Where to Turn for Answers
“The theory of everlasting suffering is inconsistent with belief in God’s love for created things. . . . To believe in the eternal punishment of the soul for the mistakes of a few years, without giving it a chance for correction, is to go against all the dictates of reason.”—NIKHILANANDA, HINDU PHILOSOPHER.
1, 2. In view of the variety of beliefs about the Hereafter, what questions arise?
LIKE the Hindu philosopher Nikhilananda, many today are uncomfortable with the teaching of eternal torment. By the same token, others have difficulty understanding such concepts as the achieving of Nirvana and being at one with Tao.
2 Yet, because of the idea that the soul is immortal, religions of both the East and the West have developed a bewildering kaleidoscope of beliefs about the Hereafter. Is it possible to know the truth about what happens to us when we die? Is the soul really immortal? Where can we turn for answers?
Science and Philosophy
3. Does science or the scientific method of investigation hold answers to the questions concerning life after death?
3 Does science or the scientific method of investigation hold the answers to questions pertaining to the Hereafter? Based on recent accounts of near-death or ‘out of body’ experiences, some researchers have tried to make observations about life after death. Reviewing some of their claims in his lecture “Death as Entry Into Light?,” Catholic theologian Hans Küng concluded: “Experiences of this kind prove nothing about a possible life after death: it is a question here of the last five minutes before death and not of an eternal life after death.” He added: “The question of a possible life after death is of immense importance for life before death. It requires an answer which must be sought elsewhere if it cannot be given by medicine.”
4. Can philosophy help us find the answers among the many possibilities of an afterlife that are offered by various religions?
4 What about philosophy? Can it help us find the answers among the many possibilities of an afterlife that are offered by various religions? Philosophical exploration includes “speculative activity,” says 20th-century British philosopher Bertrand Russell. Philosophy, according to The World Book Encyclopedia, is “a form of inquiry—a process of analysis, criticism, interpretation, and speculation.” On the topic of a Hereafter, philosophical speculations have varied from calling immortality mere wishful thinking to proclaiming it a birthright of every human.
A Unique Source of Answers
5. What is the oldest book ever written?
5 There is, however, a book that contains truthful answers to important questions about life and death. It is the oldest book ever written, parts of it being composed some 3,500 years ago. The first part of this book was written a few centuries before the earliest hymns of the Hindu scriptures, the Vedas, were formulated and about a thousand years before Buddha, Mahāvīra, and Confucius walked the earth. This book was completed in 98 C.E., more than 500 years before Muḥammad founded Islam. This unique source of superior wisdom is the Bible.*
6. Why can we expect the Bible to tell us what the soul is?
6 The Bible contains the most accurate ancient history of any book in existence. The history recorded in the Bible goes back to the beginning of the human family and explains how we came to be here on earth. It even takes us back to the time before humans were created. Such a book can indeed give us insight into how man was made and what the soul is.
7, 8. Why can we confidently turn to the Bible for truthful and satisfying answers about what happens when we die?
7 Additionally, the Bible is a book of prophecies that have had unerring fulfillment. For example, it foretold the rise and fall of the Medo-Persian and Grecian empires in great detail. These words were so accurate that some critics tried, in vain, to prove that they were written after the events took place. (Daniel 8:1-7, 20-22) Some prophecies recorded in the Bible are being fulfilled in detail in our very own time.*—Matthew, chapter 24; Mark, chapter 13; Luke, chapter 21; 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13.
8 No human, however intelligent, could so accurately predict future events. Only the all-powerful and all-wise Creator of the universe could. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17; 2 Peter 1:20, 21) The Bible is indeed a book from God. Surely, such a book can give us truthful and satisfying answers about what happens to us when we die. Let us first see what it has to say about the soul.
See the brochure A Book for All People, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
See The Bible—God’s Word or Man’s?, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
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The oldest book ever written
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A book that gives reliable and satisfying answers