Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Let's Discuss Hell

Time to get deep here at My Friend Amy. Because if you can't talk with your friends about this stuff, who can you talk with?

As you may know, I've been obsessing over watching Supernatural. And it's made me think about hell a lot. Probably because the characters regularly seem to go there or send monsters there or open its gates, or... (Plus I read The Sinful Life of Lucy Burns and saw Drag Me to Hell recently so it's all fresh on my mind!)

And it's made me wonder about how people conceptualize hell.

Jean Paul Sartre said, "Hell is other people." There are time when I'm inclined to agree with him, (joking!) but I think it's actually the opposite.

Now you may not and likely don't believe in a literal place called hell. But perhaps you do have an idea of what you think the very worst thing in all of the world is, or we wouldn't have such expressions as "it felt like hell." or "You put me through hell." Or "I went to hell and back."

For the record, I do believe in a literal hell. And I think it's defining characteristic is loneliness. So to me that is hell...a place where yes you experience the worst torture ever...the torture of being alone and cut off from relationships...with God and with other people because I believe these relationships give us life.

But how do you see hell? Whether literal or not, what would constitute calling something hell for you? When you think of hell what do you think of? Have you seen any interesting portrayals of hell in literature or in film? When you saw this post title did you think I was going to proselytize? ;)

Just a little cheery conversation on these hellishly hot summer days!



Brooke from The Bluestocking Guide said...

I do believe in a literal hell, but I think that it will be experienced after death. I think it will be hot and I think it will be isolated. I've often heard people say "my friends will be in hell" like it's some unpleasant trip they will all share. I don't think anyone will be comforted by the presence of the friends.

How have you been? Haven't seen you in a while.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Maybe getting this hell thing out in the open will lift you from your malaise! I believe in hell, but I think every person would have a different definition. Hell for me would be isolation from people and society. No Internet. No books or music. No wine. With that in mind, I try to stay on the straight and narrow and be a good girl!

Fyrefly said...

Interesting post! I've always thought that if there is an afterlife (which I'm not sold on), then it's going to be of our own creation - that is, people are going to get what they expect. If people are expecting pearly gates and angels with harps and what not, that's what they'll find; if they're expecting fire and torment, or eternal loneliness, that's what they'll get. Daniel Quinn's A Newcomer's Guide to the Afterlife is an interesting look at a variant of this idea, that the afterlife is more or less what you make of it.

It's like that old joke where some newly-dead guy is getting a tour of heaven, and he keeps passing room after room of raucous parties and good times, and each is a different religion/denomination, and then the angel/tour guide tells him to be quiet as they tiptoe past a room of people sitting very prim and properly and morally upright, and the guy asks why, and is told "We have to be quiet around __________(insert denomination of choice); they think they're the only ones here."

Miss Remmers said...

I love Supernatural - btw! It stinks because I don't have cable so I have to wait a year for the DVDs to come out - but at least I don't have to deal with commercials, wait time, and I can subtitles. :)

As a Catholic, I was brought up to believe in both hell (as a literal place, much like heaven) and purgatory. As an adult, my views have changed and I've become, what I like to call, a "liberal Catholic." I still attend Mass every weekend as a Catholic - and I'd never think about converting. But I do not believe in hell, at all. Or purgatory for that matter. But that's just me!

Great post - interesting topic! But the real question is - Sam or Dean?

ANovelMenagerie said...

I don't know where it is, what it is is, or how it is. I just know that I don't want to go there NO MATTER WHAT! I'm glad that I'm a Christian...

Jen said...

Hmmm...interesting question. I guess I believe that we take with us our thoughts and feelings to our after life where ever it may be. So, if you are full of love, joy, peace and forgiveness, that is what you take with you. On the other hand, if you are full of hate, fear, resentment, anger, etc... that is what you take with you. So, I guess I don't believe in a literal hell in the physical sense (fire and brimstone--what is brimstone anyway) but I do believe that someone could end up in a spiritual hell if that is what they choose for themselves.

Great question, Amy!!

Pam said...

Like you I also do not believe in a literal hell. I do believe people can make their own personal hell by their decisions. If you are in a very bad situation you are the only one who can really change it. It may take even more 'hell' to do that but in the end it is only you who can, for a lack of a better term, and because I love Supernatural also, pull yourself out of hell. There is no Cass or other Angel to do it for you!

Care said...

It's always quite exciting to visit your blog! I envision, no - that's not the right word... I imagine? hell as a void, a nothingness.

Debbie F said...

I believe in hell. But I think the hell a person experiences will be the one thing that that person is most afraid of. For example, if you are afraid of heights, your hell might be standing on a ledge of a 200 story building for eternity. Or if your afraid of snakes, your hell would be tied to the ground with snakes sliding all over you, forever.


J.T. Oldfield said...

O.K., that picture of the fire totally freaks me out. It looks like a smiley face with an arched eyebrow.

If you don't have cable, you can watch Supernatural online. I watch all of my shows that way. They're usually posted on the CW website 24 hours to a week later (most other channel websites get their shows on the next day, but for some reason the CW seems to take longer)

Anonymous said...

Interesting question. And more intresting is how differently each commenter perceives hell.

To me, hell means literally a "grave," a burying ground. I'm Christian but in the case of hell I believe the same as what Jews believe. The tormenting fire was fictionalized and popularized by Dante in his book, Inferno. The Catholic church promoted the idea, but hell has never been understood that way before then, and the idea spilled over into Protestantism and that has been the Christian idea ever since. I believed the same for many years, until I learned that in the bible death is "nothingness." (It is all over Psalms and Ecclesiastes.)

But because I'm Christian (and not Jew), I believe the New Testament as well. But the lake of fire and brimstone mentioned in Revelation is at the last judgment, and only the immortals (fallen angels) will burn forever. The mortals will die and become nothing.

I hope my answer isn't the strangest here. :D

Adele said...

I love Supernatural and adored drag me to hell. I do not follow any faith and do not believe in an afterlife. My hell is very simply seeing people i care about suffer in life, being as how I think this life is all we have.

Nicole said...

I agree with those who say we each make our own hell.

No other person or being can create a hell worse than what our own minds can conjure up for us.

Sort of the same concept used by masters of horror -- show as little as possible, and the audience's own imaginations will scare them worse than you ever could. Or even the old adage, "you are your own worst critic."

JIMMY: (without taking his eyes off the prisoner tied to a chair) Hey Gary, bring me a mouse trap, some piano wire, and a bottle of vinegar. It's time for this canary to sing.

GARY: Sure, boss.

PRISONER: (wild-eyed) What? Wha--no. No. I'll talk. I'll tell you everything, I swear.

GARY: (later whispers) What were you gonna do with the mouse trap, piano wire, and vinegar?

JIMMY: (shrug) I'unno.

I don't believe in hell as a metaphysical afterlife, but I do believe the human mind is capable of stretching out those last moments of life and create a seeming eternity of untold torment...

Ariel said...

I believe in literal hell, if not the general interpretation of it, because I'm Jewish. And yes, we do believe in a version of hell (which is probably more like the Christian purgatory) where people suffer for their sins until they've repented enough and hurt enough. Then everyone hangs out in heaven.

But that aside - Judiasm isn't very clear about exactly what hell entails, but I agree with you, Amy, because in my mind it's greater pain than I can or want to imagine. And the only thing worse than suffering is suffering alone.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe in hell. Or heaven. Or even an afterlife. I'm one of those boring people that believes when you die, that's it, end of story. Which I'm sure would be some people's vision of hell.

Hell on earth? Some sort of natural disaster that completely reshaped our world/society.

Julie J. said...

I do believe that hell exists in all it's firey fury. I had a dying patient one time telling me that she was going to hell. I asked her how she knew this. She told me that her feet were burning and she wanted me to uncover them. Once I uncovered them, she asked for cool rags on her feet and legs. I complied and needless to say, she ended up in a bathtub of ice before breathing her last. It was the most traumatic death I ever witnessed first hand (and I've seen a lot in my nursing career). I did everything I could to keep this woman comfortable in death even though she herself said that she was deserving of this torment. I will never, as long as I live, forget this woman.

Unknown said...

Remember how in The Lovely Bones everyone's Heaven was different? It was what each person dreamed of, suited to fit them. Harps and angels? You and Grandpa dancing to Frank Sinatra? I believe Hell is custom-fitted to each of us as well. Fire and brimstone?Solitary confinement? You and your mother-in-law('cause let's face it, that's where mine is headed) stuck on an island with nothing to eat but oatmeal? What is your idea of hell? Well, that's what it is.

Jenny Girl said...

Good question! I do believe in Hell because I can't believe that the evil people in this world go unpunished for their deeds. Even if you make a sick bed confession and beg for forgiveness, I feel God or whatever higher power there is, still metes out a punishment.

I guess that's my way of rationalizing people's behavior but that is what works for me. As far as what Hell is, I've come to believe it is actually coming back to this world and trying to prove your worthy for eternal happiness. I don't believe in Dante's hell, but maybe for some that works.

I have pretty much mish mashed several religions together for my own belief system. It works for me. I just try to be as good, just, and kind as I can be to everyone I meet.

Unknown said...

I do believe in hell but I also struggle with a clear and precise definition of it. I know many people look at me weird when I express my thoughts about God being simultaneously loving and just, sending souls to this horrible place. I believe however in my grandfather's saying that God is not hasty but He is just. So we all have time, until the very last minute of our lives. Due to my Catholic upbringing, I also believe in purgatory, I think it is a great example of how sometimes we can still correct our mistakes even after death and that only truly evil people end up in hell.

Memory said...

My Hell would be inside a cold, glass-walled submarine at the bottom of the ocean. It's damp and freezing and the water's so dark that you can barely see through it, but you know there's something out there. Something that's coming for you, assuming your oxygen doesn't run out first.

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