; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Monday, August 10, 2015

Live... Die... and Live Again - Part 8

By Stephen Ellis - I have spoken to a number of people who genuinely believe they are going to go to Heaven or Hell when they die. They have been taught this since they were children and explaining some facts to them is often like trying to break through a concrete wall.

A few evidentiary facts about this are in order:

In the Old Testament there is one reference about a “Paradise”, but very little else.

The truth is that Heaven (in the way we are most familiar) is a creation of Christianity’s New Testament. Not written until approximately 350AD, the New Testament often refers to Jesus’ ascension to Heaven to reside in the Kingdom of God. In Christianity, this is where all people who believe in Jesus go when they die.

Of course this begs the question: Since Christianity represents only one-third of the Earth’s population, what about the other two-thirds? Would a loving and forgiving God condemn two-thirds of the world’s population to eternal damnation?

On the other hand, in the Old Testament the ancient Hebrew and Aramaic word of “Sheol” is used. That word, however, has been translated into English in many ways and with many meanings. Essentially, Sheol simply means “grave”. It’s very important to remember that the Old Testament was written in Aramaic and almost all of the Scriptures we call the “New Testament” were written either in Latin or Greek…ancient Latin and ancient Greek. The translation of many words to modern language required they be “interpreted” The term “Shoel” has been interpreted many ways…one of the most common English meanings given to it is “Hell”.

Hell, like Heaven, is a product of the New Testament. It was not fully described until the 1320 AD when Dante (Alighieri) wrote “A Divine Comedy”. The images of Heaven, Purgatory and Hell were described in great detail. The image many of us have of the Devil as a red-horned man with oversized bat-like wings, carrying a trident pitchfork and banishing all sinners to eternity in an inferno, was all from the imagination of Dante. Dante’s “A Divine Comedy” is considered one of literature’s great works.

Dante’s descriptions were accepted by the Christian clergy to encourage people to have a “good” life rather than an “evil” life. Even today there are numerous sects of Christianity in which the Ministers tell their followers that failure to accept Jesus as the son of God and support their church will result in an afterlife of Hell-fire and brimstone. But Christianity is not alone in depicting a Heaven and Hell, and most religions have a dramatically different story to tell. i.e. Nifelheim (a Norse and German culture) believes that Hell is a frozen wasteland. Zoroastrians (2.6 million adherents) believe that when you die, you must cross the Chinvat Bridge to reach the afterlife.

There are more than a hundred versions of the Holy Bible available for purchase at bookstores and on-line reading…and no two are alike. Inasmuch as the Bible is supposed to be the “Word of God”, it seems unlikely that God corrected himself more than a hundred times.

Because the number of Christians in the world outnumber all others (2.1 billion), most of the schools in the Western World teach the beliefs of Christianity (although there are more than ten different versions of the Christian Bible alone). Islam is the second most populated with (1.3 billion adherents). Hinduism is third (1 billion followers), Buddhism Is fourth (376 Million members) and Sikhism is Fifth (23 Million). Judaism, the grandfather of all religions, has about 14 million believers.

Each religion has its own version of Heaven and Hell…or more to the point of this series of articles, as to what really happens when our body dies.

The one thing that all organized religions seem to agree upon is that (although the road to get there may be different) there is an afterlife of sorts. My research tends to indicate that the religious beliefs you have when alive may influence, but do not control, what happens after you die.

There is an ancient axiom: “If you believe something, no amount of proof to the contrary will make you change your mind. If you do not believe something, no amount of documentation will make you accept it.”

All religions are a matter of “belief”. If you believe that Jesus Christ was the only begotten son of God, you are a Christian, If you believe that the only God is named Allah and his only prophet was Muhammad, you follow Islam. If you believe the promised Messiah will come but has not come yet, you adhere to Judaism.

If you are interested in the subject, I suggest you read my book, “Explaining the Unexplained”. You can download a Kindle of it for about $5.00. Hard and soft-cover copies are available at Barnes & Nobel and at Amazon. - stebrel@aol.com

Explaining the Unexplained

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