What is more important life or death

Resurrection, Hell or Nirvana The afterlife concerns all religions

That we celebrate Jesus' resurrection at Easter is anything but self-evident. After all, Jesus was a Jew and at that time there was actually no clear conception of life after death in this religion. It was believed that the dead disappeared into a kind of shadow realm and basically become nothing. Of course, even then God already had the power to bring people back from this world, but that would only happen at the end of time. Another idea found its way into the Jewish faith from the Greco-Roman culture: the idea of ​​the immortal soul, in which only our body dies, but our soul lives on. This idea can also be found in Christianity and Islam, says the religious scholar Perry Schmidt-Leukel.

The two ideas of a resurrection at the end of time and also the idea of ​​an immortal soul become dominant. And then in all of these three religions there are countless variations on how these two versions, which actually do not go together, could be linked with one another.

Prof. Dr. Perry Schmidt-Leukel, University of Münster

The immortal soul and the end of time

Theology has tried again and again to resolve this conflict. Mostly so that the immortal soul goes through various processes up to the time of resurrection. And then finally at the end of time she gets a new body and that only then can she live in a heavenly or infernal world.

It wasn't just the two alternatives Heaven or Hell, there is another place, Limbo, where children who died before baptism or godly pagans who could not become Christians come. And then there was the idea that the soul gets to a place of purification between death and resurrection of the body, called purgatory in German, which means that it has to go through development processes in order to become fit for heaven.

Perry Schmidt-Leukel

Islam also emerges from these Jewish and Christian influences and forms its own synthesis, according to Schmidt-Leukel, who holds the professorship for religious studies and intercultural theology at the University of Münster. "On the one hand we find the idea that this soul has visions of heaven and hell immediately after death, but that it then first falls into a kind of deep sleep until the final resurrection. But we also find the idea of ​​rebirth in certain marginalized groups Reincarnation in other forms of existence. "

Five places of rebirth

This idea sounds more familiar to us from Buddhism and Hinduism. There are five major rebirth areas: the heavenly world, rebirth as a human being, as an animal, as a ghost or demon, and rebirth in hellish worlds. The question in which form one is born again depends on one's own karma - that is, on how morally one has lived.

The actual salvation is then the liberation from the rebirth cycle and this is called nirvana in Buddhism and moksha in Hinduism. Then one enters into what is called heaven in the Abrahamic religions, that is, into a state of bliss beyond all time, in which there is also no further development.

Perry Schmidt-Leukel

The many parallels show how much influence the different religions had on one another. And even the individual religions are by no means homogeneous, according to the religious scholar: "There is no such thing as Christianity or Judaism or Islam, but these are broad, living traditions that encompass very many different beliefs." It is all the more important to work interreligiously in order to be able to answer even better the big questions, such as the afterlife.