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In many mythologies and religions, Hell is a place where souls of dead people go after their lives end. It is often thought of as the opposite of Heaven, and a place where no love and no God is. In many religions, Hell is the place where the souls of dead people go if they have done evil things in life. It is used in the Old Testament to translate the Hebrew Sheol, and in the New Testament the Greek ᾅδης, Hades, and γεέννα, Hebrew Gehenna.
Jewish beliefs about Hell
Many believe that Jews do not believe in Hell, but Jews really do believe. But it does not consist of eternal torture. Rather, there are lower levels of Heaven that a person can descend to considering the number of mitzvot (commandments) that they have obeyed. Gemorah writings tell the Jews of devil beliefs, but these are stories and are taken lightly. Jews also believe that Satan did exist, but he was an angel that quarreled with God, such as the story of Job.
In Hebrew the word for "the grave" is used for the place where people go when they die.
Christian beliefs about Hell
In Christianity, Hell is usually the place where the souls of people go who did not accept Jesus, or broke important rules set forth by God. In Hell, souls suffer and wait for the Last Judgement, a time when the souls of the dead will be judged by God. The concept of Hell in Christianity comes from the Bible and the "casting out" of Lucifer. In being cast out, he was removed from the presence of God. Therefore, if taken in its most literal sense, Hell is separation from God. Stated another way, to the Christian mind being separated from God is to be in Hell. Some Christians believe that Hell has real fire and flames, but others do not.
Many Christian groups believe that once a soul goes to Hell, it stays there forever and cannot leave. However, some Christian groups do not believe this. Mormons, for example, think Hell is only a temporary place, and that souls may leave Hell at some point. Other Christians believe that those who do not go to Heaven simply stop existing and do not go to Hell. These Christians are called annihilationists.
Other religions' beliefs about Hell
- Many religions and mythologies use the term underworld for the place where people believe they or their souls would go after they die.
- The Ancient Greeks believed that souls would go to different places within the underworld. One of those places, called Tartaros, was like Hell. The god Hades was the ruler of the underworld. The most famous story about the underworld is the Greek mythological story of Orpheus.
- In the culture of ancient Rome, the god of the underworld was called Pluto, a name which meant “The Wealthy One” because there were lots of minerals under the ground. The Romans first thought of the underworld as a Heaven-like place, but later the influence of Christianity made them think that Hell was a place of punishment.
- In Buddhism, there are three types of hells, called Naraka. Unlike in Judaism and Christianity, souls are born into these places based on their karma. They spend a certain amount of time there and are then reborn somewhere else.
- In Islam, Hell is called Jahannam, and it is a place of punishment. However, some Muslims believe almost everyone will eventually be forgiven and taken to the Islamic Heaven (Jannah). The only people who will not be forgiven are those who choose to believe in many gods, or no god at all.[source?]
- In Shintoism, Hell (Yomi) is similar to the Greek Hades, in that all souls go there, no matter their actions in life, to have a miserable existence forever.