Seven Hells: An Incomplete Survey of the Afterlife

Charon Caronte Fresco by Pedro Roviale (SuperStock/Getty)

You might well wonder why a merciful God wouldn't simply destroy a soul rather than plop it in some vile realm of torture, hate and madness? In asking such a question, you've wandered right into Annihilationism, the Christian theological notion that souls are not inherently immortal. This leaves God the freedom to grant immortality to the saved souls and to simply punch "delete" on all the rest.

So in this, Hell is either a process by which a human soul is destroyed or the instantaneous act of destroying it. It's rather the opposite of a universalist's temporary Hell, but still far more merciful than the old everlasting fire model.

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.