Two weeks ago, NPR reported on a group of Pentecostals in Appalachia who handle snakes in church to prove their faith in God. The story got us thinking: Why are the handlers bitten so rarely, and why are so few of those snakebites lethal?
Lupita Nyong'o and Chiwetel Ejiofor play Patsey and Solomon, two slaves on a Louisiana plantation, in <em>12 Years a Slave</em><em>.</em>
Credit Francois Duhamel / Fox Searchlight Pictures
Director Steve McQueen (left) works with actors on the set of <em>12 Years A Slave</em>. The film was shot on a Louisiana plantation that sits next door to where Solomon Northup spent his years as a slave.
Solomon Northup was born free in early-19th-century upstate New York. He lived the life of a respected and elegant musician until 1841, when he was lured South by the promise of a lucrative stint playing his fiddle in a traveling circus.
In Washington, D.C. — in the shadow of the Capitol — Northup was drugged. When he came to, he was in chains: a slave headed for the hellish world of plantation life. Only the hope of being reunited with his beloved wife and children kept him going.
Stones placed on a Jewish grave to show respect for the deceased. Orthodox Rabbi Joseph Telushkin says Jewish tradition holds that there is an afterlife but doesn't encourage speculation on what it might be like.
Millions of Americans believe in the afterlife, and author and scholar Joseph Telushkin is no exception. The Orthodox rabbi has written extensively about Judaism and says that the concept of God is incompatible with the idea that life ends at death.
He holds that conviction so strongly, he tells NPR's Robert Siegel, because he believes that God is just — and he has to assume that a just God would provide some reward to a person who has lived his or her life well, while imposing a different fate upon those who do evil.
In New Orleans, it's cool to be in the high school band — especially when Trombone Shorty shows up in the band room.
The brass player and bandleader recently paid a visit to New Orleans' Warren Easton High School to work with band members. It's part of his work with the Trombone Shorty Foundation, a music education initiative.
"[Trombone Shorty] is, without a doubt, the role model for the next generation right now," says Bill Taylor, the foundation's executive director.
Philosopher Samuel Scheffler doesn't believe in a traditional afterlife — that is, he doesn't think that a spirit or soul survives the body's physical death. But he does believe in another kind of afterlife: Regardless of what we think about our own life after death, Scheffler tells NPR's Robert Siegel, we all trust that others will continue to live after us. And, much like faith in a spiritual afterlife, that belief changes what we choose to do with our days on earth.
Detail of the central compartment of <em>The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb</em>, completed in 1432 by Jan van Eyck, where pilgrims gather to pay homage to the lamb of God. Many art historians interpret the painting's fountain as a symbol of eternal life.
Credit DEA Picture Library / De Agostini/Getty Images
A majority of Americans from all walks of life believe in life after death. Yet conversations about the afterlife — from what it might look and feel like to who else one may find there — often remain highly personal ones, shared with family members, clergy or others who share one's faith.
To better understand how many Americans conceive of the afterlife, All Things Considered has spoken with leaders from different faith traditions on their views on life after death.