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Well, after much thought, I arrived at the conclusion that hell doesn’t exist. I noticed that pretty much all religions tend to create a carrot-and-stick approach to motivating people. First they say, if you do virtuous things then you’ll go to a Good Place where Nice Things will happen. But if you do wicked things then you’ll go to a Bad Place where Unpleasant Things will happen. Then you define ‘virtuous’ and ‘wicked’ to be what you want, and you put the point where it happens sometime after death so that nobody can come back to dispute it. It just seems so contrived. If I was a priest and I was designing my own religion, this is what I’d tell people.
If you look at the history of the Christian Hell it is pretty clear that it is completely made up. It is hardly referenced in the bible, and if you track the concept through the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages in Europe, there are a succession of bishops, artists and writers who make a contribution to the ideas, which are gradually adopted until it becomes the cozy place we know today.
For pretty much the same reasons I do not believe in Buddhist concepts of Hell. It seems to owe a lot to older thinking, if you look at King Yama who came from the Hindu vedas. But just because it is old does not mean it is true, or makes sense. In the case of Buddhism it is strange that there seem to be these two different systems, one for good rebirths and poor rebirths in various realms, and another largely separate track for finding nirvana, almost as if one was bolted on to the other, the one based on virtue, the other on meditation. So I think the Buddha adopted some older, Vedic thinking and blended it with his own ideas.
It’s all skilful means...
Anyway that’s my 2c for this evening.