Primary menu

Summary of World Views about Death

Alan Murray's picture

Tags Associated with article

Death         

BIG QUESTIONS:    

What’s going to happen to me after I die?
Is death a bad thing?
Is death the end of me?
Should I be scared of dying?
Is it ok to end my life?
What’s it all about?
What happens to me when I die?
Is there a heaven?


COMMON THEMES:
All the worldviews represented here have some beliefs about death in common:
•    death is the one certain reality we all share
•    death should be reflected on; being dead should not be worried about
•    the dying and the bereaved should be cared for
•    rituals around death are important, as is grieving for individuals


DISTINCTIVE VIEWS:
The Buddhist contribution emphasises:
•    Death as a natural process - also as the ‘tempter’ who keeps us bound to the concerns of this life
•    Familiarity with death is important, reflecting on, being with the dead body
•    The cycle of birth and death, rebirth (especially Tibetan Buddhism) closer or further from one-ness with being
•    So death can be a time of joy, of liberation and release from life in this material world


The Christian contribution emphasises:
•    The importance in Christian tradition of the four last things - death, judgement, heaven and hell
•    The nature of heaven, hell and eternal life is beyond any human comprehension
•    Christians believe in eternal life - as a gift from God of his essence
•    Jesus’ resurrection demonstrates victory over death and decay
•    Jesus also talks about a Day of Judgement, when all will receive justice


The Hindu contribution emphasises:
•    The Hindu distinction between your body and your soul - which is your true self and never dies
•    The cycle of birth and death - the soul moving on to another body after death (reincarnation) - and eventually to liberation from this cycle into eternal one-ness with God
•    Our karma - how we have lived this life- determines where our soul goes on to
•    Death is surrounded by many rituals - for family and community
•    After cremation, the dead are remembered happily, and through acts of charity


The Humanist contribution emphasises:
•    That death is the end of our personal existence
•    Being dead is not to be feared, in fact death may be an end to suffering and a good life can be celebrated
•    If death is the final end, this can spur us to live a good life
•    Medical assistance can make death more comfortable, and allow us to choose death if pain has become intolerable


The Jewish contribution emphasises:
•    The enormous value of life, and the lack of agreed ideas on what happens when we die
•    God knows what happens after death, and we should focus on living life well
•    Jewish tradition condemns sorcery and similar practices, including those who try to contact the dead
•    The rituals around death - and the period of grieving after death - are very important


The Muslim contribution emphasises:
•    That life and death are both aspects of the same God-given process of creation
•    That there will be a Day of Resurrection – when we will be judged
•    Life is a test, and our actions determine our final destiny
•    We should not worry about what will happen to us, more on how we are preparing for the final hour in our lives
•    Khalifah is the concept of our stewardship of the earth during our lives here
•    On the hajj pilgrims wear white garments as in the shroud


The Sikh contribution emphasises:
•    The interconnectedness of life and death - death as a sweet culmination of life
•    Life as a journey to death and rebirth, as a new person, or eventually to overcome death and be united with our creator
•    For some Sikhs, in times of conflict, self-sacrifice is a means of liberation
•    Rituals around family and friends and sharing food after a death are important
•    At the Gurdwara, prayers, followed by scattering of ashes, are the custom