The Human Soul

Artist’s depiction of a soul being carried to Heaven

Back in the Middle Ages when there was just one official Church, all Christians were obligated to hold the same views on the matter of the human soul.

Inhabitants of the 21st century have considerably more options.

Here are some modern views of the human soul according to some of the major religions:

Judaism
The soul enters body at birth; hence,embryos don’t have souls. At death, the soul returns to God. Judaism doesn’t have any specific doctrine regarding an afterlife.

Christianity

Roman Catholics: God creates the soul at the moment of conception; the soul is immortal, leaves the body at death and will rejoin the body at the Resurrection. At death, the soul is immediately judged and sent to Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory.

Orthodox: At death, the soul is judged by God and sent either to Abraham’s Bosom or Hell for temporary paradise or punishment. At the Last Judgement, everyone is judged. Believers saved by Jesus will go to Heaven permanently; the damned will go to the Lake of Fire. There is no Purgatory.

Seventh Day Adventists: The soul and body are one. At death, the body returns to dust and the life returns to God. Individuals remain in a state of unconsciousness until the Last Day.

Jehovah’s Witnesses: The soul is the body animated by the spirit of God. It does not exist apart from the body.

Mormons (Latter-Day Saints): The spirit and body together comprise the soul. The body is the result of physical conception; the spirit is a portion of God’s spirit and co-eternal with it. All the spirits that will inhabit people on earth were created at the same time.  At death, the spirit lives in a spirit world until the Resurrection when it is reunited with the body that housed it on earth. Inhabitants of the spirit world who did not have the opportunity to accept Mormon teachings on earth will have the chance to do so in the spirit world, receiving baptism by proxy. The reunited soul and body go to inhabit one of three heavens. Earthly marriages that were sealed in a Mormon temple continue in the new dimension. The most highly-evolved souls become gods and godesses of their own planets.

Islam
The soul is a mystery. Some Muslims believe that all human souls were created by Allah on the same day and are stored in Heaven until use. One hadith teaches that 40 days after a woman has been impregnated, an angel is appointed to oversee the development of the fetus. As the baby is born, Allah gives it a soul and assigns its immutable future. At death, the soul leaves the body. Islamic scholars do not agree as to what happens to it then. A traditional view is that good souls go to a heavenly garden with rivers of milk and honey and an eternal supply of wine and beautiful women for the righteous. Bad souls go to hell.

Hinduism
Many schools of thought exist in Hinduism, including one that is atheistic. Generally speaking, however, Hindus believe that the soul exists apart from the body and can be reborn into sequential physical bodies until it has achieved the purpose of its existence.

Buddhism
The soul is an illusion. It’s just a projection of what we call ego, self, personality, etc., and does not refer to any real, independent entity. Buddhists cannot accept that there is anything either in this world or any other world that is eternal or unchangeable.

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M. J. Maddox, PhD 
is the American English Doctor.  
 

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