On this page, we list the 5 major religions and overall thoughts on their views of death. You can also click the links for helpful articles.
>Buddhists believe the spirit does not perish as the body dies. Upon dying, the spirit is transferred into another life in one of six separate planes. They believe in a reincarnation where the results of a person’s lifetime actions will determine what form his or her spirit will be reborn. This could be an animal, a human, or a various form of spirit. These teachings come from Siddhartha Gautama- who never claimed to be a deity, but rather an enlightened human.
>Christians believe humans have souls that were created by God. Upon dying, man will either receive a blessing from God as a reward for accepting Jesus Christ as the savior (thus performing good deeds while on earth), or man will receive a punishment for not accepting Jesus Christ (thus performing bad deeds on earth). The reward is heaven and the punishment is hell. These teachings come from God’s word the Holy Bible.
>Hindus believe in reincarnation. They believe the spirit is everlasting and permanent and cannot change. The one true god is called Brahman. Brahman exists in many, many forms and is present in each person as the immortal soul called the Atman. Death is a natural part of the cycle where it is necessary for the spirit energy to re-energize itself and return to the earth. Each life cycle is an opportunity to grow in an attempt to be whole. The soul needs to be born again and again in order to finally realize its completeness. The Vedas are the sacred texts of Hinduism.
>Muslims believe death is the separation of the spirit from the body; a termination of life in this world and the start of the afterlife. They believe life is a trial to prepare us for the afterlife. The Quran is the central religion text of Islam and is a revelation from Allah (God). Muslims believe the Quran was given by God to Muhammad through Gabriel (an angel). Muslim people also believe in paradise (heaven) and hell, and every person will be judged based on their deeds in life.
>The Jewish people believe death is the detachment of the body and the soul. The body will inevitably decay and die, but the soul is eternal. Death is part of God’s master plan and should be accepted with trust. After the body dies, the soul returns to God. They also believe in paradise and hell based on choices made in life. After death, whatever happens is in God’s hands, so there is no need to worry. The Hebrew Bible (or Tanakh) is the holy text of the Jewish people. It constitutes a large portion (The Old Testament) of the Christian Bible.
There are many other views on death not included above. Most people agree, however, that there is an afterlife or a divine cycle where death is not as permanent as it may appear. Most fear comes in the not knowing exactly what happens. The pain comes from the idea that we will not experience the lost loved one again in this world. But if we believe there’s a higher authority and/or a higher plan, there is hope for better days ahead.
If you are interested in learning more about world religions, this map is a good place to begin.
Other interesting resources:
Death: A Graveside Companion, Joanna Ebenstein