Everyone desires some goal to attain if not in this life then in one to come, but not all religions offer the hope of an afterlife so following one of these may offer a way to cope with more immediate and worldly problems rather than concentrate on a mere promise of more.
Religions generally seem to operate on a reward and punishment basis after death and thus if there’s no afterlife you won’t get either. This means (for the good amongst us) the only solution is to be the best person you can be now and see the effects of your goodness immediately.
Following any religion can have positive or negative connotations depending on how you as individual deal with the individual precepts and fundamental belief structure dictated by that particular faith.
Many born into certain cultures have no choice but to adopt the religion and beliefs of their forefathers and not once in their lives arises the opportunity to consider an alternative set of values.
Being endowed with the ability to reason and ponder their very existence, humans intrinsically desire something more than this mortal coil to which they are bound. Many of us carry the hope of an afterlife with us throughout our lives whatever religion we adhere to – whether it is a mainstream religion or lesser known cult.
Why? What makes us want for more?
Every living entity lives and dies and if it breeds, its seed continues on for the sake of the species. Even the very stars will die and the gases left behind will go on to create new matter. The carbon in your body and the haemoglobin in your blood was part of a star that burned bright like a diamond billions of years ago. It died so you can live.
Creation is an ongoing thing. Watch this video and if you believe in God then do not think for a minute that creation happened in a week! Hubble deep field God is doing the proverbial 9 to 5 just like you! It’s a work in progress. Our own world is but a speck in this vast cosmos which would not notice if it we and our planet were suddenly obliterated in an instant by our own stupidity.
Somewhere out there are worlds without number in the making just like ours. If the conditions for life are similar to those on our own planet then there will be dinosaurs roaming some primeval forest on a distant world this very minute somewhere in the great scheme of things and there will be infinite possibilities of life forms we can only imagine. 78 billion light years is big number to contemplate but that is how vast the universe actually is; there is room for all manner of life however diverse or distant from our imagination of it.
Who are we to expect an afterlife in all this? Is it greed? Is it some mental block that refuses to accept we will one day cease to exist? What other living entity is unhappy with its current state of existence, continually anticipating something beyond the physical realm?
Religion in whatever form is a crutch to get us through life. Many have the faith to carry on because they think they have God on their side whatever country or regime they are fighting for. We all breathe the same air; we all have red blood coursing through our veins whatever the colour of our skin and we all live on the same rock. Those religions which are also a way of life are so steeped in tradition and daily rituals that the hope of an afterlife may not be the main preoccupation for its followers. Many will follow a particular faith purely because they are indoctrinated at an early age.
To take but a brief look at the world’s religions, what promise do they give of an afterlife?
Judaism in its most ancient form has never stated that there was anything else to look forward to. Many of the very sensible precepts of Judaism concentrate on being better people while we are still here in this earthly domain.
Muslims have paradise or hell to look forward to depending on how they act in this life.
If you are a Mormon, the blessings and promises in the hereafter may be limitless. Your spiritual progress embarks on a new adventure at the point of death – in fact the Mormons go one better by believing that every living person enjoyed a pre-mortal existence on the spirit plane. A man in the Mormon faith may even attain a god-like position if he stays true to his faith and women can go on to breed endlessly in the spirit world, giving birth to spirit beings.
As a devout Jehovah’s Witness you can live forever on an earthly paradise. But you have to wait a while first; you must first become as dust on the ground and await resurrection at some undisclosed future point. Heaven is not for you; you will be bound to this planet.
Buddhism does not adhere to the idea of an afterlife although reincarnation and transmigration of souls could be a possibility but be careful which creature you think of at the moment of death or that could become your future existence! Buddhism may in fact be more of a philosophy than a religion since the main concept – which is entirely realistic – is based on the impermanence of everything and no one can argue with that. Buddha himself is reputed to have said that too much concentration on an afterlife can be a distraction from enlightenment.
Mainstream Christianity claims to offer the greatest reward – be good in this life and you are granted forever in Heaven; the ultimate gift of salvation. You don’t actually get to know what you will be doing forever to make best use of your time but you can perhaps cross that bridge when you come to it.
The fatal flaw for all religions is that they deem themselves to be the only ones with the truth. The only sensible religion is sun worship if you put things into a logical perspective, and although this offers no hope of an afterlife it does guarantee to provide warmth and sustenance now. The sun is the source of all life so greet the sun with your blessings each morning and bid the moon good night. Worship the moon too if it pleases you; without it we would have no tides or seasons and life as we know it would likely not exist. Praise the stars also for we are their children.
God may or may not exist and we may or may not be able to enjoy a future existence on some spiritual plane outside of the purely physical but one way or another organised religion and the bigotry and intolerance that goes with it is a stumbling block to our continued survival on this planet and has the destructive power to dash the opportunity for future generations who may otherwise be granted the experience to discover the full glory of the universe.
Here is a chart where you can compare the basic hopes of any afterlife in some of the world religions:religion chart.
If you are a Christian be a good Christian, if you are a Jew be a good Jew and if you are a Muslim be a good Muslim but whatever your religion or hopes of an afterlife don’t be intolerant of anyone else’s beliefs if they are vastly different from your own. Following a religion can bring positive rewards in this life, hope of an afterlife or not if you do not inflict your beliefs on others. All religions have some fundamental goodness sometimes known as ‘The golden rule’ based on the precept that you should treat others how you would like to be treated.
But what if you don’t believe in anything? What’s your reward then for living a good life? Nothing really; only the satisfaction that you’ve done your best to conduct your dealings with your fellow man conscientiously. Being a humanist makes sense in this case and when there’s no hope of a hereafter, just strive to make the world a better place while you are here for yourself and those around you.
The air is so very good to breathe, and with the warmth of the sun on your back, the blueness of the sky and the greenness of the grass and every provision our planet gives us why should we desire an afterlife anyway? This is it – this is all we are certain of so be grateful that you were born and that you are living your life on our small miracle of a world that hangs on nothing in the vastness of space – the only existence we know.