Darvasa, aka the “Door to Hell” in Turkmenistan. (image via wiki commons)
In Dante’s Divine Comedy, he tells us that above the gates of Hell is written the phrase: “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” Hell is the final punishment for evildoers. The idea is that once you’re in Hell, there’s no hope for change or redemption, so you sink into despair. Hell is supposed to be the worst of all possible consequences. Hope, on the other hand, is supposed to be the thing that keeps you going even when times are tough. Many religious people hope for a pleasant afterlife for themselves and divine justice for all. Hope is one of the most powerful motivators, sustaining people through the worst of circumstances. But it’s precisely that kind of power that makes hope such a dangerous weapon in the hands of a villain, and why any Hell-on-Earth must include some modicum of hope.
Spoilers for The Dark Knight Rises and The Hunger Games below the jump.
Two weeks ago, Saika wrote a post about pop cultural interpretations of Paradise. This week, I want to explore our ideas of Hell. What I think is most interesting about Hell is not how many different interpretations of it exist, but the fact that most people don’t actually believe Hell exists. While some have good reason—the concept of universal reconciliation is a theologically nuanced doctrine that states that all are eventually reconciled with God in the end—many just plain don’t like the idea of Hell. Even if Christians today are more than happy to imagine an other-worldly life of eternal happiness, many don’t actually believe a place of eternal suffering and punishment is real. Why is this the case? Pop culture might have something to do with it.