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This article is about life after death. For the Japanese movie, see After life.

Afterlife (also known as life after death) is a generic term referring to a continuation of existence, typically spiritual and experiential, beyond this world, or after death. This article is about current generic and widely held or reported concepts of afterlife. See Underworld for a comprehensive catalog of specific traditions about afterlife.

Table of contents
1 Afterlife as a belief
2 Afterlife as an individual existence
3 Afterlife as reward or punishment
4 Afterlife as reincarnation
5 Related studies
7 See also
8 External links

Afterlife as a belief

In the popular mind, afterlife is a belief. It is generally thought to be a non-verifiable (and non-falsifiable) belief because it is generally accepted as beyond the experiential knowledge or casual accessibility of most people (see esoteric knowledge). As a result, the popular mind relies on various sources for concepts about afterlife, arranged below in presumed order of reliability: While there is information available from all of the above sources, a preponderance of concoctions, speculations, and extrapolations have arguably historically characterized formal descriptions of afterlife. Religious traditions have historically formalized and codified ideas about afterlife in widely divergent forms. Though the onset of the information age is bringing to light increasing credibility and uniformity of evidence on afterlife from across and without religious boundaries, most afterlife conceptions continue to follow traditional descriptions, often viewed as rationally weak by skeptics who -- particularly atheists and agnostics of a secular humanist mindset -- hold that we entirely cease to exist.

For those who do believe in an afterlife, the various conceptions about it differ in their answer to the following questions:

Afterlife as an individual existence

For an afterlife to exist, there must be something that survives the body when death occurs; this immaterial thing is usually called
soul or spirit.

Afterlife as reward or punishment

One notion of afterlife which is common to Judaism, most Christianity, and Islam is that human souls go on for eternity to a place of happiness or torment, such as heaven, hell, or purgatory or limbo.

Many religions hold that after death people get reward or punishment based on their deeds or faith.

The Christian Bible, for example, contains the words of Jesus: "The measure you give will be the measure you get." (from the Sermon on the Mount?). For many, belief in an afterlife is a consolation in connection with death of a beloved one or the prospect of one's own death. On the other hand, fear of hell etc. may make death worse.

In view of the eternity of afterlife, some consider regular life as relatively unimportant, except for determining whether or not afterlife follows, and/or what kind. It is just a provisional situation, and the metaphor of a tent as provisional housing facility is used as quoted below:

For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.(Bible, 2 Corinthians 5:1)

In what we know of Egyptian religion, afterlife is very important. The believer had to act well and know the rituals explained in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. If the corpse was properly embalmed and entombed in a mastaba, the defunct would relive in the Fields of Yalu and accompany the Sun god on its daily ride. If, during the psychomachia, the souls of the defunct was found faulty, the Devourer monster would eat them.

Others, including some Universalists, believe in universalism which holds that all will eventually be rewarded regardless of what they have done or believed.

Afterlife as reincarnation

Another afterlife concept which is found among Hindus and Buddhistss is reincarnation, whether as humans or as animals. One consequence of the Hindu and Buddhist beliefs is that our current lives are also an afterlife, and both Hindus and Buddhists interpret events in our current life as being consequences of actions taken in previous lives. Although there is some scientific research that seems to suggest that humans may reincarnate as humans (see, for example, the writings of Dr. Ian Stevenson and Carol Bowman), there is very little (if any) evidence to suggest that humans reincarnate as animals, or vise-versa.

Some Neopagans believe in personal reincarnation, whereas some believe that the energy of one's soul reintegrates with a continuum of such energy which is recycled into other living things as they are born.

Many christians believe in reincarnation [1], although it is against the teachings of modern christian churches, which state that there is only one life to merit reward or damnation. However, some consider reincarnation as a lost teaching of Christianity.

Related studies

The study of views of the afterlife is a concern of Eschatology, which deals with the soul, the resurrection of the dead, the messianic era, and the end of the world.

The question of whether or not there is life after death is closely related to the mind-body problem, and like that problem is one of the classic problems of so-called rational psychology and hence of one (now largely outdated) notion of the scope of metaphysics.


"For Man to attempt comprehension of the afterlife, is as the tadpole attempting to understand the frog." (Jesuit Text)

See also

External links