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Inventing Hell: Dante, the Bible and Eternal Torment Paperback – June 17, 2014
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"Sweeney becomes our Virgil, ably and cannily leading readers through the circles that culminate in the picture of Hell invented by Dante and that Christianity, and western culture, has long embraced."―Publishers Weekly
"An inquisitive and theologically relevant conversation starter about the difficulty of tracking myths' migrations across cultures and about their ability to spawn new myths for pondering the unknowable."―The Christian Century
"Jon Sweeney succeeds in giving historical and literary backup to what many of us have concluded theologically: If God is presented as one who actually tortures those who do not like him, we have a God who does not 'practice what he preaches!'"
―Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation
"I don't recommend a stay in hell. But I highly recommend this book on it!"―James Martin, SJ, author, Jesus: A Pilgrimage
"Beguiling and totally delicious...solidly crafted and deadly serious. Sweeney has taken on one of the most convoluted and dangerous areas of theology and deftly shown not only its ideational history, but also its human ramifications. His scholarship is impeccable and his sense of humor ubiquitous. Dante himself would have loved this one!"―Phyllis Tickle, author, The Age of the Spirit
"Clear and engaging... How refreshing to read a book which recognizes that fear does not inspire morality and no one faith is given the key to paradise. In fact, it's heavenly!"―Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, Director of Religion, Butler University
"If you let Jon Sweeney be your tour guide to Hell, you'll love the journey. You'll learn a lot about what you thought was in the Bible, but isn't, and about what you thought you knew about Hell, but now need to rethink. Jon's writing is a delight on every page."―Brian D. McLaren, author, We Make the Road by Walking
"Far from a dry, academic discourse INVENTING HELL makes for great reading. The book reveals the little known confluence of theology, culture, and literature that has shaped our notions of the afterlife. Every minister, priest, rabbi, and sheikh needs to read this book, and so do we all."―Rabbi David Zaslow, author, Jesus: First-Century Rabbi
From the Inside Flap
Do you think Hell has nine levels, each one worse than the previous? Do you think that Hell is so hot it can burn your skin right off your body? Do you think that God's punishment will fit the sins we commit? If so, you think that because of Dante, not the Bible. Maybe the Hell you do (or don't) believe in is the one the Renaissance literary master Dante Alighieri described in the Inferno section of his epic poem The Divine Comedy. This is the Hell of eternal damnation that most of us were raised to fear, the place where, we are told by Dante, "Abandon all hope, you who enter here." But it turns out that Dante's vision of Hell is not based very much on the Hebrew or the Christian Scriptures but on an amalgam of sources from Greek and Roman philosophy to Medieval morality plays to Islam's Qu'ranall stitched together by an accomplished artist to scare the bejesus out of all of us. Allow this book to help you reflect on what you believe about evil and what happens to bad people and just how merciful your God might be. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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If you've read Dante's Inferno and you'd like to explore his sources, this book is worth reading. If you want proof that hell isn't discussed it the bible, save yourself the read. I will add, I was most intrigued by what Sweeny said about hell and the Quran - it certainly points to a far more compassionate and just God than what I've been taught by Christian teachers.