HELL HELL HELL HELL
HELL HELL !!!!!!

(Top Posts - Distance From Belief
in theism - 071000)

Just in case you're wondering, yes, the topic of this
post is that god-forsaken domain known as HELL!

In my opinion, humankind would best be served by
leaving such mythical horror concepts in our fearful
and hateful past. We know better, now, that such
places only exist in the manipulative minds of people
without a clue about reality, kindness, fairness, love,
peace, and nature, don't we?

Shouldn't our children be loved, nurtured, cared for,
protected, and raised in the knowledge of how they
can flourish in a natural world? Where does such an
evil concept as hell fit into that picture?

Excerpts from -Hell : An Illustrated History of the
NETHERWORLD-, by Richard Craze:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1573240591

"INTRODUCTION : Virtually every culture has evolved
a mythology to explain what happens to the human soul
after death, as well as a mythology to explain in some way
natural phenomena such as storms and floods -- powerful
gods of chaos. Mythology is just another word for religion,
usually applied to ancient religions, although it could also
apply to more modern ones.

Different cultures have developed different ideas of hell for
various reasons, including: to explain what happens after
death; to motivate people to lead a good life for spiritual
ends; to control people politically by frightening them with
a threat of damnation or torture; or to incorporate a sense
of justice. ...

WHERE IS HELL? Every culture that has a concept of hell
locates it in a different place, although most agree that hell
lies somewhere underground, beneath or in the earth. Some
beliefs actually extend the location to the whole of the earth
itself. The Gnostic Cathars, for instance, believed that God
lived a long way away and that this earth was actually created
by the Devil. ...

WHAT IS HELL? Hell is invariably a place of punishment
and torture. Each culture has a set of laws or rules for people
to live by. Breaking these rules, or failing to live up to a certain
standard of morality, would be sufficient to cause someone
to be sent to hell, and their punishment there would be
allocated according to the severity of their sins. Medieval
Christians were very concerned with the Seven Deadly Sins,
and sinners of each of these sins were to suffer a particular
punishment in hell. The prideful were broken on the wheel ...

DANTE'S INFERNO ... Dante describes hell as a deep funnel-
shaped cavity with round circular sides, on which are built great
terraces with steep drops down to the next. Down these sheer
cliff faces flow four rivers, towards the very center of hell,
where there is the bottomless burning lake of the Evil One. ...

THE HELL OF REINCARNATION : The Hindus of India
believe in a very different hell from that of other cultures such
as Christianity -- theirs is a hell of the here and now rather
than some other place of punishment and torture. The Indian
Bhagavad Gita ("The Song of the Lord"), a holy book like the
Bible, is a description of the teachings of Lord Krishna to the
warrior prince Arjuna, his disciple.

Krishna says that hell has three gateways -- lust, greed, and
anger. If people fall into the trap of these three destructive evils
they are condemned to the hell of this life on earth. However,
if they practice what is good for them they will be liberated
from these three gates and will go to the Supreme Good. ...

THE GODDESS HEL ... In Viking mythology, hell is ruled
over by the goddess Hel and her kingdom is Niflheim (icy
world of the dead). Hel is an unpleasant character, in common
with the rest of her family. ...

THE DEVIL : As each hell reflects the belief system of a
culture, so too does the portrayal of the ruler of hell -- whom
we will call the Devil. In mythology the Devil is invariably a
representation of the earlier god or gods of a culture -- those
who cannot be disposed of entirely, merely demoted and sent
to the underworld themselves. ...

In the Bible, the word 'Satan' means adversary, and that was
how he was known for the first 300 years of Christianity.

It was not until around 590 A.D. (the time of Pope Gregory
the Great) that his name was even finally settled. Until then
he had been called Satanel, Lucifer (Lord of the Light), Belial
(The Worthless), Mastema (The Great Enemy), Beelzeboul
(Lord of Excrement), Beelzebub (Lord of Flies), and Azazel
(Lord of the Wasteland). These were older gods from
cultures with which the early Christians came into contact,
or they were Hebrew deities. ...

HELLISH CHARACTERS : Beelzebub was originally the
god of the Philistines. Jehovah, god of the Israelites, told
his people to stop the Philistines worshipping Beelzebub.
The Philistines wanted to know why. The Israelites said
that it was because he was not important enough -- he was
only a god of little things, like flies and other bugs. Thus
he became Beelzebub, Lord of Flies. ...

Xipetotec was the Aztec god of pain, which he liked so
much that he even flayed himself alive -- hence his name,
which means "flayed Lord" ... Kali is the wicked side of the
Hindu goddess Devi ... Moloch was the god of the Canaan-
ites. He is usually portrayed as an old man with horns, who
has children sacrificed to him, whom he then burns ...

Pan was the Greek god of nature. He was not originally a
devil but has increasingly been seen as one ... Rashnu was
the Persian god of the dead ... Mara was originally a devil
of the Hindus, who was known as 'the destroyer'. He was
the ruler of the underworld and was the devil who tempted
the Buddha as he sat reaching enlightenment ... Ahriman
was the Persian god of chaos. He was seen not so much
as leading the good astray as encouraging fools ...

The Antichrist is the supposed son of Satan, who will be
born just before the Last Judgement. He is seen as the
antithesis of Jesus -- come to lead us all into trouble. Just
about every tyrant during the last two thousand years,
including Napoleon, has been suspected of being the
Antichrist ...

Mot was the Lord of Death of the Canaanites ... Erlik was
the Siberian ruler of the underworld. Legend has it that he
was actually the first man to be created (his name means
'father') and while the other people were being created
(but before they had souls) Erlik spat on them out of jeal-
ousy and spite. Ulgan, the god of creation, was not too
pleased. Apparently he had to turn us inside-out, which
is why we look so ugly to this day. As a punishment, Erlik
was given the underworld to rule ...

Ghede -- more popularly known as Baron Samedi -- is the
Voodoo god of death ... Ictnike was the trickster devil of
the Sioux of North America. He was not so much a ruler
of hell as a tormentor of the living ... Tiamat was the Baby-
lonian female dragon evil. She was created before time
began and ruled the universe. To begin with she was good,
but the other gods angered her and she became monstrous. ...

Kronos was the youngest son of the Titan giants. He
was warned that one of his children might depose him,
so he ate them at birth. Zeus, his youngest child, escaped
and hurled Kronos into the pit, Tarturus, where he became
ruler of hell. Mephistopheles was invented in medieval
times as a sophisticated version of Satan. He is the wily
tempter who persuades Faustus to sell his soul.

HOW TO GET INTO (AND OUT OF) HELL : The cultures
that have a concept of hell usually have a complex and
ritualistic set of procedures for getting out of hell. The
Chinese believe that if some end up in hell, then only by
their descendants burning money can they be bribed out --
or if someone has died an unnatural death, they can trick
someone else into taking their place.

Christians believe that once someone is confined to hell
there is no escape or redemption, whereas Buddhists
believe that even if someone does end up in hell there
is always a chance of redemption if the unfortunate
sinner calls upon the Buddha himself to save him. ...

THE HARROWING OF HELL : The descent motif that
is common to most mythologies about hell also usually
contains an element of the 'harrowing', or distressing
of hell. This is where a hero or savior has to go to hell
and shut it down, or defeat its ruler or bring somebody
back. ...

Probably the most often overlooked example of the
harrowing of hell is that, according to the Catholic
Church, of Christ. During the Middle Ages it was the
subject of many of the mystery plays. After Jesus had
been crucified he went to hell -- not to suffer, but to
battle with the Devil, whom he defeated. He chained
up Satan and cast him into a fiery pit where he was
to stay for a thousand years. As well as closing down
hell, Jesus rescued Adam and other ancient souls, who
were redeemed. Ignoring the pleas of the truly wicked,
he set the sign of the cross in the middle of hell and
came back to be resurrected. ...

Prayer Book 1662 - I believe in God the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth: and in Jesus Christ his only
son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead and buried, he descended into hell;
the 3rd day he arose from the dead, he ascended into
heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father
almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick
and the dead. ...

This was all fine until around the year 1000 A.D., when
Satan's banishment was supposed to end. Obviously
something went wrong, because Satan was expected to
reappear with his son, the Antichrist, and the end of the
world would take place. But nothing happened. ...

THE BABYLONIAN HELL ... There were seven gates
to the Babylonian hell of Kurnugia, each guarded by a
demon sent there by Nergal, Lord of the Underworld.
But he was not the true ruler -- that was really his wife,
the demon goddess Ereshkigal, Princess of the Kingom
of Shadows ...

THE GREEK HELL ... The Greeks borrowed freely from the
Babylonians, adding to and adapting the mythologies to
make them their own. They believed in Hades -- the Under-
world -- that was located a mere three yards below the sur-
face of the earth. It was a vast cavern, a shadowy place for
all the dead -- good or bad. Writers such as Homer (around
850 B.C.) added to its imagery with the River Styx, that
winds its way round the world of the dead nine times. The
ruler of Hades was Pluto, Zeus' brother, and he governed it
with a merciless severity and subjected his poor guests to
the most ingenious tortures. ...

THE EGYPTIAN HELL ... the Egyptian Book of the Dead,
from which we learn that the Ancient Egyptians divided
the universe into three -- heaven, earth, and the Duat, or
underworld. The Duat, sometimes known as Amenti, was
not originally a place of punishment but merely where the
sun god, Ra, went each evening when he departed from
the sky. ...

THE ROMAN HELL : The Romans knew exactly where
hell was located -- underneath Italy. Everything else they
borrowed from the Greeks. ...

LUCRETIUS' HELL : The poet Lucretius lived in Rome from
99 to 55 B.C., just before the time of Christ. We have seen
the Roman view of hell, but not all Romans would necessarily
have believed in it. Lucretius certainly did not and was most
vociferous in his condemnation of such foolish beliefs ... 'Why
do you weep and wail over death?

If the life you have lived till now has been a pleasant thing
why then, you silly creature, do you not retire as a guest who
has had his fill of life and take your care-free rest with a
quiet mind? And if it's been distasteful why not make an end
of life and labor?'

THE AZTEC HELL ... The Aztecs flourished in the area
around what is now Mexico until the arrival of the Spaniards
in 1520 ... while the dead were being cremated, the Aztec
priests would recite prayers that gave advice as to what
they could expect -- similar to both the Tibetan and Egyptian
Books of the Dead. The way was beset with grisly demons
and horrific adventures ...

REVELATION : And there was war in heaven ... fire came
down on them from heaven and consumed them; and the
Devil, their seducer, was flung into the lake of fire and sulfur,
where the beast and the false prophet had been flung, there
to be tormented day and night forever ...

THE CHRISTIAN HELL ... In the Old Testament, hell is a
place of fire without a specific ruler. In the New Testament
it becomes the abode of Satan, full of weeping and the
gnashing of teeth.

And by the time you get to the last book in the Bible -- the
Book of Revelation -- it has become the abominable fancy,
full of chains and dragons, and infinite agony. However, it
was the Synod of Bishops in Constantinople in 543 that
finally set the seal on hell, when they decreed that 'if anyone
shall say or even think that there is an end to the torment of
demons and ungodly persons, or that there ever will be an
end to it, then let them be excommunicated.' ...

Being excommunicated meant that when a person died they
went straight to hell. ...

THE JEWISH HELL ... The Jewish concept of hell started
out originally as a place of shadows and ghosts -- Sheol --
where the dead wandered about forever, aimlessly and with-
out punishment. There was no heaven or reunion with God --
after death there was nothing at all except a grey place of
animated corpses. ...

One of the purposes of myth and religion in many cultures
was to help the leaders control their people with threats of
damnation.

Sheol underwent a transformation to Gehenna -- the place of
fire. It is probable that it was named after the place just outside
Jerusalem where the household rubbish, including the bodies
of criminals and animals, was burnt. ...

THE BUDDHIST HELL ... Some Buddhists now believe in
the Buddha as a deity; others do not. In some Buddhist sects
there is a well-defined hierarchy of gods and demons while
others have none. Some branches of Buddhism even believe
there is not one hell but eight. ...

Some of the Tibetan Buddhists, the Ladaks, believe however
that there is no need of hell, for sinners are immediately rein-
carnated in the next life as marmots, a type of rodent that
burrows underground. ... The Mahayana Buddhists of Tibet
believe that hell only lasts for 49 days. ...

THE CHINESE HELL : The two principal belief systems of
China -- Taoism and Buddhism -- have both borrowed exten-
sively from each other's ideas about hell, so that they have
become amalgamated into a complex image from which
it is difficult to separate the two strands. ...

THE JAPANESE HELL : The ancient religion of Japan was
Shinto, which concerned itself with nature spirits. Shinto had
no real concept of hell -- dead people's souls went to heaven,
but there was a region under the earth, Yomi-T'su-Kuni, the
'land of darkness', where all wicked things lived. ... Once
Buddhism had gained a hold in Japan, around 500 A.D., the
concept of hell expanded. It became Jigoku, the 'ground
under the ground'. ...

CHANGING IMAGES OF HELL ... This is an age of self-
responsibility -- we can no longer blame the Devil for
tempting us, or ourselves for giving in to temptation.

We just *are* ourselves if we fall from grace in moments
of weakness. We no longer expect to be perfect.

As science opens up the might and vastness of the universe,
we become aware of the smallness and fragility of humankind.

That the good and evil forces of the universe should seek to
do battle, using us as pawns, seems increasingly ridiculous. ..."