The five religions discussed during this week’s seminar have many similarities, and just as many differences, in relation to their specific views on death, dying, bereavement and grieving. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism all contain their own system of beliefs and traditions that members use in order to deal with impending death.
Judaism is the oldest of the three monotheistic religions that stems from the Middle East and follows the teachings of Abraham and Moses. Judaism believes that death was a direct consequence of Adam and Eve eating from the forbidden “Tree of Conscience” (Leming, 2011). There are several branches of Judaism throughout the world: Orthodox Judaism, Hasidism, Neo-Orthodox Judaism, Reform Judaism, Conservative Judaism, and Reconstructionist (Wilkinson, 2008). All of these sects of Judaism can have very different traditions in regard to the treatment of the deceased’s body. Under the old Jewish tradition, the body of the deceased must be buried as soon as possible after death, within twenty-four hours if possible, although the burial cannot happen on the Sabbath. Before burial, the body is washed, anointed with oils and spices, and dressed in a white linen sheet after which it is buried in Jewish consecrated ground. More contemporary Jews are more likely to choose cremation over burial. Jews have a multi-tiered morning practice. For the first seven days after the death of a loved one, “close relatives sit at home to observe the period of mourning known as Shiva” (Pollock, 2008, p. 107). During this week they are not allowed to leave the house of do any type of work. Friends and extended relatives may visit the family during this time to pay their respects and bring gifts of food to sustain the family during their time of grief. For eleven months following the death, the kaddish, a Jewish prayer, is said every day at the synagogue and then every year thereafter. In regard to the afterlife, many Jews believe that they will go to a place called Sheol and wait for what is known as “the world to come”. Christianity, which follows the teachings of Jesus Christ, is the second oldest of the three monotheistic religions that stems from the Middle East. Christians believe that with death comes true life with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. There are an abundance of sects within Christianity itself: Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, Armenian, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptists, to name just a few (Wilkinson, 2008). For most Christians, funeral practices are very similar within each sect. Funeral rites usually involve visitation of the body where the person is remembered and comfort is given to the mourning. Afterward, a prayer service or mass is celebrated (Poust, 2011), which is then followed by burial or cremation. The choice of burial or cremation is often decided per the deceased themselves via their will or per a particular tradition of their church (Pollock, 2008). Christians believe that the afterlife is either spent in heaven or hell; some sects believe in purgatory and/or limbo, as well. The most important thing to remember about the Christian view of death is that it is to be a celebration! It is believed by Christians that death is just the beginning of spending an eternity with Christ in heaven, provided you lived a good life with good intentions. It is this eternal life that He promised to us during His teachings while on the Earth. Islam, the final of the three original monotheistic religions stemming from the Middle East, follows the teachings of Muhammad. Followers of Islam, called Muslims, believe that the overall purpose of humanity is to serve Allah, or God. Just as with Judaism and Christianity, there are several branches within the Islam faith: Sunni, Shi’I, Sufism, and Nation of Islam (Wilkinson, 2008). Different Muslim sects have the same funeral rituals.