неделя, 12 февруари 2012 г.

Angels-TORMENT OF THE DAMNED

Part of the popular image of hell is that Satan’s hordes are employed in
the ongoing task of tormenting the damned in an atmosphere suggesting
that hell is not unlike a giant blast furnace. This item of folklore is
central to many jokes and cartoons involving hell’s residents. This
current belief, however, contrasts with the early Christian view in
which stern, righteous angels, rather than devils, were employed in
hell. Deceased sinners are also tortured by demons in Hindu and Buddhist
hell worlds in ways similar to the torments familiar in Western
tradition. A major difference between Eastern and Western views is
that Asian hell worlds are not final dwelling places. They are, rather,
more like purgatories in which sinful souls experience suffering for a
limited time. After their term is over, even the most evil people are
released to once again participate in the cycle of reincarnation.
The torment of the damned in Christianity—and later in Islam—
was anticipated by such gloomy afterlife abodes as the Jewish Sheol
and the Greek Hades. While the cultures of the ancient world from
which the modern West descends did not imagine human beings as
having an immortal soul, they believed that the dim and devitalized
“shade” or “ghost” of each individual continued to exist in a dull,
cheerless afterlife. These afterlives were pale shadows of earthly life,
making death a thing to be dreaded rather than anticipated as a happier
existence.
Many traditional cultures visualize the universe as a three-tiered
cosmos of heaven, earth, and underworld. Heaven is reserved for deities,
most of whom reside there; living human beings occupy the middle
world; and the spirits of the dead reside beneath the earth, a belief that
possibly is the result of the custom of burying corpses in the ground.
The notion of a heaven where the righteous reside after death
seems to be rooted in ancient Greek tales about heroes who were so
admired by the gods that they made them immortal. The gods inducted
these lucky few as citizens of heaven, rather than letting them suffer
the common fate of humanity in Hades after death. It is not difficult to
see how this basic notion might develop by the time of early, Hellenistic
Christianity into the idea that the souls of Christian dead are
immortalized in heaven, while the souls of non-Christians are condemned
to Hades. (Contemporaneous Jewish ideas of the afterlife clustered
around the notion of resurrection, rather than heaven and hell.)
It did not seem to be enough to simply condemn non-Christians—
and particularly active, persecuting enemies of Christianity—
to a bland, boring afterlife. Thus, the ancient underworld that was
originally the common fate of humanity became a realm of torture in
which unbelievers were tormented for eternity. The result was a bifurcated
afterlife that provided two realms: one in which the righteous
are rewarded and another in which the wicked are punished. The
basic schema of heaven for the believers and hell for unbelievers carried
over into Islamic concepts of the afterlife.

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