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Afterlife: A Better Version of Earthly Existence?

Is there an ‘another life’?

Death itself has always been a frightening enigma, provoking a multitude of questions. Will we survive death? Do we only live one life? Is our soul immortal? After we die, will our actions be punished or rewarded? Will we reunite with the ones whom we lost before? Where will we be? These questions make us wonder about the afterlife, impelled by our hope and curiosity. The notion of the afterlife is also driven by a human demand for justice: our moral economies are responsible for the creation of different destinations on the basis of virtues and vices.

Ancient and Religious Conceptions of an Afterlife

In order to reduce our growing uncertainty, we human beings have come up with unique explanations for the afterlife based on our cultures and religions.

Ancient Greeks believed that the soul leaves the body after death and continues to exist in some form. References to the idea of moral judgment after death occur in epics and poems of the 5th century B.C, proving that the afterlife as a concept was propagated by philosophers such as Plato, who described the cycles of penance . In Homer’s Odyssey, the Underworld was mentioned as a place where ‘Hades’ resided and ruled over the dead.. The Underworld was referred to as a threatening prospect, marked chiefly by the absence of life's joys. Only the most outstanding offenders faced eternal agony, while a chosen few—heroes linked to the Olympian gods—enjoyed an immortal paradise. But in terms of judging what the majority of ancient Greeks felt about the afterlife, Plato’s most telling claim might be that people disregarded myths about what happened in Hades until they encountered death themselves.

Chinese mythology is another example. It refers to death as “Diyu” or hell, represented as a maze where souls are transported to make amends for the crimes they committed when they were alive. Their belief in the afterlife is proven by the remains of food, weapons, valuables, and other useful items that have been found near their dead, implying that death is not the final end of life.

This argument is incomplete without the inclusion of a religious perspective. Religion brings about a more detailed view of the afterlife with its themes of heaven, hell, and enlightenment. Christianity and Islam show a common trend following the resurrection of the immortal soul. The followers of Jesus believe that Christ is not only the key to life on Earth but is also the key to life after we die. They put in great effort to perform good deeds during their lives, but believe that they do not deserve to spend eternity with God, and that the only way to heaven is to accept Jesus. Islam says that the doors to heaven or hell are open to people based on their good and bad deeds respectively after the final judgment.

Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Scientology all include prominent themes of reincarnation, but the specifics vary. Buddhism believes that eternal souls do not exist, but based on their actions and desires in the past life, people do experience some form of reincarnation after death. The ultimate goal of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism is to end the cycle of reincarnation and reach an enlightened state of nirvana or salvation.

Thus, religion brings about strong opinions about life after death based on their canonical texts and mythological scripts, influencing the existence of an afterlife. They affect the way we think, feel and act, justifying our fears by provoking a sense of hope for a good future and forming a psychological basis for our belief in the afterlife.

Afterlife- A myth or reality?

People who study science and health possess widely disparate opinions regarding the afterlife. Some people feel that believing in science excludes the supernatural, including life after death. Others feel that science demonstrates, or at least suggests, that there is life after death. Stephen Hawking regarded the afterlife as a fairytale and a story out of someone’s mind. However, Max Planck came up with his Theory of Consciousness. He claimed that science demonstrated how our consciousness, or our minds, are not a result of physical substances such as brain cells and neurons. Therefore, as it lives outside of physical matter, it may outlive physical death.

The existence of the afterlife is a debatable subject due to its inability to provide any empirical or physical evidence. Believers in the afterlife make use of near-death experiences and parapsychology as objective evidence of life after death.. Near-death experiences involve visions of other worlds, distortions of time, reviews of life, the presence of religious figures, images of heavenly abodes, and panoramic memories. Other elements include feelings of peace, passing through voids, encountering bright lights, and a separation from the body. These symptoms may resonate strongly with religious and mythological beliefs, providing evidence (or wish-fulfilling explanations) for the existence of life after death, and is often interpreted in a similar manner by atheists and agnostics as well. Thus, this may support the possibility that near-death experiences are neuro-biological, psychological, and transpersonal experiences that give us a glimpse of a possible reality between death and the afterlife. This claim was reinforced by past-life researcher Brian Weiss, who testified that many of his subjects reported similar near-death symptoms and experienced what may be termed as “life after death”. Weiss believed that different experiences regarding religion and death during a subject’s lifetime are ultimately what influences a person’s individual understanding of death and what comes beyond it.

A major reason to reject the notion of an afterlife is a nurtured confidence in humanism, which believes that humans should concentrate on human experiences because they will cease to exist after death. On the other hand, despite its subjective nature, unending faith in the afterlife can be driven by the deeply human urge to become the master of one’s own destiny and feel a sense of purposefulness. Therefore, the afterlife is a complicated concept with multiple complicated and contradictory interpretations with no easy answer, ultimately boiling down to the intensity of one’s individual belief in the reality of life after death.

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