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.
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.