Why people believe in life after death – quick reference

Why people believe in life after death

  • Inequality in this one
  • Unfairness of this life
  • Purpose of just one life?
  • ‘evidence’ of past lives / memories
  • religious teachings
  • can’t believe death is the end
  • potential fulfilled
  • reward
  • punishment
  • gift from God for faith


What evidence?

  • Past lives
  • Memories
  • Jesus’ own resurrection
  • Stories in the Bible of people being raised from the dead
  • Logic – pain and suffering in this life – conclusion there must be another


Why others do not

  • lack of believable evidence
  • makes us irresponsible
  • body dies – what could live on?
  • Not every body does so why should anybody (Sadducees)
  • Seems preferential
  • What is the soul? Is there one?
  • No evidence for any part of us which is ‘apart’ from the body.


What is the soul?

  • Dualism – body and soul separate
  • Soul is seat of consciousness
  • Source of voluntary actions
  • Seat of conscience
  • Immortal
  • Eternal
  • Unchanging (according to Plato the soul becomes trapped in the body at birth only to be released on death.)
  • Can be improved (according to Irenaeus and Hick)
  • Gilbert Ryleghost in the machine.’
  • David Hume concluded we only know ourselves as a bundle of different perceptions.’
  • Rene Descartes
    I think therefore I am.’

    He argued that our essential selves must be more than just matter in space;

    Res cogitans (the thinking thing) res extensa (the extended thing – the body)


What kind of life after death

Reincarnation – Eastern philosophy

  • soul is eternal and immortal
  • so soul lives on after death
  • gains new body
  • when in human form it can be perfected
  • attain moksha – release, dissolution – reunification with Brahman
  • nirvana in buddhism
  • atman
  • karma
  • judgment
  • no memory of previous lives


  • raising to new life of the soul
  • dualism – soul and body two separate things
  • Rene Descartes: res cogitans and res
    extensa the thinking thing and the extended thing
  • Aquinas borrowed Greek idea
  • St Paul: the soul is ‘raised in incorruption’
  • new body in Christianity but not physical
  • eternal life in heaven with God,
  • place of perfection and equality
  • or hell
  • in Islam raising of body and soul on judgment day
  • Jews no concept of life after death until the exile
  • John Hick’s idea of replicas
  • Lazarus and Jesus
  • memory of life should be complete – because memory essential to identity


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