Ch1 L41: Beliefs – part XV (Hell)

  1. The concept of the afterlife has been most probably the first and strongest mental painkiller [1]. For those who struggle with mortality, believing [2] in the afterlife is quite a relief. Death wouldn’t be the end but the transition to another life [3]. Thus the problem seems to have been resolved.
  2. Though Karl Marx [4] had intended to attack the institutional religions by saying “religion is the opium of the people.” [5], the barebones of his saying reflect this fact that the concept of afterlife and God [6] have had the hallucinating effect on the believers, so they’d feel protected thus less stressed.
  3. Since the 3rd post [7], we’ve discussed the role of fear in our lives in different situations. Fear is the alert system which tells us if we’re in danger or not, the alarm warns the brain to release some energy which we called anger [8] to deal with the danger.
  4. Depending on the stress level, you might not be able to think about other things, because dealing with the current problem is the priority. That’s why stress lowers performance [9]. So, imagine that there’s no fear of dying. Then you can use your energy to plan and develop other things.
  5. Besides, you can sacrifice your life for society (the shared beliefs and values). In several posts, we studied how humankind thought that sacrificing another human being could solve their problems [10]; the problem was how to convince someone to be sacrificed. Now, people would do it more willingly knowing that they’d live again.
  6. The word assassin comes from The Persian word “Hashashin” [11] which refers to a cult in Iran circa the 11th and 12th century who ate hashish (hash), then they assassinated the political figures of the time. Vladimir Bartol [12] in “Alamut” [13] said that when they’re hallucinating, they were shown beautiful girls and brainwashed that this was heaven and you’d get there by following the orders. After the assassin was done with the mission (either successfully or not), in order to protect the information [14], they had to chew a cyanide capsule they’d carried; and they died believing that they’d go to heaven.
  7. However, believing in another life is a double-edged sword. Because first of all, it killed morality. To form a society, we need to ensure people that living together is safer than living individually. To make it happen the first necessary condition is that we shouldn’t hurt each other, or we shouldn’t push each other towards Death, directly or indirectly, gradually or instantly. This is the essence of morality and the common denominator of all the codes [15].
  8. The ultimate punishment which would rather enforce safety in society was execution. So, people had to harness their selfishness to live. I could also argue that the execution weeded out most of the hot-tempered and let the more law-abiding survive and populate. Now imagine that people weren’t afraid of dying, so everything would be permitted.
  9. This situation is well-portrayed in Breaking Bad [16]. An overqualified and intelligent chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with cancer, starts to cook methamphetamine since he doesn’t have enough money to cover the treatment. Through a very dramatic series of events, he becomes the biggest and most dangerous drug dealer in the States.
  1. So there’s one explanation for Walter White’s [17] metamorphosis to a monster. He wasn’t afraid of Death any longer. What could happen if he got arrested? He’d go to jail or ultimately get executed which would happen sooner or later.
  2. To fix this bug, they had to invent hell: the place where sinners would stay eternally [18] and be punished for their sins forever [19]. That’s how the fear of hell replaced the fear of dying.
  3. Secondly, defining suicide as a sin was an attempt to close that door. Imagine that you felt miserable and believed you could have a better life after Death. Why would you keep suffering? Therefore, committing suicide is a threat for society because it loses its members. So, the reaction would be promising the eternal suffering and torture as the punishment for suicide.
  4. To wrap up this post, I’d like to argue against what Fyodor Dostoevsky [20] has stated in his masterpiece “The Brothers Karamazov” [21] that “If God doesn’t exist, everything is permitted”. I’d say the idea of afterlife killed morality and replaced it with the scarecrow of hell. So, religion is nothing but the usurper of morality. The sentence should be “if the fear of Death doesn’t exist, everything is permitted.”


[1] We discussed it in the last post. Here’s the link if you’re interested.

[2] The title of this post tells that we’ve been investigating belief and its power. Here’s the link to the first post of this series.

[3]From the buddhist point of view: another life on the earth; and the cycles continue until you reach Nirvana. Link

[4] Link to the Wiki page about Karl Marx

[5] Link

[6] We will discuss the marriage of afterlife and God and the hallucinating effect of his presence in the next post. As I said before, this is just one story of the evolution of religions and we stick to the Abrahamic religions.

[7] Link to the 3rd post

[8] Link to the 4th post about anger

[9] Stress can lower the performance in two ways: firstly, If you’re dealing with a stressor, you’ll be spending energy on it. Therefore, your confidence in dealing with other problems will decrease, because confidence depends on the evaluation of our energy and skills [Link]. Secondly, if the stress level is very high, your brain neocortex will be paused to send more energy to the other organ. Though this evolutionary reaction was useful for millions of years, running away from a tiger, now it’s our Achilles’ heel when we’re required to think to solve a problem but under high pressure, it stops.

[10] The starting post about sacrifice was the 33rd post. Link

[11] Link

[12] Link

[13] The title of the novel Alamut [Link] refers to the castle in the Alamut region [Link] where Hassan As-Sabbah [Link] and his followers (Hashashin) resided.

[14] They also knew that someone would be sent to kill them in jail.

[15] The reason that we have specific codes for different situations is people needed to be instructed to do the right things.

[16] Link

[17] Walter White is the protagonist of “Breaking Bad” [Link]

[18] The concept of eternity is the inseparable part of the notion of the afterlife. Because if there’s an end to our life/lives, then it means that we’ll eventually die. So, the problem of Death wouldn’t be resolved.

[19] One of the most shocking news that I’ve read was denouncing Hell by Pope Francis [Link]: “They are not punished. Those who repent obtain God’s forgiveness and take their place among the ranks of those who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot be forgiven disappear. A hell doesn’t exist, the disappearance of sinning souls exists.” [Link] Afterwards, Vatican tried to deny and distance from the news [Link].

[20] Link

[21] Link

The featured image is Hell by Hieronymus Bosch [Link] and its taken from the following website: Link


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