Is There Life After Death?
“IF AN able-bodied man dies can he live again?” asked the patriarch Job some 3,500 years ago. (Job 14:14) This question has perplexed mankind for millenniums. Throughout the ages, people in every society have pondered this subject and have come up with various theories.
Many nominal Christians believe in heaven and hell. Hindus, on the other hand, believe in reincarnation. Commenting on the Muslim view, Emir Muawiyah, an assistant at an Islamic religious center, says: “We believe there will be a day of judgment after death, when you go before God, Allah, which will be just like walking into court.” According to Islamic belief, Allah will then assess each person’s life course and consign him either to paradise or to hellfire.
In Sri Lanka, both Buddhists and Catholics leave their doors and windows wide open when a death occurs in their households. An oil lamp is lit, and the casket is placed with the feet of the deceased facing the front door. These measures, they believe, facilitate the exit of the spirit of the deceased.
According to Ronald M. Berndt of the University of Western Australia, Australian Aborigines believe that “human beings are spiritually indestructible.” Certain African tribes believe that after death ordinary people become ghosts, whereas prominent individuals become ancestor spirits who will be honored and petitioned as invisible leaders of the community.
In some lands, beliefs regarding the condition of the dead are a blend of local tradition and nominal Christianity. Among many Catholics and Protestants in West Africa, for instance, it is customary to cover mirrors when someone dies so that no one might look and see the dead person’s spirit.
Diverse, indeed, are the answers people give to the question, ‘What happens to us when we die?’ Yet, one basic idea is: Something inside a person is immortal and survives death. Some people believe that “something” to be a spirit. For example, in parts of Africa and Asia and throughout the Pacific regions of Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia, many believe that a spirit—not a soul—is immortal. In fact, certain languages do not even have the word “soul.”
Is there a spirit in a living person? Does that spirit really leave the body at death? If so, what happens to it? And what hope is there for the dead? These questions should not be ignored. Whatever your cultural or religious background, death is a fact that has to be faced. The issues thus involve you in a profoundly personal way. We encourage you to look into the matter.