Naraka, Hades, Gehenna, Inferno. Hell’s names are legion as we try to make sense of the overpowering reality of evil. So, too, in its Western Christian incarnation, are its memorable features: “the quarrelling, devilish personalities, and the demonic cast of thousands…the horrid instruments of torture and the never-quenched fire,” as Marq de Villiers writes in his latest book, Hell and Damnation: A Sinner’s Guide to Eternal Torment.
Atheists might argue that such antiquated visions are well behind us, but evidence suggests otherwise. In a 2004 Gallup poll of Americans, for example, seventy percent of respondents said they believed God would punish sinners in the afterlife. Such statistics tell us much about the lingering power of hell as an idea. Because whatever specific punishments Gallup’s cast of believers had in mind, there’s a good chance many were inspired by the features de Villiers touches...
To read this article, you must buy the issue or have LRC Web Full-Text Access.
If you already have Web Full-Text Access to Literary Review of Canada content, please log in with one of the two options below.
If not, sign up today!
- Not already an LRC subscriber? Subscribe today, and be sure to select either the “DIGITAL” or “PRINT and DIGITAL” option. You’ll then be entitled to read this — and other magazine content from past and current issues — in full! (Note: Web Full-Text Access will take effect the following business day.)
- Already a subscriber to the LRC‘s Print edition, but haven’t yet signed up for Web Full-Text Access? Contact us and we’ll reply right away with instructions on how to upgrade your existing subscription.
Log In Option 1
Log In Option 2
* Subscribers who have chosen to receive both the LRC‘s print and digital editions can find their subscriber number in the address area of any recent printed copy cover, above their name; it is six digits long, immediately following “LRC.”