Most of the world’s major religions believe in the existence of life after death. This philosophy is founded on the conviction that after the physical death of an individual, he or she continues to exist supernaturally in a different realm. Afterlife views are faith based beliefs that no one can prove they exist. However, different religions have variant viewpoints regarding life after death.
I have chosen this category because afterlife is a common conviction among all the existing religions. The mainstream religions and the cults have both displayed some belief in an afterlife existence. I find this topic interesting because it gives different angles of religious principles to prove a common logic. It is interesting to study how different religions that differ in almost all aspects can agree on one ideology. Even though the afterlife is viewed differently by various religions, its existence is a common point of convergence.
Hinduism and Jainism
Hinduism has a belief that when one dies, he or she will live again. However, their belief is based on incarnation which means dying and coming back in a different situation or form. In Hinduism, the principle of Karma determines the situation of afterlife existence (Shih & Chou, 2013). The Karmic principles are over emphasized in Hinduism. Adherents of this religion believe that one must get the rewards or punishments of their deeds in the current life (Shih & Chou, 2013). Therefore, suppose a generous person dies, he or she may be reborn again as a rich and wealthy person in the next life. An arrogant and mean person in his or her lifetime is doomed to become a very poor individual in the afterlife rebirth.
Buddhists on the hand also adopted the idea of reincarnation and karma just as in Hinduism (Gupta, 2011). Buddhist believes in the cycle of death and rebirth. However, they also believe in the self liberation principle which allows one to fade away and disappear completely. They call it liberation or nirvana. To achieve the state of nirvana, one has to liberate him or herself from the desires of the world hence alleviating the chances of reincarnation. Buddhists believe in life after death but they also believe that life after death can be avoided completely by avoiding situations that may lead to reincarnation (Gupta, 2011). The principle of nirvana seeks to liberate the human soul from all desires hence making him or her free of the rewards or punishments of life. This freedom limits reincarnation and allows a permanent extension of a human body and soul.
Daoism and Confucianism
Daoism also known as Taoism does not emphasize too much on the life after death. Instead, it concentrates mostly on one’s lifetime. According to Daoism, life after death is not very clear to man and human beings should not seek to understand it. The religion suggests that humans are supposed to pursue their current lifetime and seek to live in a way that they explore their innermost potential. According to Confucianism, life and death are based on probability, wealth and nobleness and the ultimate determinant of human fate is heaven (Shih & Chou, 2013). Humans have limited control over their lives after death.
Shinto is Japanese religion that means ‘the way of the gods’ (Siemionow, Rampazzo & Gharb, 2011). This religion believes in life after death. However, life after death occurs in spiritual forms called the Kami (Siemionow, Rampazzo & Gharb, 2011). Karma according to Shinto has also adopted the principle of rewards or punishment for one’s deeds in his or her lifetime. Kami consist of nature spirits, the godlike beings and a spiritual presence (Siemionow, Rampazzo & Gharb, 2011). Shinto believes that every human bring contains one Kami. The kami contained in one’s body lives on after his or her death.
It is a firm belief of the traditional Judaism that death is not the ultimate end of human existence (Siemionow, Rampazzo & Gharb, 2011). Nonetheless, just like in Daoism and Confucianism, Judaism does not concentrate too much on afterlife. Judaism allows its adherents to create their personal beliefs about what happens after life. Some can share the same belief as Christians while others may believe that sinners are destroyed completely. Others may believe that people remain dead until the coming of the messiah when they will be resurrected.
Christianity varies in belief although they share a similar God. However, the belief of Christians is the same in all the variant denominations. All Christians believe in an afterlife. The quality of one’s life is determined by his or her conduct on earth. They believe in the existence of heaven and hell where people will end up depending on their actions. Sinners will spend their lifetime in agony in hell while the righteous will spend their lives in heaven in ultimate happiness. The hell eternal suffering in hell is for the individual who misbehaved while on earth during their lifetimes. The righteous will live forever in heaven where it is anticipated rewards well be given to those who behave well on earth.
In Muslim, death is the ultimate end of physical life and it marks the start of a different period. This period is a period of rest when it is believed that all dead people will remain dead until the day of resurrection and judgment. In the Day of Judgment, Allah will judge the living and the dead. During this time of rest awaiting judgment, Muslims believe that the righteous dead are able to see visions of God while the dead sinners can see visions of hell (Siemionow, Rampazzo & Gharb, 2011). Apart from this, the soul remains still until the Day of Judgment.
Sikhism believe in the principle of reincarnation where all living things are expected to go through different life cycle until they are fully purified t become one with God (Siemionow, Rampazzo & Gharb, 2011). Sikhism also believes in hell and haven. However, they believe that people will go to heaven and hell and reincarnate until they reach oneness with God.
Most of the modern religions including the atheists do not believe in the existence of an afterlife. Atheists do not believe in a supernatural God and the concepts of consequences of disobeying Him. Scientist also believes that the earth and the creation story are as a result of scientific and natural occurrences hence disputing the existence of a God. Consequently, they do not believe in an existence after the occurrence of death.
In my social environment
The life after death view in environment is based on the Christian view. Many people around me believe that there is a life after death and in this life people will be rewarded according to their deeds, either evil or good. Good people will go to heaven while the evil ones will be cast into an eternal fire in hell.
Gupta, R. (2011). Death beliefs and practices from an Asian Indian American Hindu perspective. Death studies, 35(3), 244-266.
Shih, H., & Chou, C. P. I. (2013). Buddhist Influence on Chinese Religious Life. English Writings of Hu Shih: Chinese Philosophy and Intellectual History, 1(2), 9-14.
Siemionow, M. Z., Rampazzo, A., & Gharb, B. B. (2011). Addressing religious and cultural differences in views on transplantation, including composite tissue allotransplantation. Annals of plastic surgery, 66(4), 410-415.