Hell is the alleged abode of Satan and his devilish minions. Those who offend a god with particular ‘sins’ in this life, are destined to spend an eternity of torment in that precinct after death. Hell has many names including Hades, Perdition, Gehenna, Tartarus and Scheol. Most religions recognise hell as a real place, threatening their flock, either subtly or blatantly to everlasting suffering for the transgression of proscribed rules.

Introduction to the hell concept is part of religious propaganda, with its promotion shortly after a child has accepted that there is a supernatural element to life. It is dependent on how the notion of a hell is taught to immature minds, as to the way the mature adult reacts to this type of message.

Unrelenting zealotry, teaching there is a realm composed of fire and brimstone controlled by fiendish creatures, can, unsurprisingly create havoc with young minds. Less emphasis on eternal suffering only diminishes the terror accompanying the idea of eternal pain, it does not remove it.

Children are very susceptible to ‘bogey man’ stories of all kinds and if they deem that adults also believe, such narratives take on a reality a child cannot dismiss as fantasy. The trauma created by this process is life-long, with the victim doing all within their power not to upset a god, understanding the consequences of doing so. The childhood shock of accepting as factual, demonic images and places fades with age. The newly formed neuronic pathways containing the information about hell remain, at the very least, as an underlying part of subliminal thought.

It is not known how many people are trapped within a religion because of the fear of a hell, as dishonesty to oneself and to others on this topic is understandable. To openly or even subconsciously admit to a dread of a hell demonstrates to others and a god, a profound weakness of faith. Far better to desperately pretend that the god who is responsible for this imagined place of after-life horror, is a deity who should be loved. Overtly professing love for the monster god harbours the hope that others will not recognise your inner fear of hell.

This distortion in thinking is obvious to a rational person. To love a god that would send another to a place of endless anguish is akin to pretend loving the school-yard bully to prevent personal abuse. Protestations that those going to hell do so as a matter of choice are nothing more than additional faulty logic. No human in sane control of their thought processes would send others to eternal punishment for any kind of crime. Nor would they stand idly by allowing it to happen without protest of some kind.

The induced fear of a hell is so great and so disruptive of normal thinking, that any method to escape becomes acceptable. Blind terror warps, twists and modifies accepted rational ethical considerations. A selfish mind-set is produced resulting from frantic longing for personal flight from perdition. Flawed decisions by individuals can and often are influenced by a saving-from-hell dogma instead of realistic analysis. The consequences of politicians making laws or granting funding whilst under the spell of hell-phobic-delusion are obvious.

The antidote to hell, so the faithful are told, is kowtowing to a particular religious formula. In essence, religions are self-renewing because of a ubiquitous teaching system with reliance on a method that is nothing short of mental child abuse.

Many people thus affected, when reading this, will feel that escaping these dreadful thoughts of hell, is not possible. Not true, and many Atheists will vouch for that. The first step is recognising the fear of hell is an emotional condition that has been implanted and not chosen. The fright can be countered by replacing it with a continual re-evaluation of human susceptibility to believe the unbelievable if the right buttons are pushed in the formative years. Following generations and planetary survival depend on this vital step being successfully achieved.

By David Nicholls