Beliefs on Life After Death Essay Example
For thousands of years, society has been pondering what comes after our lives are finished. The main reason for this is the fear of the unknown: will we be subjected to relentless torture in a hellish realm or simply face eternal nothingness. Views on the afterlife vary substantially according to cultural differences and religion, with approximately 53% of people believing that there is something after we die. Generally, theists believe in an afterlife whereas atheists do not, although some atheists inevitably start believing in it out of despair when contemplating death.
What would Jesus say?
Christians believe in two polarised experiences of the afterlife: heaven and hell. Heaven is a cosmological or transcendent place where beings such as angels live. As the holiest place in existence, it is depicted as a paradise. However, getting into heaven is no walk-in-the-park. In the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, God comes down from heaven and judges a herd of animals. As they were generous and selfless, the sheep were awarded access to heaven and an eternity with Jesus.
Contrastingly, the sheep were selfish and ignorant, and so were condemned to eternal torture and feelings of emptiness in hell. Christians believe that in order to avoid damnation, they must live purposeful lives full of generosity and compassion. It is therefore advised that you try to follow Jesus’ example should heaven and hell be a reality upon your death.
Life after Life?
Alternatively, Asian religions like Islam and Buddhism believe in reincarnation or rebirth. Rather than living one life and experiencing a constant afterlife afterwards, they believe that the human soul moves into a new body or form after each biological death. To you, this may sound ideal, you never run out of lives and can therefore, theoretically act without consequences. It is not this simple. Rebirth is seen as an extremely negative thing as the ultimate goal is to escape the cycle of life and become enlightened. Also, you aren’t necessarily always reborn as a human.
You may be reborn as anything from a bacterium to a blue whale, depending on karma. Like in Christianity, your fate after death depends on your actions in life. If you live a compassionate and influential life, you may be reborn as a human, but if you are corrupt or nefarious, you may be reborn as an ant or other insignificant animal. As you can imagine, living as an ant is not an enjoyable or satisfying existence, so I would suggest that you do all you can to avoid life as an invertebrate.
What about the Greeks?
In Ancient Greece, people believed in an underworld, rather than a distinctive heaven or hell, that was overseen by the god Hades. Similar to modern ideas of judgement, the soul would be judged and sent to one of four fields : Elysium, Tartarus, Asphodel and the Fields of Punishment. The Elysian Field are what we would commonly view as heaven, a place where pure souls would reside.
The Asphodel Field are comparable to purgatory, a neutral ground for souls that were neither pure nor corrupt. Despite what the name suggests, the Fields of Punishment are less severe than the Tartarus Field, where evil souls would be punished by being burned in lava. These ideas are similar to those in Dante’s “Inferno”, with different levels of punishment rather than just one resting place for any type of evil.
To summarise, almost all beliefs around the afterlife state that your experience following death will be based on your actions in life. Therefore, you should try to make the most out of it, and try to act in kindness rather than maliciousness. Whether or not you currently believe in an afterlife, as your life approaches its end you will begin to believe. After all, the afterlife is a concept originally created out of fear of eternal darkness, as society tries to bring some light to our inevitable death.