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Different religions and cultures have varying views on what happens to the soul or person beyond death. There have also been various experiments and research done to prove whether there is an afterlife, a soul, and the proof of near death experiences. While there are many views and aspects on this subject, I believe in the existence of an afterlife.
Growing up, my parents and I were primarily believed the views of Christianity. I originally believed in the story of creation, heaven and hell, God, Jesus, and all the other aspects and stories of the Christian religion. The afterlife seemed like a terrifying place to me as a child as it seemed if you were not good enough in God’s eyes, it is possible you could go to the hell where horrifying creatures and demons lived just to torture you for the eternity that you are there. These views were not comforting when I was younger, as there was no way to determine exactly which place you were going to end up unless you were perfect your entire life.
My religion and views ended up changing by the time I was in middle school. I converted to the pagan religion of Wicca, a spiritual religion focusing on the earth, its environment, and the concept of karma. In the Wiccan religion, it is believed that we simply pass on to another plane of existence through a door (Wicca Spirituality). It is also believed that there are still connections between the living and the dead and that through the different planes of existence, communication can still be made. This helped me with death through the belief that even though when my relatives pass, or even when I pass, that we will still go to a place where we can interact with those living and dead.
The views of the Wiccan religion also altered the beliefs of my family. My mother is a firm believer in ghosts, as she believes that when her father passed away, he still communicated with her through tapping on the walls. My mother would ask yes or no questions and would receive answers from the number of taps in his old bedroom. The Wiccan beliefs just further solidified her experience and she converted to the religion along with me. Her experience is also similar to the scientific data collection through mediums that Gary Schwartz conducted through Allison DuBois. He asked DuBois questions to ask the deceased, Monty Keen, and was surprised to find that she could obtain somewhat accurate information about his former deceased colleague (Roach, 2005).
Other beliefs have the concept of journeying to another realm as well. In ancient Egypt, the whole burial process is based upon the journey and events that happen within the afterlife. The body was preserved for the soul to survive in the afterlife, and necessary organs as well. The soul would face many challenges, gods, and tests within the afterlife until eventually reaching the Hall of Justice, where the soul would be put to a test on the scales of justice to determine if it could pass onto the Paradise of Aalu. The heart would be placed on the scales and depending on the innocence of the heart based on the soul’s life would determine if it was worthy to pass on to the next realm (Kemp, 2014, p. 307-309).
Similar to both Wiccan and Egyptian beliefs are those of the Vikings. Burials for Vikings usually involved the burning of a boat with the dead individual on it (Ask a Mortician, 2013). This was usually reserved for people nobles and the wealthy, while others would bury their ashes or put them under piles of rocks. The afterlife, though, was dependent on how the individual lived their life. If you fell in battle as a brave warrior, you could be granted access to Valhalla, and an alternative place for warriors, Folkvangr. For those who were not warriors, but had lived a good life, would go to Helgafjell. The worst was for those who did not die in an honorable way and it is called Helheim, the Norse equivalent to hell (Legends and Chronicles).
The scientific views and information on near death experiences and the afterlife have had an impact on my view of the afterlife. While some things can explain certain experiences like near death experiences, I do not think that science can fully explain or prove whether there is an afterlife or not. Some of the experiences included in near death experiences are tunnel vision, hallucination, out of body experiences, and communication with dead or celestial beings (Kemp, 2014, p. 322). Most of these experiences have been shown to be the cause of the brain’s reaction and processes of dying. These can include a lack of oxygen to the brain and the brain flooding itself with endorphins. Even the visual cortex is affected while dying which possibly causes the dying person to experience the tunnel of light (Kemp, 2014, p. 323).
Science, however, tends to lack on explaining a universal belief or faith. While some near death experiences have been noted of people interacting with a powerful being, there is no formidable proof to which religion this being could belong to (Kemp, 2014, p. 318). Even when Schwartz was conducting his experiments through DuBois, there was only bits of information she was able to decipher, but there was no actual information about a specific religion being correct about their depiction of the afterlife (Roach, 2005). So even though science can create reasons and scientific proof over some of the concepts of death and afterlife, there is no clear picture or absolute facts about what happens when and after we die.
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