The “Afterlife” In Different Cultures

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This picture shows the human life cycle; a new baby is born and then goes the stages of childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age/elderly, and finally he leaves this world and dies.

There are 2 main facts embedded in the human nature:
(1) The desire to live forever (mortality),
(2) The fear from the unknown (ambiguity).

And because these 2 facts are greatly connected to death, death is considered as the greatest mystery and enemy to humanity.

-In an attempt to alleviate the panic of the dreadful facts correlated to death and the unavoidable pain faced by the family of the deceased, people tried to find answers to their questions and to find a door to a mortal life; one of the ways is choosing to believe in certain doctrines and beliefs (religion) which offer sort of relief to the believers.

This relief is yet relative and not complete as there are criteria on how the deceased will be judged and awarded his destination either to the eternal afterlife or to the eternal death; these criteria differ from one religion to another.

How different cultures and religions see death and the afterlife?
Let us have a quick look on some of the known cultures and religions which have offered this comforting doctrine that death is a beginning for another life “The afterlife.”

THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS
When contemplating the nature, we find that after the sun starts sleeping (the sunset), it rises again the next day to give a new morning and new start; the moon disappears from the sky to come back next night; even the river Nile, the Ancient Egyptian noticed that when almost its water decreases, the flood comes back again. All these natural phenomena led their minds to believe in the existence of life after death.

That is why we find that the Ancient Egyptians invested more time during their life preparing for death, not because they hated life, rather because they cherished life and wanted to ensure that they will be able to continue living under good conditions even after death; therefore death was not viewed as the end of one’s life; rather it was viewed as an inevitable process that the one has to go through in order to enter the gate of the afterlife where there are complete bliss and eternity, depending on how the deceases lived his life and if the deceased had the “Book of the Dead,” which consists of certain spells or prayers that would enable him to pass thru the very dangerous adventures faced in the underground and the 42 doors leading to the Gods of judgment.

Point to ponder :
What other scenes from nature portray the meaning of life after death?

BUDDHISM
Buddhism teaches the doctrine of death and rebirth (reincarnation), whereby the type of rebirth will be conditioned by the person’s intentional actions (Karma). For example, if a person has committed harmful actions, then rebirth is to be expected in another lower body or realm (e.g., an animal, a ghost, etc.). On the other hand, where a person has performed good actions, then rebirth occurs in a happy realm (i.e., human or one of the many heavenly realms).

Points to ponder :
* According to this doctrine, what determines good actions from bad actions?
* Who decides what shape you’ll be taking after death? Do you find it logical?

ISLAM
Islam teaches that there’ll be a judgment day (the last day), whereby Allah (God) will destroy everything and He will raise all people to be judged; then Allah will balance the good deeds a person has done in his life against the bad deeds. If the good deeds outweigh the bad, the person will go to paradise (Jannah); otherwise the person will be punished in hell. Until that day, Islam teaches that all deceased souls remain in their graves; however, they begin to feel upon death a taste of their destiny to come; those going to hell will suffer in their graves, while those going to paradise will be in peace until that time. Then at that time (in paradise) they will find ultimate degree of pleasure in eating and drinking, and men, in addition to the 4 wives they can legitimately have on earth, they will have the right to have plenty other wives from the houris (women from Jannah) to enjoy the pleasure of sex.

Points to ponder :
* Do you find here any chance for people with bad actions to be saved for happy eternity?
* Do you think that eternal happiness resembled only in food and in physical pleasures?

CHRISTIANITY
Christianity teaches that entering the door to the kingdom of God is not conditioned ONLY on the deeds and actions of the man or by putting some sort of high divine criteria that have to be met; or else your eternity is going to be in hell; rather the door itself is thru accepting and believing in Jesus Christ, who has paid the tickets of the travel to the kingdom by His own blood; however there is also a role to be taken by the man, which is doing all his best to keep this ticket from being lost or stolen; this requires certain actions to be taken as a sign of his seriousness and willingness to spend his eternity with God; this starts by being baptized to accept the spirit of God to dwell in him, and the spirit of God will help during the whole journey of life to follow the model of Jesus and His commandments, helping the person to repent when he falls in sin; the door of repentance is opened until the last breath. Then upon death, the deceased spirit goes to a waiting place till the judgment day (where bodies and spirits are to be united again; however these bodies will have different nature), where the deceased will spend his either eternity enjoying the presence of God, seeing His glory and praising him with his loved ones, or being deprived from enjoying Him (Hell with Satan and all fallen angels).

Points to ponder :
* According to this doctrine, do you see that we are ought to win heaven by our actions or good deeds only?
* Do you see God has overweighed humans with commandments without giving any support?

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Resources :
https://www.quora.com/What-did-ancient-Egyptians-believe-about-the-afterlife
http://www.crystalinks.com/egyptafterlife.html
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/afterlife-ancient-egypt.html
http://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/civil/egypt/egcr04e.shtml
http://egyptianmythology.org/concepts/death-and-the-afterlife/
https://www.prm.ox.ac.uk/thedead.html
http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/open.htm
http://www.victorzammit.com/articles/religions3.html
http://www.humanreligions.info/afterlife.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afterlife
http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/guides/zfts4wx/revision/3
http://www.religionfacts.com/buddhism/afterlife
http://www.religionfacts.com/islam/afterlife
http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/rs/death/islambeliefrev2.shtml
http://www.questionsonislam.com/question/does-sexual-life-exist-paradise
http://www.religionfacts.com/christianity/afterlife
http://www.sptimmortalityproject.com/background/christianity-and-the-afterlife/
https://www.gotquestions.org/resurrection-body.html

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