The most important question
What I'm pondering 2/22/2019
Is there an afterlife?
In my last year as an undergraduate, I was required to take a world history class. My first exam concerned the causes of the Crimean war. I thought hard about the questions for about ten minutes, and wrote one word on the exam paper: 'GREED', and turned in my paper. As you can imagine, I failed the exam. I have not stopped my search for root causes even though I failed that history exam. I still stand by my answer - it was just GREED. This brings to mind - what is the root cause of so much of the turbulence and rancor in our society?
Is it not a lack of belief in life after this life - the afterlife?
Belief in the afterlife is at the root for all moral and ethical behavior. It is the ultimate long term goal with very serious consequences. Without a system of long-term punishment and reward, why bother to be good? This life is short, and if this is all there is - why not be greedy, and self-serving?
All the world's major religions see the afterlife as a critical part of God's creation.
Our slow but steady loss of concern for the afterlife has lead to the slow but sure disintegration of our society. Again, why do good and resist evil if there is no reward or punishment for our short time on earth? Sadly, you will never hear the idea of an afterlife mentioned on our daily news shows, and only a few Christian churches emphasize the afterlife - many preach a prosperity gospel. Islam is the exception. Belief in the afterlife and the consequences of beliefs and deeds in this life are central to Muslims.
From the major religions
Hindus believe in a supreme being that watches over an endless cycle of creation, preservation, and dissolution.
Reincarnation is when the soul, which is seen as eternal and part of a spiritual realm, returns to the physical realm in a new form based on its merit in each lifetime. A soul will complete this cycle many times, learning new things each time and working through its karma.
Many of Jesus' parables refer to the afterlife, which is a chief tenant of Christianity.
Consider the The Parable of the Sheep and Goats found in Matthew 25:31-46
In this parable, Jesus uses the example of a shepherd who separates his sheep from his goats in order to help his followers understand what judgement will be like.
Jesus explains that people will be separated into two groups:
those who have lived good lives and believed in God will be put on one side and have a place in Heaven
those who have rejected the belief in God and sinned in their lives will be placed on the other side and will go to Hell.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
- From Islam
Many verses in the Quran refer to Paradise and Hell.
And those who disbelieved and denied Our revelations, they are the companions of Hell.And whoever does good deeds, male or female, and is a believer, they will enter Paradise, and they will not be wronged even by so much as a whit. [4:24]
And those who disbelieved and denied Our revelations, they are the companions of Hell.[5:10]
Know that the worldly life is only play, and distraction, and glitter, and boasting among you, and rivalry in wealth and children. It is like a rainfall that produces plants, and delights the disbelievers. But then it withers, and you see it yellowing, and then it becomes debris. While in the Hereafter there is severe agony, and forgiveness from God, and acceptance. The life of this world is nothing but enjoyment of vanity.[57:20]
Belief in an afterlife is at the root of just societies, and the ultimate reason for ethical behavor. Without it we end up with anarchy, as there is no final reward or punishment for our either our beliefs or our behavior. Sadly, we seem to be heading that way as I pen this note.