Is There Life After Death? (Part Three)
I have made the case that the very elements that make us individuals also point to the idea that we shall survive our own physical death - namely, free will and consciousness.
Only the monotheistic faiths posit an afterlife that retains the very individuality that provides this evidence. If this statement seems unclear, please keep reading.
Hinduism is a pantheistic belief. To break down the word, panmeans all, and theisticrefers to God. Pantheism teaches that God is all and all is God. The ultimate reality is the Brahman, a universal oneness of all things. As a contrast, Christianity teaches that God is transcendent, or apart from His creation.
Since pantheists believe that all is God, then everything else is an illusion, including he self, or our personhood. As long as I am trapped in the matrix of my deception, I am subject to the wheel of life and death, and the law of karma, which determines in what life I am reincarnated. The goal then is to become enlightened, overcoming these illusions of self, and in so doing, finally escape the wheel of life and death and merge into the oneness.
Of course at that point I shall have no appreciation or awareness of my achievement, because I have no personhood. The Brahman is not a person, has no will, and makes no pronouncements. It’s hard to see the difference between the atheistic view of non-existence and the pantheistic view. In both cases, there is no me.
Hindu scholars estimate that it takes on average 6.8 million lifetimes to reach enlightenment, so atheism is a faster route to a similar end. Life is a curse from which to escape.
Buddhism is not a theistic faith, but the Noble Path gets us to the same loss of self and a merging with the Nothingness that is reality. The idea is that if we lose all desire, we escape both pain and pleasure, and again, the result is a kind of non-existence.
The most self-contradicting idea of afterlife is the New Age, a kind of westernized version of pantheism. Again, all is God, but in typical western fashion, I get to retain my individuality. I just need to realize that I am God, and you are, too. But most New Age teaching defines God as an all-loving Spirit.