The Importance of the Present Life and Life after Death


Christianity - Present life is NOT important

  • afterlife is more important (Heaven, Hell or Purgatory)
  • present life may only be preperation for eternal life
  • many are willing to sacrifice their Earthly life  (matyrdom) for the sake of their eternal life - inspired by the example of Jesus and his disciples (only John escaped martydom)

Mathew 6:19-20  "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on                        up for yourselves treasures in Heaven"

e.g. early Christians were fed to the lions, made to fight gladiators or used as human torches

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Christianity - Present life is NOT important 2


  • believed by some Christians such as Calvinists (eg. the Scottish Presbyterian Church)
  • the 'elect' have been predestined by God to achieve salvation 
  • may not matter how you behave in this life or may be already destined to be a moral person

Double Predestination

  • the 'elect' AND the 'reprobate' have already been predetermined by God
  • God actively intervenes in the lives of the 'elect' to bring them to salvation and actively intervenes in the lives of the reprobate to bring them to sin (omnibenevolent God)


  • the Last Rite - one of the sacraments of Roman Catholicism
  • if someone repents on their death bed they may achieve salvation
  • this makes the actions of their present life insignificant
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Christianity - Present life is NOT important 3

Developing God-like Qualities

  • Irenaean Soul Making Theodicy = God allows suffereing and evil for humans to develop and grow spiritually
  • Hick agrees with this and also proposed a 'Soul-making' theory as a response to the problem of evil
  • Hick argues that there must be an afterlife so we can continue that spiritual development
  • If a person may not achieve the goal of being in the likeness of God in this life, but may in the next, this life may be unimportant
  • If we can grow spiritually in the next life is there a need for or importance of spiritual growth in this life?


  • do not want others to be 'left behind' in the Rapture
  • are aggressive evangelists 
  • not so concerned with working for things like social justice or the environment but feel they should instead fight immorality 
  • only focussed on the life to come
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Christianity - Present life IS important

e.g. Mathew 25:31-46 Parable of the sheep and the goats - they are divided into Heaven and Hell according to their actions in this life

e.g. Jesus said 'Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me"

  • Actions in the present life determine a person's eternal destiny
  • Contradicts Sola Fide/ Salvation through faith alone
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Justification by Faith

  • Protestant teaching (Luther) - Salvation cannot be earned
  • for Luther faith was not only believing in Christ but also being prepared to act upon it
  • God is active and man is passive
  • e.g. Romans 4:5 "To the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness"

Justification by Faith and Works

  • many Protestants believed that, although works alone will not justify an individual, good works will follow from faith

Justification by Grace

  • RC teaching - salvation is an undeserved gift from God bought through Jesus' sacrifice
  • St. Augustine taught that humanity is justified as an act of grace - God gives humankind what they do not deserve (salvation) and holds back what they do deserve (condemnation)
  • e.g. Parable of the workers in the vineyard - "Nor does a sinner have claim to salvation but through the grace of God"
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Christianity - Present life IS important

Inaugrated Eschatology

  • inaugrate = to begin
  • the end times were begin in the life, death and reserrection of Christ
  • the end is here but has yet to be consumated
  • when humans accept God's rule

Process Theology

  • developed by Whitehead and Hartshorne
  • people don't have personal immortality bit instead experience objective immortality
  • their experiences will live on forvever in God who contains all that has been
  • disagree with loving another for the sake of the reward of salvation (calls this a 'poor parody of love')
  • by removing the concept of everlasting life we are free from rewards and free to love the present life
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Buddhism - Present life is NOT important

  • this life is one of many (like a flame or beads) - we can always be a better person in the next life
  • the present life is simply just one aspect of this continuity of rebirth

Rebirth Karma

  • some Buddhists belive that our final moment of conciousness is the most important in our present life
  • if, in the moment, a person can focus on the positive karma they have collected this power can outweigh the negative karma = present life is not that important/ only the last moments are
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Buddhism - Present life IS important

  • the law of karma suggests that a person needs to build up positive karma in order to progress into a good rebirth
  • a person's fate is decided based upon their karma
  • only a person from the human realm can achieve enlightenment
  • once we have lowered to the animal realm it is extremely rare to progress back up into the human realm
  • Buddhist monks and nuns renounce luxury and their simple lives reflect how important this life is in order to lessen the number of lives needed before enlightenment is reached
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Secular - the present life is not important

  • we are not working towards any afterlife so it doesn't matter what we do in this life (no judgement)

e.g.  Munch - "From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I in them and that is                            eternity"

       Russell - "When I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego shall remain"

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Secular - the present life IS important

  • some secular attitudes do acknowledge a life after death
  • if this is the only life it is important we make the most of it (either living a fun/enjoyable or a good and moral life)

Richard Dawkins

  • if we focus on science and reject concept of an afterlife then we would be better humans
  • this life is our only one and we should focus on improving the present


  • humans have extrinsic value according to what they have done in their life so this life is important as it is what we'll be remembered for
  • we give ourselves purpose and meaning by using our intelligence
  • just because this life is the only one, and will certainly come to an end, does not make it meaningless - it can make it all the more precious

e.g. Humanist Hoyle: "Here we are in this wholly fantastic universe with scarcely a clue                                    as to whether are existence has any real significance"

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Secular - the present life IS important


  • Marx is described as a humanist and materialist who rejected any notion of an afterlife
  • we should focus our life on changing the world for the better
  • disapproved of unjust actions of the Church to profit from people's fear of death (e.g. indulgenecs)

e.g. Lenin: "Man's dearest possession is life...all my life and my strength,,,were given to the                  finest cause in the world - the liberation of mankind"

     Woods:" The knowledge that life is fleeting...should inspire us make it better for all"

                 "For we are humans, not god, and must embrace our human condition"

     Marx: "Religion is the opiate of the masses, intended to dull their sense of unfairness"

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Beliefs about the life to come

Revise the death topic!!!!







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