By Ronald Brown
As I stood by one of the burning gats on the bank of the sacred Ganges River, I couldn’t help but contemplate the Hindu approach to death.
Christians, Jews, and Muslims view the death of the body as the end of our earthly existence. The individual then goes on to either heaven or hell if he or she is religious, or we simply cease to exist if we do not subscribe to one or the other of the major world religions. For Hindus, on the other hand, one body is disposed of and the person takes on another to continue his or her spiritual voyage.
As I watched one worn-out garment after another being consumed by flames, I couldn’t help but think of challenges disposable human bodies will pose for Christians in the future.
Unfortunately, the only serious discussion I found of this topic was not by religious thinkers but rather in serious Sci-Fi literature such as Arthur C. Clarke’s 1953 novel, Childhood’s End. Transcendent evolution is also a theme in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” a film co-written by Clarke and director Stanley Kubrick. I contend religious leaders must begin to confront this urgent question.
The time has come for humans to ponder their post-body existence and the freedom this will result in.
For too long religions have not only venerated the human body but idolized it. At the dawn of the 21st century, humans are slowly ending their millennia-long romance with physical bodies and are surging into the brave new bodiless world. The profound influence material bodies have exerted on human religions is coming to an end. Before the age of embodied humans is relegated to the trashcan of human history, I chronicle in this article the impact of material bodies on religions.
The body in world religions
Judaism, Christianity and Islam place great emphasis on the human body.