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Abode of evildoers after death, or the state of existence of souls damned to punishment after death. Most ancient religions included the concept of a place that divided the good from the evil or the living from the dead (e.g., the gloomy subterranean realm of Hades in Greek religion, or the cold and dark underworld of Nilfheim or Hel in Norse mythology). The view that hell is the final dwelling place of the damned after a last judgment is held by Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Jewish concept of Gehenna as an infernal region of punishment for the wicked was the basis for the Christian vision of hell as the fiery domain of Satan and his evil angels and a place of punishment for those who die without repenting of their sins. In Hinduism hell is only one stage in the career of the soul as it passes through the phases of reincarnation. The schools of Buddhism have varying conceptions of hell, usually entailing some kind of punishment or purgatory. In Jainism, hell is a purgatory in which sinners are tormented by demons until the evil of their lives has been exhausted.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on hell, visit Britannica.com.