It is widely held that religious groups value the notion of life after death more than secular individuals and groups. Religions such as Islam and Christianity live everyday life in accordance to God’s will in order to gain a heaven-like afterlife. However Buddhist views would reject the importance of the afterlife as they live for the present. The secular, social media generation would tend to live for the moment and indulge all of their senses in materialistic pleasures, and reject the notion of an afterlife. However it could be said that secular individuals wish to leave behind memories and fame in order to have a non-physical and non-spiritual post-mortem existence.
Christianity stresses the importance of this life and the importance of gaining salvation. This is shown by Jesus dying on the cross so that people’s sins could be forgiven. However there is a difference of opinion on how salvation is gained in Christianity. Protestants stress that salvation is gained through faith, and Paul emphasises this by implying that you are not judged on your works so no one can boast. On the other hand Roman Catholics have a conclusive view that it is by works that help you gain salvation. This is seen through acts such as marriage and confirmation which are an outward sign of inner grace. These were started by Christ and given to the church to enable salvation.
This is linked to the idea of judgment where Christ will return to judge the living and the dead and for many it will be a bodily resurrection. Therefore the importance of accepting God’s grace as a gift in this life is important as it will mean heaven is more likely than hell; a place of damnation and separation from God.
Another importance of this life in Christianity is that those who accept Jesus will go to heaven where as those who don’t will go to hell, known as inaugurated eschatology.; “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life”, John’s Gospel 5:24. Therefore it is important for Christians to accept salvation to avoid going to hell. Yet Roman Catholics believe that through the importance of this life we can help others which are in purgatory through saying prayers which will lessen their time in purgatory. It was believed that in early centuries indulgences could be bought to help people. Purgatory is a place between this life and the next where people are cleansed from venial sins. Hick claims that the importance of this life is to move from Gods image to Gods likeness, seen in his Irenaean theodicy. Eternal life commences in the earthly life of the believer when they accept Jesus, according to John’s Gospel; “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me”. This shows that similarly to Islam and other Abrahamic religions, renunciation of faith is an important step into gaining entrance to salvation and heaven.
Therefore the importance of this life for Christians is to gain salvation which Jesus enabled by dying on the cross. How you gain this salvation is dependent on your view to whether you are protestant and stress faith or are catholic and stress it is gained through works. By this you may see that in Christianity, the present life is very much forward looking and ‘planning’ for life after death.
This is rather the opposite in most secular society, seen in the social media generation. The terms ‘YOLO’, or ‘you only live once’ and ‘bucket list’ are commonly seen and show that for most secular individuals the notion of life after death is very much disregarded and in its place takes the idea that you must enjoy life and get the most out of it by travelling the world, going to festivals and indulging yourself as after all in this view you die and are not resurrected. Richard Dawkins would support this as he said that…