Graveyard Shift
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Every Interpretation Of Hell We Could Find, Ranked By How Little You’d Like To Be There

Updated November 15, 2019 1.5k votes 328 voters 14.2k views15 items

List RulesVote up the least appealing ways to spend eternity.

The unfortunate fact of life is that everyone will eventually meet their end. What happens next is a matter of personal belief. Both modern and defunct religions have their own take on hell, and while most interpretations of the afterlife are as ruthless as any horror film, there are a few versions of hell that are downright placid. 

Throughout history, humans have told tales and painted images of many different versions of hell. There’s the peaceful, meditative afterlife of the Celtic religion, as well as the boiling, blood-filled hereafter of the Mayans. People may not get to pick where they go after they expire, but you get to vote on which interpretation of hell you’d rather not spend eternity in. 

  • 5

    Diyu Is An Underground Maze Full Of Inhumane Punishment

    The Belief System: Buddhism

    The Hell: In this version of hell, souls are meant to work their way through multiple levels and mazes in order to atone for their sins, as well as learn lessons they can take into the next life. Some lore divides the afterworld into east and west sections, with chambers designated for all manner of ironic punishment.

    The Worst Part: This really depends on what someone's been doing with their time on Earth. Each level of Diyu corresponds to a different sin, so if someone was prone to gossip, they'll have their tongue torn out, if they committed infidelity, they'll have their fingers chopped off with scissors. Arsonists are tied to pillars of burning copper. As bad as those fates sound, the absolute worst has to be the mountain made of knives that is reserved for anyone who slays for pleasure. The sinners have to climb it.

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  • 6

    Sheol Is A Bleak Netherworld Where Everyone (Good And Bad) Goes After They Expire

    Photo: Joseph Ferdinand Keppler / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Belief System: Judaism

    The Hell: Sheol is a shadowy netherworld described as a pit where people go when they pass away. Disconnected from God, the lifeless become shadows of themselves. The books of Ecclesiastes and Job suggest that everyone ends up in Sheol, whether they are good or bad.

    The Worst Part: While there's no major demonic figure that reigns over Sheol, the worst part of this version of hell is the shadow that people become. There's no hope of a release. Instead, a soul can only hope to fade away until it forgets who it was in life.

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  • 7

    Ancient Mayans Had To Work To Get To Xibalba

    Photo: Sandro Botticelli / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Belief System: Mayan

    The Hell: The Mayans' Xibalba contains multiple levels of pain, deities, rules, and traps, that are just waiting to wipe out a newly arrived soul. The name of this hell is translated to mean "place of fear or fright" because of the vicious trials that each soul faces in order to simply exist. Just to get to Xibalba, a soul has to cross a river filled with scorpions, another river filled with blood, and a final river filled with pus. 

    The Worst Part: If the travel to Xibalba sounds bad, being in Xibalba is even worse. The Mayan underworld is filled with cruel gods who exist only to demean their subjects. These gods, known as the Lords of Xibalba, go out of their way to spring traps and tests on unsuspecting souls. Anyone who fails is wiped out of existence, and the tests are impossible to pass. One involves making it through a house filled with jaguars; another entails simply asking someone to avoid spinning razors. 

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  • 8

    Dante's Inferno Is Nine Levels Of Hell

    Photo: Gustave Doré / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Belief System: Christianity

    The Hell: The hell envisioned by poet Dante Alighieri is more detailed and complex than traditional Catholic depictions. As described in Dante's Inferno, the underworld is a multilayered kingdom full of different punishments for different offenses. This hell has everything from a limbo for pagans and the unbaptized that's essentially a lesser heaven, to an area where heretics have to inter themselves in flaming grave plots. This is one of the more ironic hells.

    The Worst Part: There's a level in Dante's Inferno for every kind of sin, and the further down one travels, the worse things get. For instance, the deepest circle of hell is reserved for the sin of treachery. This is where sinners like Cain are trapped in ice. The very worst punishment is reserved for the three greatest betrayers in history: Judas Iscariot and the Romans Brutus and Cassius. The three are endlessly chewed upon by the three jaws of Lucifer.

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