Unit 4, Immortality

Revision cards for AQA Religious Studies B, Unit 4, Religious Philosophy and Ultimate Questions.

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Ideas about immortality

  • A legacy - some people believe that a person lives on in the legacy they leave behind after they have died. This can be in the form of a building, piece of music, or literature. Once the legacy is gone, the person will no longer lived on.
  • Through the memory of others - some people believe that we live on in the memory of others, for example in photos. When the last person remebering them dies, the memory also dies.
  • Resurrection - some people believe that a person lives on by resurrection. This is when they are raised from the dead, either in physical or spiritual form. Christianity; most Christians believe that the spirit, without the body, lives on in the afterlife. Some Christians also believe in a physical resurrection of the body. Judaism; most Jews believe in spiritual resurrection. The better life they had, the closer they will be to God in the afterlife. Some Jews also believe in a physical resurrection of the body. Islam; all Muslims believe in a physical resurrection of the body and soul, and that a person's soul will be judged by Allah when they die.


  • In the modern day, a belief in a pysical resurrection seems highly unlikely. A body buried in the ground decays. Often people are cremated, so a physical resurrection would be completely impossible.
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Ideas about immortality continued

  • Some believe that we achieve immortality by reincarnation. This is the belief that after death, the soul moves into a new body or form. In each reincarnation, the soul lives a different life. In each life it will improve, until it reaches perfection. When it is perfect it will enter a state of bliss.
  • Hindus believe that the soul is eternal. Their goal is to be released from the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, to be united with the supreme reality. People who live in the right away acheive good Karma, so they will have a good next life.


  • For some people you are not immortal by reincarnation, as each life you are someone different.
  • Buddhists use the term rebirth, rather than reincarnation, as they do not believe that people have souls. Instead, it is an evolving character which moves from rebirth to rebirth. The quality of life is linked to the previous one, and depends on how you acted. This cycle ennds when a person reaches enlightenment.


  • Immortality is not the aim for buddhists. Nirvana is the aim.
  • When you are reborn, you are not the same person; you are living a new life.
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Evidence of immortality

Holy books and revelation:

  • Buddhism - Buddhists believe in Buddha's teachings from the Tripataka. To gain enlightenment, a Buddhist must follow these teachings.
  • Christianity - in the Bible, Jesus says "I am the resurrection and the life...whoever lives and believes in me will never die."
  • Islam - the Qur'an is the direct word of Allah. It states that there will be a resurrection of the bodu and judgement by him after death.


  • Holy books are seen as true by the believers of that religion. If you do not follow it, you are not likely to believe it.
  • Which holy book is telling the truth? Each one says something different.
  • Holy books come from a time when there was little medical or scientific knowledge. The resurrection of the body nowadays seems like an unlikely possibility.
  • Experience of ghosts - some people have claimed to see ghosts. A ghost is a manifestation of a dead person. Ghosts support a physical resurrection of the body. However, ghost sightings could be a hoax, a hallucination, or a trick of the light.
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Evidence of immortality continued

  • Channeling - it is the communication between the living and the dead. Mediums claim to be able to contact the dead, and pass messages on to the living. However, some mediums have been discovered to be frauds, already knowing information about the deceased, so they can easily convince the living.
  • Near death experiences - people have been resuscitated after their hearts have stopped. They have claimed to be drawn towards a tunnel of light, feeling a sense of happiness, and a desire not to return to the body. This could be evidence of heaven. However, this may be a hallucination triggered by a lack of oxygen.
  • Dualism - there are two distinct parts of a person. The mind, which lives on after death, and the body, which decays. The sould allows us to feel truth and goodness, and is seperate from the body. Whilst alive the two are linled, but at death the two seperate, so that the soul can move on to the afterlife.


  • Not all religions agree with this, as they believe in a physical resurrection of the body.
  • Medical knowledge tells us that the mind and body are directly linked.The body drives the brain, and the brain drives the body. The two depend on each other. Therefore, the mind cannot survive on its own. This idea is called materialism.
  • We are simply products of evolution. We are made up of DNA, and there is no purpose or structure to life. The only way a person lives on is by passing their DNA onto the next generation. There is no proof in the soul.
  • Atheism says that there is no God. There is no power that lives on forever. After death, we are quite simply dead.
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