Sample Reflection Paper on Religion: Afterlife in Different Religions
The concept of an afterlife is a recurring idea in many religions. It promises a world beyond this physical one and pledges to bestow eternal life. Commonly, the concept involves weighing the deeds of an individual, with the results leading to either a paradise or eternal torment. This makes the afterlife a guiding concept to set men’s path to what is righteous and humane. However, countless religions and beliefs create a rift that sets different cultures against each other. People begin to focus on their doctrines instead of appreciating the grandeur of life and diversity. They fail to wallow in the splendor of different religions and concepts of an afterlife. After all, the different views on the afterlife are windows to the morality and culture of individuals.
Afterlife for Non-Believers
Before discussing the different religions that teach about a concept of an afterlife, it can be helpful to first talk about the lack of belief in the idea. The individuals who do not believe in an afterlife tend to be agnostics and atheists . These individuals do not believe in a god or are questioning the existence of a particular deity. Some agnostics may still believe in an afterlife while others do not. For atheists, it is safe to say that all of them do not believe in heaven or hell . For some of them, the afterlife is the thing that happens after death–the chemical reactions and changes that our bodies go through.
Riley's character from the Netflix series, Midnight Mass explained this idea beautifully. Paraphrasing some of his words, he said that our brain would release a huge amount of chemicals, giving us one last look at our lives. Then, as we slowly deteriorate, microorganisms will begin to eat bits of our bodies. They will continue to do so, for years, until only bones remain of us. After that, those microorganisms will leave our remains; they will be food for animals and plants; they would become nutrients for the soil; they will allow life to sprout. And we are a part of that process. From our remains, life nurtures other lives and allows the natural cycle to go on. We dissipate into the universe, returning to the very basic unit of matter. Simply put, a godless afterlife is when humans cease to be and become one with the universe.
Following this concept of returning and becoming a part of another whole is the idea of rebirth or reincarnation. Religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism believe strongly in this concept. Rebirth or reincarnation is a process where a karmic force judges an individual and grants them another life, either as a lower being or a higher existence. The circumstances of their reincarnation will depend on their values and the life they led before death. Good karma means that one may become a wise human while bad karma can turn someone into an insect after death. However, the process of reincarnation is not the end for those who believe in the concept. Their ultimate goal is to achieve a pure existence, free from materialism–ending the reincarnation process. Some beliefs call it Nirvana while others Moksha.
Reincarnation is an interesting concept since it implies that we have more than one life. We may forget who we were and what we have done in the past, but we are never truly gone. We transform into something or someone else, allowing us another chance at life. For the believers, such as Buddhists and Hindus, the chances are for them to reach pure existence. This means that they will do their best to adhere to religious teachings and live a material-free life. This may be the reason for monks to live in temples and live simple lives, away from busy cities. Their beliefs molded their culture and give their simple lives meaning. They do not long for wealth, fame, or a wonderful life. They pursue purity and peace–things that the modern world has forgotten.
Concepts of Heaven and Hell
Moving to the more absolute perspectives on the afterlife, we can start with the Islamic beliefs. For Muslims, there is a heaven and a hell; places for believers and sinners to go upon death. The Islamic heaven is the “Paradise”, a place where the believers can be with Allah. However, different stages of heaven will house believers depending on their Earthly deeds. The most devout and righteous will enter higher levels while those lacking in faith may enter the lower ones. Then, there is the “Fire”–the Islamic hell where the sinners and non-believers will stay after death. Sinners who opposed the teachings of the faith will receive eternal torment while non-Muslims who were good in life may go through a period of purgation that will allow them to enter Paradise.
The Chrisitan faith offers a similar concept to believers as they also preach about heaven and hell. Heaven is for the believers, for those who follow the Bible and do good for others while hell is where the sinners receive punishment for their actions. Since there are many Christian denominations, the religion’s concept of heaven and hell varies from individual to individual. Fundamental Christians strongly believe that non-believers will burn in hell while progressive thinkers believe in more considerate interpretations. This often results in arguments between different denominations despite their common belief in a deity.
These two religions, despite their different beliefs, share some commonality regarding the concepts of heaven and hell. This indicates that the motivations of both Christians and Muslims are similar–to enter a heavenly paradise and be with their god. They strive to do good to others because they want to enter heaven and avoid eternal punishment. However, this raises an important question: “Do they do good because it is the right thing to do or because they are afraid to face everlasting torment?” This question is important for every member of these religions to answer. Their concepts of the afterlife instill the fear of flame and torture while also claiming to award devotion. It can be difficult to differentiate a believer who does good deeds out of fear from one who does so because they wanted to help. Heaven and hell are great motivators for instilling values, however, individuals should assess whether they truly wish health on others or they want to impress their god.
The Jewish religion believes in the same god as Christianity but has a different concept of the afterlife. Jewish religious texts do not speak of the afterlife, heaven, or hell. However, many Jews believe in a concept of heaven where they will go after death and be with their loved ones. For the concept of hell, some Jews do not think that there is hell since their god is an all-loving being and will not want to eternally punish his creations. Furthermore, the religion teaches its members to focus more on their actions on Earth instead of the afterlife. This means that most Jews do not think of the afterlife and instead look at the world around them and find out how they can help.
The Jewish religion’s concept of an afterlife, or lack thereof, is an interesting contradiction to the Islamic and Christian concepts. The two latter religions motivate their followers to do good and avoid sinning an award and punishment system. For Jews, the motivator is religion itself. They do not fear going to hell because the notion is not present in their belief system and they know that believe that they will enter heaven after death. This tells us that the motivations of most Jews to do good are pure since there is no downside to committing a sin. They do good because it is the right thing to do and not because a god is looking over them, judging their every decision. Still, not all Jews share the same beliefs and some may believe in the concept of hell. However, the overview of the religion’s concept of an afterlife shows that they care about what happens on Earth instead of obsessing over their credentials to enter a paradise.
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