How Different Religions Perceive the Afterlife

Posted: 23/02/2018

Something which is extremely fascinating is the concept of the afterlife. Throughout history, societies, cultures and religion have not been without their own interpretation of what happens to us after we die. Whether or not you believe in an afterlife, it cannot be denied that throughout time, the idea of an afterlife has provided comfort to humanity who so naturally fear the death of their loved ones or their own death. It has and is also an attempt to understand what lies beyond the grave.

It must be said that no matter your religion in today’s world, the price of a funeral for anyone is on the rise. To avoid falling victim to the rising prices, it may be wise to opt for a funeral plan for someone else which will essentially freeze today’s prices.

In this guide, we will explore the differences and similarities of what various faiths believe about the earthly body, soul and what happens to them once we have passed away.

Christianity

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Bearing in mind that there are differences in tradition and teachings between Catholics, Protestants, Baptists and other Christian denominations, the core Christian belief about the afterlife is that we either go to heaven or hell based on how we conduct ourselves and the actions we have taken whilst on earth.

In Christianity, it is believed that your earthly body dies and is buried or cremated, but your unique soul continues on and raises up to be with God, or falls to be with Satan – depending on how you lived your earthly life.

Obviously, the end goal for any Christian is to reach heaven and it is believed the only way to do so is by living your life accordingly to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Heaven isn’t really given a description at any point in the scriptures. Due to this, Christians often differ in their beliefs about what heaven is. It is believed by some that Heaven is a physical place where you go after you have died, along with your physical body. Other people express the belief that heaven is the unified state of their soul with God, without a physical body present.

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Likewise, Christians tend to differ in their opinions about what Hell is; physical place of torment and suffering? Or a constant, spiritual state of the soul being separated from God?

Islam

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In Islam, it is believed that death is the complete end of physical life and the beginning of a resting-period by which the deceased waits until the day of Judgement. The day of Judgement or Resurrection is the day which Allah will come to judge the living and the dead for their actions on earth.

Basically, until this day comes around, all the souls will remain laying in their graves/place of rest awaiting resurrection as commanded by Allah. Interestingly, you do not have to wait for this day to know what will await you in the afterlife if you have already died, those still living have no idea until they lay in their graves. The way this works is that those who are damned to Hell will suffer in their graves and those who will be allowed to ascend to Paradise will experience peace in their graves.

The afterlife, following the day of judgement, is split into two: Paradise and Hell. People in Paradise will experience will be delights and bliss. On the flip side, the Islamic description of Hell is that there are parts of hell which are extremely cold and others which are fiery hot.

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Judaism

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In traditional Judaism, it is not particularly clear what the faith’s idea of what happens after death or what the concept of a Jewish afterlife is meant to be like – which consequently opens up a lot of divide in opinion and room for personal interpretation.

In the scriptures, the Torah mentions an existence of life after death and mentions a few places where the righteous may be able to reunite with their loved ones after death. However, those who were not righteous will be excluded from reuniting with their loved ones.

Similar to Islam, Judaism has a concept of a ‘waiting-room’ before the judgement day as conducted by God. Typically, Jewish people believe that once you have died, your soul goes to a transitory place in which it resides and waits for the Messiah to visit earth which will trigger the world to come – this place is known as Sheol. Shoel is often described by Rabbis as a sort of ‘washing-machine’ where, until in Islam, your soul goes through purification ready to return to earth for the Messianic age.

sheol

It is believed in some denominations of Judaism that only the righteous will see the Messianic age and live in harmony. The rest will suffer in Hell. Some believe that Hell is a place of eternal pain and torment, while others view is less harshly. The less harsh view is that it is a place where people will have to spend time repenting for their past misdeeds for a sentenced amount of time. In some cases, Jews believe that the souls of the wicked are simply destroyed when the person dies.