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Seven Hells: An Incomplete Survey of the Afterlife

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 The Last Judgment by Frederico Zuccaro and Giorgio Vasari (©Corbis)
The Last Judgment by Frederico Zuccaro and Giorgio Vasari (┬ęCorbis)

What are we to make of Hell?

If language is the operating system for the human mind, then we might consider religion a data-management program we install to provide us a certain view of reality. But just as your latest Adobe install may tack on an undesired antivirus program, religion often comes paired with a problematic theology of Hell.

Scare tactics and supernatural revenge fantasies aside, what does it all really accomplish? What sort of faith vitally needs a nether realm of endless rape and torture?

In this article I'd like to look at seven different ways we've come to view Hell. This is by no means a full exploration of Hell theology, but rather a brief overview featuring terrifying works of art. For more, I recommend the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy's entry on the topic and Alice K. Turner's "The History of Hell."

In the end, I hope you'll ask yourself which of the following views works best in your mind -- or if Hell seems an outdated and barbaric belief all together.

Robert Lamb is a senior writer and podcaster at HowStuffWorks, where he co-hosts Stuff to Blow Your Mind with Julie Douglas. He has a love for monsters, an aversion to slugs and a hankering for electronic music.