Ask An Adult: Is There Life After Death?
The Debrief: We attempt to answer the million dollar question. No biggie.
Is there life after death? That's the billion dollar question. Type it into Google and you'll have over 58 million results at your finger tips and no closer to getting the answer. Every single person has their own opinion on the matter even if that belief is 'nothing', but to reach a definitive conclusion that satisfies everyone? As it stands: impossible.
So *spoiler*, if that's what you're here for, we can't help you, because there isn't one. Not yet anyway. Instead, we asked as many adults (read: experts) as we could, whether, according to their opinions and beliefs, there is life after death, and have collated their responses. Of course this is no where near an exhaustive list; we cast the net pretty wide and could only include the people who actually responded. Please note that we reached out to spokespeople from all major faiths for this piece.
Dr Sam Parnia, Assistant professor of medicine at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and lead author of the world’s largest study on Near Death Experiences
'I do not hold a personal opinion. The results of many studies into cardiac arrest (this is a marker of the biological processes that occur at the time of death in humans) have indicated that the human mind and consciousness - the part that makes us all who we are - are not annihilated at the time of death - and continue for some time after we go beyond the threshold of death. This is the first step in scientifically investigating the age old philosophical question of what happens when we die.'
Mark, Public Information Desk, Jehovah’s Witnesses
'The grave is where people go when they die, that’s really what the Bible says. They don’t exist, there’s no consciousness, there’s no activity, they go to the grave. But there’s lots of scriptures in the Bible that give reference, for example Lazarus; he was a friend of Jesus who died and in the account in John 11 Jesus is talking to his disciples and he uses the analogy of him sleeping and he says, ‘I’m going to go and wake him up’. It’s an expression that’s used a lot in the Bible – sleeping in comparison to death. If you had a friend who was in a deep sleep, they’re not aware of what’s going on around them but you can wake them up, so in a similar way, that’s basically what the Bible says about death: God can wake them up or resurrect them back to full life again.
'Adam and Eve were created and they were put on the earth, and they had the prospect of living forever, never having to die, but just continuing to live, raising family and that was God’s original purpose which hasn't changed. But they sinned, which means that got passed on like a bad gene, and that imperfection which leads to death means we all die eventually. The Bible says that God is going to bring about a change so all governments have been tried but God says that his kingdom – I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the Our father prayer? – so you pray for God’s kingdom to come, for his will to be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven, so in other words we pray for God’s will to be done so God says that he’s going to change conditions on the Earth and bring about paradise conditions like we had in the beginning.
'When that happens some people will still be alive but then others who have never had the opportunity of really getting to know God, will be resurrected and they too will have a choice. Like Noah and the flood, people had a choice back then: do they want to listen and survive and get onto the arc? If not, they lost their lives. Even those that die, God doesn’t punish them, they just cease to exist. He’s not eternally punishing them, they just lose out on living forever.
'In addition the other who have not had the opportunity to get to know God will be resurrected and given the opportunity. There are many many people over the course of history, billions of humans that have lived and died, and many have not had the opportunity to understand or apply Bible truth so they’ll get that opportunity.'
Professor Havi Hannah Carel, Head of Philosophy at the University of Bristol
'No. So here’s the philosophical argument – well, what some philosophers say – if you take a baseball bat and bash someone on the head, they will lose consciousness so obviously there’s some connection between brain activity and consciousness, or life. And if the brain is dead – so if you bash someone on the head they lose consciousness – and if you take their brains and bodies and bury them in the ground, then certainly consciousness cannot exist independently of the brain and independently of the body.
'The life of conscious animals like humans is defined by being sentient, by perceiving, by having consciousness. But at any rate, I’d say that with any organism if you do enough damage to the body then there’s no way that anything that’s connected to that body can persist after that.
'I don’t deny that people have spiritual lives but I don’t see how that spiritual element can exist independently of one’s body. If we agree, and I think that’s pretty common sense, that consciousness emanates from the brain, to think of consciousness existing without a brain is very odd. It runs contrary to everything science tells us about biology, physiology.'
Charlotte, Psychic at Clairvoyant London
'Yes. I can’t explain what it looks like over there but certainly I connect to people who have passed on. When we die I believe that we go through some sort of restorative period, and it can be anything from a couple of minutes, bearing in mind time is irrelevant over there, it’s not linear to ours – it doesn’t appear to be anyway, there’s no proven fact to say that. We then meet up with people that have passed before us; most of the time we are collected by someone.
'It’s very beautiful, it’s harmonious. If you talk to anyone who’s had a near death experience, you’ll find that they don’t want to come back even though they are told they’ve got more work to do or whatever and they end up coming back. But it doesn’t matter how much you love people here, the severe immense feeling of love there means you feel more at home there than you do here. Although you can’t gatecrash, you have to be invited into this other realm.
'I believe everyone goes there. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve committed suicide or you’ve been a murderer, there’s no bars, it’s just we’re all spirits having a human experience here, and part of that existence is to learn and adapt and learn right from wrong so there’s no judgement except for what we judge ourselves, although I do feel that there is a being that is our creator. It doesn’t matter what name you give him, God or otherwise, he caters for all so to speak and is not as judgemental as we are led to believe.
'I am religious. It’s under Christianity – I believe in God and believe in Christ. I believe in heaven but I wouldn’t separate that as a part of a part our existence, I don’t believe there’s a hell. We’re all judged at different levels. I do feel that there are different tiers to our existence when we pass over merely because there’s a hierarchy of sorts that have been there longer. I also believe in reincarnation which is a sore subject for a lot of people who have the same beliefs as I have because either they believe in it or they don’t.
'I think reincarnation depends on your level of development and what it is that you have to achieve and learn and whether you’ve actually learned the first time around or not. Sometimes it’s a choice to come back to actually guide and help others.
'I actually do believe that there are energys, whether they are ghosts or otherewise that are out there, because there are apparitions that people have seen, there are things that people have felt, touched and experienced and you can’t dismiss that. I cannot see that that’s a neurological reflex, I do feel that’s an actual experience they’ve gone through,
'Is it spirit is it ghost? To me, it’s spirit. But there’s also the fact that there’s a residual energy that’s left because energy carries on through everything we do and touch; that’s where psychometry comes into play and you can read the energies from it. Residual energy is left behind and it may just be a window in time that someone may have a capability to see, like an image being played back, a video in time, and that’s just captured in the energy, not actually a ghost. '
Megan and Rachel, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)
'Yes there is life after death. We believe that the purpose of this life is to prepare ourselves to live with God again. When Christ was on the cross, He told one of the thieves next to Him that he would be with Him in paradise. Luke 23:43.
'In the introduction of the Book of Mormon it says, "The crowning event recorded in the Book of Mormon is the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ among the Nephites soon after His resurrection. It puts forth the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come." The whole purpose of the Book of Mormon is to teach us about Jesus Christ and help us learn God's plan for us.
'In the Book of Mormon, there is a prophet named Alma who wrote, "32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors." Yes God lives in heaven, but we can only live there with Him if we follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ which means we have faith, we repent, are baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. Jesus Christ suffered and died for us, so we could be forgiven and return to God's presence.'
‘I really couldn’t say.’
Canon John O’Toole, National Ecumenical Officer For The Catholic Bishops Conference
'All Christians recite the creed together, saying that we believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come, so that’s shared amongst all Christian traditions. If you wanted a particularly Catholic stress it would be on the idea of purgatory. Christian traditions believe there’s the four last things: death, judgement, heaven and hell but Catholics would also put in another element which is purgatory which is not quite as black and white as heaven and hell. When people die, the Catholic teaching would say, the presumption is that most people are aware of their imperfections, so there’s a need to be purified in order for them to enjoy being in heaven.
'There’s often a misunderstanding about purgatory being a place of punishment for their sins but it’s really a purification of themselves so that they can enjoy being in Heaven.
'The only way out of purgatory is heaven, it’s really a preparation. We don’t know if everyone goes there, judgement is God’s judgment, but most Catholics wouldn’t presume to go straight to heaven although they may be pleasantly surprised so the idea is that we’re all aware that we’re all imperfect therefore we need purifying. The only ones who wouldn’t go to purgatory in the Catholic understanding would be those who are deemed to be canonised saints they would be understood generally, because of the holiness of their lives, to have gone straight to heaven but I imagine a lot of saints would presume they would have to go to purgatory too.
'The Catholic understanding would be that God sends nobody to hell but people can choose not to be with God if they wouldn’t be happy in heaven and they want to choose hell. God sends nobody to hell because God wishes everyone to be saved and people have freedom to choose not to be in heaven otherwise there would be no freedom. The Church has never declared anyone to be in hell because that’s to take over God’s judgment, but they have declared people to be in heaven, like saints.'
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