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A soul is a concept in many religions, being a divine and immaterial part of a human. In most religions, the soul is strongly connected to the afterlife, but opinions vary wildly on what happens to the soul after death.

Christian beliefs

Most Christians believe the soul to be the immortal essence of a human, and that after death, the soul is either rewarded or punished. Whether this reward or punishment is contingent upon doing good deeds, or merely upon believing in Jesus, is a heated dispute among different Christian groups.

An at times vexed question in Christianity has been the origin of the soul; the major theories put forward are creationism, traducianism and pre-existence.

A number of christian minority beliefs:

  • A few Christian groups do not believe in the soul, and hold that people cease to exist, both mind and body, at death; they claim however that God will recreate the minds and bodies of believers in Jesus Christ at the end of the world.
  • Another minority of Christians believe in the soul, but don't believe it is inherently immortal. This minority also believe the life of Christ brings immortality, but only to believers.
  • The soul sleep theory states that the soul goes to 'sleep' at the time of death, and stays in this quiescent state until the last judgment.
  • The 'absent from the body, present with the Lord' theory states that the soul at the point of death, immediately is present at the end of time, without experiencing any time passing between.
  • The 'purgatory' theory states the soul (if it is imperfect) spends a time of purging or cleansing before being ready for the end of time.

Hindu beliefs

In Hinduism, the soul (atman) is reincarnated, its status modified by karma, until enough wisdom has been gleaned to merge with the Brahma.

Buddhist beliefs

In opposition to the Hindu belief, Buddhists deny the existence of the soul; they call this doctrine anatman. But they do however believe in reincarnation. According to the Buddhist belief, at death the mind disintegrates, but if the disintegrating mind contains any particles of karma, in doing so it will cause the creation of a new mind. Thus Buddhists teach reincarnation without any entity to provide continuity between reincarnations.

Other beliefs

In Egyptian Mythology, a person were in posession of several souls, three of the body and three of the mind. They were called Chet, Ren, Schut, Ka, Ba and Ach.

Atheists generally deny any existence of a soul, though the issues are, strictly speaking, orthogonal.