The concept of hell appears in numerous religions and mythologies. According to religious beliefs, hell is a place of horror, pain, suffering, and torment meant to punish those who sin or rebel against the laws laid down by God.
Christianity explains hell as a state in which souls of the damned suffer eternally for their sins. It is also considered a place of separation from God.
“They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”
2 Thessalonians 1:9
Moreover, ancient churches have beautiful and elaborate pictures of heavenly and hellish conditions that are awarded to individuals after a judgment. They show sinners being thrown into flames by demons and the obedient believers being lifted by angels into bliss.
“The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
To find more about Christian views on hell, visit religionfacts.com. Furthermore, Islam informs about the ‘seven gates of hell’. They are structured one below the other, opposite the gates of heaven or paradise.
“Indeed the hell fire is the dwelling place of them all. It has seven gates and within each gate there is an appropriate punishment for each inhabitant…”
There is also a detailed description of hell, in fact, several hellish planets in Hinduism. It describes different types of hells in which different types of sinners are punished for many thousands of years.
For example, it informs about a hell in which those who cook animals alive are themselves cooked in boiling oil. Here is a description of the different types of hells as per Vedic study.
The punishments meted out to sinners in hell are repeated again and again but the sinner does not die. There is a similar description in Islam stating, “Every time the fire eats away their flesh, we will replace it with new flesh so they can taste the punishment.” (Nisaa':56)
You can find further information on the different types of hells mentioned in Islam on this page. It is worth noting that most descriptions of hell from the different religious faiths unanimously mention suffering through fire and flames.
As fire is related to punishment and curse, some religious faiths, Catholicism, in particular, reject the process of cremation after death. According to cremationresource.org, the incineration of the body is seen as more of a punishment than honor.
Coming back to our discussion on hell, it is generally believed that hell is meant for eternal torment but according to certain schools of Christian theology, especially Christian Universalism, there is no eternal hell as it is against the nature and attributes of a loving God.
In addition, according to religions with a cyclic history incorporating incarnations or cycles of birth and death, hellish punishments, though severe and unrelenting, are not eternal.
Interestingly, although the Vedic scriptures lay emphasis on the presence of a soul within the body for both humans and animals, they state that animals are not put into hell as they do not have a developed consciousness as humans have.