The Exploration of Life After Death

 

May 3, 1993

 

 

 

Introduction

 

           

            This term paper is a collection of some different views exploring the possibility of life after death.  It is presented in three separate parts.  Part A is made up of two ideas of my own.  In part two I explore one of these ideas with commentary from other sources.  The last part is a conclusion of what I have learned as a result of this research. 

 

PART A

No Religion

           

            The following two ideas are extremely important to me.  I arrived at them recently.  However, they are the result of my life experiences.  The first view I have is of religion and life after death.  I believe that the religions of the world are detrimental to the advancement of mankind.  There are several religions throughout the world.  Which religion is correct?  Of course almost every religion will answer this question in a way that favors their own religion as being the correct religion.  My answer is that none of these religions are correct.  Religion is a man made idea.  Not much of religion can be proven with physical evidence or any other kind of evidence.  It is the idea of having faith in something that cannot be seen or heard.  People have faith in religion as the result of many occurrences.  Firstly, mostly people are born into a religion and often even before people can even talk they are taking part in this religion.  As people develop their vocabulary and learn to speak they are learning about one religion.  They are told that this religion is correct and all others are incorrect.  As a result, the person is brainwashed into one point of view without even seeing the other available options.  In other cases throughout history various peoples were converted to religions by force.  If they did not comply than many times they were killed.  Is this religion the g-d?  Killing and murdering those who do not believe as you believe.  Obviously this is the case of past history and current situations around the world today.  For example, in the Middle East, Muslims say they are killing in the name of g-d.  People are dying and starving throughout the world as the result of these religious beliefs.  I divides people and countries instead of bringing them together.  Furthermore, the amount of money and time spent on religious rituals could be spent in various ways to improve life for everyone.  G-d is a security blanket for people.  In other words, people believe in g-d because this explains why we are here on this earth and why we should be good to each other.  G-d is a quick and easy answer for the existence of people on earth because the notion of g-d is already laid out for people.  There people do not need to do any thinking for themselves.  Religion gives people a reason to be good to others.  One reason how religion does this is through the notion of heaven and hell and life after death which leads to my second idea.

            Many children are taught from a young age that they must behave good or they may go to a place called hell after they die.  In my opinion, this is one of the reasons why religion was invented in the first place.  If a person is good then that person will go to heaven.  However, none of this can be proven.  Many religions assume life after death because a book has words written in it from other human beings that this life after death is actually there.  How many scientists accept an idea just because just because another scientist said it was true?  In effect, humans believe other humans and we know from many experiences that human perception is fallible.  I personally cannot fully discount the notion of life after death like I can discount religion.  I cannot rely on others who have died and come back to life because they could be liars or they could have been in some unexplainable dimension.  Unlike many people I am content to find out the many mysteries of life later, after I die.  I probably live my life more pure than most other religious people and I don’t know if there is a g-d and I don’t have a religion.  The only thing that I do have control over is the life I live here on earth at present I live this life by helping others as much as possible, not killing and not stealing.  Whatever happens to me after I die I have no control over such as religions try to do by controlling matters they have no control over.

 

Life After Death

            Every religion in the world has some belief in an afterlife.  Each religion thinks it is correct and the others are incorrect.  In addition, some people have their own view on afterlife that are distinctly  different from any religions.  My own opinion of life after death is simply that there is no life after death.  I feel that when humans pass away this marks the end of their existence.  I feel this way because we humans seem to think that we are so important that our souls continue to live on even after we die.  Why do we think that we are so important?  I think humans believe that they are so important because they are the most intelligent life that they know.  However, I believe that it is highly possible that there are several other planets that contain life far in advance of the life we have on earth.  Furthermore, humans cannot accept death as the end of time for themselves.  It is human nature not to accept something that is not known.  Therefore, humans create their own answers to something that they do not understand.  So the various religions believe indifferent lives after death.  Which one is correct?  I feel none are correct.  They have all been created to comfort humans into feeling that death is not the end.  We are animals just like any other creature.  We breathe, eat, sleep, etc. just as all other animals.  Humans die just as all other animals.   As a result, humans reach the end of their existence just as animals do at death.  The afterlife is just a lie created for comfort and direction in how humans should lead their lives.  Humans have such a great fear of death that they alter their lives so that they will be saved in the afterlife.  Some humans lives are evolved around solely reaching this afterlife that they do not live life on earth.  It is a sad fact that humans do good deeds just to reach what they believe is heaven.  I feel that there is no afterlife and yet I live my life helping others humans just simply because they are fellow humans that need help rather than live my life for the salvation of myself.

 

PART B

Christianity & Unitarian Universalism

           

            My first source was found on UHCARL using the word search for “life after death”.  It is a book titled How Different Religions view Death and Afterlife, edited by Christopher Jay Johnson and Marsha G. McGee with several contributing authors.  The library of Congress heading Cataloging are 1.  Death-Religious aspects.  2.  Future life.  The call number is BL 504.  E53.  I selected this book as a reference because it tells of some different religions beliefs of the afterlife.  Although it covers several religions I will only focus on my report on two religions, Roman Catholicism and Unitarian Universalism.  Each religion expresses a different view point.  On contrasting my views in Part A and the other in some support of my views. 

 

Roman Catholicism

 

            The contributing author for Roman Catholicism is Rev.  Francis X.  Cleary, S.J.  I feel that the author of this section is knowledgeable about Roman Catholicism because he is a Reverend of the faith.  Therefore, I am confident with the information which it contains.  According to Rev. Cleary, belief in the afterlife is at the heart of the Roman Catholic faith (Johnson & McGee 267).  This life after death does not come naturally but instead we receive it as the final

1, undeserved gift from God (Johnson & McGee 267).  The afterlife is only attainable because of Jesus redemptive death and resurrection (Johnson & McGee).  Ever lasted existence that Jesus now possesses will one day become the inheritance of all the faithful that are destined to share this triumph over death (Johnson & McGee 267).  Heaven is a condition rather than a place that is supreme happiness flowing from the intimacy with God (Johnson & McGee267).  The exact layout of heaven is not explained by Catholicism but rather comparisons made to explain heaven.  Heaven can be compared to the heavenly banquet hosted by God within the saved as honored guests (Johnson& McGee 268).

            The existence of hell is another option in this religion.  Hell like heaven can only be described in a metaphorical language.  Hell is associated with fire, burning, and eternal damnation.  Both of the conditions are irreversible and are a result of ones life on earth.

            Furthermore, afterlife represents fulfillment and perfection because life as we know it serves as an incomplete sign of what will be (Johnson & McGee 274).  We become as much like God as possible, while still remaining ourselves (Johnson& McGee274). 

            Of course the author’s views are partial to this religion.  However, in the case of describing a religious belief, it is best done by those of its faith.  I found it very informative.  However, I refute the idea Catholicism has of life after death.  How do they know this life exists?  In addition, I feel that because Roman Catholicism fails to explain life in heaven and hell in any detail that makes it harder to believe and understand.  As a result, I cannot accept Roman Catholicism.

 

Unitarian Universalism

 

            The contributing author for Unitarian Universalism is George . Marshall who is Minister of this church.  The best word describe this religion is “liberal”.  Some of the members are agnostic about the existence of God, and most tend to be agnostic about the existence of afterlife (Johnson & McGee 300).  They simply feel that they do not know.  It is commonly heard from members that “no one has ever returned to tell us about the afterlife” (Johnson & McGee 300).  They seem to question spiritual passages that tell of an afterlife.  The Unitarian Universalists do not deny the existence of an afterlife but rather doubt the existence.  Heaven, hell, or other places thought to be in the afterlife are rejected because these concepts do not fall in accord with modern astronomical, cosmological, or geological findings (Johnson & McGee 301).  Instead, the fell reward and punishments are in the here and now, in this life (Johnson & McGee 301).  Therefore, Unitarian Universalists believe in science, and the evolutionary theory of creation. Following death, material will rapidly decay so that bodily resurrection is impossible (Johnson & McGee 3-1).  Salvation by character molds the Unitarian character (Johnson & McGee 301).  This does not project salvation to a future life.  In summary, the Unitarian Universalists do not reject life after death but are skeptical about it.  Furthermore, death is the final rest that can be described as an unspeakable gain (Johnson & McGee 303).

            I trust this author because he is extremely knowledgeable of his faith.  However, it seems that this religion is not homogeneous.  The ideas have changed over time and will continue to change as science changes.  Therefore, I feel that this is a limited view but adequate for an overall understanding of Unitarian Universalism.  I would align the thought of this religion with empiricism because they tend to accept what is only seen as proof.  However, Unitarians take the middle of the road because they do not deny the existence of an afterlife.  It sound like they are scared to deny an afterlife because they do not wish to be incorrect.  Through my research, this religion has come closest to my own belief system.  It appeals to me because this religion does not deny any persons entry to its religion no matter what prior beliefs they held.  I addition, it “shares common humanity” with all people (Johnson & McGee 303).  This is very important concept to my own beliefs, especially in a time when people kill over religious beliefs.

 

Evidence for Life after Death

 

            I found this source for the evidence of an afterlife using UHCARL word search for “life after death.”  The book’s title is Death & Personal Survival: the Evidence for Life after Death, written by Robert Almeder.  The call number for this book is BF 1311. F8.   I selected this book as a reference for a view point contrary to my beliefs.  It contains many case histories of people that believe they were reincarnated, saw apparitions, communicated with the dead, and had out-of body experiences.  I have chosen specific excerpts from this book for the reader to get an overall view of the evidence it puts forth.

 

Case History 1

           

            The Cheltham ghost first was seen in 1882 by Rose Despord, in her family home (Alexander 109).   Rose saw the figure of a tall body dressed in black, standing at the head of the stairs (Almeder 110).  The appearance of this ghost appeared frequently between 1882-1886 (Almeder 110).  This ghost was seen several times by as many as seventeen people.  Some people gave written testimony to seeing this ghost.

 

Case History 2

 

            This case involves the near death experiences of Reinee Pasarow.  Reinee Pasarow reported having a near death experience in May 1967 when she was 17 years old (Almeder 170).  She was suffering from a massive allergic reaction (Almeder 170).  She was suffering from a massive allergic reaction (Almeder 170).  Reinee stooped breathing while she waited for an ambulance to help her.  She states “I slipped into the dark of a totally unconscious but peaceful realm” (Almeder 170).  Reinee claims to have floated above her body and watched the entire incident “telepathically aware of everyone’s feelings and thoughts” (Almeder 171).  She goes on to explain a heavenly state where she was a “vast light” (Almeder 171) through a “tunnel of light” (Almeder 172) back into this world.  Soon she rejoined her body after what she believes was fifteen minutes of death (Almeder 172).

            Almeder explains that critics say this is a case of hallucination (Almeder 173).  Specifically this could be described as “autoscopic hallucination” which usually occurs in cases of drug abuse, epilepsy, liver ailments, etc. (Almeder 174).  He goes on to state that they are associated with the state of oxygen deprivation called “hypoxia” (Almeder 174).  However, Almeder defends these situations because he feels they are described in such detail situations because he feels they are described in such detail situations because he they are described in such a detail (Almeder 181).  In addition, he feels they are described in such detail been able to see the events taking place around her from the position she was in (Almeder 181).   Almeder goes on to describe that Moody documented several cases where people could describe the details of the room they died in that could only otherwise be known from viewing the room in several positions (Almeder 181). 

            I feel that this author is not trustworthy because he is writing in a popular style that is unscientific.  In addition, the occurrences are not his own.  He does try to be objective by presenting the opposing view; however, he just dismisses it without too much reason.  To prove his point of view he uses more case situations which are just restating his argument instead of substantiating it.

            In case study one, I feel that just because several people attest to seeing a ghost, this does not exemplify any proof of an afterlife.  If it was real, what was it?  If it was real, what was it?  The apparition may not be the proof of life after death but rather could be proof of a different life.

            Case study number two could be explained in various different ways, alternative to Almeder’s explanation.  Reinee could have been having a dream or as Almeder previously showed, a lack of oxygen.  I would argue that this woman possibly did not die.  Possibly we are not actually dead directly after our hearts stop beating.  Also maybe she had a pulse but it could not be detected.  Technically we are dead when our hearts stop beating but what happens directly after?   We may be dreaming or still conscious but unable to communicate.  I feel that it is possible to have out-of body experience, however, they fail to conclusively  prove that there is life after life.

 

Belief in Afterlife as a Buffer in Bereavement

 

            I found this source in the Omega Journal, volume 24 (3), on pages 217-225 (1991-1992).  I found it while I was browsing through various different journals on the second floor in Hamilton Library.  The authors of this experiment are Peggy C. Smith, Lillian M. Range, and Ann Ulmer.  The title is “Belief is Afterlife as an affiliated with the University of Southern Mississippi.  I chose this article as a source because it confirms my belief that after death is a comfort for

people.

            The purpose of this experiment is to assess whether degree of belief in life after death enhanced bereavement recovery following different types of death (Smith, Range & Ulmer 217).  Different scales were used measuring belief in afterlife, impact of event, perceived recovery, spiritual well-being, emotional pain, and social support (Smith, Range & Ulmer 217).

            The results indicated that high belief in afterlife was associated with greater recovery from bereavement, regardless of the cause of death (Smith, Range & Ulmer 222).  The people with a strong belief in afterlife were less likely to actively avoid different aspects of bereavement are more or less difficult, depending on the cause of death.  It was much more difficult finding meaning in death for those who committed suicide (Smith, Range & Ulmer 222).  In the bereaved individuals, believing that a loved one continued in another life was important to their well-being (Smith, Range & Ulmer 223).

            I trust the authors of this experiment, they use scholarly writing and accurately exemplify popular beliefs in American thinking.  The fact that people recover from the bereavement process faster makes logical sense.  In part A, I wrote that humans cannot accept death so they believe in life after death as a comforting thought.  I feel humans use the idea of an afterlife as a coping strategy of death.  However, the fact of life after death is still a mystery to most people.  This article was confirmation of my beliefs.

 

Beliefs and Death Anxiety

 

            I found my next source browsing through different journals in the Hamilton Library.  This particular article can be found in the Omega Journal, volume 25 (2), on pages 95-107 (1992).  The title is “Metaphysical Beliefs as Predictors of Death Anxiety” and the authors are R.K. Naidu and A. Sinha who are affiliated with the University of Allahadbad, located in India.  I chose to  use this reference because it asked the same question that I ask and the results are mixed compared to my beliefs.  The question the article tries to answer is what is the impact of metaphysical beliefs on death anxiety?  (Naidu & Sinha 95).

            The results showed that some subjects revealed significant relationship between beliefs and death anxiety (Naidu & Sinha 95).  Therefore, the results suggest that the beliefs are important for people with certain needs (Naidu & Sinha 95).

            This experiment confirms that the belief in continued existence after death reduces fears of people had a correlation between metaphysical beliefs and death anxiety (Naidu & Sinha 95).

           I feel these results support my opinion that most humans use the concept of an afterlife as a safety blanket.  However, is one sense it contradicted my beliefs because not all the participants had a correlation between death anxiety and metaphysical beliefs.  I feel that if these people were faced with the death crisis, such as my last source was, the results would tend to show a higher correlation between beliefs and death anxiety.  This is due to the fact that humans cling to God in the time of crisis but otherwise do not.

 

Price:  A Dream-World

 

            I found my next source from UHCARL world search using the word “death.”  I would not recommend using this word alone because several sources arise.  The title of the book is Man’s Concern with Death by several authors.  H.H. Price is the only author I used.  I chose this reference because it is in contrast to my own views on doffers some interesting explanations of afterlife.  The library call number is BD 444. M36.

            Price feels that “if we are to discuss the problem of survival intelligently, we must try to from some idea of what the life after death might be like” (Price et. Al 251).  I do not agree with Price’s postulation of life after death, although I agree with his statement above.

            Price postulates the possibility that life after death is an immaterial dream-world (Price et. Al 253).  In this life after life mental imagery will likely play the part that sense-perception plays in this life (Price et. al 253).  He feels that this world takes up no physical space, much like dreams.  Price thinks the dream-world is a psychological one and not necessarily pleasant (Price et. Al 254-255).  According to Price, this world will not follow the laws of physics just as dreams do not.  In addition, each person much experience “a world of his own” (Price et. al 255).  Telepathy might be extensive in the afterlife because the brain inhibits its use in the present lie (Price et. Al 256). 

            I am very happy to find an explanation of the afterlife that does not depend on religious beliefs or actions on earth.  However, Price does not go into detail but rather offers a sketchy outline.  To his point he offers a different view of life after life.  Since I am not fond of religious beliefs, as I previously explained in part A, Price’s explanation has offered me an alternative.  However, it still remains speculation and is not in enough detail.

 

Emanuel Swedenborg:   A detailed explanation of life after death

 

            I was given this source by Dr. Leon Jakobovits.  The book is written by Emanuel Swedenborg and is titled Heaven and Hell.   The Library of Congress Catalog Card Number is 81-52785.  I selected this source because it was the only detailed description of an afterlife.  It is contrary to my beliefs in part A of this paper.  I know the background of Swedenborg through class and personal discussions with Dr. Leon Jakobovits.  As a result, all material may not be cited. 

            Swedenborg’s book is in such detail that even a fraction of his book cannot be reported.  Swedenborg visited heaven and hell and this is the basis for all his knowledge set forth in this book.  According to Swedenborg, heaven is “divided into two kingdoms, regionally into three heavens, and locally into countless communities (Swedenborg 40).  The two kingdoms are the “celestial” and the “spiritual,” of which the “celestial” is higher because its’ inhabitants “accept more inwardly” (Swedenborg 40).  There are three heavens, according to Swedenborg, each separate, and one more inward than the other (Swedenborg 43).  These communities are separated by the levels of love (Swedenborg 50).  The farther the distance between communities, the farther apart in love (Swedenborg 50).  In each community, the more perfect ones are in the center and the less perfect ones are along the outskirts (Swedenborg 50).  This is just the basic structure of heaven, according to Swedenborg.  Swedenborg believes that all delights flow out of love in heaven (Swedenborg 300).  This love is like an immaterial love that flows from the love of the lord and the neighbor rather than love of oneself (Swedenborg 300).  Swedenborg describes heaven in amazing detail.  I would recommend a further search into his beliefs.

            Swedenborg gives equally impressive description of hell.  He feels that God does not cast anyone into hell but rather the person casts himself into hell (Swedenborg 452).  These people are evil because they love the material world and themselves as opposed to the love in heaven.  These people “enter hell’s deep darkness to the extent that he denies what is Divine and reinforces within… those things that oppose what is proper” (Swedenborg 488).  However, the location of hell is only known to God and is made up of  “brothels that look disgusting…dense forest, to, where hellish spirits roam about” (Swedenborg 490).  In addition there are deserts in hell “the ones who were cleverer than others at working things out and scheming with their arts and deceits (Swedenborg 490).  Swedenborg goes into detail about the make-up of hell and why people are sent there.  Again this is just a sketch of Swedenborg’s description.

            Swedenborg satisfies my idea of a detailed description.  In fact, I’m sorry I asked for it.  The problem I have with Swedenborg is what separates him from crazy people who claim to have been to other worlds besides intelligence?  I also find it difficult to grasp the religious beliefs of Christ.  Nevertheless, this book is impressive in detail and answered every question I set forth in part A.  However, I question the foundation of Swedenborg’s ideas.

 

Conclusion

 

            My views have changed slightly as a result of my library research.  I feel that if there is an explanation of life after death that I can accept, I will accept it.  However, to the point I have not found it.  My ideas seem to have originated with the idea that every thing must be proven.   This suggests that science is not accepting of religious beliefs because religion lacks physical proof.  I have learned from this paper that physical proof cannot be provided by non-physical phenomena.

            Furthermore, I would recommend this exercise because of what I have learned form it.  I have learned how to use UHCARL and CD ROM.  However, I would recommend starting a search as early as utilized this option, my paper would be considerably stronger.  In addition, I would recommend this exercise because everyone should explore and challenge their own beliefs by looking at the argument against them.  As a result, looking at other points of view can serve to strengthen an argument.

            I feel that I have changed because I will continue to search for the answer to life after death.  This search has just begun.

 

 

Bibliography

Almeder, R.F., (1992).  Death & Personal Survival.  Lanham; Maryland:  Rowan & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Johnson, C.J., (1991).  How Different Religious View Death and Afterlife.  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:  The Charles Press, Publishers, Inc.

Naidu, R.K., Sinha, A. (1992).  Metaphysical beliefs as predictors of death anxiety, Omega.  Vol. 25 (2), 95-107.

Smith, P.C., Range, L.M., Ulmer, A. (1991-92).  Belief in afterlife as a buffer in suicidal and other bereavement, Omega. Vol. 24 (3).  217-225.

Swedenborg, E., (1984).  Heaven & Hell.  New York:  Swedenborg Foundation, Inc.

Toynvee, A., Mant, A.K., Smart, N., Hinton, J., Yudkin, S., Rhode, E., Heywood R., Price, H.H. (1968).  Man’s Concern with Death.  London, Great Britain:          Hoddler and Stouhton.

           

 

 

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