You Died, so Now What?
It could be the most important part of your existence or completely moot. We are born, live our lives and die. It is a great mystery that religion picks up on where science leaves off. With over seven billion people on the plant living today, about a 108 billion have died before we were born. This conservative statistic comes from the Population Reference Bureau.
It's an ironic idea that a life is often defined by its death. But with this finality being certain (at least for the time being), most of us spend little time preparing for what might come next. We all know religious people, ethical people and people who use their religion as a crutch. We all know people who believe that their faith is the only true faith and its beliefs are unshakable truths. But what happened if we examine a small aspect of each major religions ideas of what happens after we die? Are they all the same or does each religion have similarities? I leave some of this conjecture up to you and present a reference on the afterlife according to the theologians.
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The fact of the matter, is that there is a small body of work on those who have medically been declared dead, but were revived and told interesting stories. These events are referred to as Near Death Experiences or NDEs.
Researchers have identified the common elements that define near-death experiences. The general features of the experience include impressions of being outside one's physical body, visions of deceased relatives and religious figures, and transcendence of the self and temporal boundaries. Many common elements have been reported, although the person's interpretation of these events often corresponds with the cultural, philosophical, or religious
beliefs of the person experiencing it. For example, in the USA, where 46% of the population believes in guardian angels, they will often be identified as angels or deceased loved ones (or will be unidentified), while Hindus will often identify them as messengers of the god of death.
Common traits that have been reported by NDEs are as follows:
A sense/awareness of being dead.
A sense of peace, well-being and painlessness. Positive emotions. A sense of removal from the world.
An out-of-body experience. A perception of one's body from an outside position, sometimes observing medical professionals performing resuscitation efforts.
A "tunnel experience" or entering a darkness. A sense of moving up, or through, a passageway or staircase.
A rapid movement toward and/or sudden immersion in a powerful light (or "Being of Light") which communicates with the person.
An intense feeling of unconditional love and acceptance.
Encountering "Beings of Light", "Beings dressed in white", or similar. Also, the possibility of being reunited with deceased loved ones.
Receiving a life review, commonly referred to as "seeing one's life flash before one's eyes".
Receiving knowledge about one's life and the nature of the universe.
Approaching a border or a decision by oneself or others to return to one's body, often accompanied by a reluctance to return.
Suddenly finding oneself back inside one's body.
Connection to the cultural beliefs held by the individual, which seem to dictate some of the phenomena experienced in the NDE and particularly the later interpretation thereof.
While science is slowly crawling towards some near-death psychology and physiological responses to death. My hope is that some day we might have a better idea if there truly is an after life. I would surmise that it would lead to a fundamental change in what it means to be human, our purpose and help define our place in the world. Many of us have our own personal beliefs based our what we have seen, what resonates with us and how spiritual we are. I have known deeply religious people, people who study their religion and other religions with a critical eye. I have also known atheists. They all have different ideas about what death really is and why it serves a purpose that is just as important as living.