What do you believe about life after death? Is it just a myth for you, or do you actually believe that the grave is not the end? Most people grow up in societies where their introduction into a religion happens as soon as they are born, and the chances of such people holding onto their faith and beliefs to the day they die are very high.
The social influence, coupled with today’s media and peer pressure, play a huge role in shaping what we believe, as well as questioning what we believe. That all makes it very difficult for people to think about life after death objectively, as opposed to leaning on what they have known was true from as far back as they can remember.
People who only know what their religion says about life after death find what other people believe to be absurd and, to some extent, funny and impractical, but is there a way of proving which religion is right and which is wrong?
People who embrace science to the extent that they stop believing in religion and life after death, because they find no evidence and cannot find any form of measurement for it, tend to dismiss all religions as a whole.
However, should we expect that matters concerning life after death be measurable in a laboratory or in the field, like other things on this side of life? Wouldn’t trying to conduct that experiment be like trying to measure the speed of the wind or the flammability of some materials when you are under water? It would not make sense.
Here are 15 religions from different parts of the world and what they believe about life after death. What do you believe?
15. Greco-Roman Religion
The ancient Greeks believed that people died and ended up in Hades, a gray and misty place where the lord of the dead ruled. Others believed in a paradise-like place called Olympic pantheon on Mount Olympus, where gods such as Zeus lived and decided the fate of humanity. The people who lived a good life and were constantly in the minds of the living enjoyed sunny pleasures of the Elysium, those forgotten wandered eternally in the bleakness of Hades, while the wicked fell into dark pits called Tartarus. Although the gods decided the fate of every individual on earth, someone could control his fate through divination and sacrifices to them.
This religion known as Epicureanism is approximately 300 years older than Christianity and it has an unclear number of believers in Greece and other parts of the world today. Unlike most other religions on the planet, Epicureanism believes in many gods, but none of them takes notice of what human beings are up to. The believers here think that everything including their gods and souls is made up of atoms. Furthermore, according to Epicureanism, there is no afterlife, so nothing like reincarnation, heaven, or hell exists to them. When an individual dies, the believers here believe that the soul also dissolves and that becomes the end of them.
The Bahai is a religion made up of approximately seven million people. The believers here consider that the soul of a human being is eternal and good, and it is the work of every individual to draw closer to god. Unlike most other religions that have their own specific god, the Bahai believe in one god, who has shown himself through all other religions in the world. According to Bahai followers, heaven and hell do not exist; the two are states of being either close to or far from god. The Bahai believe that most other religious groups are mistaken when they interpret heaven and hell to be physical places as opposed to seeing them as symbolic representations of distance from god.
The approximately 4 million Jainism followers believe in the existence of many gods and reincarnation until liberation, a liberation that is achieved through avoidance of bad karma and causing no harm. People who do not achieve liberation continue in the cycle of rebirth and some might even have to go through eight hells of suffering before a rebirth. The eight hells get colder at every stage, and a soul passes through a lot of torture before getting another opportunity for rebirth, and another chance to reach liberation. Although it might take a very long time, liberated souls get a place among the gods.
Something weird about the Shinto is that the believers need not confess that they are Shinto believers in public. According to some old Japanese legends related to the Shinto, the dead enter a gloomy underground place called Yomi, where a river separates the dead and the living. The Yomi is a place much like the Greek Hades, and the people here have a negative view of death and corpses. The followers of this religion believe in ancient gods and spirits called Kami, although they believe that some human beings can become kami after they die. According to the Shinto, people are naturally pure, and they can retain their purity and keep away from evil through some purification rituals.
The approximately 900 million Hindus believe in a supreme god called Brahman, who manifests himself through many other gods and goddesses. Some of the standard practices in Hindu include Yoga, devotion to a god, meditation, pilgrimage to holy cities, and several other practices. Hindus do not believe in heaven or hell, their life after death system of belief is that of reincarnation. Hindus believe that when someone dies, he or she is born into a different body largely determined by his or her previous life. Hindus believe that human beings are bound to illusion and ignorance, but they can escape it during rebirth when their souls realize their true nature.
9. Chinese Traditional Religion
Almost everyone is familiar with the yin and yang, a popular concept that the faithful followers of the Chinese Traditional Religion hold strong to, including their mythological deities and gods. The yin is negative, dark, and feminine, while the yang is positive, bright, and masculine and the interaction of the two greatly influence the destiny of all things. Those who live according to the Chinese Traditional Religion believe in a peaceful life after death, one that an individual can attain through performing specific rituals and showing great honor to ancestors. Upon death, the god Ch’eng Huang determines whether someone’s spirit is virtuous enough to go and dwell with the immortals in Buddhists paradises, or to a hell followed by an immediate rebirth into their next reincarnation.
Sikhism is one of the most popular religions in India, with approximately 25 million followers. Guru Nanak founded Sikhism in 1500 AD, a religion that has grown to the point of having over half a million followers living outside India. According to the beliefs and practices of the Sikh, a person’s actions determine whether his or her soul is destined for great agony and pain in the underworld or end up merging with god in the spiritual world. A soul caught in the cycle of reincarnation can overcome it through meditating on the Sikh god, Ik Onkar, overcoming self, and becoming a saint soldier fighting for good.
Juche is the newest religion on this list and the ideology behind it makes it a socio-political organization as well as a religion. Juche adherents worship Kim Il-sung, North Korea’s first dictator, who also rules as the eternal president, Kim Il-sung’s son, Kim Jong-il, who ruled as his father’s surrogate, and Kim Jong-soko, the wife of Kim Il-sung. Juche was fashioned after Christianity, with those people representing that religion’s trinity, positions held by God the father, Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit in Christianity. Juche followers believe that when they die they go to be with their dictator president forever.
Zoroastrianism followers believe in a god called Ahura Mazda, and an evil Angra Mainyu, which is almost as strong as their god is. The followers of Zoroastrianism believe that when a person dies, he or she can enter a heavenly place or hell depending on how well someone led his or her life. Everyone has to cross to the other side using the Chinvat Bridge. People who lived a good life pass that bridge with ease since, to them, it is broad, but for sinners, the bridge turns on its side, becomes as narrow as a sharp razor, and a shocking woman torments them to fall into purgatory for a period.
Islam, though very different from Christian practice, belie, and doctrine, shares a bit of its history with Christianity. People believe that prophet Muhammad founded Islam in 622 AD in Mecca, despite growing up in the knowledge of the Christian faith and practice. Regardless of the famous belief that the men who follow closely in the faith will receive 72 virgins, and women just one man for each of them to do all sorts of things with on the other side, Muslims believe in a good place called paradise and a bad place called hell. Those bound for paradise will experience peace before the resurrection and those bound for hell will suffer in their graves.
When most people think of the Aztecs and their religion, the images that come to mind are those of people offering up their children as human sacrifices to appease their gods. This religion had numerous festivals dictated by the Aztec calendar, and the people believed in numerous gods and goddesses. The Aztecs believed that when of their own died, they would enter into any one of the three places they believed was where they would spend their afterlife: Mictlan, Tlalocan, or the sun. Women who lost their lives during childbirth and fallen warriors were believed to transform into hummingbirds, those who drowned were believed to go to Tlalocan, and those who died from horrible causes ended up in Mictlan.
Rastafarianism is a relatively new religion that is growing very fast especially among communities that embrace the use of Marijuana, and you can identify a faithful by the colors he or she wears and how he or she takes care of their hair. Rastafarianism has its roots in Jamaica and the movement dates back to the 1930s. According to this religion, the once Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie was their god incarnate, a faith that did not shake even when he died in 1975. According to some Rasta, all the believers will experience immortality through the process of reincarnation, and they believe in heaven as getting back to the Garden of Eden, which according to them is in Africa.
According to the Buddhists, life is a journey whereas death is returning to earth. Most of the religions that believe in reincarnation have a similar idea of where they believe an individual ends up after this life, despite slight variations concerning how someone gets to the next reincarnation or achieves Nirvana. According to Buddhism, a Buddha who has attained a state of enlightenment is the only one who gets to enter Nirvana, the highest state of perfect peace and happiness where one’s individual suffering and desires do not exist. Those who fail to achieve nirvana are reborn immediately after their death, where they receive another body.
Almost one in every three people in the world is a Christian, a religion that is far more prevalent than any other is on the planet. As such, most people are familiar with what Christians believe, especially with regard to life after death. Christians believe that, if an individual is born again, when he or she dies, he or she will enter an eternal rest called heaven – a place where there will never be any pain, crying or mourning. Being born again is simply a confession of Jesus Christ’s lordship over one’s life and a belief in Christ’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection. However, according to the Book of Revelation, people who refuse to be born again end up in a lake burning with fire and brimstone, as an eternal punishment for their rebellion towards God.