin. I listened quietly till all was over and silence fell on the reverend denunciator[.] … [A]ll I found to say in answer came in a few words: "If I had not heard you mention the name of God, I should have thought you were speaking of the Devil."
|—Annie Besant, The Theosophical Writings of Annie Besant|
“”地獄の沙汰も金次第 (Jigoku no sata mo kane shidai)
|—A Buddhist proverb, translated as "Money buys your fate in Hell." in Akira Kurosawa's film The Lower Depths|
One can, quite rightly, argue that the entire idea of eternally punishing people for something they did while mortal is inherently evil. Think about what eternity means: it doesn't mean 100 years, or 1000 years or even a million years (but constant torment for such a meager amount of time is harsh for some sins). Even the most sadistic mass murderers in human history have caused only a finite number of deaths, which is literally naught in comparison with their eternal punishment. Plus, it doesn't matter if you caused the death of one or tens of millions, you still get the same sentence. Add to this that practically everyone goes to Hell, and you're looking at a very unfair concept indeed.
Plus, some Christians believe that after the Rapture, people will be able to be "saved" before they die. However, the people alive after the Rapture would be living in an age of definite proof of God's existence, unlike the people who were damned before the Rapture--us poor folks have to rely purely on faith. 
In response to the above, Answers in Genesis says that "the eternal, never ending nature of the sinner’s punishment is directly related to the infinite and eternal nature of God… When you sin against an infinite God… you accrue an infinite debt." The foundational premise of this is that the more powerful the entity offended, the greater the punishment for the offense. This is akin to saying that if you steal the same apple from a rich man and a poor man, you should be punished more for taking the apple from the rich man because he's richer and more powerful. Unfortunately this means Answers in Genesis as well as Christianity in general supports, simply worded, might make right, one of the very things they accuse evolutionists of advocating.
There is finally the idea that "All crimes are equally heinous", with said "Crimes" being the Sins referred to by a theistic system, as in "What a particular religion simply declares to be good or bad regardless of how one or similarly valid religious systems might view it". That makes the "Judgement" aspect of said punishment all the more absurd.
It seems inevitable to conclude that anyone who seriously believes in Hell should abstain from procreating, as it is immeasurably reckless and unethical to bring into existence a new soul with even the slightest chance of suffering an eternal fate worse than death. Surprisingly, this fact does not seem to deter many religious people, even those who believe that most humans are damned to end up there.
In Buddhism you have the realms of Deva-gati (Heaven), Asura-gati (Titans), Preta-gati (Hungry Ghosts), Naraka-gati (Hell), Tiryagyoni-gati (Animal), and Manusya-gati (Human). Nothing is eternal in any of these realms and all distract one from the true goal of achieving Enlightenment. However, it is only in the Manusya-gati realm that one can escape The Wheel of Samsara and achieve Enlightenment.
Hell in Abrahamic religions
The idea of hell as an eternal torture chamber dates back to about the age of Jesus. However, it seems to have been a fringe idea, since it does not appear in the Bible (except in Revelation which is very metaphorical). The Apocalypse of Peter (probably written between 100 and 150) takes the reader on a tour through a fiery hell, matching different sins with punishments. A typical passage is "And there were also others, women, hanged by their hair over that mire that bubbled up: and these were they who adorned themselves for adultery; and the men who mingled with them in the defilement of adultery, were hanging by the feet and their heads in that mire." 
Hell could hardly be called a main focus of the Bible: references are few and far between, usually in passing, and there is no direct description offered of what it is like, where it is, or who goes there. In fact, what is called "Hell" by modern Christians due to the translation of the words Sheol (meaning grave in Hebrew and representing in early Judaism a generic afterlife where everyone went and was a sort of place between existence and non-existence), "Tartaroo" (a variation of Tartarus used only in 2 Peter 2:4 and used in reference to the fate of angels who had sinned), Hades (a term used in the same manner as Sheol, and is also name of the Greek god of the Underworld whose domain ranged from the Fields of Punishment, Fields of Asphodel, Vale of Mourning, Elysium, and Isles of the Blessed; strangely, the last two were regarded as Heavens in the Greek and Roman religions), and Gehenna (the aforementioned burning trash dump).
Thanks to different terms being translated as "Hell", just what the original allusions were is somewhat of a jumbled mess. A few examples of what the Bible has to say are:
- James 3:6 says:
- And the tongue is a fire. [no — this is not a porn piece, so just relax, okay?] The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members staining the whole body. setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by Hell.
- It goes on to say some more fun things about tongues, but no more about Hell.
- Jesus is reported to have said "It is better for you to enter into life maimed than to keep both hands and go to Gehenna (Hell) and the unquenchable fire. And if your foot is your undoing, cut it off; it is better to enter into life a cripple than to keep both your feet and be thrown into Gehenna (Hell). And if it is your eye, tear it out; it is better to enter into the Kingdom of God with one eye than to keep both eyes and be thrown into Hell, where the devouring worm never dies and the fire is not quenched." Mark 9:43
- Matthew 13:42 states:
- And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
- While this is as specific and non-acid inspired as it gets, it seems to refer to the Lake of Fire which is different from Hell.
- The Book of Revelation rambles about a fiery pit that sinners get thrown into. However, most sensible scholars take Revelation as a complex web of metaphor and symbolism. Richard Carrier equated it to a "five hour acid trip" in one of his lectures  On the other hand that's the most sensible position to take in respect of the whole bible so it's hardly a reason to especially ignore Revelation.
The Islamic hell is called jahannam, and it is given a literal description in the Quran. Jahannam is quite a horrifying place (very similar to what is shown in The Apocalypse of Peter), in comparison to the contemporary "Christian" image of Hell (since the torture chamber described by Dante Alighieri isn't in the Bible). Of course, the Qur'an supposedly was written by God himself, who would be better at describing anything than a human would be. The similarity is probably a result of Islamic and Christian beliefs both coming from the same sources. Hell in Islam is described as a pit of fire so deep that if you dropped a rock from the top it would take 70 years to reach the bottom.[note 1] The fires of Hell are 70 times hotter than those of Earth, and one scholar described Hell as a demon pulled by 70 thousand reins — see a pattern here? (The Bible uses the number 40 in a similar fashion.)
Baha'i scriptures also speak of hell; however, it is seen as more of a symbolic thing as opposed to a literal place.
Fundamentalists and Hell
Christian fundamentalists and other religious conservatives place a very heavy emphasis on Hell, as the ultimate destination of anybody who does not adhere to their very precise interpretations of doctrine and morality. Some, like Andrew Schlafly at Conservapedia, claim that Jesus Christ emphasised Hell more than Heaven, and lament that Hell is not mentioned enough times in modern Bible translations. Interestingly, the fundamentalist concept of 'hell' seems to be based on Dante's Inferno more than anything else (in nerd terms, imagine the Bible as the first edition source book, and Inferno being the unofficial third-party expansion pack that covers Hell).
The same conservatives are predictably outraged by the use of "hell" or "damn" as casual curse words. In 1997, Kleberg County, Texas, officially declared the nonsense word "HeavenO" to be the county's preferred form of greeting, in preference to the hellish "hello". In fact "hello" is not in any way etymologically related to Hell; it is actually etymologically related to the German and Dutch word hallo (those two and English all being Germanic languages), which means the same thing.
This attitude is perhaps best historically characterized with the 1741 sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, which suggested a kind of afterlife brinkmanship that has persisted as an ideological undercurrent ever since.
Hell and Pope Benedict XVI
After decades or centuries of leaving Hell alone, Pope Benedict XVI decided to reinstate the doctrine of a real Hell (not abstract or metaphorical) and to eliminate limbo, thereby condemning every non-Catholic to perpetual torture in the fires of Hell. The motive behind this being that it was "just a theological hypothesis". This has the very practical effect of reducing the standing of all men and women that are not under the Pope's authority to the category of damned souls, unworthy of treatment as equals and clear candidates for the missionary efforts of the Pope and his sycophants.
Gone are the times when Pope John Paul II sat side by side with representatives of every major religion in the world and talked about Hell as a state of mind. Pope Benny's infernal flip-flop followed a poll of 2,455 U.S. adults taken from Nov 7 to 13, 2007, which found that 62 percent believed in a literal Hell. Only 42 percent of those surveyed said they believed in Darwin's theory of evolution.
The Well to Hell
Rumors have circulated since 1990 that Russian scientists had drilled a hole down into the Earth and literally broke through into Hell. Supposedly they lowered a microphone and were treated to the screams of the damned. Of course the claims should have been laughable off the bat: Hell isn't located below the Earth any more than Heaven is in outer space; why would scientists have a microphone with a miles-long cord readily available on a drilling project; etc. But in case you need more, it's an admitted hoax. The grain of truth behind the legend, if you like to think of it that way, was the Kola Superdeep Borehole. It was done by Soviet (not modern Russian) researchers, it wasn't in Siberia (it was in northern European Russia), and they stopped drilling because the increasing heat from approaching the mantle was softening their drill bits to the point where it became impractical to continue drilling. You can find numerous YouTube videos playing audio footage supposedly from the Well to Hell, which are actually clips from the movie Baron Blood.
Views of Hell
Hell, Norway: There's a lovely little church by the side of the road
Hell, Michigan — Today's forecast: hot!
- Birth as a Grave Misfortune
- Bobby Mackey's Music World — bar with a portal to Hell in the basement
- Hell House — how fundamentalist Christians celebrate Halloween
- Infant damnation
- Last Judgement
- Pascal's Wager
- Roko's basilisk — a reinvention of Hell from
guanofirst principles by materialist atheists
- Types of people that go to Hell
- New Jersey
- Essay:Believers in Hell should not procreate, and should embrace antinatalism
- Assuming a terminal velocity of 2.2 m/s, this brings us to a distance of over 16 light seconds!
- Where in hell might YOU be going?
- Don't forget Wonko's
- What the Hell is Hell? a Universal Salvation view of Hell
- Chapter 16 — Hebrew and Greek words mistranslated to mean Hell the reasoning behind Universal Salvation
- South of Stjørdal across the river
- NW of the West Bay area North of Georgetown.
- The Most Famous Thing Jean-Paul Sartre Never Said by Kirk Woodward
- Named after a priest, Maximilian Hell no less! Talk about nominative determinism!
- Les Enfers (the hells) In the Jura canton of Switzerland
- Les Enfers (the hells) in France
- Piekło in Poland
- Garganta de los Infiernos (Gorge of Hells) y otros Infiernos de España
- Here is one at the Canary Island
- German-language places called "Hell/Hölle"
- Still, Hel is a cold place, so people may have a choice of climate.
- Here is the google map for it. You might want to zoom out a little bit. Or the OpenStreetMap
- http://www.nps.gov/lavo/planyourvisit/hiking_bumpass_hell.htm No, really! It was named after Kendall Vanhook Bumpass who plunged his leg into the boiling mud in 1865.
- Isaac Asimov: A Memoir (1994) Doubleday. ISBN 0385417012.
- The Lower Depths by Akira Kurosawa (1957) IMDb.
- What Kind of God Would Condemn People to Eternal Torment?
- Notice we don't say "would". The rich man would have the means to punish you more than the poor man could, by virtue of his power (here money), but that tells us nothing about the morality of such an action.
- The Apocalypse of Peter (Did Dante have a copy that he plagiarized?)
- the exact statement "Five hour acid trip so bizarre if you actually made it into a movie it would actually outdo Eraserhead for the title of 'Most Annoying Weird Movie Ever Made'. It's basically the ramblings of a guy who has an hours long conversation with the dead spirit of Jesus who appears in the form of fucked up mutant that makes John Carpenter's The Thing look cuddly." and in case you are wondering yes somebody did make it into a movie — several of them in fact — with one of them adding the Uncanny Valley of CGI to the already off the wall bonkers story
- Comment here.
- As outlined here. See also Conservapedia:Bible rewriting project.
- Catholic Doctrine on Limbo and Baptism Revisited