Are there religions with no concept of afterlife?

  • Are there any accepted religions that have never developed a concept for where individuals go when they die? (i.e. Heaven/Hell, Valhalla, reincarnation, etc.)

    I only ask because I believe this to be the focal point of most religions: People's belief centering around how they can gain eternal life.

    Many Therevadan Buddhists have believed something close to this, though it can be hard to pin down what they're saying because they have subtle ideas about what the self is. There are also several polytheistic mythologies with a finite afterlife (Norse), an afterlife that can be thrown into jeopardy (Egyptians), or no afterlife at all. I've also read that some Jewish sects did not believe in any kind of resurrection, and finally, depending on what you consider to be religion, many Greek and Indian philosophers practiced a pre-scientific materialism.

    I'd qualify this to say that most "new" religions (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc.) focus on personal redemption, but this was not the focal point of earlier, pagan traditions, which were much more concerned with cycles of generation, specifically in regard to agricultural cycles.

    I'd think that afterlife would be a primary category by which people would know whether or not to classify a given set of beliefs as religion or not.

    Roman era pagans certainly did not make it central. There are writers discussing what religion buys you without even mentioning the afterlife.

  • Buddhism has the belief that nothing lasts forever and therefore basically doesn't believe at least in an eternal after life(which is what I believe you were implying).

    A passage in the Nirvana Sutra called the “Verse on Impermanence” tells the story of Sessen Doji, who, during his Buddhist practice, was willing to lose his life in order to hear the teaching he sought: All is changeable, nothing is constant. This is the law of birth and death. Extinguishing the cycle of birth and death, one enters the joy of nirvana. (M.W., Glossary) Two principles from the “Four Emblematic Theorems” are demonstrated in this passage, i.e., “everything changes, nothing lasts forever”, and “nirvana is tranquillity”. link

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM