And it lasts a really, really long time.
Here's a brief news report about Pope Benedict's recent reminder that hell "really exists and is eternal, even if nobody talks about it much any more".
This declaration (hardly a surprise to those who have bothered to read the Bible which, of course, speaks an awful lot about a literal hell) is nevertheless a disappointment to some of the pseudo-religious who hoped that the Pope's beliefs about hell might be a bit more flexible. For instance, last October, the Pope indicated that purgatory was "only a theological hypothesis" and not a "definitive truth of the faith".
But, quite unlike theories of purgatory or limbo, the Bible's clarity and emphasis on hell is inescapable. The Pope's comments are therefore only a restatement of orthodox Christian doctrine.
But how bold and refreshing it is to hear a Christian leader make such restatements! Thank you, Pope Benedict.