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Life after Death
A History of the Afterlife in Western Religion
by Alan F. Segal
- Author: Alan F. Segal
- Language: english
- Release date: June 23, 2010
- Genres: history, religion, philosophy, theology, sociology, anthropology, spirituality, death
- ISBN: 9780385422994 (0385422997)
- Format: hardcover, 866 pages
- Publisher: Doubleday (NY)
About The Book
A work of social history, Life After Death illuminates different ways ancient civilizations grappled with the question of what exactly happens to the dead. Segal weaves together biblical & literary scholarship, sociology, history & philosophy. A scholar, he examines the maps of the afterlife found in Western religious texts & reveals not only what various cultures believed but how their notions reflected their societies’ realities & ideals, & why those beliefs changed over time. He maintains that the afterlife is the mirror in which a society arranges its concept of the self. The composition process for Judaism, Xianity & Islam begins in grief & ends in the victory of the self over death. Arguing that in all religious traditions the afterlife represents the ultimate reward for the good, he combines historical & anthropological data with insights gleaned from religious & philosophical writings to explain the following mysteries: why Egyptians insisted on a heavenly afterlife, while the body was embalmed in a tomb; why Babylonians viewed the dead as living in underground prisons; why Hebrews remained silent about life after death during the 1st Temple period, yet embraced it in the 2nd Temple period (534 BCE-70 CE); & why Xianity placed the afterlife in the center of its belief system. He discusses the inner dialogs & arguments within Judaism & Xianity, showing the underlying dynamic behind them, as well as the ideas marking the differences between the two. In an examination of the influence of biblical views of heaven & martyrdom on Islamic beliefs, he offers a perspective on the current rise of Islamic fundamentalism. In tracing the organic, historical relationships between sacred texts & communities of belief & comparing the visions of life after death that have emerged historically, he sheds light on the intimate connections between afterlife notions, the societies that produced them & the search for life’s meaning.
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