What happens when a person dies?
What do the major religions have to say about the afterlife?
Among the Jewish line of thinking, there is a belief that this present life is all there is and that one’s present accomplishments and ‘legacy’ are what makes that person immortal. There is also a small contingency that recognizes that YHWH has always referred to Himself as the G-d of the ‘living’ and not of the ‘dead’ and subsequently believe in an afterlife referred to in Jewish writings as the “bosom of Abraham”. This is place of ‘paradise’ for the righteous and ‘Sheol’ is a place of suffering for the unrighteous. The way to determine one’s ‘righteousness’ is unclear, possibly based on devotion to family, good works, temple/synagogue etc. There is no definite gauge by which one can recognize if their righteousness is enough to warrant the ‘bosom of Abraham’ when they die.
See a final analysis of the Jewish view of the afterlife below…
If one adheres to Islam, Allah, the god taken by Mohammed makes a final judgement on his followers upon their death and their admittance to ‘heaven’ is only granted at his discretion, regardless of their lifetime of commitment or good works, he can still override their accomplishments and bar them from entering. The only supposed direct access to the Muslim heaven is by dying in a Jihad (holy war with unbelievers). This explains why so many extremist Muslims are willing to strap bombs to their chests and kill innocent human beings in Israel, Afghanistan, or Iraq. They believe that not only will they (the perpretrator) go to Muslim heaven, but those they kill will go to heaven as well (if they are Muslim). Their non-Muslim victims are part of an unbelieving race in opposition to Allah and by killing them, the perpetrator is committing a holy war act by suicide and goes straight to heaven.
See a final analysis of the Muslim view on the afterlife below…
Atheism, Agnosticism, Humanism
If one is atheistic/humanistic in their beliefs, then there is no afterlife,
just an end. The atheist believes that after death, there is nothing. This is based on the presupposition that men and women are nothing more than animal in composition, possessing neither a soul nor a spirit. All thoughts are as a result of a chemical transfer between synapses in the brain. This Darwinian outlook on life offers absolutely no explanation for the vast difference between the most intelligent animal on the planet and the least intelligent man on the planet. Ultimately, this view of the afterlife appears to quell a nagging uneasiness within the atheist. They no longer have to feel that they will be held accountable for the life they chose to lead. Creating a view on afterlife whereby a human being simply dies with the absence of any activity whatsoever whether good or bad, happy or sad, most likely brings a sort of temporary peace of mind that allows the atheist to live as he or she would desire without any consideration for long-term consequence. We can see evidence of this mindset in the final interview with Jeffrey Dahmer, a notorious serial killer and, prior to his final days in prison, a devout atheist. Unfortunately for the atheist, agnostic, Humanist, Darwinist, etc this view of the afterlife was/is arrived at in a very “unscientific” manner where there is zero data to evaluate and analyze, no way of recreating the event in a controlled laboratory for observation, no eyewitnesses, and no logical rationale, hypothesis, or theory for arriving at the conclusion that there is “Nothing after Death”. Because of the absence of scientific evidence, one can conclude that this belief actually requires more faith than even the most far fetched of religious afterlife scenarios. According to the atheist, they have this life and this life only to accomplish their hearts desire since, for them, no afterlife exists.
See a final analysis of the Atheist, Agnostic, and Humanist view(s) on the afterlife below…
Hinduism, Eastern Religions
If one is of the Hindu or Sikh discipline, the afterlife exists in the eternal future and not necessarily as one dies but rather as one dies a determined number of times to . That is to say, when one dies, they come back in a new life as a creature that is properly indicative of the ‘level’ of good (righteous) living that individual experienced in the recently expired life. If one was a complete dolt and utterly unworthy of humanness in a current life, they might expect to come back in the next life as a donkey. Or, if one was particularly good (which to a Hindu means to observe the structure of ‘caste’ society – avoiding and neglecting the ‘untouchables’, worshipping as many Hindu gods as I could when I could – offering constant sacrifice in their temples, and didn’t steal, kill, or destroy from anyone) then one might expect to come back in their current caste level or maybe even a higher caste. These castes continue up and up until the Brahman (priestly) caste is reached. At which point, one might attain enlightenment in this life and upon death attain to Nirvana (transmutation into the Brahman of the universe to become one with god and the universe). Each life is worked out through good and bad karma and when enough bad karma is worked off and when one has stored up enough good karma, then one stands the chance of being reborn into the higher castes and eventually one might become a ‘guru’ or ‘brahman priest’ which is to be worshipped as god incarnate: i.e. Baghwan Shree Rajneesh or Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. and after which, when one dies they attain to ‘Nirvana’.
See a final analysis of the Hindu view on the afterlife below…
If one is Christian in their worldview, there are two primary views of the afterlife: The first view consists of a heaven obtained by grace through faith (unmericted favor of God based on the sacrificial death of His Son Jesus) + works (good deeds done for others and observance of the ordinances of the church: baptism, communion, confirmation etc.). Those that receive Jesus’ forgiveness of their sins + accomplish all the required good deeds may still have to face a cleansing period between death and heaven known as ‘purgatory’ where the ‘unforgiven’ sins must be ‘burned off’ prior to entering heaven. Those that reject this method via this denomination will instead receive everlasting torment and anguish via seperation from God (hell). This first view is called the “Catholic” view. This first method is based primarily on the historical teachings of Popes and has little to do with what the Bible says regarding the afterlife.
It is for this reason that the 2nd view, the Protestant view, came into being near the end of the 15th century with John Hus, and a couple decades later with Martin Luther. Hus and Luther, both Catholic clergy themselves, recognized that this view of the afterlife was decidedly unscriptural. Holding to the inerrancy of the scriptures, Luther challenged the view of ‘faith+works’ and citing multiple scripture references, pointed out that the ‘just shall live by faith’. He asserted that no fair amount of works could ‘earn’ favor with God Almighty and therefore, according to the Bible, one is saved by grace alone through faith alone. This second view involves a conscious recognition of equality with all human beings: if one is imperfect and in need of perfection to spend eternity with God, then ALL are imperfect and in need of perfection to spend eternity with God. One is not better than another and therefore, of no need for a Savior. This view refers to sin by its original definition of ‘missing the mark’ and believes that all men have areas of ‘missing the mark’ in things they have done and have failed to do. These areas are referred to by the bible as ‘rebellion’ and as such, will have no place with a perfectly good and loving God. Not now, and especially not for eternity.
This view claims that God saw this rebellious condition of His creation and saw that the only remedy for this condition was an eternal payment of death (separation from the God of life) which satisfied His just nature. His love for this creation was so great, that he sent His Eternal Son to pay this eternal payment of death. Thereafter, all who would consciously receive Him (Jesus) and his eternal death payment on the cross as payment for their sins, would receive life everlasting, heaven after death and permanent relationship as sons and daughters to the Father. Those that receive Jesus, receive a new life now and an afterlife of heaven after they die. This view holds that those that refuse this costly gift that God gave, will simply continue in the condition of rebellion that all men exist in outside of Jesus payment on the cross. If the refuser remains in this state at the point of death, then that person is given their wish for eternity: separation from a God that gave Himself for their sins (Hell=separation from all this good).
When pressed to address the issue of aborigenes or outer mongolian natives who have never had the opportunity to learn of Jesus, those that adhere to this view direct us to the bible passage that explains that God makes sure that ‘enough knowledge’ of Him is given to all men everywhere so that all men everywhere can come to know Him and are therefore, without excuse.
Judaism: If I am Jewish: 1. I go into nothingness when I die, which renders this life quite meaningless OR 2. If I get lucky, I can accumulate enough ‘righteousness’ in this life and hope that it was enough and I’ll know if I go to paradise (Abraham’s bosom) or hell (sheol) when I get there.
Islam: If I am Muslim: I will never know where I am going when I die despite a lifetime of good works and devotion to Allah, the only way I can supposedly know for sure, is if I die via a Jihad. Unfortunately, the only Jihads out there are the one’s waged by Islam extremists and those wars involve my strapping a bomb to my chest and killing innocent muslims, jewish people and any ‘westerners’.
Atheist: If I am an atheist: There is nothing to live for beyond this life, and since this life seems to hold many improprieties with regards to human behavior, there can be no sense of justice, just the looming despair of death and utter nothingness. Or, if the theists are correct, even worse. If I am an atheist, I must operate in more faith than the theists in believing that nothing exists beyond death. I do this by discounting all of the many first hand experiences and reports of an existing phenomena beyond life.
Hindu, Eastern Religions: If I am a Hindu or Sikh, I will never have any idea when I’ve attained enough ‘good’ karma and worked off enough ‘bad’ karma. No one seems to know who is determining this. There is no god in control, just a bunch (33 million to be exact) that exist sometimes at odds with one another. So there is no one in charge and since I don’t know about my karma accounting, I am also not in charge. Also, I am keenly aware that the idea of ‘reincarnation’ which is described above, does nothing to solve the problem of evil, in fact it only perpetuates it. My bad karma must be worked off by a constant victimization at the hands of another human to work it off me. But now that person’s bad karma must be worked off by another, and so on, and so one to eternity. Also, I must agree with Rabi R. Maharaj, the author of “Death of a Guru” who, as a Hindu guru, made an astonishing observation about his own Hindu society: After thousands of years of reincarnation and people being born and reborn, his society should have, theoretically, been getting better and better. But it is not, it is only growing worse and worse. More and more overcrowding and increase in theft, murder, & destruction along with a greater level of poverty led him to abandon the idea of reincarnation and karma.
Christianity: If I am a Christian of the Catholic persuasion (1st view), I would join the church based on grace and then somehow accumulate enough ‘works’ to make into a burning fire of a pre-heaven purgatory? Or, maybe I could accumulate enough works to escape the pre-heaven flames and swing right through to heaven? Or do I just join the church and receive Jesus’ forgiveness but fail to do any good deeds because perhaps this all happened last minute or I was an invalid etc. Now, because I have no ‘works’ to accompany God’s grace, I am still condemned to separation from God. You see, the dilemma is, I can never know if I’m saved until the gate slams shut behind me. That’s a commonality between all man-made faith structures that involve heaven by works. One can never know what will happen when they die until after they die. Grace plus anything else, is not grace at all. How can we have ‘unmerited favor’ from God that is nullified by our supposed ‘merits’ of good deeds or failure of ‘merit’?
If I am a Christian of the Protestant persuasion, I would recogize that I am no different from everyone else in that I ‘miss the mark'(sin) in many ways and if the bible is correct then I cannot expect to receive heaven (presence with The God of Perfect Good) for eternity, if I wanted nothing to do with Him here on Earth. If I then want to receive heaven after I die, then I must be willing to humble myself, confess my sins, ask Jesus, God Almighty, and Son of God Almighty to forgive me of my sins, apply his eternal payment for all mens sins to MY sins and ask Him to come into my life and into my heart as my Lord and Savior which would result in a perfect peace, knowing full well that I will receive heaven after I die, and a life of purpose in the meantime.
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