An overview of Unit 4 of Religious Philosophy and Ultimate Questions

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  • Created by: Kate
  • Created on: 17-05-12 08:10

Immortality: legacy, memory, resurrection

Immortality is endless life or existence after death. This can be by:

  • The continuation of our genes
  • We live on in our life's work or legacy - however, the legacy will not last forever, and once it is gone, does it mean that we are no longer immortal as we are no longer remembered?
  • We live on in the memory of others - when those who remeber us die, then that memory dies, so we are no longer immortal

This are non-religious. Believers would say we are immortal because of life after death. One way is Resurrection - a person is raised from the dead in a form

  • Christianity teaches people are judged by God either at death or judgement day whether they will go to heaven or hell. People are resurrected, some believe in a physical body, others a spiritual body
  • Judasm teaches spiritual resurrection, when God shows them their life as well as the life they could have lived with the right choices, The regret helps to cleanse the soul and the final destination is one of the 7 levels of God.
  • Islam teaches the soul is resurrected and wait till judgement day when they will be sent to paradise or hell
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Immortality: reincarnation, rebirth

Karma: the law of cause and effect which affects the soul's reincarnation

Soul: the spiritual part of a person, which religions believe will last forever

Reincarnation: being born again in another form. The idea is that the soul will improve itself until it reaches perfection when it will not be reborn but achieve a state of bliss with God. The soul doesn't carry personal characteristics but the immortal essence of the person. Hindus and Sikhs believe in this.

Rebirth: being born again after death. This is reincarnation, but without a soul - your changing character is reborn, as buddhist don't believe in souls. Karma still applies. Rebirth is like a flame being transferred between candles - it is not identical but linked. As Buddhists don't believe in God, at the end the aim is to achieve freedom from sufering an individual existance

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Problems with belief about immortality (1)

Problems with resurrection:

The body decays after death and there is no physical soul - people question what form a resurrected person will take.

  • One suggestion is that people are given a new, identical, immortal body 
  • Another is that only souls are resurrected to the after life

A problem is that there is no evidence that souls exists

  • Believers say that the soul is made of different stuff than the physical body so it can't be detected

Another problem is that people are identified by their physical form, so souls may not still be that person.

  • Believers say that memories are what make a person who they are, and the soul would have all of these, so would still be that individual 
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Problems with belief about immortality (2)

Problems with reincarnation and rebirth:

People say that as the person has become something else they are not immortal.

  • Hindus and Sikhs say that the immortal soul continues and so what matters about each life continues
  • Buddhists say there is continuity from one life to the next, so life hasn't ended

People who believe in these are trying to reach the loss of personal identity and so as soon as the person reaches the end of the cycle they cease to exist

Some people claim to have memories of past lives, but these aren't always accurate and people could be misinterpreting things they learnt earlier in life

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Evidence: scriptural accounts and revelation

Christians say in the creed that they believe in the "resurrection of the body and life everlasting" St Paul taught in his letters that Christians will be given a new spiritual body after death

Muslims believe that whatever the Qur'an says is exactly what will happen. The Qur'an makes clear that there will be resurrection of the body and judement by Allah after death

Jews have no clear picture of what happens after death in their religious books. This has led to different interpretations

Hindus believe that by following the guidance of their sacred texts they will be able to achieve moksha

  • These are accepted by believers but wouldn't convince non-believers
  • Each religion doesn't agree and only one can be right so they don't provide guidance
  • Sometimes they lack detail so can leave their interpretation open
  • They outdate medical science, and sometimes teachings conflict with it
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Evidence: ghosts, chanelling and NDEs

Ghosts: as some have been sighted by many people, some believe they exist. Being able to walk through walls etc. would be evidence of a resurrection of a body in a spiritual form 

Channelling: communicating with the dead through a medium, who can sometimes pass on accurate information, so it may be seen as evidence of life after death

NDE: when people close to death are able to leave their bodies and see what exists beyond this life. They are often so similar and life changing that they are seen as evidence of life after death

  • Ghosts could be hallucinations or hoaxes
  • Many mediums have proven to be frauds and some could find information by reading body language
  • NDEs involve the person not being dead. Also there could be hallucinations as a result of oxygen starvation
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Argument against immortality: lack of proof

  • there is no certainty that anyone has actually come back from the dead or contacted a medium
  • We know bodies decay and there is no proof as to whether there is a spiritual part of us continues or a soul that even exists
  • The scriptures all say different things, therefore they cannot be accpted
  • there is not enough proof for ghosts, channelling or NDEs
  • All the evidence could be nothing more than wishful thinking of believers that are scared of death

Proof of immortality?

  • most religions agree that all the proof they need is their faith
  • a philosopher called John Hick said that there is proof available to support life after death, but it is only available after we die
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Arguments against immortality: science and atheism

  • Modern science has proven links between the brain and body - this means the mind/soul could not exist outside of the body
  • Each person is a product of evolution: Dawkins claims that immortality is people refusing to accept that there is no purpose to life. Evolution has meant that DNA that enables us to survive has passed on, including morality and religion. Believers could argue that reincarnation and rebirth are a form of evolution and that the soul can still exist
  • The use of cryonics:that people could be later resuscitated is deemed impossible by religious believers, however if it was it would raise the question as to when does the soul leave the body
  • atheists say that there is no God and therefore no life after death
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Materialism is the belief that the mind is inseperable to our bodies. There is no evidence of souls and life ends at death. It is the opposite view to dualism

Some people would say that the mind and soul are the same, others would say that the mind thinks and the soul is spiritual

Dualists believe that-

  • there are 2 parts to every person - mind (soul) and body
  • The body will decay, but the mind/soul will continue on, although the 2 are linked in life
  • The mind determines our personality, the body is just a shell
  • Rene Descartes was a dualists and he argued that the mind must exist - "I think therefore I am", and was invisible and seperate to the body as it's costantly changing
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The impact of dualism

Dualism agrees that the moment of death is when the body decays and the soul continues.

Dualism conflicts with some religion as many Christians, Jews and Muslims believe that the body is resurrected as well as the soul, although this body may have a new spiritual form. The body and soul were created together by Allah/ God as a whole

One other way the person may be resurrected on judegement day from their old bodies, that wait with their souls. God created us from dust originally so it would be easy for him. This also conflicts with dualism

Hindus and Sikhs agree that in life the body and soul come together

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