So where is hell?

When we are taught about religion, we are inevitably introduced to heaven and hell.

Heaven is the place we all aspire to go up to, though I’ve never really understood why it is up. Of course, all the pictures of heaven are in the clouds, with a set of pearly gates (just why are they called the pearly gates anyway?) and St Peter waiting to ask us the 20 questions that decides whether we pass through, or get the elevator down.

Yes, hell is down. Why? And, for that matter why is it always depicted a dark and full of fire and hot embers?

Now, just taking a step back and thinking about hell, there is a saying, “it is hell on earth’.

Was this saying coined by someone who had actually been to hell and been sent back? Imagine being a reject from hell … that would take some doing.

For those who saw ‘The Good Place’ which ended recently, the notion of hell takes on something of a different meaning.

But, we often say, when at the very bottom of despair that we are in hell. I gather this means that life couldn’t get any worse, which is quite possible on of the universal definitions of what it might be like in the ‘real’ hell.

Or was hell invented by some clergy a long time ago to frighten the parishioners into being good, because the ‘prize’ if you didn’t was a one way trip to, you guessed it, hell.

Come to think of it, a lot of the religious ‘stuff’ is to keep us penitent parishioners on the straight and narrow, though we are allowed to stray every now and then so we have a reason to go to the confessional, where, after straying, we a forgiven for the price of a few hail Mary’s.

And perhaps the unforgiving stare of the parish priest.

So, when we tell someone to ‘go to hell’, what is it we are really wishing upon that person. A fiery end? A meeting with the devil?

Let’s hope that ‘hell’ is just an invention, and that when were finally make it to the afterlife (which is a whole other question that I take issue with) our lives have been such that we know the answers to the 20 questions St Peter puts to us, and we get the magic ticket into heaven.

And hopefully there will be a Red Lobster up there.

5 thoughts on “So where is hell?

  1. Most of the heaven/hell dynamic is extrapolation with surprisingly little that’s actually Biblical, especially from the fundamentalists. And much of what’s taught or preached is probably drawn from other religions/folkways or at least common to them in some ways. Largely lost along the way is the sky/air/heaven metaphorical connection to Spirit and the earth/subterranean linkage to flesh/decay/mortality.
    In Hindu/Buddhist circles, that would point toward Transcendence and escaping the cycle of rebirth.
    In the ancient Christian feast of the Ascension, still celebrated among the Eastern Orthodox, the event of Jesus’ rising into the sky is seen as spanning the two sides of the dichotomy of Spirit/flesh, which is so central to the psychological understandings of Freud’s disciple Otto Rank. We, as mortals, are drawn upward into immortality, in that Christian view, or in Rank’s, we need to embrace both our bodily decline and ongoing intellectual growth to the fullest to truly embrace our individual humanity.
    Apart from the religious dimensions, your question also asks why we feel “high” when we’re happy and “down” when we’re depressed or blue. It may even be related to the intuitive sense of musical notes of shorter frequency being “higher” while the longer ones are “lower.”
    That said, we can leave a much fuller exploration of these to an adventurous PhD candidate.
    As for the “go to hell” retort? Now we’re in some really fertile ground!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I am contemplating a story that encapsulates the ‘go to hell’ saying, and, as you say, it’s fertile ground.
      As for the theological aspects, someone should wrote a book, and I would love to read it!

      Like

  2. Where is hell? To quote General Phil Sheridan (1866), “If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent out Texas and live in Hell.” I don’t know whether he was referring to the heat, but June isn’t over yet, and Texas temperatures are already approaching 100 degrees F, so I’d say hell is somewhere in the vicinity, but on a higher elevation and blessed with a little breeze.

    Liked by 1 person

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