What is Hell? Why is Hell? Where is Hell?Why would a good, universal creator send his own creation to eternal punishment for poor performance. And does anyone actually, really, truly,...

What is Hell? Why is Hell? Where is Hell?

Why would a good, universal creator send his own creation to eternal punishment for poor performance.

And does anyone actually, really, truly, genuinely believe in an eternal burning hellfire for non-believers? How could a good God allow such eternal suffering?

Expert Answers
MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although I don't believe in hell or an afterlife, I've always liked the idea that hell is what you imagine. I guess it doesn't really makes sense, since I literally just said I don't believe in an afterlife, but but the thought of someone creating their eternal punishment from their own ideas of torture has a certain poetic justice to it, I guess. This is also a concept that has been explored throughout literature, from authors as varied as Neil Gaiman (in the seminal Sandman comic book series, as well as short stories) and Stephen King (the short story That Feeling, You Can Only Say It in French and the Dark Tower series), to Dante and Homer. Along those lines, I've also always considered hell a very personal torment, so the whole "Everybody gets the same damnation" treatment doesn't work for me. It just seems so....I don;t know, anticlimactic? Consider instead the very particular punishments of Prometheus, Tantalus, and others in Tartartus. Those particular scenes especially struck me, because it seemed like those were punishments for a reason, not just "ok, you've sinned, join the lake of fire".

Of course, I can also get all existential and argue that hell is other people, but that's a bit too much, even for me.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If you truly believe in God, you cannot choose what parts of to believe. It's an all or nothing deal. God created man and woman, and gave us freedom of choice. We are instruments of his will, and even when we fail through our choices, he will accomplish his will.

As Christians, the word of God tells us that Adam and Eve failed in their choices thus was born sin. Man fell short of God's intention, but not willing to be separated from his creations forever, this just and loving God gave the life of his own son as a sacrifice for man's sin.

Eteranl life is guaranteed--eternity in heaven or eternity in hell. That being said, we are still creatures of choice, and we know through biblical teachings that the acceptance in our hearts and souls of Jesus Christ as a personal savior will ensure our eternity in heaven. God does not send his creations to hell, man through his own choice to accept the gift of salvation or deny the gift of salvation is responsible for that, and no sin is too great for God's forgiveness.

enotechris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Many cultures have an underworld, or place of the dead. I wonder if the whole modern popular notion of hell originates from the Greek god Hades.  Since the Greeks  buried their dead, and also lived around active volcanoes, it's not hard to imagine that over time they might associate being put in the ground with dwelling in a molten hot rock region.  Hades himself sometimes was considered a god of agriculture, and was depicted with a two-pronged pitchfork......then there's Pan.  Horned, half man, half goat, lusty.  Mashing these two together and you get.....Satan?  And certainly by the time Christianity got going, and uprooted pagan belief, the old gods would have been considered evil, and dwelling in a place of evil.  It's only with the advent of Christianity that the good and evil don't go to the same underworld after death......




emk eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The best answer I've ever heard on this one was from a college theology professor of mine.  To paraphrase: if we truly believe in free will, then we must believe that our freedom extends even to our right to choose to turn our back on God forever.  Hell, in that case, isn't a punishment (and it isn't fire; that's ancient imagery) it's a choice.  We can, effectively, choose an eternity without God, or free will isn't really free.  So people who say that a good God couldn't send someone to eternal punishment are right!  But a good God who is committed to human freedom could definitely allow a person to choose to reject God completely.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A couple months ago, a guy posted a couple of discussions asking why people don't believe more in God's punishment -- why they only envision a nice God.  We need him now...

People who do believe this would argue that you should understand that God is not only good but is also just.  Justice, they say, demands that God punish those who have done wrong during their Earthly lives.

As to how a good and just God could do this to his own creation, the reasoning is that God created us with free will.  If we choose to do wrong we deserve to be punished.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the previous posts that the concept of Hell was designed to keep individuals' actions on the path of accepted morality.  This conception of religion does believe in a benevolent God, but also one that is capable of great anger, which would necessitate the positioning of an inferno.  Again, as the previous posts indicate, it does sound like you have already confirmed to your own mind what you believe and the elements that you hold sacred.  There are individuals who literally believe that the underworld is a pit of fire and one where those who violate the word of God and scriptures belong.

lynn30k eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think by the way you ask your question that you already know what you believe. And I absolutely agree. If you believe in a just god, he is not going to punish people for not believing--he would have better things to do. If you believe in a god who would damn people forever, why would you want to worship such a being? If you haven't seen Julia Sweeney's "movie" of sorts, about losing her religion, you might want to track it down  :)

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If you believe and trust in God I think you have to understand that there is indeed a Hell and that people do end up spending eternity in Hell. As you study scripture it should become clear to you that God does indeed punish his people for not following.

beefheart | Student

As Christians, the word of God tells us that Adam and Eve failed in their choices thus was born sin. Man fell short of God's intention - ask996

But God made man, and God is, apparently, incapable of error. So he MUST have known that Adam and Eve would eat the apple which he put slap-bang in the middle of the garden of Eden. The serpent didn't tempt A+E. God did. And God created A+E in such a way that they would fail his test! They had lost before they begun. How is that eternal sin on the human race forever?

How can God blame his creation for being flawed?

hawkins8 | Student
What is Hell? Why is Hell? Where is Hell?

Why would a good, universal creator send his own creation to eternal punishment for poor performance.

And does anyone actually, really, truly, genuinely believe in an eternal burning hellfire for non-believers? How could a good God allow such eternal suffering?

hell is originated from sheol. sheol is a place for the dead to wait for their final judgment to come.

people in sheol are usually referred to as 'fallen asleep', except for those wicked who are rejected by God.

Hebrews 4:3

Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, "So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.' "

They are thus in a separation from God. Now the question is, what do you have when separated from God? You have none, even light belongs to God. So they are said to be in hell.

hell is where separated from God. Earth is a place for people to choose God. Another question now is, if you didn't choose God in earth time, and God didn't choose you as well, what do you expect? either with Him or separated from Him, there's no middle ground out there besides planet earth.

Yet another question is, what will you be after separated from God? When angels are put into such a separation, they turn themselves into devils and satans and lose their capability for a repentance. That's why they are burned to Lake of Fire. How about humans, will they be worse?

madamosman | Student

Well this is the first time i post an answer, I hope it might help in an way. I'm Muslim person and do believe in Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. Allah is in your understanding, I believe is God. God is just and tat the same time He is generous, forgiving for people who really repent on what they do wrong , for people who regret and ask forgiveness. We were created as freewill and we were given the chance to choose which path we would like to take. This path could be in goodwill or bad-will  , we had been sent a messenger to us to teach us what's right and what's wrong. So we have the knowledge of truth. Therefore, if we choose to do the right we granted and rewarded, and if we do wrong we are punished and also deserve to be punished.

epollock | Student

Hell was probably a preconceived notion by the Roman Catholic Church during its early days to control members and non-members alike. After it was originally conceived as being a place of ice, it was changed to fire, which is more destructive and popularized as evil.

krishna-agrawala | Student

The concept of hell and heave as the places to which people go to after their death, depending upon their conduct during their life, is forwarded by many religions, as a means of motivating people to act in certain way. Irrespective of the truth of existence of physical places like hell where people burn in eternal hellfire, the basic principle that people cannot escape the consequences of their action has some merit assuming the soul continues to live even after the body dies.

I personally believe that soul is responsible for the actions of body, that it outlives the body, and after death of the body faces the consequences for its actions. The consequence can be in the form of life after reincarnations, or in the form of pleasure and pain suffered between two incarnations. This experience of pleasure and pain may be equated with heaven and hell, but I believe these are just feelings created without physical experiences like enjoying luxuries of heaven or burning in hellfire.