Death and Immortality
Immortality: Endless life or existence
Death: The end of life; the point at which all vital organs and bodily functions stop.
Soul: The soul is the incorporeal essence of a person
Afterlife: A form of existence after death.
Dualism: The belief that the body and soul are two seperate entities, joined for a brief time during the person's time on Earth.
Materialism: the theory that physical matter is the only reality and that the soul and body are joined- there is no separate soul. We are our bodies, effectively.
Purgatory: a place between heaven and hell- a state of limbo, almost, where the soul waits to be judged. Catholics pray for souls in purgatory.
Evidence for the soul
"I think therefore I am"- Rene Descartes. Descartes argued that although it is possible to doubt the existance of our bodies, we each have individual thought, therefore we cannot doubt the existance of our minds. Even if we are dreaming, we still must exist to have thoughts. Our mind/soul cannot be seen, therefore it must be made up of a substance that cannot be seen or take up space, whilst the body can be seen and does take up space- therefore, the two must be made of different substances.
During life, the body and mind are connected, for example, the mind can plan a design but it is the physical body that completes it. At death, the two separate- the body decays but the soul continues on to the afterlife.
Descartes was a dualist.
Evidence against the soul
- It is the brain that is responsible for emotions, desires, personality and thought, not the soul.
- Inherited mood disorders show that personality is driven by biology, whilst drugs which affect your emotions suggest that sources of feelings are biochemical.
- If we damage a part of our brain we can lose our ability to control our bodies, therefore it is not the soul that controls the body.
- It is the complexity of our nervous system that makes our consciousness possible.
- It is illogical to believe in the soul
- There is not enough evidence for the existance of the soul
Heaven, Hell and Purgatory
It is a dualist Christian belief that when we die, our body decays whilst our soul continues and we are judged.
- Some Catholics believe that the soul waits in purgatory for a while before it is judged and so some Catholics pray for the waiting souls, in the hope that it will help them get into Heaven.
- Most Christians believe that we are judged by God on the life we have led. If we have led a moral life, been helpful to others and worshipped God, then we will be allowed into Heaven. If have led an immoral life, full of evil and sin, then we are banished into Hell. It is an eternity without God.
- Heaven is a concept of the afterlife. Those who believe in heaven say that it is a perfect place where one lives alongside God. There will be no separation between God and man, and no sin can happen in heaven- it is incorruptable.
- Hell is also a concept of the afterlife. It is a place of suffering and punishment in which the souls of the unsaved will suffer the consequences of their sins.
- There is reliable evidence for heaven and hell, in the Bible.
Evidence against Heaven and Hell
- It was once thought that heaven was located in the sky, but astronauts have been up in space and not found such a place, nor any evidence to suggest that there is one.
- Hell is thought to be below the ground but we now know that at the centre of the Earth there is a hot core instead.
- As a result of this, it is illogical to believe in Heaven and Hell.
- No-one (living) has any personal experience of heaven and hell
- The accounts in the Bible are not based on fact, they could be untrue.
- If God is forgiving and loves all creation equally, then why would he banish anyone to hell, where they cannot repent?
- Hindus believe that when we die, our body is lost but the soul continues and enters another body for another life. This is a dualist belief.
- Our actions in the life we lead affect the quality of our next life- if we live sinfully then we will possibly be reincarnated as an animal or be born into difficult conditions, whilst if we lead a virtuous life our next life will be better.
- Our memories are not carried into the next life, - only our soul, the essence of who we are.
- People have remembered their past lives through regression therapy and remembered experiences that have affected their present life. Evidence.
- It is logical to think that we are rewarded for being good and punished for sin
- This view supports immortality- there is life after death.
- We are shaped by our memories- if we do not retain them in our next life then we are a different person.
- The soul does not exist, so reincarnation cannot happen (see previous cards)
- People who remember past lives could be lying.
- Reliable evidence is in the Bible- Jesus was resurrected.
- Some Christians believe that we will all be resurrected on Judgement day, ready to be judged. All will receive new, immortal bodies. Then, we will be judged and sent to either heaven or hell, depending on the life we have led. These Christians disagree with dualism.
Problems of resurrection
- There is scientific evidence that our body decays when we die, so how can we be resurrected? What about those who have been cremated? Therefore, resurrection is illogical.
- There is not enough room on the Earth to accomodate the bodies of every person who has ever lived. So, resurrection is illogical.
- Christians who believe that the soul goes to heaven whilst to body decays would disagree with this.
Near Death Experiences (NDEs)
Near Death Experiences occur when an individual is in a life threatening state.
- Most people describe very similar features of near death experiences, so it is not just one individual making things up but something that happens to everybody. Reliable evidence.
- Common features are light at the end of a long tunnel and a sense of peace, happiness and a desire not to return.
- Logical- there have been so many accounts of NDEs that it is more logical to believe that they really occur and are proof of the afterlife.
- Personal experience- some people believe in the afterlife due to NDEs.
Problems with NDEs
- An NDE is a near death experience- you do not actually die and so this is not proof of the afterlife, as you have not experienced death.
- NDEs are a result of the brain being starved of oxygen, therefore the experience is just a hallucination.
- The accounts of NDEs could be made up to gain wealth, status or attention.
Ghosts can be used to prove that there is an afterlife. Dualist view.
- Some people believe in ghosts due to personal experience
- Some people are convinced by reliable evidence. There are videos with ghosts captured and photos that feature blurs or mysterious people in them that could be ghosts. There are also many accounts of ghosts.
- Some people are convinced of immortality because there have been so many accounts of ghosts that it is more logical to believe in them.
- Ghosts are spirits with unfinished business.
Problems with ghosts as proof of the afterlife
- It is possible to doctor photos to make it appear as though there is a ghost, and with videos it is easy to fake a ghostly appearance. Could be hoaxes.
- Basic science tells us that for something to be able to move it needs energy, but a ghost would not be able to derive energy from a source as it doesn't eat or drink, so ghosts would not be able to move. So belief in ghosts is illogical.
- You could argue that the soul does not exist (see previous cards) and so ghosts cannot exist.
Dualism and Materialism
- Can be a Christian belief
- Supports the existence of the soul (see previous card)
- Life depends on a functioning brain, nervous system and physical body and death happens when these things stop functioning, so for life to continue after death there must be a separate soul.
- Some materialists are atheists, some are Christians.
- Christian materialists believe in resurrection (see previous card)
- Atheist materialists do not accept survival after death because:
- Life depends on a functioning physical body and when a person dies, the body ceases to function, therefore there cannot be life after death as it cannot continue without a physical form.
- Support for materialism: the soul does not exist (see separate card)
Channelling is a form of communications with spirits in the afterlife, through a medium.
- Sometimes the mediums repeat details that only a close friend of the dead person would know
Problems of Channelling
- Some mediums are frauds
- Fraud mediums may get people to let a detail slip and then use it
- They also may tell the person what most bereaved want and spare any details, for example, "Your mother just wants you to be happy and move on..."
- Some mediums may be skilled at reading body language