We can divide evidence for life after death into two parts:
- the evidence from faiths – i.e. key beliefs, traditions and the sacred texts of world religions.
- evidence from the natural world – i.e. what we can actually ‘see’ in the world.
The first of these, evidence from faith, is dealt with on the pages on Reincarnation and Rebirth, Resurrection and Christian views.
This page is designed to deal with possible ‘evidence’ in the world and the problems with that evidence.
There are a huge amount of ghost stories out there and it is probably true that everyone knows someone who has claimed to have seen a ghost.
The problem is that there is very little actual evidence. Many people claim to have seen ghosts but no-one can prove it!
There are also religious problems. Christians do not believe in ghosts as it is contrary to the teachings of the church. God would not allow spirits to wander the world lost. They will go to Heaven or Hell, or to Purgatory, or they will await the Last Day in an unconscious state, depending on what type of Christian you are. There is no room for the idea of a ‘ghost’ in Christian views.
In Islam there is no real doctrine of a separate soul, so it wouldn’t really fit with their teaching. You body waits for the Day of Judgement, your ‘soul’ is not separate from your body so it can’t ‘haunt’ anyone!
In Hinduism the soul (atman) should move straight into another life, governed by the law of kharma, not hang around waiting for a new body to become available?
Ghosts might prove a life after death but they contradict most major religious teachings!
NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES
Many people claim to have ‘nearly died’ and then come back to life. We call these Near Death Experiences (or N.D.E.s). Often these people all report seeing similar things, such as the gates of heaven or loved ones coming to meet them.
the argument runs that if people all over the world report the same things then it must be something real. Therefore there is life after death.
The problem is two-fold.
- Not everyone sees the same things. Christians report visions of Virgin Mary (etc.), Hindus the goddess Kali. this might suggest it’s all in their imagination based on what they expect to see.
- There are physiological explanations, as the brain experiences stress it tends to produce hallucination. People’s N.D.E.s could simply be the result of hallucination caused by trauma to the brain.
Similar to ghosts the idea here is that if the ‘soul’ can leave the body and move away from it then it could survive without it. Thus when the body dies your soul could be left behind.
There is no evidence that such sensations are genuine and not imagined.