What Happens After You Die?
by Ron Kurtus (revised 24 February 2012)
The question of what happens after a person dies is a concern of many people, especially as they reach old age. One would like to think there is some sort of existence after the death of the physical body. Those who believe that humans have a spiritual aspect or possess a soul also believe that the spirit continues to exist after the death of the physical body.
Depending on the person's religion, some believe that the soul goes to Heaven (or to Hell, for bad people), while others believe that the soul or spirit is reincarnated into another person or even an animal. Those who do not believe a person has a soul usually believe that once you are dead there is no other existence.
Believing in some sort of existence after death can be comforting. Examination of the various beliefs can help you make up your mind about this issue.
Questions you may have include:
- What are some views on eternal life after death?
- What about reincarnation?
- What do atheists believe?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Note: This is an educational website. We are not promoting any one religion.
Belief in eternal life
Many people who believe that you have a soul or spiritual aspect to your being, also believe that once your body dies, your soul goes to Heaven where you exist in eternal life. Most Christian, Muslim and Jewish religions believe the soul goes to Heaven.
Some people also believe that those who fail to follow the commands of God may go to Hell instead of Heaven, where they will suffer for eternity. Most Christian religions believe in Hell, although there are some that dispute the concept.
Some questions that arise concerning the belief of going to Heaven after a person dies include:
- What is the criteria for going to Heaven? Do only people from a specific religion go to Heaven?
- Did people's souls or spirits exist before their physical birth? If not, where did the souls come from?
- What about animals? Do they have souls? Is there a dog and a cat heaven?
Many people who have almost died but then came back to life have had near-death experiences (NDE), which seem to be a glimpse of life after death. Whether or not NDE is reality is up for debate. People with the experience say it is true, while some scientists say it is a physical reaction.
(See Do Near-Death Experiences Happen? for more on this subject.)
People of other religions believe that once your physical body dies, you can return to Earth as another person or even as an animal. This is called reincarnation. Buddhists, Hindus and some other religions have this belief.
There are stories of people who claim to have visited their past lives through hypnotism. Often they can state facts that they couldn't possibly know.
Some questions concerning being reincarnated after passing away include:
- Why haven't these people ever recalled being animals in their past lives?
- Why can't everyone recall having a past life?
- Why isn't reincarnation accepted in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths?
Nothing else or not sure
There are people who don't believe in any sort of spiritual existence, and there are also people who have never given it a thought.
People who don't believe in the existence of any spiritual aspects of humans, obviously don't believe in God or any Supreme Being. They believe that once you're dead, you're dead. That's it. There's nothing else.
It seems that these people look at the body as simply a magnificent machine.
Never thought about it
Among this group are many people who have no formal religion and have never given any thought to what happens after a person dies. Perhaps it is beyond their comprehension or something they would rather not think about.
"What happens after your physical body dies?" is an age old question that no one can really answer. After all these thousands and millions of years, no one can really prove what happens. We have the statements from the various religions and the beliefs of the relatively few people who dare to think about it.
Seek knowledge and avoid being narrow-minded
Resources and references
Questions and comments
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What Happens After You Die?