Death is the permanent cessation of all vital functions in a living creature; it is the end of life. Monism is the belief that the body and soul are one entity. Aristotle, for example, spoke of the body and soul being a harmony. For Aristotle, the soul is form: it is a non-physical aspect of humans, which allows the body to achieve its potential, and without the body, the soul would be of no use as it would be unrecognisable. It is possible to base a theory of life after death on a monistic position. John Hick refers to humans as a ‘psycho-physical unity’ where body and soul are one. God makes it possible for this psychophysical unity to survive death.
On the other hand, Dualism is the belief that the body and soul are separate entities and it is only the soul that is immortal. Rene Descartes arrived at a theory of dualism. In “Meditations”, he wrote: “The body is material but not conscious whilst, the soul is immaterial and conscious, with feelings and thoughts”. He argued that the body and mind are separate entities yet they interact with each other through the brain. When a person dies, the body, which is matter, also dies. However the soul, which is immaterial, continues to live. Descartes continues; “Our soul is of a nature that is entirely independent of the body and since nothing can destroy it, the soul is immortal.
From a theistic perspective, life after death is possible as it is a desirable prospect. It is the soul that is the real eye that survives the death process and is then joined to a recreated body, in order to continue existence. The two beliefs of life after death, this essay will examine are, reincarnation and resurrection.
Reincarnation is a dualist theory of life after death. Believed in by Hindus and Sikhs, it is the belief that, at the point of death, the eternal soul (atman), leaves the body and attaches itself to another body. This is known as transmigration of the soul. According to the Bhagvan Gita, reincarnation is like “casting off of old garments and putting on new ones”. The basic concept of the theory is that your actions, thoughts and speech in any one existence (your karma) have a direct influence upon what happens to you in your next existence. If you live well, you gain an improved reincarnation. If you live badly, you can expect to suffer the consequences of this in your next life, in which you will be in the body of a less able such as an untouchable. The goal of life, for those who believe in this theory, is to escape the cycle of reincarnation (samsara) and achieve unity (moksha) with Brahman, the ultimate reality.
The belief of reincarnation is supported by the work of Dr. Stevenson. He was concerned in why one person would develop one disease, and another something different. This led him to conduct research on children in India, who claimed to have past lives. He argued that his case studies could not be explained by environment or heredity, and that "reincarnation is the best explanation for the stronger cases we have investigated." The testimonies of these individuals were validated through historical records, birth marks and personality traits,
Reincarnation is a strong theory as it provides a good explanation for the presence of inequality across the human population: all suffering is a consequence of our own misdeeds, just as success is a consequence of good conduct. It is also backed up by evidence of holy people who claim to have accessed multiple previous existences, as well as having evidence in the form of the Bhagvan Gita. Therefore, it can be said that reincarnation is a possible prospect.
Believed in by Christians, Muslims and Jews, resurrection in the belief that God will raise the dead back to life at the end of days (eschaton) and judge them. It is also believed that earthly life is a test and will determine whether one will go to heaven or hell: “And we will surely test you until we make evident those who strive among you” (Quran 47:31). In...
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