Chapter

The Decline of Hell

John Casey

in After Lives

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780195092950
Published online February 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199869732 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195092950.003.0009
The Decline of Hell

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The Dantean hell was ordered, even hierarchical. The hell of the Catholic Counter‐Reformation, as well as most Protestant versions of hell, gave up that order in the interests of the psychological drama of damnation, with millions of the damned crushed promiscuously together, with a revolting stench. The chapter examines some Jesuit versions of hell, including one whose fearsome picture of the eternal and unspeakable sufferings of the damned bears a remarkable resemblance to the sermons on hell in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man of James Joyce. It traces an English tradition of empirical speculation about the exact nature of hell, the composition of its fires, and where it might be located in the universe (in the sun, for instance), and the gradual rise in a sentiment hostile to the idea of everlasting punishment.

Keywords: Counter‐Reformation; Jesuit hells; crowding; stench; hell‐fires; solar hell

Chapter.  13627 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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