“If life does not continue after death, there could be no justice. In this world, the innocent suffer, and often the good ones receive no reward while the bad guys go unpunished.”
WHAT happens to us after we die? Is there life after this life? Or is death the end of it all?
Regardless of whether death refers to the cessation of the functions of the brain or other parts and organs of the body, different cultures practice various rituals and traditions attached to death. In some parts of Indonesia, families dig up the bodies of their dead relatives and rebury them, believing that a person is not properly dead until the second burial. Somewhere in Tibet, corpses are left on a mountain instead of being buried. In ancient Persia (now Iran), some tribes built “towers of silence” where they placed their dead to be eaten by birds.
According to Buddhist tradition, when your body dies you are reborn in a different one. There is no “self” or soul, there is no “you”. So when you die, not you but the energies that shape you take on a new form in the next life, which is connected to your previous one through karma.
Like Buddhism, Hinduism also sees life as a cycle of death and rebirth connected by karma. But unlike Buddhists, Hindus believe that every person has an atman or soul.
Muslims, who bury their dead as soon as possible, believe in the existence of a soul that survives the body, and that one day God will judge humanity where everyone will either be sent to Jannah (paradise) or Jahannam (hell).
Christians, drawing hope from the New Testament account of Jesus’ death and resurrection, believe that God will give them eternal life after death. At some point, their lives will be judged by God – those who lived a good life go to heaven; those who didn’t, go to hell.
Arguments for belief in afterlife
1. Empirical evidence of afterlife.
American anaesthesiologist Dr. Stuart Hameroff, in his studies on the Quantum Theory of Consciousness, suggests that the “human soul is contained in the brain cells’ microtubules – and that it doesn’t die, but it goes back to the universe.”
Nicholas Kardaras, an Ivy League-educated psychologist, cites numerous empirical evidence of life after death:
“Beyond the stories of people who have had near-death experiences that have been documented by psychologists like Dr. Raymond Moody (Life After Life, 1977) and Dr. Kenneth Ring (Mindsight, 1999), there are also well-documented, rigorously researched cases of children who, without the benefit of an NDE or the aid of hypnotic regression, spontaneously and vividly recall past lives.”
2. Conservation of energy.
The scientific principle of the conservation of energy supports the idea that the mind survives bodily death. It says that energy never just springs into existence or ceases to exist; it simply changes form. It follows from this principle that mind or consciousness cannot just go out of existence or disappear at death.
On personal reckoning, the conservation principle may apply only to physical energy. Thus, if mind is viewed as nonphysical but spiritual energy, there is no reason to think that the conservation principle would indeed apply. Moreover, a guarantee for survival may be plausible if it can be established that the mind is a single, indivisible and indestructible unit.
3. Argument from justice.
If life does not continue after death, there could be no justice. In this world, the innocent suffer, and often the good ones receive no reward while the bad guys go unpunished. If this moral imbalance were not righted, the universe would not be rational or meaningful – it would be unjust, meaningless and absurd. Therefore, the unfairness of life in this world indicates that life must continue after death, if only to balance the scales of justice.
Vis-a-vis these arguments for belief in the existence of an afterlife, it is interesting to posit a corollary thought that there is a plausible correlation between theism (belief in the existence of God) and belief in an afterlife.
American philosopher, William Hasker (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2005) succinctly explains this interesting correlation:
“The close correlation between theism and an afterlife is affirmed in (Immanuel) Kant’s arguments for the Postulates of Practical Reason. Kant gives different reasons for postulating God and for postulating an afterlife, and...it is highly plausible that the two postulates are inseparable. We ought to postulate God, because only in this way is it possible that in the end, happiness should be enjoyed by persons in proportion to their moral worthiness...We are told to postulate immortality because only an endless life makes possible continued progress towards the goal of a coincidence of one’s will with the requirements of the moral law.”
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