Are the Dead Alive? What Men Say
THE old black woman looked very sickly. Her feet hurt so much she could hardly walk. Her appearance was strange—her hair was daubed with red clay, she wore several scarves, and her hands and feet were adorned with charms. Why? Because for over 50 years she had believed that she was possessed by her ancestral spirits. Witch doctors had prescribed the clay, scarves, and charms to “cure” her.
A rare belief? Not really. In Africa alone, the lives of countless people revolve around the belief that dead ancestors have the power “to protect their descendants or to chastise them with minor illness or misfortune,” as the book African Heritage puts it. Similar ancestor worship is practiced in many other parts of the world. Surprising as it may seem, such worship likely has something in common with religious beliefs where you live. How so?
Hindus and others believe in reincarnation. Spiritists believe that one can contact the dead through mediums. Catholics are taught that at death most people must have their sins purged in purgatory before eventually reaching heaven but that the incorrigibly wicked go to a fiery hell. Most Protestants believe that the good go to heaven and the bad are tormented in hell, and many are convinced that this is what the Bible teaches. Some people who have had near-death experiences are convinced that something survives the body at death.
Although religions vary in their specific ideas about an afterlife, most of them have this one thing in common—the belief that the dead are alive.
Death certainly is a terrible enemy, striking down people of all races—rich and poor, young and old. As the Bible says: “You are a mist appearing for a little while and then disappearing.” (James 4:14) Every day multitudes lose dear ones in death.
Hence, many people wonder: ‘Where have they gone? Are they really dead or are they still alive somewhere? Will we ever see them again? Where can we find truthful answers?’