Hell is a place of suffering and torment in the afterlife. Behaviour in the living world will determine the soul’s treatment after death. Those who live according to the rules of their religion will be rewarded with a version of Heaven, while those who disobey the commands of the deity (or deities) will be consigned to Hell.
Though not all religions espouse a specific notion of Hell, those that do differ greatly in their descriptions. The Christian notion of Hell was preceded by similar notions in Mesopotamian, Greek, Asian, and African religions. We have no direct description of Hell from someone who has visited it and returned. Rather, our notion of Hell relies exclusively on the imagination of artists (such as Dante in his Divine Comedy) and small excerpts in sacred texts.
On a purely philosophical level, the idea of Hell presents several difficulties:
- In some faiths, how a soul can suffer the pain of fire or torture without a body;
- How eternal punishment for mortal, finite transgressions can be justified;
- How eternal torment is compatible with a compassionate, merciful deity;
- Since more than one religion casts all unbelievers to its version of Hell, if all religions are accurate, everyone goes to Hell. One can logically claim no religions are true, but there exists no objective means to select one religious belief over another.
Given there exists no evidence for the continuation of one’s consciousness beyond death, there is no rational method to determine whether any religion’s description of Hell is accurate. The most reasonable conclusion is that Hell is a human invention.