Differences in Afterlife Views

I know I’ve blogged on the afterlife once already, but the reading for this week triggered many more thoughts to write about. I guess one of the things I never realized was how much afterlife beliefs and practices varied. I suppose it makes sense; humans are the same way today. For example, our beliefs on religion, even for those who belong to the same church, differ even if in the smallest ways. I guess this is just one more kick I’ll have to give myself for automatically assuming things about a culture.

Anyway, going back to what I was saying: I find it interesting that their beliefs varied. Some saw death as a “threatening enemy,” while others viewed it as a “welcome homecoming.” I always assumed their society as a whole welcomed the passing on to a new phase of being, but just like today, some were more comfortable with the idea of death, while others seemed to fear it. I also found it interesting that there were different methods of providing sustenance to the dead. Some of the dead were provided offerings by means of a cult who visited regularly and replenished, while other buried Egyptians were given sustenance through “magical” models and images. I wonder if this difference had to do with social status? Or perhaps it had to do with the region they were buried? The chapter doesn’t seem to answer the question and it left me wondering why the difference.

There were also variations between the burial practices, but as the chapter states, this was due to the differences in social class. The elite obviously had more resources to work with, therefore their dead were buried with grander items and material, while the non-elite had a “miniaturized version of the grand sepulcher of a high official.” Like I said, however, there are many other areas of the afterlife that had varying beliefs about them, and it is fascinating to me to read about this subject, and understand the differences between our views today and their views years ago, not to mention their own views that differed from one another.

1 thought on “Differences in Afterlife Views

  1. I also find the differences between what people believe even within an individual religion, so to speak, fascinating. As you say, there are often many subtle and not-so-subtle differences between what people or groups of people in a certain religion believe. This was true in Ancient Egypt, it was true during the Middle Ages, and it is true today.
    To me though, focusing on the similarities of what people believe is just as fascinating, if not more, than the differences. As you said, some Egyptians saw death as an enemy and others as a liberator. This is very much the case today. Death is often depicted in our modern, for want of a better term Judeo-Christian, society as the dark, evil Grimm Reaper. This is not, however, universal, as many within our society (say, someone who has been suffering a debilitating terminal illness) might see death not as scary, but instead as a liberator. Thus just like in the religion of Ancient Egypt, while there may even be a prevailing religious point of view (i.e. death is evil and dark), there can exist a great deal of variants between individual people. As someone once said, everyone is their own theologian
    The interesting thing about religion to me therefore is that it often gives people what they want. My overall temperament in life at this instant may make me feel more attracted to certain teachings in Buddhism, but when I’m older I may very well feel that the correct and only path is that of my hardcore conservative Christian paternal family (although may God strike me down if that happens). Religious variations exists, in my opinion, because individuals very, but since we all have common needs and wants, there are often many similarities as well.

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