Some people believe that the afterlife is divided into heaven and hell. Others think it’s just one afterlife, with a range of different levels of reward or punishment. Still, others are convinced there is no afterlife at all.
These three general beliefs have been around for centuries, but they have never been settled-even though we’re talking about something that may or may not exist. And within each, there are as many variations as there are advocates.
In this article, we’ll take a dive into what we know and what we believe true about the afterlife – or not. We’ll explore the origins of these beliefs, and see how they have evolved. We’ll also examine the evidence that has been used to support or refute the existence of an afterlife.
Whether you believe in an afterlife or not, this is an intriguing topic that is sure to provoke thought and discussion. So let’s get started!
by David Stone
for Assorted Ideas, Large & Small
What is the afterlife?
The afterlife is a topic that has been debated by people of many different cultures and religions for centuries. There is no definitive answer, but there are some common ideas about what happens after we die.
Many believe that our soul lives on in some form and that we will be reunited with our loved ones who have passed away before us. Some believe that we will be reincarnated into another person or animal.
Others think that we simply cease to exist. No one knows for sure what happens after we die, but whatever the case may be, our time on earth is certainly temporary.
Death is a natural part of life, and it is something that we all will face one day. Afterlife or not, the important thing is to make the most of our time on earth and to live a life that is meaningful and fulfilling.
What are some basics of these beliefs?
The belief in an afterlife is found in all cultures, but it is often portrayed differently depending on the culture. For example, in Christian cultures, heaven is often thought of as a place where we will be reunited with our loved ones and live in eternal happiness.
But there is little clarity concerning what “we” even means. Do we have new bodies or no bodies? Do we eat, sleep or make love? A harmonious afterlife is appealing, but what are the details. For skeptics, it sounds like eternal boredom without goals, challenges or passions.
In Hinduism, reincarnation is a common belief, and it is thought that we will come back as another person or animal depending on our karma. Strong evidence has been recorded… Children’s past life memories corroborated and even bodily scars continued from one life to the next. But the purpose of our souls coming back into new bodies, time after time, is far from clear.
Michael Newton’s work on “life after life” is instructive, opening more down-to-earth explanations.
What are some opinions on how ideas about and afterlife got started?
The belief in an afterlife is common to almost all cultures, appearing in everything from ancient myths to modern religious texts. While the specifics of the afterlife vary widely from one tradition to the next, there are some common threads that run through many of these beliefs.
One of the most basic ideas about the afterlife is that it is a place where the soul goes after death. This belief likely originates from a desire to ensure that loved ones who have passed away are not truly gone forever.
In addition, many cultures believe that the afterlife is a reward or punishment for one’s actions in life. This idea likely comes from a desire to maintain order and justice in the world. As different as they may be, beliefs about the afterlife provide comfort and hope to people all over the world.
A deep puzzle over afterlife beliefs is the assumption that there must be a reason. That’s a practical idea. What if there is no reason or purpose? Why must there be? There’s a Zen trope about the “isness of everything.” In other words, things just are with no need or reason. Reasons, it seems, may be a crutch created out of uncertainty or fear.
How has the afterlife belief evolved?
A troubling concern with religious ideas about the afterlife is that they evolved. Should truth change? If so, how can it be accepted as truth at any given moment?
In the early days of Christianity, for example, it was believed that everyone would be resurrected on Judgment Day and given a new body. This belief changed over time, and by the Middle Ages, the idea of purgatory had become more popular. This was a place where people who had sinned would go to be purified before entering heaven.
Other afterlife beliefs have also changed over time. The ancient Egyptian afterlife was a place called the Field of Reeds, which was thought to be an afterlife paradise. This belief changed over time, and by the New Kingdom period, the afterlife was believed to be a dark and scary place full of demons.
These and other evolutions reflect uncertainty and, possibly, an inability to know enough details to paint a fuller, richer picture. Not knowing, though, doesn’t prove or disprove anything. Human knowledge expands. Too rapidly for comprehension, sometimes.
We’ve known about quantum uncertainty and its many strange features for a century, but the vast majority of people live with certain assumptions that were long ago proven false.
The evidence for and against an afterlife
There is no definitive proof that an afterlife exists, but there are some interesting pieces of evidence that have been used to support or refute the existence of an afterlife.
One piece of evidence commonly cited by those who believe in an afterlife is Near-Death Experiences (NDEs). These are when people report having visions of an afterlife while close to death or in a medically induced coma. These may be as close as we can ever come to seeing beyond life while reincarnation research may lead us back to a before life that’s also an afterlife.
On the other hand, skeptics of an afterlife often point to the fact that ghost or any other concrete evidence of the afterlife have been scientifically verified. Some, also, argue that if an afterlife exists, it is highly unlikely that we would be able to detect it.
What are your thoughts on the afterlife?
Do you believe that an afterlife exists? If so, what do you think it will be like? Let us know in the comments at the bottom of this page!
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