The chapters in this book evolved from lectures given in the annual Distinguished Speakers Series organized by the Centre for Speakers Series
organized by the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society and co-sponsored by the University of Victoria’s Division of Continuing Studies.
The Centre for Studies in Religion and Society was established at the University of Victoria in 1991 to foster the scholarly study of
religion in relation to the sciences, ethics, social and economic development, and other aspects of culture. The primary aim is to promote
dialogue between religion and these other aspects of human experience. The Centre has a fundamental commitment to pluralism and pursues a
broad range of research interests not limited to any specific time, place, religion, or culture. It embodies the understanding that religious
traditions have been formative of human reality and experience, and that the speeches are the proper object of creative, rigorous inquiry, whether
from a disciplinary or an interdisciplinary perspective.
Each year the Centre invites distinguished scholars from various religions to speak on a common theme from the perspective of their
own traditions. The 1995 Distinguished Speakers Series on Life After Death evoked such strong and positive audience response that the speeches
were augmented and revised for publication as a book.
Thanks are due to the Centre’s Administrator, Ludgard De Decker, for her careful preparation of the manuscript and to Cora Smith for
the index. As always, it has been a pleasure to work with William Burrows and his staff at Orbis Books in the publishing of this volume.
Is there life after? This is one of the fundamental questions that none of us escapes. As we grow old or suffer the loss of a loved one, this question
commands our attention. Although much in life has changed over the centuries, when it comes to death and what happens after, we are little
different than our ancestors. Although modern medicine keeps many of us alive longer, death inevitably holds sway. Then, like previous
generations, we find ourselves face with that which we cannot scientifically control or understand.
The theologian Paul Tillich said that theology is correlational - that theology begins with the questions life asks and then searches
scripture and tradition for answers. The vitality of any religion is indicated by its ability to provide satisfying answers to our deepest and most
Throughout history the great religions have provided answers to the question, is there life after death, and, if so, what is it like? The
religions also have offered rituals to help embody these answers in daily life.
With separate chapters for Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and the Chinese religions, this book allows the reader to
examine the differences and similarities in the way that these religions respond to the question, is there life after death? Each chapter beings by
briefly sketching the basic beliefs of that religion before focusing on its views of death and life after death. This enables readers with no previous
background in the religion to understand the answer to the question in the larger context of that tradition. The chapters also include discussion of
different answers offered within each religion and critical problems that may remain unresolved. Each religion is presented by a leading scholar of
that tradition. The authors have endeavored to write in ways that do not oversimplify the difficult concepts involved and yet make them accessible
to the beginning student of religion or the serious lay reader.
Within each of these religions there are many different doctrines and rituals relating to life after death. A comprehensive treatment
would require a separate book for each religion. Without attempting to be exhaustive, each author presents a balanced overview of the answer to
the question, is there life after death? There are many religions not included (e.g., Sikhism, Jainism, Shintoism, and the Aboriginal traditions), all
of which have important ideas and rituals relating to life after death. In a small introductory book one has to make choices, and in this case it was
decided to focus on the larger world religions. A future volume is planned in which the traditions omitted in this volume will be highlighted.
Back of the Book
Is there life after death? If so, what is it like? How does it relate to life in this world? These questions are staples of the human effort to discern
whether transcendent meaning or absurdity rules the cosmos. Life after Death in World Religions retrieves the classic responses of Buddhism,
Chinese religions, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism and presents them with clarity and authority.
The contributors to Life after Death in World Religions are Eliezer Segal (Judaism), Terence Penelhum (Christianity), Hanna Kassis
(Islam), Anantanand Rambachan (Hinduism), Eva K. Neumaier-Dargyay (Buddhism), and Gary Arbuckle (Chinese Religions). Representatives of
or experts on their traditions, each of them conveys the flavor of a given tradition as a whole. But more importantly, they provide insights into the
concrete rituals, practices, and emotions surrounding death and the particular forms of hope regarding the afterlife that characterize each
“An engaging work which brings the wisdom of religious traditions to bear on a traumatic event. The chapters give a comparative
perspective to the reader seeking to understand death.”
“Strikes at a chordal perspective narrating the complex richness of reflection, action, and meaning evident in responses to death in various
religious traditions. Readers should be particularly interested in the attention given to the textual resources and ritual celebrations which guide
Editor HAROLD COWARD is professor of religious studies at the University of Calgary and Director of the Centre for
Studies in Religion and Society at the University of Victoria. His previous books include Sacred Word and Sacred Text: Scripture in World
Religions and Hindu-Christian Dialogue: Perspectives and Encounters.
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