The concept of life after death is one of the core tenets of many religions. It often contains both the promise of eternal reward or eternal punishment. Whether you believe in such theories, the concept certainly shapes our culture and your worldview.
The fear of death is one of the first major questions we have when we begin to mature. Children begin to ask about death when they are just 2 or 3 years old. This is what many philosophers call our existential fear or crisis. It’s that moment we realize all things die, including us. This prompts people to seek answers.
The Afterlife for Sale
The idea that some type of existence after death transcends many philosophies and religions. It is also life after death, later life or the hereafter. In general, it refers to the belief in the continuation of some type of existence after death. Most variations of this concept are mutually exclusive to a specific religious paradigm.
This central existential fear should prompt us on our spiritual quest. This is what Joseph Campbell calls the Hero’s Journey. It is the path of awakening and enlightenment. If we face our existential fear of death, we can learn about how this can make our life meaningful.
However, religion offers a counterfeit to cover up the fear. The antidote religion provides is life after death rewards. This gives people promises to cover up the fear. These answers are comforting, but this comfort is fragile.
With the afterlife for sale from so many religions, it’s hard to pick the right one. Luckily, most people who are a part of a religion don’t have to pick one. They get born into their religion. So, children and vulnerable often don’t have a choice. Sometimes the beliefs of life after death are a part of a statement of beliefs or creed.
In contrast, there are those who say there is nothing after death just eternal oblivion. The belief in an existence after death is not exclusive to people with deeply held religious beliefs. Beliefs about life after death are often unique to the individual even within the same religious sect.
The Antidote for Fear of Death
Not surprisingly, many religions use the life after death concept as an effective recruitment and retention tool. However, the Abrahamic religions surpass others in their rebranding efforts. The sale of the afterlife is big business and has been for centuries. It is recession proof. Depending on the beliefs, you can receive a range of rewards. If you qualify as a believer and follower of the religion sponsoring this benefit. Or, if you might also be able to pay “indulgences” to buy your way to eternal life. But, if you aren’t a believer and follower eternal punishment awaits you.
“Eternal suffering awaits anyone who questions God’s, infinite love.” ― Bill Hicks
In most cases, the belief in a life after death presupposes the belief in the existence of two other mystical realms, Heaven and Hell. After all, you can’t have a life after death if you’ve nowhere to go. Life after death beliefs is not a universal antidote for fear of death. You must submit to the tenets of the belief system. But beliefs are fragile especially for things that we cannot prove.
Christianity sets Life after Death Sales Record
The three largest religions by population are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Together they boast over 4 billion followers. Today, there are over 10,000 versions on these themes. Besides promoting the afterlife for sale, it also borrows the concept of hell. This is another fear driving idea from the ancient mystery religions of Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian and Assyrian. Here we find the concepts of hell, demons and a lot of other concepts to keep fear high.
The main goal of these systems is to generate income. In fact, the wealthiest religion has more material wealth than most countries. Making the afterlife for sale was a brilliant idea. It is the all time cash flow generator. It makes the Vatican of the Catholic Church the richest country on the planet. It holds an estimated net worth over 400 billion dollars. This includes cash, real estate, precious metals, and art.
Questions about Life After Death Beliefs
How these concepts shape your worldview is important to understand. If you answer these questions you’ll learn about how this concept affects your life. Here are the questions to ponder:
- If you have some kind of life after death beliefs, where did you get them? Are they something you chose after reviewing a number of possibilities?
- Are your life after death beliefs a part of a package with your religious beliefs?
- How much do you need to pay your religion to maintain your life after death rewards?
- Do you hold on to these beliefs because you fear that rejecting them would place you in eternal jeopardy? (Do you believe in Hell?)
- Are your beliefs in the hereafter motivate you to show love, compassion, and friendship? If so does this love and compassion extend to others outside of your belief system?
- Do your beliefs in life after death create barriers that prevent you from making or maintaining relationships with others who don’t hold the same beliefs?
- Are your beliefs really an antidote for Fear? Or does it simply exchange the anxiety for the fear of religion?
The concept of some kind of eternal existence is one of the core tenets of many religions. It often contains both the promise of eternal reward or eternal punishment. Whether or not you believe in such theories, the concept certainly shapes our culture and your worldview. You must decide for yourself if it is an antidote for fear of death.
With the afterlife on sale from so many religions it makes it hard to pick the right one.
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Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s Book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia