1. HelloSweetie
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    HelloSweetie Member

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    Death / afterlife beliefs

    Discussion in 'Research' started by HelloSweetie, Sep 3, 2015.

    My (perpetual) WIP is about a girl who is a new member of a secret agency dedicated to helping people cross over from life, through death, into their journey to the afterlife. Part of her introductory education is a perfunctory understanding of various beliefs about death, focusing on where she and her counterparts fit into it. I think for practicality's sake, it will have to be limited to larger, more prevalent religions in her location - Judaism, Christianity (various denominations, encompassing Catholic, Anglican and Protestant views), Islam, and some spotty Buddhism / Hinduism - as well as Agnostic and Atheist viewpoints.

    Given that, and given that I have only a basic handle on the religion in which I was raised, and sadly no idea about what other religions believe. I'm looking for theological explorations of the concepts of death and the afterlife according to different religions, philosophical movements, and belief systems. I've found some potentially useful resources online but they seem largely to be gloss-over information, if they load properly at all. I'd like some further discussion, if possible with commentary or thoughts by a leader within the religion. I have found several bibles with some light commentary available for free on the internet, but I haven't really found any in-depth discussion online, at least perfunctorily.

    Anyone out there know where I might find that sort of info without sitting down and speaking to someone in a church type setting?
     
  2. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm a huge fan of Wikipedia :D

    You can follow sources on Wikipedia pages to see where the info came from if you feel skeptical or mistrustful for some reason.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion
     
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  3. HelloSweetie
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    HelloSweetie Member

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    I've looked at Wikipedia but I never thought to check out the sources listed! Thanks!
     
  4. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    Are you familiar with the term psychopomp? If not, that sounds like the role you're envisioning for your girl and her agency (if I'm understanding correctly), and might be a good search term to lead to the examples you're after.

    Sorry I'm not much more help than that. Is the idea that she needs the understanding so she can explain to people how the real situation differs, or does she somehow shape the journey so that it matches the individual's beliefs? Quite curious to see how you'll deal with the agnostics and atheists! Good luck with it :)
     
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  5. HelloSweetie
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    HelloSweetie Member

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    That's almost exactly what I'm envisioning, actually. Fantastic!

    The idea is that agents need this information to help frame what is happening to their wards within the belief system they subscribe to. To frame it in the belief system I have the most knowledge about, a Southern Baptist would see my agents as angels, come to take them home. The theory is that framing it within each ward's belief system makes the transition easier for them to understand, and as such fewer transitions fail, leading to fewer unsettled spirits, and over time fewer monsters.
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    There was once a little show that I loved that aired on Showtime called Dead like Me that sang to a similar tune. In this show, the focus was more on the personal transition of people and also the stories of those charged with transitioning the departed individuals for the next life, whatever that may be. If you're not familiar, perhaps a little reading up on (or perhaps even a viewing of) how this franchise handled things could give you ideas. :)

    [​IMG]
     
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  7. nastyjman
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    nastyjman Contributing Member

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    You can also read up on Joseph Campbell's books (love that dude! see my sig). It's also a great read since he was the guy who mapped the Hero's Journey, which some writers use as their template for their stories.

    A good starter might be Hero With A Thousand Faces. If you want to get specific, you can read one of his Masks Of God series which comprises of Occidental Mythology (which is the Abrahamic myths), Oriental Mythology (Hinduistic myths), Primitive Mythology and Creative Mythology.
     
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  8. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I can tell you all about Hare Krishna beliefs, having spent some time living in one of their temples while I carried out a study. :) Beware that their beliefs differ from 'mainstream' Hinduism in many ways.

    They believe that we are reincarnated after death. We start off as 'pure' beings in heaven in our true forms, which might be a human or a sheep or a blade of grass or a rock, then get kicked out of heaven (I forget why). On earth you start off as something very primitive then move your way up through minerals, plants, then 'lower' animals like insects, until you become human.

    Once human we start to accumulate karma through our actions and then can move down the hierarchy of life as well as up. Whatever we are thinking about at the time of death is what we become in the next life. Don't ask me what happens if you're thinking of a table or something... There's a story in either the Srimad Bhagavatam or the Bhagavad Gita about a very pious man who was always thinking about God but then, near the end of his life, got this weird attachment to a deer. Even though he'd been good for his entire life, because he was thinking about the deer when he died, he didn't get to go to heaven and had to come back as a deer. Poor guy.

    The only way you can get to heaven and stop being reincarnated, which is the ultimate goal, is to free yourself of all karma; lose all attachment to things that aren't God, including your family and friends; and be purely devoted to God.

    Excuse my cynicism but God must be pretty lonely in Goloka Vrindavan.

    They believe hearing the name of God (his names include Hare, Krishna, Rama, and a billion others) wipes your karma-slate clean. That's why they chant at you in the street or try and get you to chant. They believe they're helping you get to heaven.

    Goloka Vrindavan, if anyone actually ever gets there, is a planet where Krishna's purest form lives. He plays there all day with his cows and the Gopis (his girlfriends) and everything is lovely and nice. Whatever your pure form is, that's what you are in Goloka. Even if you're a blade of grass you apparently love it and cry dew of joy when Krishna deigns to tread on you.
     
  9. HelloSweetie
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    HelloSweetie Member

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    I'll have to look that up. I vaguely remember hearing about it but I never had an opportunity to watch it.

    I may go with the Masks of God series, because I do need some level of specificity. I don't want to go too in-depth in the story, but I do want to have more than just a basic understanding for myself. I've found I write better if I understand more than I want to explain.

    @Tenderiser that is absolutely fascinating. I hadn't really thought about reincarnation, and how this might work within that system. Hmm. Yay, more thinking to do!
     
  10. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Atheists don't believe in an afterlife. You simply live and die. That is the sum of that.

    Agnostics on the other hand are willing to believe if there is solid evidence that would support a particular religions claims. They are kind of like on the fence Atheists.

    Islam has some ties to Christianity. Jesus was a prophet and not the son of god. I recommend doing some research on it as both are complicated (and convoluted IMO).

    Pretty sure Buddhism is more philosophical than the rest. Though they do believe in a hell and reincarnation.

    Not a theologian, just a curious guy that likes to learn stuff.
     
  11. Gabcy
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    Gabcy Member

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    I was raised Roman Catholic and gathered a pretty hefty understanding of the faith before my departure. Keep in mind that Catholicism is separate from Christianity, and both have varying sub-branches.

    If you have specific questions regarding my previous faith then feel free to let me know,
     
  12. HelloSweetie
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    HelloSweetie Member

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    @Cave Troll Re: Atheism, I know... it's a pretty significant wrench, but I'm excited to deal with it. I have to figure out exactly how to handle that. I think agnostics will be the most fun to address - if you're waiting for proof of something after life, what better than those who will escort you to that something? I want to write without judgment for any faith/belief system/philosophy as best I can, though, as my characters do none of the Judgment and just... direct traffic? Maybe that's the best analogy.

    Re: Islam, I'd heard that, but I DEFINITELY need to do some research there. I need specific death/passing over/afterlife info, and embarrassingly, the only thing I "know" about their concept of afterlife is something about virgins, and I feel like that's a reward for martyrdom, or something.

    It is a pretty homogeneous place; for the most part it's Protestant (and, pending the explanation requested below, nearly entirely Christian), but there are going to be instances where understanding of Islam / sensitivity to atheistic/pagan/non-"standard" (for the area) beliefs will be necessary at some point so I do need the understanding.

    @Gabcy thanks! I do have one, actually! Your comment that Catholicism was separate from Christianity as a religion confused me, so if you can, I'd like a little more clarification on the difference between Catholicism and Christianity. I was under the impression that it went like this:

    Christianity
    / \
    Catholicism Protestantism
    / \
    Roman, Orthodox Anglican, Baptist, Methodist, Etc

    Obviously that's SUPER simplified; there are different "superdenominations" across the world (and I read that Catholicism considers itself predenominational so I don't mean to call it something it isn't) but based on my limited understanding that's sort of how it goes. If that's wrong, please educate me!

    Edited to finish a thought I forgot about... I'm too scatterbrained for life. I'm sorry. :D
     
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  13. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    I don't really think there is much of a difference when it comes to your little pyramid. That being said I am not an expert.
    As far as special classifications within western religion I do not know. I feel that they are just different branches of a singular as they all believe almost exactly the same thing. Judaism is the root of these, and is different than the newer offshoots that rose from it. As I already stated I am not all knowing on the subject.

    What I said about Islam is true about Jesus being a prophet. Muhammad was a man who could not read nor write, but dictated what Allah spoke to him to a scribe. I do believe the martyrdom is true that you receive 72 virgins. Not sure what happens if you are just of the faith, as I have never read that anywhere. I would assume it is similar to western religion with a heaven and hell paradigm. I do know that Muhammad 'wrote' that Islam is the one true religion, and made it a religion/political thing. As well as decreeing that all 'Infidels' (non believers) be converted or killed in the name of faith, as told by Allah. Not really sure as I have not spoken to a Muslim or read the Koran. Though from what I do understand is that it is a peaceful and beautiful religion for the most part. Though with any religion there will be those that are in the extreme and abuse it for there on personal agenda, instead of using as a form of guidance while living upon the earth.

    How is Atheism a 'significant wrench'? It is devoid of a belief. It does however, have a structure, but it is basically be a good person and don't impose your lack of faith upon those that have a faith. Again there are Atheists that do try to impose there lack of belief, just a religious people try to impose their beliefs upon others. Both of these are wrong and hopefully will just coexist and let the petty differences be laid to rest.

    Question: Are you trying to say that your character is a form of Death? Not necessarily the cloaked skeleton with a scythe stereo type, but the essence in effect. Cause Death does not pass judgment upon who or how. In some cultures Death is the Ferry Man, and those who do not pay cannot cross into the land of the dead. They are forced to wander between the land of the living and the dead, in a state of Limbo or Purgatory. I ask because I do not think I fully understand your character.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2015
  14. HelloSweetie
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    HelloSweetie Member

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    I mean that it's a wrench in the cogs of my story's main mechanism, in that... there's nowhere to "send" them, you know? I'd like to send them to Judgment ... but that's not something in their philosophy. So I have to figure out how to handle it without stepping on the beliefs of real people.

    Yes, essentially the concept is that there's an entire society dedicated to protecting the newly dead as they journey to wherever they're going next. So... they are Death, but they are also equalizers in a way - they don't stop someone going to Judgment. There's no "toll" as it were. There are ways for spirits to end up in limbo, and it's a major plot point later on in the story, but they don't decide that except in extreme circumstances. It isn't even mentioned until it happens, because it's an absolute last resort.
     
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  15. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Perhaps you could send Atheist into the Abyss (endless nothingness), seeing as they don't believe in anything therefore are simply cast into an infinite nothing. That would be ok by me (I am an atheist). Seeing how no one gets off this planet alive, we will never really know what happens to us. Despite my Atheism, I have a theory of my own that the soul wanders throughout space and time until they find another 'body'. I like to think that having an open mind to things that can not scientifically proven or tested, seeing we really have know idea about what happens to the mind (consciousness) of the being once the body ceases life. Sorry to get all philosophical, I spend a lot of time thinking about the inevitable (and a whole mess of other things).

    What do you believe happens in death?
     
  16. HelloSweetie
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    HelloSweetie Member

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    I, personally, feel like there is something after death. What exactly that might be, I'm not certain. I identify as Christian, but I'm more spiritual than I am religious. I personally don't believe that "my God" - who I see as someone who, in the end, does love us and want us to be happy over anything else - would separate us from our loved ones who have gone on before us, not for any significant length of time. I think s/he gives us tiny moments with them, even after we have lost them. Sometimes it's symbolic, like a mating pair of cardinals playing in the backyard; other times it's more overt. I can vividly remember seeing my grandmother in the audience at my first high school play, three weeks after she passed.

    I absolutely agree with you on the open-mindedness concept. We don't know what happens after death, and there's no way of finding out without actually dying, so the quibbling about it does frustrate me - how can any one philosophical belief (even if it is the absence of belief) be the only right one? There are probably as many different beliefs as there are individuals on this planet.

    Don't apologize! Philosophical discussions are fascinating to me. I can't always hold my own, but I love them nonetheless. :)
     
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  17. Adhulari
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    Adhulari Member

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    As it happens, I study religious studies at the Radboud University Nijmegen. I can probably help you out here. I have at least some basic knowledge about the five major religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism) and their afterlife beliefs and then some smaller religious groups as well. If there is one in particular you'd like to know more about, feel free to contact me. I have numerous book to consult :)
     
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  18. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    @HelloSweetie It would be best to listen to those that are far more adept and understand how the religions work when it comes to your research. I would enjoyed our little discussion on religion and philosophy, but that should be for another time. Hope you get the answers to what you are seeking. :D
     
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  19. HelloSweetie
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    HelloSweetie Member

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    That's fantastic! I'm working on narrowing my questions down to what I need to know, and I'll PM you! Thank you so much!

    @Cave Troll We shall continue another time, I'm sure. You've been quite helpful though!
     
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  20. Adhulari
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    Adhulari Member

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    My pleasure :)
     
  21. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    Sounds like you've found some help here. I'll toss out some random nuggets which probably won't be helpful but you never know.

    Back when I was shopping for a religion/trying to figure out what I believed I read "Religion for Dummies", part of the Dummies series you're likely familiar with. It did a pretty good job of giving a basic overview of most religions and their belief systems. Silly title, useful book.

    My first book is about a passageway, or portal, to the place where souls go after death. My premise discards the recorded religious book versions of heaven and instead offers a different, non-denominational alternative. By doing this I could ignore all of the variables and just concentrate on the end result. I did give it a name culled from ancient mythology (Alysium) so that it was at least based on something historical. The MC in the book refers to herself as an 'apathetic agnostic' which she defines as not knowing about God, etc and not really caring. However, she does benefit and accept the existence of the place (Alysium); she has just decided not to question it as the answers wouldn't interest her. I'm probably straying off track with this but am trying to illustrate that the 'technical' details of religion(s) may not be necessary for your story of passage to the other side to be successful.

    My agnostic characters were created by an atheist author who understands one important thing: it doesn't matter if you genuinely believe in a heaven or Alysium or not; what is true of everyone regardless of their beliefs is, given the choice, they all will want to believe an afterlife is possible. That is something that makes us all human. We may not believe in Santa Claus but we all wish he existed. An afterlife is no different and this can help make your characters of any religion participate in your story.
     
  22. Jaro
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    Jaro Active Member

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    @HelloSweetie While I am far from an expert on theology, I am Agnostic and I would be happy to have a discussion with you regarding that if it is something you would like to pursue for your WIP. I have learned about and studied several different religeons in my search for answers, and even went through Christian Missionary training at one point in my life.
     
  23. HelloSweetie
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    HelloSweetie Member

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    Awesome! Thank you both. @ddavidv I didn't know they made a Religion for Dummies book, so I'll have to look into it! I do agree with you in that I think the human condition wants to believe in something. I think that's why there are so many different belief systems out there - most of us are looking for something to believe in, whatever that may be.

    @Jaro I'm still working on my list of questions, so once I get them compiled I'll PM you! I have a lot of questions, but I'm trying to weed through them to make sure they're just the ones I can't find answers to on the net / need clarification from info I did find on the net. Thank you so much for offering!
     
  24. Jaro
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    Jaro Active Member

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    No problem at all, just message me whenever you are ready. Even if it is something simple, I'd love to help :)
     
  25. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    The Baha'is have a different take on the afterlife. We see it not divided into heaven or hell, but as a gradient scale. The soul is traveling through planes of existence on the way to perfection. As such, your action in this life prepare you for your role in your next life, in your journey toward god. Turning away from god in this life then naturally prepares one poorly to be close to him in the next.

    It's difficult to find quotes online, and Baha'i teachings are...difficult to transcribe by hand, as you'll see below. So you'll have to take my word for it, or pick up The Hidden Words*
    The nature of the soul after death can never be described, nor is it meet and permissible to reveal its whole character to the eyes of men. The Prophets and Messengers of God have been sent down for the sole purpose of guiding mankind to the straight Path of Truth. The purpose underlying Their revelation hath been to educate all men, that they may, at the hour of death, ascend, in the utmost purity and sanctity and with absolute detachment, to the throne of the Most High. The light which these souls radiate is responsible for the progress of the world and the advancement of its peoples. They are like unto leaven which leaveneth the world of being, and constitute the animating force through which the arts and wonders of the world are made manifest.


    But this philosophy is summed up best I think by a parable that was told by Shoghi Effendi, the guardian of the faith.
    A man dreamed that an angel took him aside to show him the afterlife. The angel took him to a hall with a great table, full of food. People came into the hall carrying utensils with handles only the tips of which could they touch. They sat down to each and began to cry and lamantate, because their spoons and forks were too long to reach their mouths even if they held out their hands as long as they could.
    The angel took the man away and lead him to another hall. Again it was filled with food and again the people came in to eat with spoons and forks, much too long. They sat at the table and rejoiced, and feasted, because they fed each other.

    *Which you can do here! Ocean is a database of most every primary religious text, and a whole lot of Baha'i religious text. So if you're looking for a passage in the Bhagavad Gita, or the King James Bible, it's all there. And of course every Baha'i tablet that has been translated into English.

    Edited to add: that's a paraphrase of Shoghi Effendi paraphrasing Rabbi Haim by the way.
     

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