Seven Hells: An Incomplete Survey of the Afterlife

Literal Hell
The Damned in Hell by Luca Signorelli. (©Corbis)

This is a great place to begin because it lines up with the pop-cultural, Western notion of Hell. We're talking never-ending physical and psychological torture in a world of flesh and fire. Demons will probably attend to your every torment and no matter how much you repent your evil life, there's absolutely no escape.

Like many versions of Hell, this one creates plot holes. If God is just and fair, then why would he/she create a place like this to begin with? Or, failing that, why would he/she allow it to exist?

You can also really go down the rabbit hole about the transitional nature of a given individual. Are you punishing old-man me? Little-boy me? I've been both of them, right? After awhile, aren't you just punishing the person I'm reduced to after extended torture?

Hey, at least it makes for great art.

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.