A detailed and personal project investigating peoples' beliefs regarding life after death with a judgement on my behalf.
What happens when we die?
The one principle that all humanity abides by is that dying is inevitable. It is a part of life that no one can avoid. It is the one thing that humans can be sure of. This concept is obviously scary. It must scare people because they might amount to nothing, they might leave this Earth and go nowhere. I think the reason why people believe in life after death is to ease the worry. It turns death, from a cause of worry and fear, into something joyous and exciting. The Christian Faith, for example, glorifies death. It says it is not the end, merely a way to reach ‘eternal glory’. On the other extremity, the Bible uses death as a constant threat to do good in your human life, otherwise you may find yourself in ‘eternal suffering’.
Personally, I do not believe in life after death. The whole thought of it is incomprehensible. Why, with all the scientific knowledge out there, do people believe that they will reach a reward at the end of their life? The reason I think they do is fear. Death is drilled into children from a young age as the only inevitable thing. The thought of not existing scares people, it makes them question their existence because if we are here to die, what is the point of living? If the point of living is to die and reach some eternal kingdom of glory, people have a purpose. They have a cause to be nice, to ensure their place in Heaven, and they have something to look forward to — to keep them in line.
One of my favourite quotes is from a book, by John Green, it is referring to the metaphorical ‘Labyrinth’, which is a reference to life: “It’s not life or death, the labyrinth”… “So what is it?”… “Suffering…doing wrong and having wrong things happen to you. That’s the problem. Bolivar was talking about pain.” I think this summarises my thoughts about death completely. I think that when you die, you are no more, however (depending on your life) it can be an end to the pain of the metaphorical ‘labyrinth’ that you are trapped in.
The way I think about it is that this is our one chance at living. We are all going to die eventually and, when we do, we will rot in the ground. There will be no more me, whatever me is. People will grieve over me, so perhaps I will live on in memory, but I will soon be forgotten. Everyone is forgettable. I think this because there is no reason to believe in some eternal Heaven, there is little or no credible evidence to suggest its reality and the whole concept of living on forever has been proven impossible, time and time again, by modern science. The nature of our bodies is to die, we are born flawed — our cells will not live on forever and neither shall we, for we have no part of us that can float up to Heaven. Furthermore, I am comfortable with the concept of death. It does not scare me — it is something that I will have to live with, knowing it will happen sooner or later. I do not find comfort in believing in eternal Heaven, because I am happy with the concept of dying. Yet again, I reiterate that I think the main factor causing people to believe in an afterlife is because they are afraid that they will live their life and amount to nothing. I think that is the whole point of life, to live and die and never be seen of or heard of again and that does not bother me. I know it is pessimistic, but everything has to end and I do not see why that is different for humans. I think if you live your current life fully, there will be nothing desired that any Afterlife can give you.
What does religion think?
For this part of my project, I have chosen Christianity. Christianity is the biggest world religion and I have chosen to write about its beliefs and practices because they probably effect the most people, out of any other religion. In this brief essay, I will be discussing what Christianity thinks happens when we die and my own personal view on their teachings.
Christianity has two main branches, Protestants and Catholics. They are very similar in what they believe, although they have slightly different beliefs about death and life after death. According to both the religious branches, what happens in your life effects whether you will go to Hell or Heaven. Good deeds and charitable work will increase your chances of going to Heaven. Bad deeds and being greedy increases your chances of going to ‘Heaven.’ The difference between the two branches is that Catholics believe in a place called purgatory, which is where the souls with unforgiven sins can go to be purified —eventually reaching Heaven. Whereas, the Protestant faith believes that your soul goes straight to Heaven or Hell.
‘But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.’ This quote is from the Bible, the Christian Holy Book. It shows us that those who have sinned in their previous life, by committing crimes like ‘magic’ and ‘murder’, will suffer in a metaphorical, ‘fiery lake.’ This quote also suggests that Hell is a place considered worse than death.
‘Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’ This quote from the Bible explains how charitable actions will get you into Heaven, an example of a charitable action is to, ‘Sell your possessions.’ The Bible also says that Heaven is the place to experience, ‘eternal glory.’
However, some Christians do not believe in Hell; they only believe in Heaven. This is because in the Bible everyone is considered to be loved by God and God’s children. However, if god is loving of everyone — why is he condemning people to ‘eternal suffering’ in Hell? This argument creates an element of confusion in the Christian Faith and is definitely one of the biggest contradictions in the Bible.
At Christian Funerals, mourners say thank you to God for the dead person and they celebrate their life, with religious songs. The funeral often takes place at a church, chapel or crematorium. Normally, people wear dark colours: a sign of their sadness. However, some Christians ask people to wear bright colours, to show their happiness of the dead person ascending to Heaven.The service sometimes includes time when friends and family can talk about and remember the person who has died.
To summarise, Christianity teaches that you go to Heaven or Hell after death, depending one your acts in life on Earth. This belief differs slightly between different branches of the religion.
In my opinion, I do not agree with the Christian belief whatsoever. I think that it was just a type of black-mail used to keep people in line, in the earlier centuries. However, I do not see any problem with people believing in it because it is nice for everyone to have differing views.
What does religion think?
In my previous essay, I covered Christian beliefs and theology. I thought it would be interesting to cover Islam in this essay because it is the second biggest religion in the World and looks as if it could share some principals with Christianity. So, in this essay, I will be discussing the beliefs that Islam has about life after death, seeing how far I agree with what they preach and potentially contrasting the teachings with those of Christianity.
Islam teaches life after death, calling it Akhirah. Allah decides when Muslims die. Muslims believe, when they die, they stay in their graves until the Day of Judgement, called Yawm al-Din. During this day, Muslims will rise from their graves and be put in front of Allah — Islam’s only God. Allah will judge them on how they lived their lives on Earth. The people who have done good will be sent to Jannah, which is also known as a paradise. Jannah is described as a, ‘garden of everlasting bliss,’ in the Quran. People who have done badly in their lives will be sent to Jahannam. Once there, they will meet much suffering. Muslims, like Christians, believe Allah is kind and forgiving — therefore he does not punish all bad deeds, just the most severe.
‘Nor can a soul die except by Allah’s leave…’ This quote from the Quran shows us that Muslims believe the soul is eternal. It also shows us how Allah decides when a Muslim will die.
‘Of the good that they do nothing will be rejected of them; for Allah knoweth well those that do right. Those who reject faith – neither their possessions nor their (numerous) progeny will avail them aught against Allah: they will be companions of the fire, dwelling therein forever.’ This quote shows us how the good will be rewarded and the bad will be punished, on the day of judgement.
Muslims, who aim to get to Jannah, follow the five pillars of Islam. These pillars are basically a set of rules/guidelines that a Muslim should follow. They include: believing in Allah, praying five times a day, donating to charities, fasting during Ramadan and going one a pilgrimage to Mecca. If a Muslim follows these pillars well, they should get into Jannah.
As well as these pillars, Muslims believe that they should be forgiving, honest and kind.
At a Muslim funeral, the deceased person’s family aim to bury them as soon as possible — in accordance with the Quran. The dead person’s body is washed by a close family member of the same sex. The body is wrapped in sheets and then transported to a Mosque. The service starts with prayers, in the prayer room of the Mosque, the family and friends then congregate in the funeral room to begin the ceremony. The funeral is lead by an Islamic leader (imam). The funerals normally last from thirty to sixty minutes. The service includes funeral prayers, towards Mecca, and readings from the Quran. The body will then be buried in a coffin, until the Day of Judgement.
To summarise, Muslims believe about Jannah and Jahannam, similar to Christianity’s Heaven and Hell. Good deeds in your life and following the five pillars of Islam will earn you your place in Jannah, whereas unforgivable deeds will earn you a place in Jahannam — on the Day of Judgement, when you are judged by Allah.
In my opinion, I do not believe in the teachings of Islam. I think they are as unbelievable as the beliefs of Christianity, but I do think the thought of life after death is reassuring to those fearing non-existence.
Is there any evidence of life after death?
In this essay, I will be looking at evidence supporting life after death. This evidence comes from a variety of sources and people. It showcases a near death experience — when someone dies and comes back to life — and the things the people saw whilst under the impression of death. In this essay I will be evaluating whether this evidence is credible, actually proof and my own opinion/view on the evidence/what happened.
Many people, who have had a near death experience, report having a sort of ‘vision’. In these visions they recall ‘hovering’ up above their human bodies — looking down on the ground and at those around them. They then recall being pulled into a ‘dark tunnel,’ seeing a ‘light’ at the end and a ‘feeling of everlasting love.’ Finally, some recall ‘seeing an angel,’ before being brought back to life in their human form.
This evidence alines pretty well with the beliefs of Christianity, considering the assent to Heaven and the Angels. This evidence might make people believe in an afterlife because it is a first-hand recollection of what people have seen after they have died, medically. The people who have seen the visions have all been classed as ‘medically dead’ before being brought back to life and three percent of Americans have apparently experienced a vision. The visions are very vividly described, with the majority of people seeing the visions, seeing the same sort of thing. These factors suggest the evidence is credible; also, I do not see what joy or comfort these people (who have seen the vision) would get out of lying about what they saw.
However, the evidence is not perfect. Firstly, according to a recent report by a scientist, the experience of seeing ‘a light at the end of a tunnel’ are all common features of a lack of blood reaching the eyes. This does suggest that, the most common aspect of near death experiences are those caused by oxygen deprivation to the body — therefore proving the evidence as a hallucination, caused by your body shutting down, and not ascending to Heaven. Secondly, the people who experience the visions are in immense amounts of pain. This means that they are often unable to think straight, therefore the vision might just be a byproduct of the pain — merely a hallucination. Finally, even if the visions are credible, are they really evidence of life after death? They could merely be showing the dying process, not what follows it. Therefore, we cannot truly be sure that these visions/hallucinations are evidence of life after death.
In my opinion, I definitely do not think these visions are evidence of life after death. I think they are simply byproducts of the pain and oxygen deprivation, blown out of proportion and exaggerated by people with an overactive imagination. I cannot understand why some people think this is acceptable evidence, whilst there are clear scientific and logical reasoning behind these visions. I do not think these visions are evidence of life after death.
Is there any evidence of life after death?
In this essay, I will be looking at a second possible piece of evidence for life after death. Like the first essay, I will be evaluating the evidence and whether it is actually evidence. I will be analysing its credibility, from both points of view. This essay revolves around a boy called Cameron and his incredible stories — are they nonsensical stories or is there more to it?
Cameron is young boy, roughly two or three. He believed vividly that he was from another life. In this life he lived on a remote island off the coast of Scotland, called Barra. He believed that he had lived there in a white house, overlooking where the planes took off from the beach. He also believed that his family were the Robertsons and that his dad, Shane Robertson, had died in a car accident. Cameron apparently ‘fell down a hole’ and arrived in his current mum’s stomach. This story of past life experience was described vividly by him.
His family went to the island of Barra to investigate the credibility of Cameron’s story/experience/vision. They found a white house, that matched Cameron’s description, that had once been owned by the Robertson family. Planes did indeed land on the beech. And there was a black and white dog — although it was owned by another family. However, Cameron’s dad did not die in a car accident and there was no-one named ‘Shane Robertson.’ The family had had no deaths, begging the question where did Cameron come from? And, the family had never lived on Barra — they just used it as a holiday home, contradicting Cameron saying he was a ‘Barra Boy’.
This evidence may make people believe in an afterlife because it seems to aline with the views of Hinduism — where people are reincarnated into different beings and forms. Cameron’s story did have a lot of similarities and a few elements of truth, such as there being a white house which had once been inhabited by a Robertson family, therefore it might make some people believe.
Unfortunately, I doubt the credibility of this evidence. Firstly, Cameron could have very easily seen Barra on the television or heard of it from word and mouth. This means that Cameron’s story could merely be a work of fiction — enhanced by the vivid imagination of young children. Although Cameron’s story had some possible truths, it cannot be evidence of life after death unless someone had died in the Robertson family, and since there have been no such deaths it is very much not plausible evidence. All the houses in Barra are white: this suggests that Cameron could have simply seen Barra on television, caught a glimpse of the planes landing and the white houses and developed it into his own vivid lie. The fact that there was a ‘Robertson’ family living in Barra could merely be a coincidence; the surname ‘Robertson’ is the fifth most common surname in the UK, therefore it could have merely been a lie that matched some records coincidentally. As you can see, Cameron’s evidence was not flawless.
In my opinion, I cannot justify this to be evidence. It is so insubstantial that I would not want to base my beliefs on it. The evidence could merely be a story with some minute elements of truth — merely by coincidence. I think if you are desperate to seek evidence of your beliefs, you will believe this — but if you look at it sensibly it is nothing more than a story. Therefore, this is not evidence of life after death — in my opinion.
This project has been really interesting to do. It has made me think a little bit, questioning things that I do not really ever think about. It has been good to see what other people believe about life after death — even if I do not agree with them, it is still engaging to see things from their point of view.
The ideas from the different religions have just encouraged what I already thought. Christianity and Islam’s beliefs about life after death seem so averse to me and I do not think I will ever agree or believe in them; it is still interesting to see why people may believe in these ideologies and I have enjoyed that part of the project.
When I die I still believe that I will remain or on Earth. My being will end and nothing will become of me. However, I do believe that you can live on in the memory of the people you have loved around you; this project has perhaps strengthened this belief.
I have no reasoning behind my belief, it is merely a belief. It does align with modern science, but I am not sure that is why I believe in it. I believe dying is the end like Christians believe you go to Heaven — it is merely a belief.
The evidence seen in this project has not swayed me whatsoever. It was so far fetched and illogical that I cannot call it evidence. As far as I am concerned, the evidence was merely works of fiction; it has not changed my mind at all.
My ideas have not changed since week one because I do not want them to change. I do not want to believe in eternal life because the concept does not appeal to me. The evidence is not really evidence and does little to change my opinion. I am happy in what I believe and am not seeking answers to what happens when I die. Surprise me for all I care, I believe nothing so I am not disappointed.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 16, 2020:
I think I got this. You believe that the only "life" is the physical and we have no soul. Interesting.