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Before And After 'The Hereafter'
The Hope Of Heaven
Hopes And Promises
Everyone has goals and aspirations: if they're impossible to achieve in this life, many religions offer the hope of rewards in one to come, However not all religions advocate an afterlife so following one of these may provide a way to cope with more immediate and worldly problems rather than concentrate on an uncertain promise of more.
Religions generally seem to operate on a reward and punishment basis after death and thus if there’s no afterlife you won’t get either. This means (for the good amongst us) the only solution is to be the best person you can be now and see the effects of your goodness immediately.
Following a religion can have positive or negative connotations depending on how you as individual deal with the precepts and fundamental belief structure dictated by that particular faith. Those born into certain cultures have no choice but to adopt the religion and beliefs of their forefathers and not once in their lives arises the opportunity to consider an alternative set of values.
Being endowed with the ability to reason and ponder their very existence, humans intrinsically desire something more than this mortal coil to which they are bound. Many of us carry the hope of an afterlife throughout our lives whatever religion we adhere to - whether it is a mainstream religion or lesser known cult.
The Path To Paradise Has Its Pitfalls!
What Makes Us Desire More Than This Existence?
Every living entity lives and dies and if it breeds, its seed continues on for the sake of the species. Even the very stars will die and the gases left behind will go on to create new matter. The carbon in your body and the haemoglobin in your blood were once part of a star that burned brighter than the sun billions of years ago. It died so you can live. How we are here at all is a miracle. Why expect more?
Creation is an ongoing thing. Watch this video and if you believe in God then don't think for a minute that creation happened in a week! Hubble deep field God is probably doing the proverbial nine-to-five just like you. Creation is a work in progress. Our own world is but a speck in this vast cosmos which wouldn't notice if it was obliterated in an instant by our own stupidity.
There are worlds in the making just like ours. If the conditions for life are similar to those on our own planet, there will be dinosaurs roaming some primaeval forest on a far-flung world this very minute somewhere in the great scheme of things and there will be infinite possibilities of life forms we can only imagine. Seventy-eight billion light years is a big number to contemplate but that's how vast the universe is; there's room for all manner of life however diverse or distant from our limited perception of it.
Imagination Has No Bounds
Who Are We To Expect An Afterlife In All This?
Is it greed? Is it some mental block that refuses to let us accept that we will one day cease to exist? What other living entity is unhappy with its current state of existence, continually anticipating something beyond the physical realm?
Religion in whatever form is a crutch to get us through life. Many have the faith to carry on because they think they'll have their particular god on their side whatever country or regime they're fighting for. We all breathe the same air; we all have red blood coursing through our veins, whatever the colour of our skin and we all live on the same small rock. Those religions which are also a way of life are so steeped in tradition and daily rituals that the hope of an afterlife may not be the main preoccupation for its followers. Many will follow a particular faith purely because they are indoctrinated from an early age.
Pick Your Own Paradise?
What Promise Do Religions Give Of An Afterlife?
To take a brief look at some of the world’s religions, what promise do they give of an afterlife?
Judaism in its most ancient form has never stated there was anything else to look forward to. Many of the very sensible precepts of Judaism concentrate on being better people while we are still here in this earthly domain.
Muslims have paradise or hell to look forward to depending on how they act in this life.
If you're a Mormon, the blessings and promises in the hereafter may be limitless. Your spiritual progress embarks on a new adventure at the point of death - in fact, the Mormons go one better by believing that every living person enjoyed a premortal existence on the spirit plane. A man in the Mormon faith may even attain a god-like position if he stays true to his faith and women can go on to breed endlessly in the spirit world, giving birth to spirit beings.
As a devout Jehovah’s Witness, you can live forever in an earthly paradise - but you'll have to wait a while; you must first become as dust on the ground and await resurrection at some undisclosed future point. Heaven is not for you; you'll be bound to this planet forever.
Buddhism doesn't adhere to the idea of an afterlife although reincarnation and transmigration of souls could be a possibility but be careful which creature you think of at the moment of death or that could become your future existence! Buddhism may, in fact, be more of a philosophy than a religion since the main concept – which is entirely realistic – is based on the impermanence of everything and no one can argue with that. Buddha himself is reputed to have said that too much concentration on an afterlife can be a distraction from enlightenment.
Mainstream Christianity claims to offer the greatest reward - be good in this life and you are granted forever in Heaven; the ultimate gift of salvation. You don’t know what you'll be doing forever to make the best use of your time but you can perhaps cross that bridge when you come to it.
The fatal flaw for all religions is that they deem themselves to be the only ones with the truth. The only sensible religion is sun worship if you put things into a logical perspective, and although this offers no hope of an afterlife it does guarantee to provide warmth and sustenance now. The sun is the source of all life so greet the sun with your blessings each morning and bid the moon good night. Worship the moon too if it pleases you; without it, we'd have no tides or seasons and life as we know it would likely not exist. Praise the stars also for we are their children.
God may or may not exist and we may or may not be able to enjoy a future existence on some spiritual plane outside of the purely physical but one way or another, organised religion and the bigotry and intolerance that goes with it is a stumbling block to our continued survival on this planet. It has the destructive power to dash the opportunity for future generations to discover the full glory of the universe.
If you're a Christian, be a good Christian, if you're a Jew, be a good Jew and if you're a Muslim, be a good Muslim but whatever your religion or hopes of an afterlife, don’t be intolerant of anyone else’s beliefs if they are vastly different from your own. Following a religion can bring positive rewards in this life, the hope of an afterlife or not, if you don't inflict your beliefs on others. All religions have some fundamental goodness sometimes known as ‘The golden rule’ based on the precept that you should treat others how you would like to be treated.
Hovering Between Life And Death
But What If You Don’t Believe In Anything?
If you have no particular beliefs or expectations of the hereafter what’s your reward then for living a good life? There isn't one, but you will have the satisfaction that you’ve done your best to conduct your dealings with your fellow man conscientiously. Being a humanist makes ultimate sense in this case so if you have no hope of a hereafter, just strive to make the world a better place while you are here for yourself and those around you.
The air is so very good to breathe, and with the warmth of the sun on your back, the blueness of the sky and the greenness of the grass and every provision our planet gives us why should we desire an afterlife anyway? This is it - this is all we are certain of so be grateful that you were born and that you are living your life on our small miracle of a world that hangs on nothing in the vastness of space - the only existence we know.
Are We Borne On Angelic Wings To Who Knows Where?
If you're a Christian, be a good Christian, if you're a Jew, be a good Jew and if you're a Muslim, be a good Muslim— Stella Kaye
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© 2015 Stella Kaye