This introductory chapter provides a background of the debates concerning postmortem punishment in three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. These three religions shared faith in many aspects of eschatology—the branch of theology that concerns the end of an individual’s life and the end of time. However, opposition to eternal punishment arose within each of these religions, and each entertained alternative beliefs about how wickedness in life might be punished in death. Cure, escape, and periodic relief were the chief rivals to uniform and eternal perdition. Hell survived these threats, and in the process of defending it, its advocates used the idea as a model of justice, a spur to right behavior, a guide to introspection, and a warning to neighbors in danger of damnation if they did not accept it and learn to respect the God whose sentence it executes.
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