Soul and Death

Freshman (College 1st year) ・English ・MLA ・5 Sources

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Where do Different Religions Say the Soul Goes after Death?

 Various religious groups hold divergent views regarding where souls go after death. The main argument is on whether the soul goes directly to God, stays together with the body until the judgment day, or an individual is rebirth immediately after death. Although Christians differ on whether the souls go straight to God or have to be cleaned first, the primary belief is that all the souls will be judged in heaven after death. On the other hand, Hindus believe that people who die are reborn and live again on the earth. Therefore, different religions believe that souls go to heaven, hell, or remain on earth.    

 Various orthodox Christian beliefs including Protestants, Christians, Catholic, and Baptists believe that souls of those who lived innocent lives on earth go to heaven after death. From Christian perspective, individual’s behavior on earth determines where the soul goes after death. For instance, the Catholic Church believes that the souls of those who behave well go to heaven and while the souls of the wicked go to hell. The Church also believes that there is a state between hell and heaven called “purgatory” (Keene 33). The soul of the blameless goes straight to God while the souls of the wicked have to be cleansed in purgatory before progressing to God. However, other Christians such as Protestants do not believe in purgatory. Unlike Catholics, Protestants believe that souls go to heaven immediately after death. Taylor says, “The soul will be taken straight to God to be judged” (27).  

 Unlike Christianity, Buddhists believe that a person returns to earth for rebirth or enters nirvana (Ellwood and Gregory 377). From Tibetan Buddhism view, the spirit of the dead goes through a process that lasts for forty-nine days. The process is divided into three phases called “bardos.” The stages include Chikai, Chonyid, and Sidpa Bardo. An individual either goes to nirvana or earth for rebirth at the end of the process (Ellwood and Gregory 377-378). The belief is contrary to Christian belief that life goes directly to heaven afterlife as long as one repented before death. In other words, Buddhism and Christianity believe in life after death. The difference is that Christians believe that people live again everlasting life in heaven while Buddhists believe that people are reborn and live on earth.

 Jews hold a similar view as Christians and Buddhists that souls of people who behave well on earth go to heaven after death while the souls of the wicked will go to hell (Heath and Jon 26-27). However, Orthodox Jews believe that evil souls are destroyed at death thus marking their end. This is contrary to Christians who believe that souls of the wicked will go to hell after the judgment day.  

 Islam also believes in life after death which they call akhirah. However, unlike Christians who believe that the souls of the blameless go straight to God and will reunite with the body after the resurrection, Muslims believe that when an individual dies, the soul is taken to a waiting area called barzakh until the end of the world. The body and soul will then reunite after resurrection during the judgment day (Taylor 28). Both religions also hold that the soul remains in a “soul sleep” until the Day of Judgment. Thereafter, the wicked will go to hell while the righteous see God.

 Unlike Buddhism and Christianity who believe that the souls of righteous people live in heaven after death, Hindus believe that people rebirth or reincarnate in successive lifetimes especially if one dies before reaping for his/her actions (Koslowski 13-14). That is, people come back on earth and continue with their life in the future. Such belief is not applicable in other religions such as Buddhism, Islam, or Christianity.

 In conclusion, most of the religions believe that souls of those who behaved well on earth go to heaven and that such people will live again after judgment day. However, the religions differ on whether the souls go straight to heaven or people are reborn again after death.  

Works Cited

Ellwood, S. Robert and Gregory D. Alles. “The Encyclopedia of World Religions.” New York:      Facts on File, 2007.

Heath, Pamela R, and Jon Klimo. “Handbook to the Afterlife.” Berkeley, Calif: North Atlantic           Books, 2010. Print.

Keene, Michael. “Religion in Life & Society: Gcse Religious Studies for Edexcel 'a'.” Dunstable:       Folens Publishers, 2002. Print.

Koslowski, Peter. “Progress, Apocalypse, and Completion of History and Life after Death of the    Human Person in the World Religions.” Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2002.        Print.

Taylor, Ina. “Religion and Life with Christianity and Islam.” Oxford: Heinemann, 2005. Print.

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