As an atheist, I’m going to Hell, allegedly, for not obeying God. The question I need to know is who’s version of Hell am I going to? Hell is derived from the Germanic word Hölle, that’s derived from the Proto–Germanic ‘haljō’ meaning ‘concealed place’, ‘underworld’.
Mesopotamians believed that the afterlife was an underworld called ‘Kur’. Ereshkigal was the Goddess ruler and there was no good or bad treatment, you were just there living a shadow of your former life.
Neti was a Demi-God of the Underworld who guarded the seven gates. All souls abided in the same place, irrespective of a person’s actions during their life, and they just stood before Ereshkigal so she could pronounce their death.
The ancient Egyptian culture believed that their Underworld was called Duat which was the realm of the dead that was ruled by Osiris. The Duat is where souls go for judgement after death, and was in between Earth and the afterlife. Ancient Egyptians, despite their obvious intellect, had one major flaw, they believed that the Earth was flat, and underneath lay the vast underworld. If the dead wanted eternal life, they’d have to fight for it through a series of challenges and obstacles, and if they were killed they spent an eternity in Oblivion. If they managed to get through the obstacles, they stood before the Gods for judgement, and if deemed worthy enough, they may even become Gods themselves.
Despite many people claiming that Hades was the Greek underworld, it was actually the name of the God that was the ruler, Hades the Unseen. Poseidon and Zeus were his brothers, and they were sons of the Titan Cronus. When Zeus and his siblings come of age they set about removing the Titans and becoming Gods of Olympus. Zeus got the heavens, Poseidon got the oceans, and Hades got the Underworld.
Hades spent most of his morbid existence in the dark, and set the task of guarding the entrance to the Underworld to Cerberus, the three-headed hound. Despite ruling the Underworld, Hades was not the God of death, or the judge of the dead. The job of judging was given to Minos, Rhadamanthus and Aeacus, and the good were taken to the Elysian Fields, and the bad to the lower depths of the Underworld where they’d be punished by the Furies.
In Norse mythology, Hel is the goddess of the dead, and also became the place where she resides, and she is the daughter of the God Loki. Hel is also known as Niflheim, where Náströnd, the shore of corpses, was located, and serpents that tormented the most evil of people, and those that fell in battle joined Odin in Valhalla.
In some sects of Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism, Naraka is their equivalent of Hell, where souls are sent to pay for their sins. In the Vedas, Naraka is mentioned many times, and it’s said to be dark and very hot. Yama, who’s the God of Death deals out the punishment for sins. Once they are free of sin, they face salvation (Moksha) where they are born again into another life on Earth.
In Chinese mythology, Diyu is loosely based on Naraka, where souls are taken to be made accountable for their sins, and are judged in various courts depending on the level of sin. Very often severe sinners spent a time suffering perpetual torture until they were ready for reincarnation.
In Aztec mythology Mictlān is the underworld ruled by Mictlāntēcutli, who was their God of the dead. Mictlān is comprised of nine realms called Chiconauhmictlán. Mictlāntēcutli was considered one of the most important Gods in the Aztec religion, as every soul would one day face him. Aztecs believed that regardless of the way you lived your life, every soul entered the Underworld and had to descend through the trials of the nine realms.
In Mayan (Kʼicheʼ) mythology, Xibalba is the ‘place of fear’ and is ruled by the ‘death Gods’. Similar to the mythology of Mictlān, Mayans didn’t believe in living a good or bad life would determine your fate after death. The Underworld, like the Mictlān was comprised of nine realms, that were home to demons and evil spirits that were plotting the downfall of Heaven, and the dead had to navigate through trials and tests to determine their outcome.
Inuit mythology believes in an Underworld called Adlivun, that’s ruled by Sedna, the goddess of the sea and queen of the frozen underworld. Here she’s responsible for a soul’s purification, punishment or preservation, and you’ll remain in limbo for a year until you’re ready for the journey to Quidlivun (Land of the Moon)
In Japanese Shintō mythology, Yomi-no-kuni , or just Yomi, is the Underworld, and is described as the ‘land of darkness’, and it has no bearing on how you behaved when alive. Izanami no mikoto who is the Goddess of creation and death, is the ruler of Yomi. Shintō never really explained what happened in Yomi.
In Incan mythology, Supay was the God of death, and the ruler of the underworld Ukhu Pacha, which was one of three realms, Hanan Pacha (upper world) , Kay Pacha (this world). Ukhu Pacha is said to be where the evil souls went and is known as the supaypa-huasin (house of the Devil), which was over run by demons.
Erlik, is the God of death in Mongolian mythology, and is the ruler of Tamag, and just like Satan in Christianity he had a disagreement with the creator God and was banished to Tamag. He became the deity of evil, and the judge of the dead, and is the equivalent to the Hungarian God of death and evil Ördög, who lives in Pokol.
Hell in Christianity, isn’t actually mentioned in the Bible. Tartarus, Hades and Gehinnom are though, and many Christians don’t actually like the concept as Clark Pinnock suggests.
“Everlasting torment is intolerable from a moral point of view because it makes God into a bloodthirsty monster who maintains an everlasting Auschwitz for victims whom he does not even allow to die”
Some Christians that consider the idea of Hell taboo suggest that God deals with Annihilationism, which means humans aren’t immortal unless they’re given eternal life in Heaven, and if they are sinners, then they’ll just cease to exist after death.
Many fundamentalist and evangelicals believe very much in Hell, and they believe that Jesus descended into Hell between his death and resurrection and is known as the Harrowing of Hell where he brought salvation to all the dead since the beginning of time.
Theologises believe that unrepentant sinners are judged immediately after death, and because God allegedly allows free will, and doesn’t impose mandatory belief upon humanity, it’s their choice to sin, and reject God.
St Augustine of Hippo was widely regarded as a massive influence of western Christianity.
His Augustinian theodicy, is partially a response to:
“which attempts to clear God of all responsibility for evil, based on human free will” – Wikipedia
“The Augustinian theodicy is a response to the evidential problem of evil, which raises the concern that if God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent, there should be no evil in the world. Evidence of evil can call into question God’s nature or his existence – he is either not omnipotent, not benevolent, or does not exist.” – Wikipedia
Yet theologists before him believed in universal reconciliation which was punishment after death for sin, but Origen Adamantius was confident that once the souls regained purity, then they’d be redeemed and put back beside God. The concept of Hell in Christianity didn’t become a big thing until Augustine implied that Hell was about delivering justice to sinners. The big question here surrounding Christianity’s belief in God is how can one human life of sin, be comparable to an eternity of punishment? That is not justice.
In Judaism the dead were sent indiscriminately to She’ol, where they permanently reside, cut off from God regardless of how they lived their lives.
In Islam the evil doers are sent to Jahannam, which had seven levels of severity depending on your level of sin, and the sinner is punished spiritually and physically. Maalik is the angel of Hell, who along with Jahannam’s guards, the Zabaniyah, torment the sinners. Muslims haven’t agreed on whether this is a permanent punishment, or whether after atonement they will be allowed into paradise.