I became interested in the topic when reading that some fundamentalist christian ministers proposed that Christopher Hitchens, now that he has died, has become a believer due to his burning in hell.  It made me wonder, exactly "where" hell is located?

In my Baptist upbringing, I was taught that hell was located under the earth.  That concept is difficult for an adult to support, since the earth is a globe and encircles the sun, so there is no "under" location for hell.  Some claimed that hell was in the center of the earth, with all that hot lava and stuff.  Again, difficult to support, since we have a pretty good knowledge of geology, and the earth is not hollow.

I suppose you COULD say that hell is inside the sun - it's hot there, and at least would be in this solar system.  But the sun, being the source of light and warmth, is usually thought to be a beneficial star.   Maybe Venus or Mars?

I don't know what the fundamentalists teach about hell now.  I read that some suggest hell is in another dimension or parallel universe - convenient, unprovable argument.

wikipedia shows the diversity of hells.  Seems there are as many hells as there are religions.  Hell can range from annihilation (no different from the atheist concept of death) to just being the place where the dead are, to a place of torment.  The wikipedia article is far more detailed than I can quite here, and makes for fascinating reading.

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This is a very interesting subject and I'm afraid I'm responding before I've checked my sources, but something in the back of my mind is telling me that the 'modern' understanding of hell can be somehow traced to the early Buddhist understanding of (symbolic) hell, or rather the way that it was translated into a Christian context. Or at least there are parallels.

In the meantime, I can certainly recommend Bernard McGinn's excellent study of all things devilish in his book 'Anti-Christ - Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination with Evil'


Unfortunately, I can't tell you what the modern understanding of hell is, nor its location. I am assuming that it is supposedly located in a non-definable place like heaven, ie, outside of our understanding.

A description of the buddhist "hell"  wikipedia  "Naraka"  


According to the article, a being is "born into a Naraka as a direct result of his or her accumulated. karma.

The being stays there until their karma has achieved its full result.

After their karma is used up, the being will be reborn in a higher world.

Naraka is temporary but might as well be eternal, given the long duration of torment (trillions of years).  

Naraka is not a punishment from a god or gods.  Residency there is due to karma.

There are various descriptions of Naraka or Narakas.  

Narakas are viewed as a series of caverns under the earth.

'The Abhidharma-kosa (Treasure House of Higher Knowledge) is the root text that describes the most common scheme, the Eight Cold Narakas and Eight Hot Narakas"


No sense in copying the entire article.  It's very interesting and easy to read.  There are many versions of the Buddhist hells, and none are pleasant.

The first 2 images are from the wikipedia article.  The others are from google search.

From About.com:

As the name suggests, the Hell Realm is the most terrible of the Six Realms. Hell beings have a short fuse; everything makes them angry. And the only way hell beings deal with things that make them angry is through aggression -- attack, attack, attack! They drive away anyone who shows them love and kindness and seek out the company of other hell beings. Unchecked anger and aggression can cause rebirth in the Hell Realm.
(This is a lot like a place where I used to work).  I used to refer to it as purgatory, but now I understand better...
Naraka appears to be a shared concept, with other Indian-derived religions such as Hindu and Jainism.  Those will be explored later.
Where to experience Buddhist hell in Thailand.  cnngo.com
A depiction of hell that you can visit in Thailand.  from about.com  described as  "Wat Rong Khun (Thai: วัดร่องขุ่น) is a Buddhist temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand"
From visboo.com  it was difficult to choose a depiction - there are many amazing and beautifully drawn, horrific depictions.  (warning, this site has other illustrations that may offend some)
Buddhist Hell
Buddhist Hell

Thanks! I enjoyed reading that!

I didn't know that catholocism ended purgatory.  Thanks for updating me.  I think they also abolished limbo quite a while back.

I think you are right about Dante.  I plan to work on that, after exploring some other versions of hell from nonChristian perspectives.  Not sure why, except starting with a Western point of view tends to flavor everything else.  This approach gives a different flavor.

Yes, the Catholic church stopped giving the mass in Latin some time ago. Or is that not what you meant by purgatory?

Im wondering where a person is located when experiencing the purgatory condition of existence?  We will have to work on that.

"Hell is other people." --Sartre

"Sartre is other people." --Spicer

Anyhow, everybody knows hell is physically located in the sewers of LA, as depicted in John Carpenter's Big Trouble In Little China, one of his three masterpieces, the others being The Thing and Dark Star. Halloween was crap, though one could argue that it is a depiction of hell, considering that Michael Myers is obviously God, just as Freddy Kruger is in Nightmare on Elm Street. Which is why neither of these films works properly.

I never noticed it before, but now that I think about it, Dark Star appears to be a comedic adaptation of Sartre's No Exit.

Now I need to google on Big Trouble in Little China - if you call it a masterpiece, then I bet it is.

It's sort of an LA take on Hong Kong ghost story martial arts movies (themselves worth seeing, such as A Chinese Ghost Story). It's a lot of fun, with great lines and a super-hammy performance by Kurt Russell who plays a truck driver who thinks he's larger than life and ends up being so.

I saw that movie, Big Trouble For A Little Vagina. No wait. It's not the same one.

Now for the Muslim Hell, starting with wikipedia.   Sorry to use wikipedia so much but it's the most readily available resource on the internet.  The Muslim hell is "Jahannam"  (snark alert:  I thought the Muslim hell was Afganistan).  

From the link:  According to the Qur'an only God Knows who will go to Jahannam (Hell) and who will go to Jannah (heaven). Those who ignored, or only pretended to believe in Allah remain in Jahannam after Qiyamat (Judgment Day).

It's a lot like the Baptist hell that I knew about....

The Qur'an states the punishments will be: the burning of skin, only to be replaced for reburning;[6] garments of fire will be worn, and boiling water will scald the skin and internal organs;[7] faces on fire;[8] lips burnt off;[9] backs on fire;[10] roasting from side to side;[11] faces dragged along fire;[12] bound in yokes then dragged through boiling water and fire.[13


Lovely place.


Here is an illustration of Mohammed visiting Jahannam (don't look now, this is a Muslim illustration of Mohammed....  I could not find the original source, I sort of recall this being Turkish but I could be way off).  There don't seem to be many Islamic depictions of hell, probably due to the restrictions against depictional art.



And another



This is from an unsubstantiated web link on the Muslim hell:


The purpose of Hell in Islam is not to punish the Muslim wrong-doers. Because, for them Mohammed will recommend paradise, beautiful virgins and young boys on the Day of Judgment. His recommendation is final and Allah cannot deny it. It is available to all murderers, rapists, arsonists, cheats, thugs, pickpockets and pimps provided they are following Islam. On the contrary, a flaming Hell is reserved only for all Hindus, Sikhs, Jews and Christians, no matter how pious and God-fearing they may have been.

From Islamicinformation.net  there are lots and lots of Quran quotations regarding hell in this reference.


“They will long to leave the Fire, but never will they leave there from; and theirs will be a lasting torment.” (Quran 5:37)


“But those who disbelieved will have cut out for them garments of fire. Poured upon their heads will be scalding water.” (Quran 22:19)

“And you will see the criminals that Day bound together in shackles, their garments of liquid pitch (melted copper) and their faces covered by the Fire.” (Quran 14:49-50)


The Names of Hell Hell Fire has different names in Islamic texts. Each name gives a separate description. Some of its names are:

Jaheem – fire - because of its blazing fire.

Jahannam - Hell - because of the depth of its pit.

Ladthaa - blazing fire - because of its flames.

Sa’eer - blazing flame - because it is kindled and ignited.

Saqar - because of the intensity of its heat.

Hatamah - broken pieces or debris - because it breaks and crushes everything that is thrown into it.

Haawiyah - chasm or abyss - because the one who is thrown into it is thrown from top to bottom

So apparently Jahannam is below the earth, since people are thrown into the abyss. However, from the link above, "There is no exact mention from the Quran or the sayings of Prophet Muhammad which pinpoint the location of Hell. No one knows its exact place except God. Due to some linguistic evidence and context of certain hadeeth, some scholars have stated that Hell is in the heavens, yet others say it is in the lower earth."  

However, regardless of location,  Jahannam is very deep.  from discoveringislam.org, if you drop a rock into Jahannam, it will fall for 70 years before "touching the pith".  

It also has 19 keepers, these are all angels.  

There are 7 gates to Jahannam, each for a particular type of sinner.  

There are 7 layers to Jahannam, one each for hypocrates+pharoah, one for polytheists, one for nontheists, one for Iblis (whoever that is), one for jews, one for christians, one for general muslim sinners (hey wait, I thought muslims didn't go to Jahannam?)

Unbelievers will be in Jahannam for all of eternity.

I find this interesting.  I did not know about Islamic hell / Jahannam before now.

Aztec Hell:

Looks like the Aztecs did not have a hell as punishment for sins.  

Rather, there was afterlife in Mictlan, the underworld where most people went after death.  "The journey from the first level to the ninth was difficult and took four years, but the dead were aided by the psychopompXolotl. (psychopomp is  from the Greek word ψυχοπομπός - psuchopompos, "guide of souls - they guided the dead to their destination )  The dead had to pass many challenges, such as crossing a mountain range where the mountains crashed into each other, a field with wind that blew flesh-scraping knives, and a river of blood with fearsome jaguars"

from the same reference, there were other places for selected dead to dwell-  

*Warriors who died in battle and those who died as a sacrifice went east and accompanied the sun during the morning.[1]
*Women who died in childbirth went to the west and accompanied the sun when it set in the evening.
*People who died of drowning — or from other causes that were seen as linked to the rain god Tlaloc, such as certain diseases and lightning — went to a paradise called Tlalocan  (Imgs from wikiedia)

The ruler of Mictlan was Mictlantecuhtl, "The worship of Mictlantecuhtli sometimes involved ritual cannibalism, with human flesh being consumed in and around the temple".  

So much of Aztec life and religion were destroyed by the Spanish conquest, spread of disease, and genocide, it's difficult to learn much that is not speculation.  I could not find a name for the Aztec religion.  Despite not having "hell" as a place of punishment (so unfair to call the underworld hell), the religion itself appears very violent and aggressive.  I read in the book 1491, however, that per capita deaths in catholic inquisitions and witch-hunts were more plentiful than the Aztec human sacrifice, and since those included public executions by burning, dismemberment, decapitation, and other means, Christianity could be said to have had human sacrifice as well.  

There were other highly sophisticated religions of the Americas - I will see if I can learn about Maya, Inca, and North American "Hells" separately.



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