When I was a kid, my mother, as well as my granny always remind me to be good at all times. Just like any of us, it’s a universal idea or a global mindset to always do good deeds to others. Doing so will definitely give us rewards in the end. Doing otherwise will solicit a very unnatural to the way things work in this world. To some, there exist places for people to go depending on his acts (whether good or bad) when still living. To some, it is just a mere collective idea of having to pay the consequences of your actions when you were still alive (considering that you already dead, I mean). Although millions of information have come out in the past decades; tons of discourses, debates, various sides of the coin have been presented, ancient and modern ideas considered, that place that we all once knew to be the where the “dark side” is still uncertain up to know. Aside from heaven, it is the place called Hell that I would like to consider giving thoughts about.
Accept it. The mere mention or utterance of the word Hell gives us the chills in a way or another. The word connotes the extreme side of good – bad. So bad it is sometimes referred to as a curse. Most of us get frightened, afraid or worried upon hearing this word. But what is it, by the way? Different religions are the ones who talks about it extensively and to think that they are also the same groups that argue much about it most of the time. As much as we don’t want any of these arguments roving around, we’ll discuss their different and unique versions of Hell. Though it may seem a serious topic, touching them on a lighter and on a simpler method won’t send us directly to hell, would we?
Hell and what it means. The “wikis” that we have on the internet explains and defines hell in the religious context. They further said that hell is some existing place that a person goes to after life. Not unlike any other place, hell is one that is a place of suffering. It is often construed that the amount or intensity of sufferings made in this place purely relies on the sins that a person committed when he was alive. But anyways, to be discussed below are concepts or versions of Hell as seen from seven (7) different religions.
1. Christianity. It is considered as the most well-talked and probably the most well-believed and accepted notion of hell. Christians firmly believe that there are certain places that a person goes after death and hell is basically one of them. Hell is a place for sufferings. It is where you suffer as a consequence for all the sins you’ve made when you were alive. In the Christian Bible, the teachings and ideas of hell’s existence are mostly found on the New Testament. Further, it is described on the New Testament using Greek words such as “Tartarus” and “Gehenna”. “Tartarus” in Greek mythology is referred to as a deep, sad and dark place used as a dungeon to those who are suffering beneath the “underworld”. Gehenna on the other hand, is a Jewish term which is equivalent to Christianity’s hell (will be discussed later). It is in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Luke, John & Mark) that hell is mostly discussed. A picture of hell is drawn as a place of darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mark 9: 43-49). Aside from these gospels, hell is later described in the New Testament as a place that has something to do with death, judgment, condemnation, wrath, destruction, never ending fire and eternal damnation. (Now that’s a place nobody would want to be into, I suppose!) The New Testament also made mention of the Greek word Hades, which has also something to do with Hell. It was described as some place where punishments are made in a lake of fire. Christians firmly and strongly believe on the notion that a person will definitely go to hell (such, is the curse) and pay to suffer eternally for the sins he has committed. The Catholic’s highest priest, the Pope (specifically Pope John Paul II) simply described and pictured hell as a place that is empty and sad. In a more simplified way, it is a place where the presence of God is nowhere to be found.
2. Protestantism. Protestantism traditions and practices tell that Hell is a God-created place where devils and fallen angels are punished. Hell is also the place to go to people who were not listed or written in the book of life. It’s a place for those who are not credited with salvation. Protestants also believed that the people in hell will receive eternal suffering come the Final Judgment. (Get in line folks and have your reservations…)
3. The Seventh-day Adventists. These religious practitioners are not that brutal in nature. They depict that a person who has just died undergoes the process of deep sleep and it is on Jesus Christ’s second coming that souls of those “sleeping” will be called. It is the sinners that will suffer and eventually destroyed by eternal fire together with Satan here on Earth. Their belief in the existence of hell is not that clear, but instead of the sufferings of the wicked and the sinners.
4. Islam. Islam’s Jahannam. It is the Islamic equivalent to Hell. The Qur’an (Muslim’s Bible equivalent) further describes it as one of the places where one goes to and it is only God (Allah) who knows who will go to Jahannam or to Janah (Paradise for them). It is in Jahannam where non-believers or those who only pretend to believe in Allah will go. Jahhannam is also, according to Muslims, the place for the unfaithful ones. Because of their unfaithfulness, it is in Jahannam that they will be punished. However, the Muslims further believe that those who are in Jahannam will eventually be forgiven. Exemptions on forgiveness are also available in Jahannam as those Muslims who committed shrik (Polytheism – having more Gods than Allah, in Muslim’s terms), will be condemned to stay eternally at Jahannam (that’s free of charge, free use of amenities, complimentary drinks and free breakfasts).
Islam’s idea of suffering for the consequences of one’s sins as well as its concept of Hell is quite different. They believed that Hell is divided into different levels. Each level is divided in manner that the same are based on the sins or actions one has done in his life. And the manner of punishment in these levels would depend on how “bad” you were before. (It’s time to be good guys!)
It is universally and generally presumed that Hell is some place that really hot. A Jahannam version is hell quite different. It a deep place, according to the other Islamic traditions where extreme coldness can be felt. If you happen to have committed a crime or a sin against God, and also happen to like ice creams and brain freezes, then Zamhareer is the place to be. It is known to have snows, blizzards, eternal ice and coldness that no one could endure. (Anyways, better get those fur coats ready…) The lowest level of Hell for Muslims is the Hawiyah. In this level, you will find hypocrites, two-faced practitioners of the religion and those half-hearted believers of Allah.
Not to be spared and set aside are those beliefs from our religious practitioners from the East
5. Buddhism. The Buddhistic view. The concept of hell for the Buddhist religion (Buddhism) is best envisioned in the word Naraka. Religious experts say that Buddhism’s Naraka is entirely different from the western religious concepts of hell. Naraka differs in two aspects. Firstly, one does not go to Naraka as a consequence, a punishment or a verdict on a certain judgment. Secondly, a stay or visit in Naraka is not eternal. In Buddhism, Naraka is the lowest level of the realms of rebirth. Apart from these rebirth realms, there also exist hell realms. The lowest in these hell realms is the Avici. Sins committed against Buddha are believed to come from Avici which means endless suffering. According to Buddhist practitioners, a being or a person is placed in Naraka as a result of previous karma (actions of the person). The Naraka dwelled person will stay there until his karma attains its full result. Upon achieving this, a person will be reborn to another realm of unfinished or unachieved karma in his life. In reality and in a more common way of explaining, being into a state or realm of hell is, to Buddhism, is the experiencing of extreme fear and anguish.
6. Hinduism. In Hindu’s eyes. Hinduism, much like the Buddhists, also shares the concept of Naraka in some ways or another. Hell to them is also Naraka or a low spiritual world. They further adhere to the notion that it is through this lower world that spirits are judged. And just like in the western concepts, a person goes to hell and is punished for the sins he committed. Hindu Scriptures such as the Puranas clearly accounts Hindu’s hell as some court that is presided by the god of death, Yamaraj. A sidekick of him is present and is the one responsible for the safekeeping of detailed accounts of the sins committed- Chitragupta (I never knew they were so, organized!). Sinners are punished according to the judgment made by Yamaraj. Punishments are either torture using weapons, dipping in boiling oil, burning in fire, etc. (Did I mentioned that reading this article is also one of the punishments?)
7. Taoism. For Taoists, they don’t really embrace much on the idea of Hell. In many ways than one, Taoists believe that hell exist when humans are punished as a result of a wrongdoing or sins committed. This is the notion of Karma for them.
Whatever we believed or conceived it to be, may it be a place, a realm, a hot or cold world beyond, it is for sure Hell as it is and obviously don’t want to be in it. Generally, it would definitely be a no-no for us if invited there. And I further presume this global idea that doing what you think is good for yourself especially for others even on your own humble way, is a step farther away from the idea of having to suffer eternally in Hell. (That’s one hell of a piece, isn’t it?)