Patheos answers the question:

What Religions Believe in Hell?


Nearly all religions believe in Hell, a realm of retribution or purification after death. As a result of wicked activity or rejecting God, it is frequently linked to suffering or torment. While each religion has its own version of Hell, they all share a common goal: to deal with human depravity and its conflict with the divine. Let's explore Hell in different religions.

What is Hell?

In the world’s religions, Hell is represented as both a physical and metaphysical realm in which rebellious persons in the afterlife endure divine justice due to their sins and rejection of God. Hell is frequently characterized as a place of fire and suffering and is thought to be a place of perpetual separation from God. Jesus describes Hell as a region of "outer darkness" and "everlasting burning" in the New Testament (Matthew). Some denominations, such as the Latter-day Saints, suggest that mortals can experience spiritual Hell (separation from God) in this life due to their behavior, sins, and unwillingness to repent ushering in negative consequences in mortality.

Check out Patheos' Podcast on Why There Is A Hell.

How does general Christianity view Hell?

For most Christians, Hell is a part of the afterlife, and upon death (separation of body and spirit), the spirit is sent to suffer as they did not repent during their life and accept Jesus via baptism.

It is seen as a place of eternal separation from God and is often described as a place of fire and torment. In the New Testament, Jesus speaks of Hell as a place of "outer darkness" and "eternal fire" (Matthew 25:41).

Some doctrines as established by early Christian philosophers, such as St. Augustine, would argue that because of the original sin made by Adam, all mankind is also fallen and in a sinful state. He argues that the natural man is sinful, and without Christianity, the spirit would be destined to suffer in Hell, as repentance and forgiveness were integral choices an individual would need to make to be saved from Hell.

Other philosophers, such as St. Thomas Aquinas, argued that Christ descended into Hell, post-crucifixion, saved souls from Hell that were righteous but did not have the proper ordinances of salvation done, such as baptism under the law of the Gospel. The righteous souls of the Old Testament, who followed God, had to wait in Limbo until Christ performed the Atonement. This “breaking” of Hell is referred to as the Harrowing of Hell, as Christ saved the righteous and split them away from the damned.

The Italian poet Dante Alighieri wrote the Divine Comedy, which had a significant impact on how people viewed Hell. In his epic poem, Dante described a detailed hierarchy of punishments in Hell, where sinners were punished according to the severity of their sins. The Divine Comedy was a cultural and theological phenomenon that helped solidify the idea of Hell as a place of punishment and suffering in popular culture. It also reinforced the belief that one's actions in life have eternal consequences, and that repentance is necessary to avoid eternal damnation. Dante reinforced Aquinas’ perspective of Christ’s grace through his intervention and breaking of Hell alongside the grace that can be offered through repentance and turning toward God. Dante's depiction of Hell, along with his vision of Purgatory and Heaven, had a profound influence on Christian theology and literature and is still studied and discussed today.

How do Latter-day Saints view Hell?

Latter-day Saints (Mormons) believe that Hell is a place but more so a condition. A condition in which both the dead and mortals can experience depending on righteousness.

Mormons believe that the Spirit World is a place where everyone’s spirit goes to upon death however there is a schism, similar to what St. Thomas Aquinas alludes to in his writings. There is a Spirit Paradise, where righteous souls wait in a state of happiness for the time of their resurrection.

In contrast, there is a Spirit Prision, where wicked souls suffer and can be likened to the Hell of traditional Christian doctrine. According to revelation given to Joseph Fielding Smith, in Doctrine and Covenants section 138, we learn that when Christ went to visit the spirits in the Spirit World that he organized missionary work similar to what he would later do as recorded in Acts in the New Testament so that the spirits of the righteous could go into the section of the Spirit World where people would be given a chance to repent and accept Jesus Christ before the time of their resurrection when divine justice would finalize everyone’s works, good or bad.

But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead. D&C 138: 30

This revelation reaffirms why temples are such an integral part of LDS theology, the Church uses the temples to perform vicarious saving ordinances for spirits who, do not have a physical body, could now receive a physical ordinance of salvation via proxy in the temple.

LDS do not believe that children are sent to Hell if they die without baptism. In the Book of Mormon, we learn “repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin” (Moroni 8:10). Since little children are not accountable, due to a lack of knowledge of right and wrong, or even capable of truly sinful acts, they don’t need baptism. This contrasts many Catholic and some Protestant opinions on where babies and young children go if they die before coming to an age of accountability.

Do Jews believe in Hell?

In Judaism, the concept of Hell is known as Gehenna or Sheol, and is not seen as a permanent residence. Instead, it is a place of temporary punishment and purification, where souls are cleansed before entering the afterlife.

In Christianity, Hell is seen as a place of eternal punishment for those who reject God or live in sin. This view is particularly common among Protestant denominations, though some Christians believe in annihilationism, which posits that the wicked will permanently cease to exist.

Do Muslims believe in Hell?

Islam also teaches that Hell is the everlasting residence of the wicked and those who reject God. However, Islamic theology also includes the concept of temporary punishment in the grave before judgment day. In Zoroastrianism, the devil and his followers will be permanently annihilated, but the vast majority of humans will receive some heavenly reward.

Do Buddhists Believe in Hell?

In Buddhism, Hell is seen as a realm of rebirth resulting from unresolved karmic actions. However, it is not permanent and one can be reborn into a different realm based on their actions. (Bardo)

Do Hindus Believe in Hell?

In Hinduism, Hell is a temporary place between incarnations where one's karma is expiated .

Do Sikhs Believe in Hell?

In Sikhism, Hell is not a physical location, but a state of mind caused by attachment to things other than God.

Overall, the concept of Hell serves as a reminder of the consequences of sinful behavior and the importance of aligning oneself with the divine. Regardless of the specific beliefs of a religion, the concept of Hell is often used as a tool for moral instruction and guidance.


More on the afterlife and Hell:

Why is There a Hell if God is All-Loving?



2/24/2023 12:37:08 AM