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Pictures of Paradise

The afterlife, times 10.

Illustration by Hattie

My friend Jade and I were born on the same day, in the same year. We looked nothing alike, but we told everyone who would listen that we were twins. She lived at the bottom of the hill in our neighborhood, and I lived at the top of the hill. Jade had a pool in her backyard, seemingly limitless quantities of Little Debbie Star Crunches in her kitchen cupboards, and a playhouse outside. The playhouse was the best part—Jade’s dad had built it himself, using a scroll saw to cut butterfly shapes into shutters that really opened and closed. There was a striped carpet inside and a little table and two chairs that were just the right size for our seven-year-old selves.

One day, still in our swimsuits and dripping wet from the pool, we dashed into the playhouse to “make tea.” I had big news, and big news called for tea. Tea was always serious with Jade—it involved real drinkable water from the hose in a teapot, pink plastic teacups and saucers, and cookies.

Jade poured the “tea” into my cup, crooking her little finger as she did it. She wouldn’t let me tell my news until we were “both settled.” My teeth chattered as I sat in my wet swimsuit.

Finally we were ready. Jade picked up her teacup and slurped delicately. “Oh, this is excellent tea,” she said. She looked at me over the rim.

“Guess what, I’m getting baptized!” I pretty shouted. “I found out at church! It happens soon!”

Jade was silent for a second. Then she cracked up. “You’re already baptized, dummy! Everyone’s already been baptized!”

I was undeterred. “Not me. Not Mormons. Mormons get baptized when they turn eight.”

“That’s stupid. You get baptized when you’re a baby,” said Jade.

“No, only untrue churches do that,” I said. “How do you know if you want to be in your church when you’re a baby? You don’t. Mormons choose. You can’t go to heaven if you’re not baptized like that.”

“Catholics are the true church,” said Jade. “Everyone else goes to hell.”

My patience was wearing thin. “No, Mormons are the only true church. You just don’t know any better. You’re gonna go to hell. Everyone who’s not a Mormon does. ’Cause Satan tricks you.”

You’re going to hell—you’re NOT EVEN BAPTIZED YET!!” Jade yelled.

I stormed out of the playhouse, shaking with rage. Jade was so stupid. She was one of my best friends, and now we could never be together forever in the Celestial Kingdom with our Heavenly Father because she didn’t know I went to the one true church and she wouldn’t listen.

I remember that day very well, because it was the first time I can remember feeling a hint of doubt. About anything. I lay awake that night, thinking it through. What if everyone thought their church was the one true church? What if someone other than the Mormons were right? What if Jade was right and I did go to hell?

The thought horrified me. I managed to push it away, though, and eventually I fell asleep. I tried not to think about it much after that, and it worked—my days passed uneventfully, filled with church every Sunday and Family Home Evenings on Mondays and church activities on Wednesday nights and service projects and scripture reading before bed and early-morning seminary and young women’s camp every summer. I grew up to be a serious practicing Mormon, active in the church.

At 19 years old, shaky as a leaf, I left the Mormon church for good (that’s a longer story than we want here), and I’ve been agnostic ever since. I believe in something; I just don’t know what it is. I have zero interest in going to any church; I feel like I’ve had enough organized religion to last me the rest of my life. In college, I avoided classes about religion like the plague, saying I “needed a break.” Post-college, that “break” continued. And, as such “breaks” are wont to do, it never ended.

And now, folks, here is a disgraceful truth: I am a grown-ass girl, and I know nothing about any organized religion other than the one I was raised in. Zilch. Zero.

This being the Paradise issue, we started to think about what various religions believe happens to you after you die. And I realized that I don’t know what any religion believes happens to you after you die!

It’s way overdue that I learn this stuff, so I thought we could learn together. I just looked up a bunch of stuff about 10 different religions I was interested in on the innnnternet! My main sources were Wikipedia, religionfacts.com, and straight-up googling. Here is what I found. Please correct me if I make a mistake, I’m learnin’, here! (This list is in no particular order, in no way reflects which religions I think are most “important,” and in no way intends to devalue the many, many religions I didn’t mention.) I give you:

What Is Believed to Happen When You Die If You’re a Faithful Adherent Of…

Buddhism
Buddhists believe in reincarnation—that you will be born again into a new body, without memories of your previous life or lives, according to your karma, or your moral behaviors in your previous life. Buddha taught that what keeps us attached to the cycle of death and rebirth is desire—wanting or craving anything (anything!) in the world. The ultimate goal of Buddhists is nirvana: extinction, or liberation. Meaning an extinction of all desire, and a liberation from the death/rebirth cycle. Just thinking of the number of lives I’d have to live before I no longer had the burning desire to nuzzle up on someone cute who smells awesome is making me tired.

Islam
Muslims believe in the Last Day; a day when the world will be destroyed and Allah will resurrect all people from the dead for judgment. Your physical body will be resurrected, and, according to your life’s deeds, you will either go to paradise, where there are seven heavens filled with beautiful mansions and wonderful food and drink and pleasure beyond belief or hell, where seven doors lead to levels of intense spiritual and physical torment. Hell is meant to purify souls until they are ready to enter paradise. I like that idea. Hell isn’t permanent—you only have to stay there till you’ve done your time. Like a giant in-school suspension. With, you know, torment.

Judaism
There is no definitive answer to the question “What happens when we die?” in the Jewish faith. The most important Jewish text, the Torah, does not discuss the afterlife in any kind of detail. The Torah instead focuses on living a good, moral life while here on earth. Like a life-long experiment in mindfulness! Some Jews believe that the righteous dead will be resurrected after the Messiah comes to earth, and will live in a kind of peaceful, wonderful version of our world now, called Olam Ha Ba. Earth minus disease and war and pollution and crime and poverty and hatred? Sounds pretty great.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons)
This one is the only religion I have any kind of grasp on, as it’s the one I was raised in. Mormons believe that there are three kingdoms of glory after you die: the Celestial Kingdom, the Terrestrial Kingdom, and the Telestial Kingdom, with the Celestial being the highest kingdom and the Telestial being the lowest. (I could never remember the order when I was a kid.) The kingdoms are the final resting place of souls after God comes to earth and makes a final judgment, and almost everyone goes into one of the three kingdoms. The Celestial Kingdom is for those who have lived a stellar life, accepted the teachings of Jesus, and been faithful to the Mormon church and its doctrines. In the Celestial Kingdom, some souls become actual gods and goddesses, rulers of their own worlds. (I used to sit in church and try to think up what my goddess name would be. At 10, I settled on Ava, which was not only a palindrome and therefore had no beginning and no end, but was also stylish and would be easy for the children of my world to spell. It later became my burlesque stage name. Um.) The Terrestrial Kingdom is for the righteous who did not accept the Mormon faith in life. The Telestial Kingdom is for those who refused to accept Jesus as their savior, and lived an average life, sinning sometimes, good at other times. All of the kingdoms are supposed to be wonderful beyond measure. Those few who do not go to one of the kingdoms go to Outer Darkness, where there is no influence of God whatsoever. All children who die before the age of eight go straight to the Celestial Kingdom in the Mormon faith. (I don’t know where friendly feminist lesbians who now council queer Mormon youth and chose to leave the church go. I don’t believe anymore, so I’ve stopped worrying about it.)

Hinduism
Hindus believe in the rebirth and reincarnation of souls—it’s different from Buddhism because Hindus believe the soul is immortal and carries on into each successive life. Dude! Every life counts!! Your soul’s keeping a tally! Your next life is based on karma; what you did during your life and what you were doing when you died. Death is not a bad thing—it’s necessary to gain you another life, so you can learn more. That’s nice—I like religions that help you to not fear death. Souls need to be reborn over and over again to become whole, and you can be reincarnated in your next life as an animal, as well as a human. The goal is liberation from the cycle. (If I don’t, somehow, get liberated from the cycle after this life, in my next life I would like to nominate myself to please be a housecat. I’m not sure if that’s a promotion or a demotion…I just want to lie in sun patches while my owner goes to work.)

Scientology
Scientologists believe that the thetan—everyone’s eternal self, spirit, or soul—will be reborn, through reincarnation, into a new human body over and over again. Your past deeds do not determine your next life—Scientologists do not believe in karma, and you cannot return as an animal; you will return as a human baby. (This worries me, as I seem to recall I hated pureed apricots SO MUCH the first time around.) Practicing Scientologists sign a contract called the billion-year covenant, which signifies commitment to Scientology in this life and promises that in future lives, you will work towards Scientology’s main goal, a work called “clearing the planet.” This means bringing Scientology’s message to all human beings so the world can achieve the condition of “clear”—a state of freedom from crime, drugs, war, and illiteracy. Which means you would never, ever have to lock up your bike—nice!

Sikhism
Sikhs believe that you will be born again into a human or animal body according to your past life’s deeds. They also believe it is extremely fortunate to be born again as a human, so that you must grab your chance to do good works in this life. (In other words, we all did something right in our last lifetime. Back pats all around.) When you die, if your soul is demonic, ego-centered, and occupied with one of the “five evils”—anger, lust, ego, greed, and attachment—you may be sent to suffer in Narak, the dark underworld. (Oh no—I think I engaged in all of these sins just this morning.) Any soul that has overcome ego and come to a state of grace may finally achieve their liberation from the birth/death cycle, and get sent on to Sachkhand, an everlasting place of truth. This soul then lives eternally in Sachkhand as a being of radiant light. A being of radiant light!

Bahá’í Faith
Bahá’í followers believe in one god who created the universe, but believe that he is too great for humans to fully understand, so the Bahá’í follow the teachings of the world’s divine messengers, who include Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, Moses, Abraham, Muhammad, and Bahá’u'lláh. Everybody’s got something important to say! Love this. Bahá’í believe that each of these divine messengers brought the world a religion that was necessary at their time, and that currently peace, unity, and justice are what the world needs most. After death, the Bahá’í believe that the soul departs from the body and begins a journey toward God on many different planes of existence, like an endless road trip where you learn lessons along the way. “Heaven” is making progress forwards towards God; “hell” is a place where souls who fail to develop go, where they are distant from God. This distance from God is hell for the soul. The spiritual world is eternal and mysterious, without description.

Christianity
As with all other religions, you can’t just neatly box up Christianity, ’cause there are so many different types of Christianity. Mormons are Christian! Baptists are Christian! Seventh-Day Adventists are Christian! Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians…all Christian! But all Christian faiths (I think) are united in their belief that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to the earth in a mortal body, lived a sinless life, gave the world his teachings in the form of the Bible’s New Testament, and was crucified to atone for the sins of the world. Christian faiths have differing ideas about the afterlife, but most believe that we get one life, and that we must use it to do good works and help and love others. Thus this life is incredibly important, as it decides our eternal destination. (You get one shot. Don’t screw it up.) Heaven is endless glory and happiness in the presence of God, and hell is a place of pain and misery, ruled by an evil deity called Satan. Some Christian faiths believe in purgatory, a kind of in-between place and resting spot for souls that is neither good nor bad.

Jainism
Jains believe in reincarnation—but this time you can be reborn into any living form, not just human and animal bodies. Cool! They practice nonviolence toward all living things—all of them, including insects and plants—because they believe that all living things have a soul and karma. Some Jains wear masks over their mouths to avoid even breathing in insects and inadvertently killing them. Now that is gentleness. Jains believe in an eternal universe without beginning or end; they don’t believe in an Almighty God. The purpose of life to attain moksa—liberation from the death/birth cycle. After death, depending on how you lived this life, you will be reborn into another body, be liberated eternally in the highest level of heaven, or suffer in one of eight hells, which (unlike many other religious hells) get colder as they get progressively worse. (Auughhh not colder gahhh that would be terrible!) Should you end up in hell, you don’t stay there forever—once you’ve been punished enough, you are reborn into the death/birth cycle again. Hell-as-correctional-facility is a theme that keeps coming up!

Wicca
Wicca is a pagan religion, encompassing many, many different belief systems, and followers choose what they individually believe in. It’s difficult to define Wicca, but beliefs important to its followers involve the practice of magic and a reverence of nature. Many Wiccans believe in reincarnation—some believe in only human reincarnation, while others believe you can take the form of any living species—but the focus in Wicca is on this life. Most Wiccans believe that when you concentrate on living this life, you will naturally benefit from it in your next life, or in the afterlife. Take care of the here and now, everybody, ’cause that’s what we’ve got to work with!

Whoa. You guys, I got LOST in a Google vortex when I started writing this article. Religion is fascinating, and just researching this stuff made me think about things I haven’t thought of in years. What’s the purpose of life? No lie: while I’m having a great time here in this life, I can’t wait to find out what happens next. ♦

89 Comments

  • marit June 11th, 2012 7:11 PM

    this is really meaningful and informative. thanks.
    faux style.

  • katrinaexplainsitall June 11th, 2012 7:24 PM

    How interesting! Going to a catholic school all my life, I’ve never really learned much about other religions so this is all very fascinating. I think i’m going to look up more information on some of these!

    http://www.katrinaspice.blogspot.com

  • abbs June 11th, 2012 7:28 PM

    I’m an agnostic too (after being Catholic for all my life) and I had never even heard of some of these religions. It really opened my eyes, and made me want to do some research of my own. Honestly, a lot of times religions make me angry, but they are really fascinating. Great article!

  • Ludo June 11th, 2012 7:32 PM

    Very interesting. I love Hattie’s illustration for this article!

    http://skeletons-on-parade.blogspot.ca/

  • Emma S. June 11th, 2012 7:41 PM

    As always, your sh*t is ON POINT, Krista.

  • missblack June 11th, 2012 8:07 PM

    LOVE this article. I wondered when Rookie was gonna talk about religion and I love the way this article handled it; it’s nice that there is nothing remotely judgey here.

    Little&Trivial

  • nananikki June 11th, 2012 8:08 PM

    I have a similar history except i was raised Jehovas Witness and i left at the age of 14 shortly after my parents divorced. Long story short, after studying zen Buddhism and later coming across the work of Joseph Campbell, (I highly recommend you read his work) I realized I didnt need religion, but I still needed “answers”. I find mythology does this for me. And its vastly more interesting than religion. Religion is too absolute (which is where all this conflict arises) Nowadays I find myself believing in a universal ‘energy’ that is affected and affects everything. no paradise. no judgment. no guilt. just life and living it. goodluck on your own journey.

  • Marguerite June 11th, 2012 8:09 PM

    Thank you, I feel awful when I realize how ignorant I am of other religions.

  • Lurkingshadows June 11th, 2012 8:10 PM

    Im a Jehovah’s Witness and people typically confuse it with just a type of Christianity because our beliefs are similar, but the main difference is our belief on the afterlife. I’m surprised I didn’t see it on here.

  • VintageAddict June 11th, 2012 8:12 PM

    I really loved this article! I’m muslim, but I hardly know anything about the religion, so I actually had know idea what the life-after-death belief was! I think this was really interesting, but one thought did occur to me; with the Jainism faith, if they don’t kill plants OR animals, what do they eat?

    • pialuna June 12th, 2012 10:30 AM

      They avoid eating parts of plants that they have to kill for. So no potatoes (roots), for example, but most fruits are ok.

      • VintageAddict June 13th, 2012 1:19 AM

        Oh, ok. Isn’t that a very limited diet though? Correct me if I’m wrong, as I didn’t even know that Jainism exhisted until this article. and Thanks for replying!

  • Kathryn June 11th, 2012 8:12 PM

    Super interesting article. I also like the idea of hell as temporary, like you said above. The idea of it being permanent seems really unfair (and terrifying) to me!

    I’m dreading next year, when everyone is expecting me to get confirmed. I don’t consider myself Catholic anymore, so I don’t see why I should. My parents aren’t really all that religious and we haven’t been to church in months, and my mom kind of agrees with me, but still wants me to get confirmed for some reason. My dad won’t understand why I wouldn’t want to. ugh parents amirite

    • TheGreatandPowerfulRandini June 12th, 2012 3:13 PM

      I got confirmed Catholic as an athesist/agnostic (just kind of confused, really). Would not reccomend it.

    • TheAwesomePossum June 18th, 2012 8:11 PM

      I wouldn’t recommend getting confirmed if you don’t really believe in it. I got confirmed and I kind of regret it. I guess I’m more Agnostic than anything else since I have no idea what I believe in and don’t really want to participate in “absolute” religion despite being raised Catholic. I kind of got upset (internally) when everyone in my class got confirmed. At least half of them won’t be practicing by the time they’re adults. I think it invalidates the people who actually believe in this faith, by just purportedly “choosing” to participate in it, while knowing full well you won’t. Now I’m kind of disappointed in myself for doing the same thing… *sigh*

      So yeah, don’t get confirmed if you’re not sure. Even if your parents might oppose it. You might beat yourself up about it later.

    • lyrarose July 31st, 2012 4:32 PM

      My parents are Catholic too, and even though I’ve refused to go to church since communion in the 2nd grade (which I promptly told my mother was dumb and a waste of time that I could have been reading or playing) they still made me go to a Catholic school (though in their defense, the public school in our area had the lowest scores in the county).
      In sophomore year (I’m in college now, so it’s been a while) it seemed like everyone was getting confirmed, and talking about confirmation, and buddying up with their ‘confirmation friends.’ I’m atheist, you can see how this could be awkward and isolating. When my parents finally got around to saying they wanted me to go to church and be confirmed, I promptly said “No. Confirmation is meant to confirm that those who wish to stay in the Church are named, and I honestly can’t blatantly lie to a building-full of people.” They left it at that and we’ve not talked about it since then.

      I hope you see this, I just wanted to show that you’re not alone in this situation and you shouldn’t take all the time to be confirmed when you don’t want to (when you could be studying, making art, listening to music, doing whatever you do to better yourself [or party, I don't know you so I can't say]).

  • Lily June 11th, 2012 8:13 PM

    I absolutely love this article. I too, am fascinated by different religions. There’s just so many different things people believe! It’s awesome!

  • DrewNotBarrymore June 11th, 2012 8:17 PM

    Krista-
    Although I am saddened to hear you are agnostic, I am very happy you researched different religions, and wrote this article. Many people who are agnostic do not take the time to research and learn of different religions, and I am pleased you did.
    Thank you very, very much. I have learned so much today. ^_^
    Love,
    Drew

    • coolschmool June 12th, 2012 5:59 AM

      Why are you saddened to hear it? Atheists and agnostics are comfortable with their choices. You should maybe try and be happy that they’ve found what works for them.

    • NotReallyChristian June 12th, 2012 9:34 AM

      There’s nothing sad about being agnostic! It’s not really a label, more a word for a feeling: we’re happy to admit that we don’t know everything about the universe, and we don’t think that any religion has the answers. It’s a very chilled place to be :)

  • Michi June 11th, 2012 8:20 PM

    I really enjoyed this article.

    One correction though, PURGATORY isn’t an in-between place…it’s a place where most souls (except some saints maybe) go to purify themselves in order to reach Heaven in the most perfect way possible. Some people used to use the word Limbo in order to refer to the in-between place (i.e. where babies who died at birth went) but right now the Church has spoken against this.

    Also, the nicest thing about what Catholic faith- as I experience it- is that people who go to heaven are the ones who WANT to…for example the ‘good thief’ at the cross who regretted what he did wrong and showed he wanted to go to heaven was allowed in. As well as this…even people who don’t practice Catholicism can go to heaven if they help build the Kingdom of God (help make the world a happier place :))

  • Tyknos93 June 11th, 2012 8:23 PM

    This is so relevant. I feel like the last of my friends to still have a faith or a defined form of worship/spirituality. I think most people’s problem with religion (specifically) Christianity is it’s constantly shoved down other’s throats. I try not to bring it up myself and I still believe in science and study I a heavily science related field. I believe in evolution and definites, but I still like religion too. The book the God of Small Things helped me realize I can approach life or religion how I choose, not how a book tells me too. That said having NO religion is fine to.

    I really like what Neil DeGrasse Tyson says.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ai4qeuvbi-0&feature=related

    http://blazoningpens.blogspot.com/

    • MarieJo June 12th, 2012 5:17 PM

      That book its so lovely. I gave it as a present to my mom and then read it myself. So beautiful.

  • aliceee June 11th, 2012 8:24 PM

    This is fascinating… I was never able to be certain of one religion & ruling out all the others. The only description of the afterlife I really believe in is Dumbledore’s: death is but the next great adventure.

    • AnguaMarten June 11th, 2012 10:34 PM

      well said.

    • Kathryn June 12th, 2012 12:16 AM

      omg stop talking about dumbledore and death, it’s making me teary-eyed.

      uh, spoiler alert?

    • TheGreatandPowerfulRandini June 12th, 2012 3:10 PM

      I love you for dragging in Dumbledore in this. He (aka J.K. Rowling) is a wise, wise man.

  • irena June 11th, 2012 8:33 PM

    I try to keep my religion but I am always really confused. I am on and off often with my faith. Right now I am off.

    Anyway, why do humans want to believe in this afterlife and god/gods?
    What made us this way?
    Are we the only ones with religions?
    Do animals and plants have religions?
    (Yeah I sort of think that humans are not so intelligent or special – we are not the only intellectual ones. I think other organisms have their own ways.)

    • Kathryn June 12th, 2012 12:18 AM

      I’m totally the same way about the other organisms thing.

  • luchanecia June 11th, 2012 8:42 PM

    I guess we’ll find out when we die :P

  • sweeteelou June 11th, 2012 8:46 PM

    I really liked this article. We usually only cover the “basics” in school. I feel very strongly about my own religion, but I’ve always felt that it’s respectful to at least have basic knowledge about others’ religions.

    Very helpful.

    sweeteelou

  • Sphinx June 11th, 2012 8:50 PM

    Interesting article…
    I’m supposed to be catholic (and my family makes me go to church every Sunday morning, 7am), but I’m not, really.
    I’m not sure what I believe in, but I don’t really like religious organizations because who’s to say this or that religion is the “right one”? If you really look at them, it’s pretty clear that the basic principle of every religion is being kind to others.
    I find Taoism interesting, but for now I’m fine with just carpe diem.
    That said, I was surprised to see Scientology was in this list. From what I read, it seemed more like a cult, specially their “fair game” policy.

    • TheGreatandPowerfulRandini June 12th, 2012 3:09 PM

      7 am? Really? I’m also tecnically a Catholic, but don’t believe in God. Our masses are at 11 am, and even that’s too early for me.

      • Sphinx June 12th, 2012 9:21 PM

        Yeah. There are masses at 9am too, but my mother doesn’t like going to those cause they are more focused on children (I think there’s a puppet show or something).
        I really think that having to wake up that early during the weekend has contributed to my not really being catholic, haha.

  • purpleyawn June 11th, 2012 9:33 PM

    whoa diggin the source background

  • Maialuna June 11th, 2012 9:35 PM

    This cleared up a lot. Especially simplifying Christianity mostly down to it’s basics. I have never understood Christianity of any sort, honestly. I hadn’t even heard of a few of these though. Quite a fascinating article. Thank you very much.

  • J June 11th, 2012 9:57 PM

    When I was younger, the idea of the afterlife fascinated me so much that (this sounds a little weird) I was actually kind of excited about death. I decided I was going to live a very full life, and then sort of decide for myself when I wanted to find out what came next. Religion is really intriguing….. I like the sound of the Bahá’í Faith and the ones that are sort of focused on the idea of learning and bettering yourself, instead of just being condemned to eternal torment. I’m not sure I could ever really accept any ideas like this; they just seem so far-fetched. On the other hand, when you think about the mysteries of the universe, no one really knows, so I guess…. why not?

  • prettyontheinside June 11th, 2012 9:59 PM

    i love these! although I don’t necessarily believe in any of them, there really is a great deal of beauty I think in the idea of a lot of their afterlives. They are important for some people because they lead them to strive to be better people. You know that being said their are a lot of flaws with people who practice some of these religions as far as coexisting with each other. If only they could see how they are really all on the same team.

  • Franny Glass June 11th, 2012 10:13 PM

    I really like it when you guys touch on mormonism and all of the things that go along with that, I am totally twins with you guys who are so disillusioned with religion in general now because mormonism can really wear on you hardcore, or whatever the reason. But anyway, it is cool that you guys do because I feel like there isn’t a lot of legit stuff about it from girls my age (19) and how they feel about being mormon or not mormon anymore and everything that that entails.

  • Kenz June 11th, 2012 10:25 PM

    This is an awesome article! Thank you for recognizing that there are several beliefs within Christianity, because not everyone does. However,I must say that the church I belong to has a much more forgiving view of the afterlife. I have gone to church my entire life, and I don’t think I have heard the words Hell, Satan, or purgatory used in a sermon. I guess you could call us progressive. Then again, I live in Canada.

  • AnguaMarten June 11th, 2012 10:32 PM

    wow, this is a lovely and fascinating article. i’m technically christian (presbyterian, to be precise) but truthfully, i don’t believe in any kind of god. i think that religion can be a truly wonderful thing, as well as a truly terrible thing. regardless, i think it’s interesting to learn about different beliefs.

    personally, i believe that the only inherent characteristic of the universe is chaos, and the only things worth believing in are those that you can experience with your senses. i’m very pragmatic that way. i don’t believe in any kind of life after death. i don’t think there’s any kind of plan for me, or any judgment, or any reward. i think i’m here in this world because of a few random occurrences and that one day i’ll die and that’ll be the end. it’s hard for me to believe that everything all makes sense on some level. i can’t accept both that, and the idea that god is omnibenevolent and omnipresent.

    that said, baha’i sounds pretty great. i like the idea of there just being one true religion after all, and all of us just worshiping different facets of it. back when i was trying to fit god into my beliefs, that was an idea i considered.

    then i realized that if i was getting my god from my beliefs and not the other way round, i probably wasn’t cut out for religion.

  • Brut June 11th, 2012 10:39 PM

    Very inlightening article. The only correction I have is the part about Christianity that says ” most believe we get one life and we must use it to do good works and help others. Thus this life is important, as it decides our eternal destination.”
    I have been poking around the bible and found this verse ” It is by faith you are saved, though faith- not by yourselves, it is by the gift of God not by works.”
    The correction I suggest is instead of saying “most believe we get one life and must use it for good works.” perhaps use ” most believe we get one life, that they choose to use to good works and help and love others. With an emphasis on that this life is important, our decisions decide our eternal destination. ” This would be more accurate biblically perhaps, as its more about if you decide to be a Christian or not but still shows the “you get one shot don’t blow it” attitude.

    • SweetThangVintage June 11th, 2012 11:36 PM

      I agree!

      Of course as a Calvinist I believe in something called ‘election’ where God chooses whether you believe or not. It’s a very confusing topic!

      And also I would just like to add that being classified as a Christian faith has to do with believing in something called the four ecumenical creeds and that’s what separates Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses witnesses from being Christians. Although some Mormons and JW’s believe that they are Christians. So I can see where you get that idea.

      Very well written article!

  • Ben June 11th, 2012 11:09 PM

    This is very interesting. I never knew so many religions believed in incarnation! I thought most people believed in heavan! I personaly think when people die thay got to heavan if they where good and it is anything and everything and therefore undescribable! But I think even bad people must have some good and shoulden’t be left out in hell. I don’t know exactly what I believe but I like this theory.
    So in Jainism you could be reincarnated as algea or a bacteria? Thay seems kind of boring, And what do they eat? All food was once living. With the Morman faith I could almost imagine some under eight children commiting suicide to get to the celestial kingdom effortlessly.

  • kirsten June 11th, 2012 11:30 PM

    loving the Bahá’í faith.

  • AmandaLucy June 11th, 2012 11:39 PM

    Fellow ex-mo here :) Nice piece. And really, like really digging Hattie’s art at the top there.

  • puffytoad June 11th, 2012 11:43 PM

    I’m totally going to Narak. :/

  • Janelle June 11th, 2012 11:46 PM

    Wow. This article was ridiculously helpful! My mom is I guess what you could call agnostic but has very strong spiritual beliefs that fit in across the board with different religions and my dad is an aithest. Where does this leave me? At 17, I feel pretty religionless and don’t know where to start. I have always been sort of drawn to Buddhist and Hindu beliefs, and this article kind of reminded me of how much I want to find my spirituality and learn about religions overall. Thanks for the rundown on all of these interesting and wonderful religions!

  • llamalina June 11th, 2012 11:57 PM

    this is great! i say i’m an atheist right now, but i try to stay very open-minded; it’s just hard for me to believe in something blindly without concrete fact and evidence. i love learning about other religions and their beliefs and traditions, though. I think my favorite possible afterlives have to be Buddhism’s, Jainism’s, and Baha’i's. It’s so beautiful to think how strongly people who are passionate about their religions believe– it’s like you’re never quite alone because you’ve got this faith to hold onto. I don’t think I’ve ever had that.

  • Mello June 12th, 2012 12:18 AM

    Sorry, mormans aren’t christians. The definition of a Christian is NOT someone who believes in the existence or even the divinty of Christ. A Christian by biblical definition is someone who believes and has accepted the death and resurrection of Christ as needed payment for sins. Mormanism is NOT christianity.

    • sedgwick June 12th, 2012 2:51 AM

      not really sure how relevant that is in relation to the message of the article…. maybe let it slide…

  • Arden B June 12th, 2012 1:17 AM

    I identity myself as an atheist but find it fascinating learning about world religions. It puts it into perspective why people do the things they do, and why cultures are the way they are.

  • maggiemadge June 12th, 2012 1:53 AM

    I’ve been struggling with faith and religion lately. Me and my ex- boyfriend got into a huge argument about faith (it pretty much ended our relationship. :( ) While I was raised Catholic and have some faith (I’m a pretty loose Catholic i.e. I swear like a sailor and I like sex and I really don’t go to church.) and my ex is atheist. I remember him asking me why I needed to believe in something and why I couldn’t just enjoy life on earth. I mean, why couldn’t I just enjoy the life I had? It made me think, but I was upset with the way he made me feel about having faith. After we broke up I have been just lost in why I did believe. I never had a problem with him being an atheist, in-fact I was kind of fascinated by it before we got into a big argument. However he had a problem with me having some kind of faith (I think?). I wish I could talk to him about it, but basically the bridge was brunt. Now I am more clueless than ever. I have faith, but I am just not sure what to believe in or if I even want to believe in anything. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one struggling with this.

    • maggiemadge June 12th, 2012 1:56 AM

      I also think I might be agnostic, but I’m not sure. I only looked up the wikipedia definition of it.

      • NotReallyChristian June 12th, 2012 9:42 AM

        Agnosticism is pretty straightforward: it’s just admitting that you don’t know if there’s a God or not. I just like to focus on being a good person and not worry about God – if there is one, he or she will recognise that I try to be the best that I can be; if there isn’t then why worry? I figure that if agnosticism is good enough for Darwin, it’s good enough for me :)

        • maggiemadge June 12th, 2012 9:43 PM

          When I read that about being agnostic , that seems to fit me. I’m still going to ask questions and such. What’s kind of hard is that I almost don’t want to explore finding a religion to follow anymore. I really don’t want to rule out if there is something out there but at the same time I just don’t know. I don’t want to join something just to be a part of a club. I guess the reason why I’ve been on the fence on believe or not believing. I guess this has come as a shock because I never really thought about this or I must have suppressed any thoughts on religion due to my skeptics and afraid that I’ll get struck by lightning for it. Just a note to the commentators, I’m really glad that majority of them have been respectful to one another. It gives me hope that we will have a more tolerant future. :)

  • mayaautumn June 12th, 2012 2:26 AM

    wow, super interesting. but i tend to over-think things like this then get scared:o

    http://cottonmixblog.blogspot.com

  • youngfridays June 12th, 2012 3:01 AM

    Whoa interesting article! I was born into a Catholic family but never really cared about religion and spirituality until last year, now I do call myself Catholic – but I always love finding out about other religions and other views.

    C.S. Lewis has some excellent quotes on religion and in particualr Christianity, in relation to this article…

    “If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake.”
    -Mere Christanity, C.S. Lewis

  • Indi June 12th, 2012 3:08 AM

    I love this. I do a Studies of Religion class at school, which deals with the philosophy of religion and the different religious traditions of the world. Since I basically worship the webground Krista walks on, I’m delighted to see she respects religion and in this article doesn’t seek to diminish or refute any tradition’s beliefs. Agnosticism is a reputable position, too. Agh, Krista, you’re wonderful.

  • Amy Rose June 12th, 2012 3:26 AM

    Brilliant beyond brilliant, Krista.

  • Narnie June 12th, 2012 3:27 AM

    Fabulous article. Religion is so fascinating, I’ve always loved learning about it and how different religions have similarities but are often so opposed to each other. Big pats on the back for this article.

  • Clairebearscare June 12th, 2012 3:39 AM

    This was a great article. I always enjoy learning stuff like this. It’s always really interesting to see what other people believe in, especially when it comes to the after-life.
    This reminds me… When I went to Catholic school I told my priest during confession that I was struggling with believing in God. It was a rough year, so how could I possibly believe that someone would want all of that stuff to happen. But, to my surprise, the priest wasn’t mad. Instead, he was understanding. It’s kind of irrelevant, but I think it’s kind of hard for youngsters to really have faith in their religion. Teenage cynicism can definitely complicate some stuff sometimes. ANYWAY. I really enjoyed this article.

  • Susann June 12th, 2012 4:04 AM

    This article was truly interesting! I wish they taught us a little more about the different beliefs at school!

    Fashion in Pepperland

  • CarlyJane June 12th, 2012 5:52 AM

    As a person of the Baha’i faith, it was LOVELY to see someone actually acknowledge that it even exists! At my high school, I was treated either like a terrorist or like I belonged to a cult, because people never knew what it was (I grew up in a VERY Christian/Mormon area) and when they heard “mostly in Iran,” they automatically think it’s Islam. Every time Lent came around and I said I wasn’t giving up anything, people automatically said to me “Oh yeah, you’re Jewish/Atheist.”
    I also love that my family can be so linked to the Baha’i faith- it’s just so loving and peace mongering-at its core, it means honestly, without prejudice of any sort, love thy neighbor and respect their choices in life. Respect their choice in religion and do not tell them they are wrong, because as Bahá’u'lláh said, all of them are right!!

    • CarlyJane June 12th, 2012 5:53 AM

      “founded in Iran and mostly practiced there”, my bad. I don’t know where some of those words went :)

    • anisarose June 12th, 2012 2:00 PM

      I’m a Baha’i too! I was so happy to see it represented and I’m genuinely proud of Rookie for featuring so many faiths. As briefly mentioned, Baha’is believe that all of the prophets came from the same God but their messages are attuned to what humanity could handle at that time so to me, it’s very important to learn about other faiths.

      For those who might want to learn more about the Baha’i Faith: http://www.bahai.org/

      http://anisarose.blogspot.com/

  • Rivka June 12th, 2012 6:41 AM

    This article is brilliant! Krista, I just wanted to let you know that I’m a great fan of your articles. I think you’re pretty cool and courageous for trying to explain the essence of the major world religions.

    I’m Jewish but I am very interested in other religions. The Báhá’í faith is rather unknown but I find it interesting to think about a ‘multi cultural’ religion. When I went to Israel I visited an amazing Bahá’í temple! Krista, if you want to learn more about some of the major world religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Bahá’í) I highly recommend you to go to Israel :)

    P.S. English is not my native language, so forgive me if I made any mistakes.

  • MinaM8 June 12th, 2012 7:19 AM

    I loved this article – While I’m mainly agnostic, his was very interesting and I love the idea of reincarnation and karma. Thanks, this was really interesting!

  • Isobel-cat June 12th, 2012 7:40 AM

    this is so helpful! I have an A level on Beliefs in Society tomorrow morning and came on here to procrastinate – but this is actually so relevant. Thank you!!

  • Afiqa June 12th, 2012 7:55 AM

    Wow, this is honestly a great article. I have my own religion that I fully believe in but yet I’m interested in learning other religions while most people around me just say that it’s not a good idea because you might start to have doubt. Other than that, Rookie has posted a lot of things about confusion and doubt and that taking a break is okay so this is really a nice change for I guess, someone like me. Rookie = Awesomer by the day

  • Janiebird June 12th, 2012 8:44 AM

    This was fascinating. Thank you for taking the time to research and share this with all of us. :) Religions are such an important driving force for so much of what people do in the world and it’s so interesting to see the specifics. Thanks!

  • Libby June 12th, 2012 11:32 AM

    This is so interesting. My Ethics, Philosophy & Society (glorified RE!) at school is a load of codswallop–we are taught the very basics, and the best way to answer a six-mark question. No one wants to be there. No one debates. No one brings in their own views. It’s just us all getting an easy A* and waiting for breaktime. But I’m actually really interested in different religions, despite being raised atheist, so reading this was really interesting to me.
    Thanks Krista :)

  • aiueo June 12th, 2012 11:47 AM

    I wouldn’t say that Buddhism requires the total elimination of desire. That kind of makes it sound like you’re supposed to not want to have friends or lovers, or enjoy food. I was taught that what you want to get rid of is attachment. Attachment is when you have some kind of object, person, or animal that you think gives you happiness and you cling to it. You can enjoy something without clinging to it.

    It’s kind of hard to explain and is a pretty common misconception of Buddhism.

    “Desire can be compared to fire. If we grasp fire, what happens? Does it lead to happiness?
    If we say: “Oh, look at that beautiful fire! Look at the beautiful colors! I love red and orange; they’re my favorite colors,” and then grasp it, we would find a certain amount of suffering entering the body. And then if we were to contemplate the cause of that suffering we would discover it was the result of having grasped that fire. On that information, we would hopefully, then let the fire go. Once we let fire go then we know that it is something not to be attached to.
    This does not mean we have to hate it, or put it out. We can enjoy fire, can’t we? It’s nice having a fire, it keeps the room warm, but we do not have to burn ourselves in it.”
    – Ajahn Sumedho, “Teachings of A Buddhist Monk”

  • Mirandablaaaa June 12th, 2012 12:03 PM

    Ah this was brilliant!!
    I went through a real soul-searching spiritual phase a few years ago and something as open-minded as this article would have been really helpful :)

    I found Quakerism in the end!! (could Rookie do a thing about that? No one’s heard of it, when I mention it most people say something like ‘uh, is that like being Amish?’) but other belief systems will always be fascinating <3

    http://alkalinealley.tumblr.com/

  • GlitterKitty June 12th, 2012 2:33 PM

    This is a very interesting article. I have gone to Catholic school my whole life so I don’t know much about other religions. However, my family isn’t very religious. We’re one of those where Grandma is really religious and goes to church every week but as the generations went by, we got less interested. I am baptized and confirmed into the Catholic church though.
    As I learned more about the Catholic faith in religion class at school, I started to find the dark sides of it. I agree with the overall message; love, be nice, and live a meaningful life. But I do disagree with some of the rules and hierarchy stuff. It made my question my beliefs.
    Anyways, this article is great and I liked that you had something positive to say about every religion mentioned. Very informative too.

  • TheGreatandPowerfulRandini June 12th, 2012 3:02 PM

    I can’t believe you don’t learn this stuff in school. Is it taught in public schools in the U.S. or does it depend on the state?

  • HarrietIsAPirate June 12th, 2012 4:45 PM

    Thank you for this article, it was fascinating. I’m a total atheist without a spiritual bone in my body, but I love learning about religion because it’s so pervasive and has the ability to bring out both the best and worst in people it seems.

    I’d say the religion here that most appeals to me is Jainism. I like the idea of an eternal and infinite universe rather than a deity, but I don’t think I could ever actually be a religious believer. I’m just a natural skeptic, I think.

  • stirigiphile June 12th, 2012 8:17 PM

    It’s clear from your descriptions that you did very ‘light’ googling and have never studied philosophy or theology.

    • Tavi June 12th, 2012 9:09 PM

      This isn’t supposed to be an in-depth thesis.

    • ladyjenna June 13th, 2012 9:32 AM

      This isn’t school, this is a site for teenagers!

      If it helps us become more educated, then it does good, and we shouldn’t belittle the writer for her efforts.

  • olivehornby June 13th, 2012 12:42 AM

    LOVE THIS!

  • Leilani June 13th, 2012 1:11 AM

    This is interesting indeed. I am fascinated by religions also and plan to take some courses in college about it.

    As a recently converted mormon, I have become so much more interested and open-minded about the faiths of others. I know that probably sounds like the opposite of what it should be, but it’s 100% true!

    I would like to point out the the three kingdoms aren’t as all-or-nothing as they seem. It’s actually really interesting to learn more in-depth about the “qualifications” each, but it’s almost important to know that nobody but God knows how each human will be judged. Another thing I’d like point out is that we Latter-day Saints believe that we DO get to go to an in-between place we know as “spirit world”. Everybody gets a second chance there.

    Anyway, that’s just some stuff I felt I needed to clear up. I’m happy that Rookie is a place where opinions are respected and good, logical conversation is welcome. :)

  • db June 13th, 2012 12:52 PM

    I like that you are addressing numerous religions and I just want to clarify a few things about Wicca specifically. I think you missed a few really key points. Wicca is a Pagan religion, and pantheistic in nature (no pun intended), but it is not as loose are you portray it. Pagan is to Wicca as Christian is to Lutheran. it is more of a subset of a broader Pagan umbrella so to speak. Within Wicca there are numerous different traditions (e.g. Gardnerian, Alexandrian, BTW, Dianic, etc.) You are right in that the afterlife is not the focus, as it important to focus your personal power and energy in the present. However, I think it is important to mention that throughout all traditions, the main focus is the reverence of nature and the God and Goddess. How one chooses to venerate the Lady and Lord is where the individual preference comes in. This is a very broad overview and I by no means feel as though I have all the information, since I am a witch and not specifically Wiccan, but I incorporate several aspects of Wicca into my path. I urge anyone interested in Wicca to please, look past Wikipedia and into authors such as Scott Cunningham or Raymond Buckland or Janet and Stewart Farrar, just to name a few. :)

  • back2thepast June 14th, 2012 2:55 PM

    I love your articles Krista, cuz when you talk about the LDS faith you don’t use an angry voice, you don’t preach about the problems or issues with that church. You’re pretty matter-of-fact and even if you disagree with it you’re not going around like ‘MORMONISM IS AN EVIL CULT’ you’re just a super non-judgmental person in general and I really appreciate it :)

  • Jenn June 15th, 2012 8:05 PM

    This is not meant to sound ignorant or be offensive, but what the heck do Jainists eat????!? I mean, if you can’t even be violent to PLANTS you have to get your nutrients somewhere.

  • LeatherStuddedFae July 27th, 2012 1:03 AM

    This is really interesting. I have grown up with Christianity(er, Born Again) but was very confused about it. That’s when I looked up other religions and became very interested. I thought of changing my beliefs to either Buddhism or Wicca. I am intrigued by these two. :)) I was young though and as I grew up, I began to understand stuff about the bible and other teachings.

    And though I still abide through Christianity, I find it hard to be one(a Christian). There are so many rules yet so many loopholes that I can see why a lot of people question it. And then there was one time when I was wearing my favorite band shirt and a few people thought it would be a good idea to warn me and say it was “satanic”. -.-”

    It’s sort of a good thing that I attend in an open-minded church with open-minded people. :P

    Great article. It’s very interesting. =D

    http://stylestuddedfairy.blogspot.com/

  • deryik July 27th, 2012 6:41 AM

    A small note: Islam actually has 12 sects, although the basics (like after life) are the same, there are also great differences. 2 main sects (Shias and Sunnis) had quite a fight over the centuries and in certain countries in the middle east, they still don’t get along well.

    There’s also Sufism, with whirling dervishes and poetry of Rumi, which is more like a philosophy than a sect.

    Anyway, maybe this is only in the Turkish version of Islam (heavy sufism influence), but there’s a saying: “There is no fire in hell, everyone brings in theirs”.

    Although I’m an atheist, I really like this description.

  • lyrarose July 31st, 2012 4:36 PM

    Also, atheists. The other side of the spectrum. A lot of people taunt us or misinterpret us (and then taunt us based on their misinterpretations) so I want to just throw in that we’re not a religion (a religious teacher flat up told this to the class to my dismay). Atheism literally means ‘the lack of theism’, ‘the lack of a belief in any god or deity.’ Most of us are humanists too – we volunteer and do good things because it’s the nice thing to do, not because we think we’ll be rewarded with an afterlife or good reincarnation. Atheism is also never capitalized if it’s not at the beginning of a sentence. I am just always surprised how many people misinterpret us to be a group of psychopathic crazy people who were abandoned at birth or something insane like that.

  • Emlestrange September 2nd, 2012 8:56 PM

    Ok, this is a REALLY late comment, but I’m interested in belief systems and wanted to say this was a very informative article! It’s always intriguing to learn about other beliefs.

    I just have one little correction for Christianity, or at least a note about it: I’m a Christian, and the book of Revelations that Satan is destined to be punished in hell, not rule over it (but he is most definitely evil). Otherwise everything else was great! Plus it’s always encouraging to find spots on the internet where religion is discussed in a calm, civilized manner.