By Dahlia Lewis —
It is the ringing question that each person has pondered about at least once in his life. Is there life after death? If so, what will it be like?
We have seen several possibilities of the after life illustrated from almost all parts of pop culture—from fiction novels, movies, cartoons, to even round table discussions on daytime talk shows. Education has also played a role in perpetuating the many theories of what happens after death, with intense research stretching all the way from the ancient Egyptian’s mummification rituals to today’s observation of the solar system to see what lies beyond our earthly realms. The possibilities of the afterlife are endless.
But where did the concept of there even being life after death at all come from? Simply put, the many theories all stem from religion. No matter if you believe in a religion with one God, many gods, or that each person builds his own path to heaven, the fact that there is life after death is one of the anchors of each religion.
And as differing as each religion is to one another, so are their teachings of the afterlife.
The Catholic religion believes that there are three states in which a person can be in spiritually: 1) Heaven where they will forever dwell with God and Jesus 2) Purgatory where they enter a period of purification prior to entering Heaven, and then 3) Hell, the place of eternal punishment. Because the Church is the Catholics’ main authority, the religion believes that anyone who is faithful to the teachings of the Church will gain entry to Heaven.
Edging away from that order, Christians believe in only two states: heaven and hell. And their path to eternal life is not guided by traditions but by each individual’s own conscience and genuine belief that Jesus died for his sins. John 3:16 is often used as the base of this belief, which says “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
In Hinduism, the state of finally becoming one with God is called Moksha. Moksha is being released from the cycle of life and death and finally reaching self-realization, but will take many lifetimes to achieve. That’s why Hindus greatly stress about maintain one’s behavior in his current life, because it will directly impact the form on how he is reborn in his next life. What differentiates the Hindu religion is they believe that even non-Hindus can reach Moksha too.
Along the same vein, Buddhism also teaches that one will be reincarnated into another form after death. This will continue on until that person is “awaken,” as Buddha was. The end goal is Nirvana, where one is free from suffering and attachments. Living a life with moral conduct, meditation practice, kindness, and wisdom will improve one’s karma, which again, gives him an advantage in his next life.
But beyond the various religious doctrines of the afterlife, what is a more pronounced thought is the amount of effort people put into learning more about the afterlife. What makes it such a universal and ongoing topic is simply that people desire to continue living. Even for the non-religious, death is something feared and anything that can extend their years is precious.
So more than just zooming in to the differences of the afterlife in each religion, one should observe that all the religions see their current life as just temporary, and that there is something bigger and better that lies ahead. And the fact that all the religions believe this is something else to investigate further.