This essay has a total of 1334 words and 6 pages.


When we think about the afterlife today it is easy to categorize the locations after
death: Heaven and Hell. As Christians, we have guidelines in which to receive eternal life
and we follow the life as Jesus Christ, and according to the Bible, through Him we are
saved. Pretty simple to concept, but in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and India, the afterlife is
not so easy to grasp. Polytheism, pharaohs, and Buddha will all be prevalent in this
exploration of the afterlife in ancient civilizations.

Mesopotamians also called Sumerians believed that the afterlife was a bleak and dismal
existence. It was commonly called the House of Darkness and entitled an eternity in the
ground. They were polytheistic and the Gods in which they believed in were said to be just
like us. In fact, we were copies of divine models, made in the image of the Gods. They
were petty and violent. If the Mesopotamians did not worship correctly the Gods would
become angry and punished the people. The punishment often took form of natural
catastrophes such as droughts or floods (Adler, 11-12). “To avert punishment, the gods
had to be appeased with frequent, costly rituals and ceremonies, which were the
responsibly of a hereditary priesthood” (Adler, 17). Worshipping of the Gods meant
building huge temples called Ziggurats in their name (Adler, 11). The Tower of Babel in
Babylon is the temple which gained the most fame through the Bible(Adler , 11). It was
built long after the Sumerian epoch (Adler, 11). The certainty of afterlife was not known,
but the best approach was to appease the Gods by making offerings and hope for the best in
the afterlife (Adler, 12).

The Assyrian Empire could certainly be compared to the Gods in Mesopotamia. The Assyrians
were very cruel and thought that they should be worshipped like divine leaders. Tiglath-
Pilesar III helped come up with the five pillars of the empire. One pillar was the
religious ideology that the Gods wanted territory and war was the duty of all people.
Another pillar was to use horror and terror to control people.

Mesopotamian literature was often pessimistic and doubtful of the Gods. In The Epic of
Gilgamesh the society is in search of a religious basis for human action, but the main
focus of the story is the negligence of eternal life and the defeat of the hero in search
of immortality. Lastly, the Sumerians could not get a grasp on nature. With their
dependence upon irrigation from the Tigris and Euphrates that constantly faced flash
floods and the Euphrates changed course rapidly causing salty soil, not to mention the
droughts. There animosity towards the Gods was the basis of their cruelty. Through the
Enuma Elish, the Mesopotamian creation account, we see that humans are slaves to the Gods,
in every regard.

Just like the Sumerians, the Egyptians were polytheistic, but they differed in many areas.
Egyptians had pharaohs that ruled the kingdom of Egypt. These pharaohs were Egypt’s
God-Kings (Adler, 24). The pharaoh was not like the Gods, but instead was a God, a God who
chose to live on Earth for a time (Adler, 24). The pharaoh’s will was law and his wisdom
was all-knowing (Adler, 24). The people of Egypt had to carry out his wishes or the Gods
might not bless the land.

Originally, Egyptians were angered about the afterlife. They thought that it was only for
the pharaoh and the upper-class, but soon it was democratized to be a place for the
commoners. The afterlife was sacred and, therefore, restricted. By about 1000 B.C.E., most
Egyptians believed in a scheme of eternal reward or punishment for their ka (the
life-essence that could return to life, given the correct preparation, even after death of
the physical body), which hd to submit Last Judgment by Osiris (Adler. 27). There heaven
was seen as a circle around the sun where there was no work and no suffering (Adler, 28).
Hell came about during the New Kingdom, when things began to go roughly (Adler, 28).
Amenhotep introduced the idea of monotheism during his reign of 1364 -1347 B.C.. He
worshipped one god known as Aten and then changed his name to Akhenaten in honor of Aten.
After his death, under the rule of Tutankhamen (King Tut), the egyptians went back to the
traditional belief of polytheism.

Nature and religion went hand in hand in Egyptian culture. The people of Egypt were
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