It’s a fact of life that, unfortunately, nothing lives forever.
We know what happens to your physical body after you die – most are either buried in the ground or are cremated (burnt to ash). This means that, one way or another, all the molecules that made up that person’s body go back into the earth and are ultimately used to make new life. In that respect, nothing is ever destroyed, it just turns into a different form.
However, what happens to your thoughts, your spirit, your consciousness is not so easily answered – in fact, it’s one of the biggest questions humans ever ask. And the truth is, we just don’t know what happens, what it feels like or what we might experience after we die.
Different people believe different things and, whatever anyone might tell you, it’s impossible to prove which (if any) are right. All you can really do is learn about these different possibilities and see what feels right to you – figure out what you believe.
Here are some common beliefs:
Theism is the belief in a god or gods. For many people, their beliefs about the afterlife are closely related to this and/or the following of a religion.
This usually means belief in something like an eternal soul, spirit or essence that lives on after death, in an afterlife granted by that god.
There are rarely any detailed descriptions of the afterlife in religious texts, and so what this may be like still largely remains a matter of opinion, even amongst followers of the same religion.
A common idea is that the afterlife is a place where you are at peace, a paradise where you are reunited with those you may have lost, and where you will be together forever, in happiness and comfort.
Some religious teachings describe the idea of a judgment being made after we die, with the destination of each soul depending on how that person is judged to have lived, according to the doctrines of that religion.
Those who are deemed to have led worthy or good lives will be allowed to enter paradise, while those who have not may be consigned to a place of pain and torment.
Other religions, (and some branches of these religions too) emphasise a more general idea
However, even within the same religion, opinions vary: some followers may not believe in hell, for example, and there are many, many different ideas on what it is actually like to go to heaven or hell.
Hell is often portrayed as a place of dark and fire, filled with suffering and torture.
A common idea of heaven is that we are reunited with the loved ones that we may have lost, and that we get to live together forever, in happiness, comfort and pleasure.
Other religions believe that we are reborn after we die – this is called reincarnation.