Goffs School Religious Studies

Unit 2 – Matters of Death and the Elderly Revision


  • Death is the end of life.
  • Death is when the body no longer breaths and has no heart beat. The brain also stops functioning.
  • Death is the end of all physical or mental life.
  • Christians say it is when the soul leaves the physical body. Muslims (Islam) and Orthodox Jews, however, believe body and soul will be reunited on Judgement Day.
  • Buddhists see death as the end of life. The person’s karmic (karma) energy moves on to another life. This is rebirth.

The Soul

  • Christians, Jews and Muslims believe in an eternal (everlasting) soul.
  • The soul survives after death.

Christian beliefs about life after death

  • Christians believe in an eternal soul.
  • The soul will leave the physical body after death.
  • If the person has been good, they will be with God in Heaven.
  • If they have been bad, they will be in Hell.
  • The Bible says Hell is a ‘lake of fire’.
  • Some Christians believe Hell is not a place, but living without God.
  • Roman Catholics believe in purgatory. This is a process of purification before going to Heaven. Your soul is cleansed of sins, especially if you are not bad enough for eternal hell.
  • They believe that as Jesus was resurrected there is life after death.
  • You should follow the 10 Commandments as well as Jesus’ teaching to go to Heaven.
  • Saint Paul said that there are ‘anonymous Christians’. These are good people who will go to Heaven despite not being Christian. Not all Christians accept this.
  • Some Christians believe in Day of Judgement. This is a day when God will judge the good and bad.
  • Jesus taught the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. God will separate the good from the bad just like a shepherd separates sheep and goats.
  • Christian can be buried or cremated. Roman Catholics prefer burial as your body will be needed in the afterlife.

Buddhist beliefs

  • Buddhists believe in karma and rebirth.
  • Good actions have good consequences and these affect you next life.
  • If you get good karma, you can be reborn in a good life.
  • Most Buddhists believe it is karmic energy that gets reborn.
  • Some believe it is them, although Buddhists should not believe in the soul.
  • Many Buddhists say there are Six Realms in the afterlife. These include the realms of gods, warriors, humans, animals, hungry ghosts and hell.
  • A hungry ghost desires everything, but cannot get enough of their desires.
  • Some Buddhists, like Tibetans, believe the Six Realms are real.
  • Some Buddhists see the realms as symbolic and a metaphor for how karma affects people.
  • Buddhists cremate their dead. 

Islamic after life

  • Muslims believe the body must be buried within 48 hours.
  • The body must be buried, as it is needed for resurrection on the Day of Judgement.
  • On the Day of Judgement Allah will decide who goes to Paradise and who goes to Hell.

Christian Beliefs about Euthanasia

  • Most groups of Christians have stated that they are against active euthanasia (except the Dutch Protestant Church).
  • They believe that God makes life and He is the One to end life too.
  • Humans are made in the ‘Image of God’ and we should not ruin that image.
  • Euthanasia can be viewed as murder and breaks the 6th rule of the 10 Commandments.
  • People are created with worth and to kill someone like an animal is wrong. Animals do not have souls, humans do.
  • People should be offered care (not death) in their suffering. Christians believe in the hospice movement.
  • A hospice is a place a person can go to die and be cared for by nurses. They die with medical and spiritual support. A Christian hospice may offer prayer and access to a priest or vicar.
  • Jesus performed miracles, a miracle could occur.
  • Some Christians (but not all) understand passive euthanasia as showing compassion in the way Jesus showed to people.
  • Some Christians may argue that euthanasia is the most loving thing to do. Jesus said to love your neighbour as yourself and perhaps you would want to die in certain situations.
  • The Golden Rule is where Jesus said ‘do to others as you would do to yourself’. Perhaps, if you were in pain, you might want to die and end suffering too.
  • Christian ‘situation ethics’ suggests you should look at each situation individually before deciding what is the right action. This was suggested by the Rev. Joseph Fletcher. It can be used to defend euthanasia. 

Buddhist Attitudes to Euthanasia

  • It is a basic Buddhist belief not to harm living things – ahimsa; this rules out euthanasia for many Buddhists.
  • The 1st precept says to avoid taking life. Active euthanasia is taking life.
  • Karma has to be worked through and suffering (in dying) might be part of that karma. Your pain is your karma.
  • Death should be made as comfortable as possible though. Buddhists believe in hospices like Christians do. Many temples look after the dying.
  • The motive for any action is important in Buddhism – if the action is purely about avoiding responsibility rather than for the interests of the person concerned, then it is wrong. Perhaps euthanasia is OK if the intention is right – ‘Right Intention’.
  • The state of mind someone is in at death is important – if someone is anxious it will shape their next rebirth in a negative way, where as acceptance will shape it positively. Perhaps the person’s state of mind will be better if they are allowed to die.
  • The Dalai Lama has said euthanasia is acceptable if in pain. The Dalai Lama leads most Tibetan Buddhists.

The Elderly

  • Ageism – A term to describe prejudice or discrimination against someone on the basis of age.
  • Elderly people are often stereotyped as moaning about the young, unhappy or unable to look after themselves. However, they may also be seen as wise, caring and full of practical skills (such as being able to mend things).
  • The young can be seen as ‘hoodies’, yobs and impolite. They do not respect the elderly and take everything for granted. However, they may be helpful, thoughtful and well mannered. These are negative and positive stereotypes.
  • The ‘Generation Gap’ is the gap between old and young. This can be in terms of fashion, styles and interests as well attitudes towards morals and behaviour. This gap often leads to mis-understandings.

Care for the Elderly

  • The elderly often need extra help in looking after themselves.
  • They can live alone at home. This gives independence, but also means they could have accidents or be lonely.
  • They could live with the family (the ‘extended family). Many Asian families prefer this. The grandparents live with their children and grandchildren. However, this could lead to cramped conditions.
  • They could also live in a warden or care home. There are three types of these. 1- Warden or sheltered accommodation – where they are independent, but a warden checks up on them. 2- A care home/Nursing home – often a room in a home where careers are on hand to prepare food, wash and clean for the elderly. 3 – A hospice. If the elderly are very, very ill and near death, they could stay in a hospice. The hospice will relieve pain and make them comfortable.

Religious teachings on the Elderly

  • A Christian teaching is, “Honour your mother and father”. This is one of the 10 Commandments and can mean all elderly people.
  • Jesus said you should, “love your neighbour as yourself”. They might be elderly.
  • Jesus’ Golden Rule is: treat others as you would be treated. What if you were old? How would you want to be treated?
  • Buddhists teach that caring for the elderly will give you good karma, which will lead to a good rebirth.
  • Buddhists teach that care for the elderly should focus on metta – loving kindness.
  • Muslims teach that you should ‘rub the nose of those who do not respect their parents in the dirt’ (Hadith).
  • Sikhism teaches that your parents brought you up and you should repay them for that kindness.

Care for the Dying

  • Many people say the dying should be treated in a hospice.
  • A hospice is a place where the dying are cared for. It gives pain relief and makes the terminally ill comfortable.
  • Some hospices are religious and some are not.
  • Hospices deliver palliative care.
  • Religious hospices allow the dying to be with other believers, pray together, receive religious services (i.e Holy Communion) etc.
  • Vicars, priests or monks can explore the spiritual meaning of death with the dying. They can give them hope of an afterlife.
  • Hospices are seen as an alternative to euthanasia.
  • Remember, hospices are not hospitals. People go to hospices to die.