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Heaven and Hell

Edited by K. Mitch Hodge (Amarillo College, Masaryk University, Academia.edu)
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Summary

Although the English words “heaven” and “hell” are used to describe similar ideas in numerous religions and various philosophies, in philosophy of religion, they usually refer to eternal post-mortem spiritual realms in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic theological traditions.  Heaven is a permanent, eternal divine reward reserved for those who lived (in their Earthly life) morally upright, whereas Hell is a permanent, eternal divine punishment for those who have committed moral transgressions (commonly called “sins”) and have remained unrepentant.  In Catholic theology, a third spiritual realm is added called Purgatory in which the souls of those who have committed some (perhaps minor) moral transgressions can be purged of sins for some period of time and then allowed to join the blessed in Heaven.  It is often held that a soul with any amount of sin cannot be rewarded with a heavenly existence, since this existence is believed to be in the immediacy of God’s presence.  It is generally believed that any repentant soul can be completely forgiven by God; thus, no matter the moral transgression, if one were to repent prior to their death, she would be rewarded by being allowed to enter Heaven.  Heaven and Hell in these traditions are parts of philosophical/theological theodicies which aid in addressing the problem of evil.

Numerous philosophical problems arise from the doctrines of Heaven and Hell.  First, is it just for a divine being to punish infinitely (i.e., eternally) an individual for a finite sin?  Second, when coupled with the St. Paul’s doctrine of the resurrection of the body, how is the reward or punishment meted out to the actual individual rather than a replica (see the entry on resurrection concerning the replica problem)?  Third, would it really be just for someone who (most would believe) was an “evil” person (e.g., Hitler, Ted Bundy) to go to Heaven simply if they chose to repent immediately prior to their death? Fourth, is it just for a divine being to eternally punish an individual for a sin he was unaware he committed (for instance, a Buddhist who never believed in, or heard of, Jesus, which is required in Christianity)?  Along with these, many other problems concerning the Heaven and Hell have been discussed in theological and philosophical literature.

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  1. Marilyn McCord Adams (1975). Hell and the God of Justice. Religious Studies 11 (4):433 - 447.
    Christians have often held that on the day of judgment God will condemn some persons who have disobeyed him to a hell of everlasting torment and total unhappiness from which there is no hope of escape, as a punishment for their deeds up to that time. This is not the only way that hell has been or could be conceived of, but it has been the predominant conception in the Christian church throughout much of its history and it is the (...)
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  2. Marilyn McCord Adams (1971). Universal Salvation: A Reply to Mr. Bettis. Religious Studies 7 (3):245 - 249.
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  3. Marilyn Mccord Adams (1971). Universal Salvation: A Reply to Mr Bettis: Marilyn McCord Adams. Religious Studies 7 (3):245-249.
    In his article ‘A Critique of the Doctrine of Universal Salvation’, J. D. Bettis criticises the argument that all men will be saved because ‘God's love is both absolutely good and absolutely sovereign’ . I would like to argue that either some of Bettis's criticisms are confused, or else that he is not using ‘love’ in anything like its ordinary sense. I will not attempt a full defence of universalism here, however. In particular, I will not try to defend it (...)
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  4. Scott Aikin & Jason Aleksander (2014). All Philosophers Go to Hell: Dante and the Problem of Infernal Punishment. Sophia 53 (1):19-31.
    We discuss the philosophical problems attendant to the justice of eternal punishments in Hell, particularly those portrayed in Dante’s Inferno. We conclude that, under Dante’s description, a unique version of the problem of Hell (and Heaven) can be posed.
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  5. Najwa Al-Tabaa (2012). Hell Can Be Good for You. In Tracy Lyn Bealer, Rachel Luria & Wayne Yuen (eds.), Neil Gaiman and Philosophy: Gods Gone Wild! Open Court
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  6. Christoph J. Amor (2012). Streitfall Hölle. Zur Neueren Problem of Hell-Debatte. Freiburger Zeitschrift für Philosophie Und Theologie 59 (1).
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  7. Carl Bradley Becker (1981). Survival: Death and Afterlife in Christianity, Buddhism, and Modern Science. Dissertation, University of Hawai'i
    Survival is the theory that some significant part of man continues after the death of his physical body. This dissertation studies philosophical argumentation of Christians and Buddhists, and analyzes the latest available empirical data, to determine which if any forms of survival are most probable. ;Part I finds insuperable difficulties in the purely materialistic resurrection theory, and in survival of disembodied minds as pure process. To make sense, resurrection must postulate either invisible bodies as conscious carriers of personal identity, or (...)
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  8. Ophelia Benson (2014). A Special Place in Hell. The Philosophers' Magazine 65:18-19.
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  9. K. Vijay Bhuvanbhanusuri & Ramappa (1989). The Essentials of Bhagavåan Mahåavåir's Philosophy Gaòndharavåada : A Treatise on the Question and Answers Between Eleven Brahim Scholars and Mahåavåir Bhagavåan Relating to the Soul, Karmas, Panch Bhuta, Heaven, Hell, and Salvation. Monograph Collection (Matt - Pseudo).
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  10. Vijay Bhuvanbhanusuri (1989). The Essentials of Bhagavān Mahāvīr's Philosophy: Gaṇdharavāda: A Treatise on the Question and Answers Between Eleven Brahim Scholars and Mahāvīr Bhagavān Relating to the Soul, Karmas, Panch Bhuta, Heaven, Hell, and Salvation. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers.
  11. G. Blandino (1991). A Hypothesis on the Eternity of Hell. Miscellanea Francescana 91 (1-2):226-231.
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  12. James T. Bradley (2007). Odysseans of the Twenty-First Century. Zygon 42 (4):999-1008.
    In his book Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies—and What It Means to Be Human (2005), author-journalist Joel Garreau identifies four technologies whose synergistic activity may transform humankind into a state transcending present human nature: genetic, robotic, information, and nano (GRIN) technologies. If the GRIN technologies follow Moore's Law, as information technology has done for the past four decades, Homo sapiens and human society may be unimaginably different before the middle of this century. But (...)
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  13. Raymond D. Bradley (2015). Can God Condemn One to an Afterlife in Hell? In Keith Augustine & Michael Martin (eds.), The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life After Death. Rowman & Littlefield 441-471.
    This paper argues that God is not logically able to condemn a person to Hell by considering what is entailed by accepting the best argument to the contrary, the so-called free will defense expounded by Christian apologists Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig. It argues that the free will defense is logically fallacious, involves a philosophical fiction, and is based on a fraudulent account of Scripture, concluding that the problem of postmortem evil puts would-be believers in a logical and moral (...)
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  14. Charles A. Brady (1949). Many Dimensions, All Hallows' Eve, and Descent Into Hell. By Charles Williams. Renascence 2 (1):61-65.
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  15. W. Brown (1941). The Rigvedic Equivalent for Hell. Journal of the American Oriental Society 61 (2):76-80.
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  16. Andrei A. Buckareff & Allen Plug (2015). Escaping Hell but Not Heaven. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 77 (3):247-253.
    Benjamin Matheson has recently critiqued the escapist account of hell that we have defended. In this paper we respond to Matheson. Building on some of our work in defense of escapism that Matheson does not discuss we show that the threat posed by Matheson’s critique is chimerical. We begin by summarizing our escapist theory of hell. Next, we summarize both Matheson’s central thesis and the main arguments offered in its defense. We then respond to those arguments.
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  17. Andrei A. Buckareff & Allen Plug (2013). Hell and the Problem of Evil. In Justin McBrayer & Daniel Howard-Snyder (eds.), Companion to the Problem of Evil. Wiley-Blackwell 128-143.
    The case is discussed for the doctrine of hell as posing a unique problem of evil for adherents to the Abrahamic religions who endorse traditional theism. The problem is particularly acute for those who accept retributivist formulations of the doctrine of hell according to which hell is everlasting punishment for failing to satisfy some requirement. Alternatives to retributivism are discussed, including the unique difficulties that each one faces.
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  18. Andrei A. Buckareff & Allen Plug (2005). Escaping Hell: Divine Motivation and the Problem of Hell. Religious Studies 41 (1):39-54.
    We argue that it is most rational for God, given God's character and policies, to adopt an open-door policy towards those in hell – making it possible for those in hell to escape. We argue that such a policy towards the residents of hell should issue from God's character and motivational states. In particular, God's parental love ought to motivate God to extend the provision for reconciliation with Him for an infinite amount of time.
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  19. Andrei Buckareff & Allen Plug (2009). Escapism, Religious Luck, and Divine Reasons for Action. Religious Studies 45 (1):63-72.
    In our paper, ‘Escaping hell: divine motivation and the problem of hell’, we defended a theory of hell that we called ‘escapism’. We argued that given God’s just and loving character it would be most rational for God to maintain an open door policy to those who are in hell, allowing them an unlimited number of chances to be reconciled with God and enjoy communion with God. In this paper we reply to two recent objections to our original paper. The (...)
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  20. Guillaume Budâe, Marie-Madeleine de la Garanderie & Daniel Franklin Penham (1993). Le Passage de l'Hell'enisme au Christianisme = de Transitu Hellenismi Ad Christianismum.
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  21. Joel Buenting (ed.) (2010). The Problem of Hell. Ashgate.
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  22. James Cain (2010). Why I Am Unconvinced by Arguments Against the Existence of Hell. In Joel Buenting (ed.), The Problem of Hell: A Philosophical Anthology. Ashgate Publishing 133-44.
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  23. James Cain (2002). On the Problem of Hell. Religious Studies 38 (3):355-362.
    There is a conception of hell that holds that God punishes some people in a way that brings about endless suffering and unhappiness. An objection to this view holds that such punishment could not be just since it punishes finite sins with infinite suffering. In answer to this objection, it is shown that endless suffering, even intense suffering, is consistent with the suffering being finite. Another objection holds that such punishment is contrary to God's love. A possible response to this (...)
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  24. Albert Camus & Ronald E. Santoni (1988). After Hiroshima—Between Hell and Reason. Philosophy Today 32 (1):77-78.
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  25. Eyal Chowers (1998). Time in Zionism: The Life and Afterlife of a Temporal Revolution. Political Theory 26 (5):652-685.
  26. Kelly James Clark (2001). God is Great, God is Good: Medieval Conceptions of Divine Goodness and the Problem of Hell. Religious Studies 37 (1):15-31.
    Medieval views of both divine goodness and the doctrine of hell are examined and shown to be incompatible with our best understandings of goodness. The only manner in which God could be good to those in hell – by permitting their continued existence – is not sufficient to outweigh ‘the dreadful pains of eternal fire’. One might claim that God is good to them in the retributive sense; but I argue that retributive punishment is inadequate justification of eternal torment. The (...)
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  27. Joseph Corabi (2011). Eschatological Cutoffs. Faith and Philosophy 28 (4):385-396.
    Recently, there have been a number of responses to Ted Sider’s argument in “Hell and Vagueness,” which challenges the consistency of a popular view of hell with God’s justice. After presenting an interpretation of the original argument, I critically examine the reply to it by Trent Dougherty and Ted Poston. I conclude that we should be suspicious of the success of their overall approach, both because it requires the truth of controversial metaphysical theses and because it does not ultimately address (...)
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  28. Oliver Crisp (2003). Augustinian Universalism. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 53 (3):127-145.
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  29. Oliver D. Crisp (2003). Divine Retribution: A Defence. Sophia 42 (2):35-52.
    The concept of divine justice has been the subject of considerable scrutiny in recent philosophical theology, as it bears upon the notion of punishment with respect to the doctrine of eternal damnation. In this essay, I set out a version of the traditional retributive view of divine punishment and defend it against one of the most important and influential contemporary detractors from this position, Thomas Talbott. I will show that, contrary to Talbott’s argument, punishment may satisfy divine justice, and that (...)
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  30. Cecile K. M. Crutzen (2005). Intelligent Ambience Between Heaven and Hell: A Salvation? Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society 3 (4):219-232.
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  31. Stephen T. Davis (ed.) (1989). Death and Afterlife. St. Martin's Press.
  32. Ataa Denkha (2012). Nerina Rustomji, The Garden and the Fire, Heaven and Hell in Islamic Culture. Revue des Sciences Religieuses 86:534-535.
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  33. George F. Dole (2001). Freedom & Evil: A Pilgrim's Guide to Hell. Chrysalis Books.
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  34. A. R. E. (1965). The Decline of Hell. [REVIEW] Review of Metaphysics 18 (3):594-594.
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  35. Chris Edwards (2010). Faith and the Law - Is Hell Illegal? The Implications of the Warren Jeffs Decision. Free Inquiry 30:52-53.
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  36. William Franke (1999). Passage Through Hell: Modernist Descents, Medieval Underworlds. [REVIEW] Speculum 74 (3):808-811.
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  37. James Goetz (2012). Conditional Futurism: New Perspective of End-Time Prophecy. Resource Publications, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers.
    Conditional Futurism introduces a new perspective of end-time theology (eschatology). The book holds to Christian futurism while integrating the Apocalypse of John with the conditional dynamics of prophecy taught in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and various other books throughout the Old Testament. The new paradigm concludes that the final antichrist (also known as the man of lawlessness, the beast, and the eighth king) may read the apocalyptic prophecy of his doom while deciding instead to repent of evil and turn to the (...)
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  38. David L. Guevara (2003). Hell, Belief, and Justice. Dissertation, The University of Utah
    In the contemporary philosophy of religion literature there has been a resurgence of interest in the Christian doctrine of hell. The principal issue of attention concerns whether the doctrine can be formulated in such a way as to render it less susceptible to the following two criticisms: The doctrine of hell is immoral. The doctrine of hell is inconsistent with the putative nature of God. Hence, three types of defenses of the doctrine of hell are offered in the contemporary philosophy (...)
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  39. Gary R. Habermas, Review: Life After Death: A Study of the Afterlife in World Religions. [REVIEW]
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  40. Lindsey Hall (2004). Swinburne's Hell and Hick's Universalism. Ars Disputandi 4:1566-5399.
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  41. Ronald L. Hall (1989). Hell, is This Really Necessary? International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 25 (2):109 - 116.
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  42. Nicole Hassoun (forthcoming). Eternally Separated Lovers: The Argument From Love. Australasian Journal of Philosophy:1-11.
    A message scribbled irreverently on the mediaeval walls of the Nonberg cloister says this: ‘Neither of us can go to heaven unless the other gets in.’ It suggests an argument against the view that those who love people who suffer in hell can be perfectly happy, or even free from all suffering, in heaven. This paper considers the challenge posed by this thought to the coherence of the traditional Christian doctrine on which there are some people in hell who are (...)
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  43. Martin Henry (2015). Does Hell Still Have a Future? Heythrop Journal 56 (1):120-135.
    The vexed and ever-controversial question of hell and the possibility of its final realization is the subject matter of this article. The current fading of belief, or at least serious interest, in this traditional aspect of Christian teaching is the starting-point for a brief historical survey of the meaning of the term in general and its meaning within Christianity in particular. The article argues for a retention of the doctrine, albeit shorn of some of its more flamboyant, traditional attributes, as (...)
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  44. Martin Hollis (1987). Puzzles & Posers: Hell Of A Gamble. Cogito 1 (3):28-28.
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  45. Daniel Howard-Snyder (2003). In Defense of Naïve Universalism. Faith and Philosophy 20 (3):345-363.
    Michael J. Murray defends the traditional doctrine of hell by arguing directly against its chief competitor, universalism. Universalism, says Murray, comes in “naïve” and “sophisticated” forms. Murray poses two arguments against naïve universalism before focusing on sophisticated universalism, which is his real target. He proceeds in this fashion because he thinks that his arguments against sophisticated universalism are more easily motivated against naïve universalism, and once their force is clearly seen in the naïve case they will be more clearly seen (...)
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  46. David Hume, Essays on Suicide and the Immortality of the Soul.
  47. Kevin Kinghorn (2005). The Decision of Faith: Can Christian Beliefs Be Freely Chosen? T & T Clark.
  48. Matthew Konieczka (2011). Hell Despite Vagueness: A Response to Sider. Sophia 50 (1):221-232.
    Ted Sider argues that a binary afterlife is inconsistent with a proportionally just God because no just criterion for placing persons in such an afterlife exists. I provide a possible account whereby God can remain proportionally just and allow a binary afterlife. On my account, there is some maximum amount of people God can allow into Heaven without sacrificing some greater good. God gives to all people at least their due but chooses to allow some who do not deserve Heaven (...)
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  49. Hans König (1965). Ücber die grenzen der exakten erfassung der qualität—hell 1. Dialectica 19 (1‐2):70-90.
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  50. John Kronen (1999). The Idea of Hell and the Classical Doctrine of God. Modern Schoolman 77 (1):13-34.
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