Is There Life After Death?

        When humans began to contemplate their existence, they also began to ponder their mortality.  Scientists have found evidence that even prehistoric man tried to prepare the dead for what lay ahead.  From this grew many different religions and even more different views of death.  The early Egyptians’ entire society was based around death.  Each of the religions in the world has its own specific doctrines regarding the afterlife.  Those who believe in no religion also have ideas about what happens after death.  Many theorized about a higher plain of existence where all people would live forever, others told of people rising from the dead to be reborn again in the body of another creature, and still others thought that there was nothing past death and that once someone died, it was the end.

        The majority of the global population believes in some variation of heaven and hell.  Also, intermingled amongst these beliefs is the belief in a half way point, a limbo state where souls await judgment or are not yet ready to pass on to the other side.  People who believe in eternal punishment and reward believe that each person has only one life on earth.  At the end of that life, the person goes to either heaven or hell and stays there for all eternity.  The way a person conducts his or her life determines which place he or she goes to.

        The idea of hell comes from the Hebrew, Sheol, which was a giant fire pit where all dead went when they died.  This probably manifested itself from their burial rituals in which all the dead were thrown in a burial pit.  In the Bible, Job calls Sheol “the land of gloom and deep darkness, the land of gloom and chaos, where light is as darkness.”10  The Egyptians are probably the most influential society when it comes to Judeo-Christine doctrine: judgment, heaven, and hell.  The idea of judgment was recorded more than four thousand years ago in ancient Egypt.  The Ancient Hindus like the Egyptians drew their concepts from the pleasures on Earth.  Their idea of Heaven were luscious gardens with good food and flowing streams of milk and honey.  Their heaven was also an exclusive one.  It was reserved for only great warriors and those who gave sacrificial gifts to the gods.  In both of these ancient religions hell was a place of unending physical torture.  African tribes, I have discovered also have many of these same beliefs.  Heaven and Hell reflects a perfect world in which they are comfortable living.  They also have the concept of judgment.  These views are very similar to those found in ancient India and Native Americans as well.

        Following the concept of Earth reflected in Heaven, Christians in the early medieval period thought of Heaven as a busy city with golden streets and people carrying on their business and working jobs.  The Renaissance changed this idea and a more Edenic heaven evolved.  The cities were replaced by rolling gardens and everything that they had on earth without the evil or sadness.  Hell on the other hand was more of a place where wicked people’s bad qualities were reflected.  Another interesting quality of Christianity is Purgatory.  Purgatory is an afterlife that is not quite heaven, and not quite hell either.  It is a place of temporary punishment.  Basically, a person would be punished for sins committed on Earth and once they made up for these sins, they could continue on to heaven for the rest of eternity.  The  Judeo-Christian Hell has evolved from the place where the deceased is burned by endless flames.  The concept has been elaborated upon, but still remains very much unchanged.  It is a gruesome extension of the hell imagined by the early Christians.  14

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        The difference between Jewish and Christians follows as thus.  Jews believe that the dead stay dead for a while.  They stay in sort of limbo, purgatory, until the “end of time.”5  At the end of time the messiah will come, the dead will be resurrected, and there will be a judgment of everyone.  It coincides with the Mormon though that emphasizes a realm of the spirit only.  The difference in hell is that the soul is annihilated as it is a greater punishment than eternal torture.

        Islam is the religion of many people in the Middle East and much of ...

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