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Survival After Death

Memories of others


Resurrection (Christians, Muslims, Jews)

Reincarnation (Hindus and Sikhs)

Rebirth (Buddhism)

Digital imprint

The immortality of the soul

Continuation of our genes in our children and their descendents

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Legacy - something handed down from an ancestor; a way of being remembered after death.

Things that count as a legacy:

books, writings and plays, jewellery, music, portraits/paintings, speeches/mottos, discoveries/inventions, buildings/structures.

Weaknesses of Legacies:

They can be destroyed or lost.

Sometimes the individual is lost within a group (e.g. individuals aren't remembered for building the pyramids, rather the Egyptians as a whole).

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Christians, Jews and Muslims believe in life after death (the afterlife) through ressurection.

They believe that when you died, you are ressurected in either a physical or spiritual form for judgement day. This is where it is decided whether you will go to heaven or hell.

Roman Catholics believe in purgatory where you wait to enter heaven and cleanse from sin.

The most famous ressurection in the Bible is Jesus being ressurected after being crucified 3 days previously. Jesus said: 'I am the ressurection and the life. He who believes in me will life, even though he dies' (John 11:25-26)

Christians have varied ideas about heaven. Some believe that it is a physical place where bodies go after death. Others think that heaven is a state of being united with God, through the soul (which lives on).

Similar views apply to hell. Some Christians believe that hell is a physical place of suffering where one is separated from God. However, most think that hell is a spiritual state of being separated from God forever (for eternity).

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Hindus and Sikhs.

Hindus believe that the soul (atman) is eternal. Their goal is to be united with the supreme reality (Brahman) and obtain Moksha (release from the cycle of life, death and rebirth - samsara). People who life in the right way build up good karma and progress up the cycle whereas those who do bad go down. Hindus believe the soul does not carry personal qualities but an immortal soul (atman).


the law of karma is about cause and effect. People will be rewarded and punished according to their actions. Actions = Consequences.

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Buddhists prefer to use the term rebirth rather than reincarnation.

This is because Buddhists do not believe people have an immortal soul - there is no God to unite with at the end.

It is not a soul, but an ever-changing state which exists in human beings.

This ever-changing state is not directly connected to the body, rather it is similar to the flames of candles on a birthday cake. The flames are all flames made of the same essence, but they are equally different as they will burn at different rates and emit a different light.

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Problems Associated with Resurrection

We know that they physical body decays after death, so one problem with resurrection is describing what form the body raised from the dead will take.

A New, Improved Body - one suggestion is that people are given a new, immortal body when they are resurrected. The body still looks the same as the person who died and has his/her memories, but it is an immortal body that will not age or decay.

The Body Dies but the Soul Continues - some religious believers say that they body decays but each person has an immortal soul that continues after death. One problem with this is that if people have souls, why is there no evidence of their existence? Believers respond by suggesting that the soul is made of different substances from the physical body and cannot be seen or detected by medical equipment.

Another problem relates to identity. If people are recognised by their physical form, can it still be the same person if there is no longer a body? Believers would answer that people's memories provide their identity. If the soul still has the memories of the life lived, then it is still the same person.

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Problems Associated with Reincarnation and Rebirth

People Don't Survive Death - if people are reincarnated or reborn into a new life when they die, then it can be aruged that they have not survived death because they are no longer the same person. Hindus and Sikhs would argue that the immortal soul continues and therefore, what matters from each life continues into the next. Buddhists believe that there is continuity between one life and the next, so life has not ended.

To Be Reborn is Not the Aim - people who aim to be reborn/reincarnated are working towards the total loss of personal identity as they become one with God. They believe that life consists of hardship and suffering and to become one with God is the ultimate achievement of complete happiness. At the point when this is achieved, the individual ceases to exist. They are not trying to be reborn.

Memories of Past Lives - some people say that the fact that people have memories of past lives is evidence to support reincarnation and rebirth. Historical records have confirmed some of these descriptions of past lives. Other people ask whether these memories of a former life can be classed as 'proof'. Not all of the memories of earlier lives under hypnosis have been found to be accurate. People may have been remembering information gained in childhood and mistakenly interpretting this as a past life.

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Evidence of Immortality - Buddhism, Christianity a


There are many scriptures in Buddhism but the most important is the collection of the Buddha's teachings called the Tripitaka. The Buddha gained enlightenment about how to put an end to suffering and achieve nibbana. If the Buddha's followers wish to do the same, they must follow his teachings (the Dhamma). The teachings include an explanation of the effects of good and bad karma on the next life.


St. Paul helped people to understand Christian teachings in his letters, which form part of the New Testament. St. Paul taught that Christians will be raised with a new spiritual body after death. Many Christians believe that this body will keep the person's individual indentity.


The sacred book of the Sikhs is the Guru Granth Sahib. The holy book teaches what they must do to break the cycle of reincarnation and remain with God forever.

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Evidence of Immortality - Hinduism, Islam and Juda


Hindus have sacred texts to guide them. These include the four Vedas, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. By following the guidance in the texts, it is hoped that moksha will be achieved.


Muslims believe that the Qu'arn is the direct word of Allah and therefore, whatever it says about resurrection of the body is exactly what will happen. The Qu'arn makes it clear that there will be resurrection of the body and judgement by Allah after death.


The sacred scriptures of the Jews include the Torah and the Talmud. There are references to God raising people from the dead, and the sorrows of Sheol, but otherwise there is no clear picture of what happens after death. This has led to different interpretations in Judaism and different beliefs about the kind of life after death.

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Problems with Scriptual Accounts and Revelations

The scriptual accounts and revelations are accepted as true by the believers in that religion. If people do not belong to that religion, then they are not likely to accept them as true.

The scriptual accounts and revelations do not agree with each other. They cannot all be right, so they do not provide guidance as to what really happens after death.

Sometimes the scriptual accounts and revelations lack detail of what people are to believe, and this has led to interpretation of the accounts could be wrong.

Scriptures originate from a time when there was little knowledge of medical science. Many of the the teachings in the scriptures appear to conflict with modern knowledge in science and medicine.

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Dualism is the idea that we have two basic natures, the physical and the spiritual.

Materialism says there is no proof for the existence of a soul - we are physical beings only.

Dualists argue that the soul is the real us and the physical is just an outer shell. The body decays but the mind and its qualities (truth, goodness) are immortal.

Descartes argued we cannot doubt our existence as we have minds: 'I think therefore I am'.

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Near Death Experiences (NDEs)

NDE - the claim that a person has had a sense of themselves leaving their bodies and seeing what exists beyond life.

Common Features of an NDE - 'spiritual' you looking down on 'physical' you, light at the end of the tunnel, beauty (in a place e.g. nature), loved ones that have passed away, life flashes before you, desire to not return, sense of great happiness.

Advances in modern technology have resulted in more people who have been declared clinically dead being resucitated. While 'dead', some patients describe experiences that are very similar. The experiences are so similar, remembered in detail and are often life-changing, that they are accepted as evidence of life after death.

The Problems:

NDEs are given that name because the person is not dead. The experience is a result of oxygen starvation that causes hallucinations.

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Arguments Against Immortality: Proof

Bodies decay in the ground or are burned - there is no proof that the deceased receives a new spiritual body or has an immortal soul that leaves the body at death.

Scriptures and accounts of revelation differ - there are different understandings in scriptures of what life after death is like. Therefore, this cannot be accepted as proof of immortality.

Existence of ghosts, channelling and NDEs cannot be proven - could be a trick of the light, many mediums are body language specialists, oxygen starvation.

Wishful thinking - the believers are so eager to have proof of an afterlife to support their religious beliefs that they are willing to accept any 'evidence', however weak. Also, people fear death and to teach that there is life after death is a comfort to the living.

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Arguments Against Immortality: Science

Each person is a product of evolution - athiest and scientist, Richard Dawkins, rejects any concept of an immortal soul. Dawkins claims that the belief in the soul is the result of people refusing to accept that there is no purpose in life. Dawkins believes that scientific findings have shown that humanity is no more than DNA carried to ensure the survival of species. Morality is there to make sure that mistakes are not repeated and that society is protected.

The use of cryonics - cyronics the the low-temperature preservation of humans, who can no longer be kept alive by modern medicine, until such a time as resucitation and a cure may be possible. If people die and are frozen with the possibility of being brought back to life, then their afterlife will be spent in this world.

The exploration of space - since the late 1950s, satellites have been sent into space; and since the 1960s humans have gone into space. If there is an afterlife, surely some evidence would have been seen of the souls of the dead becoming one with the universe or going to heaven. As no such evidence has been seen, then there cannot be survival after death.

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Arguments Against Immortality: Athiesm

The arguments against immortality support the athiest's view that there is no God and no survival after death. Some athiests would say that life is without purpose. Others, such as humanists, respond by attaching prime importance to human matters and to improving the quality of people's lives on Earth.

Religious Response - if there is no divine purpose to life, why do so many people put effort into worship and into making life better for others? People's desire to worship in itself suggests that athiests are wrong - there is a purpose to life and that purpose includes achieving eternal life with God on earth and in a life after death. Many would argue that in serving others, one is able to get closer to God.

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