hell, in Western monotheistic religions, eternal abode of souls damned by the judgment of God. The souls in hell are deprived forever of the sight of God. The punishment of hell is generally analogized to earthly fire. A constant feature is Satan or Lucifer (also known as Iblīs in Islam), considered the ruler of hell. Among ancient Jews, Sheol or Tophet was conceived as a gloomy place of departed souls where they are not tormented but wander about unhappily. The ethical aspect apparently developed gradually, and Sheol became like the hell of Christianity. Gehenna, in the New Testament, which drew its name from the Vale of Hinnom, was certainly a place of punishment. Many Christian churches now regard hell more as a state of being than a place. In Zoroastrianism, the souls of the dead must cross the Bridge of the Requiter, which narrows for the wicked so that they fall into the abyss of horror and suffer ceaseless torment. In ancient Greek religion the great underworld is Hades, ruled by the god of that name (also known as Pluto). The Romans called this underworld also Orcus, Dis, and, poetically, Avernus. In Buddhism, hell is the lowest of six levels of existence into which a being may be reborn depending on that being's karmic accumulations. Hell is often treated with detailed imagination in legend and literature. See heaven; sin.

See M. Himmelfarb, Tours of Hell (1981); P. Toon, Heaven and Hell (1986).

Abode of evildoers after death, or the state of existence of souls damned to punishment after death. Most ancient religions included the concept of a place that divided the good from the evil or the living from the dead (e.g., the gloomy subterranean realm of Hades in Greek religion, or the cold and dark underworld of Nilfheim or Hel in Norse mythology). The view that hell is the final dwelling place of the damned after a last judgment is held by Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Jewish concept of Gehenna as an infernal region of punishment for the wicked was the basis for the Christian vision of hell as the fiery domain of Satan and his evil angels and a place of punishment for those who die without repenting of their sins. In Hinduism hell is only one stage in the career of the soul as it passes through the phases of reincarnation. The schools of Buddhism have varying conceptions of hell, usually entailing some kind of punishment or purgatory. In Jainism, hell is a purgatory in which sinners are tormented by demons until the evil of their lives has been exhausted.

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