How will these resources help you? 

These resources offer different disciplinary approaches to one of life’s ultimate questions. By taking a sceptical and scientific approach, the possibility of the existence of life after death can be explored through a contemporary lens. The resources look at ideas around what life after death may be and what evidence for this people have attempted to provide. Further materials on specific religious worldviews are also suggested. Teachers can use these resources for discussion around life after death and the paranormal, as well as around philosophical topics that explore proof and belief and the difference between faith and knowledge. 

Can we prove there is life after death?

The Unbelievable Skepticism of the Amazing Randi

by Adam Higginbotham, published by The New York Times, (2014)

James Randi had a long career challenging paranormal and pseudoscientific claims with his incredible feats of escapism, tricks, stunts and illusions. A self-proclaimed ‘trickster’, his skills were so great that people believed he had paranormal abilities. His famous feud with Uri Geller is just one example of the many times that Randi showed how there were no paranormal or psychic powers involved in tricks that were presented as such. Over 300 people applied for his million-dollar challenge to prove the paranormal and thus life after death, yet no one provided enough proof to get the reward. Discussions of his challenge and how and why someone may have been able to win the award is a fruitful way into discussions around the need (or not) for proof and evidence for religious or spiritual beliefs, as well as broader discussions around the paranormal and afterlife. 

Near-death experiences

What Happens When We Die: A Ground-Breaking Study into the Nature of Life and Death

by Dr Sam Parnia, published by Hay House, (2008), 9781401915391

Through his work in critical care, Dr Parnia has closely studied the experiences of patients while clinically at the point of death, before surviving. His explanations of consciousness and experiences of death enable exploration of the idea of life after death and add fresh content to discussions of the mind-body-soul problem, which has been part of philosophical discussions since the time of Plato. 

Death and hallucinogenics

Are near-death experiences just psychedelic trips?

by Ross Pomeroy, published by Big Think, (2021)

While many humans hold a fear of death and dying, numerous studies of near-death experiences show that people who are on the brink of death experience this process with comfort and warmth while also retaining a sense of mystery around what may be beyond life. There are reports of similar experiences of near-death experiences across many cultures and religions. The same sensations have been reported by those who are given low doses of the hallucinogenic drug DMT, a pharmaceutically synthesised version of the plant-based psychedelic ayahuasca. This article discusses the similarity of these feelings with a scientific approach to explore the possibility of the existence of an afterlife. 

How can we be accepting of death?

How death shapes life

by Colleen Walsh, published by The Harvard Gazette,, (2021)

This resource sets philosophical discussions around death in a contemporary context. Relating to her North American setting, Harvard Professor Susanna Siegel discusses the importance of reflecting on death when discussing ethics - specifically around gun violence, political turmoil and the US experience of the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing on ideas from Kierkegaard and Heidegger, Siegel shows the importance of acknowledging death for the living in discussions of philosophy and ethics and also in the social and political sphere. 

Audiovisual clip

A Question of Faith - Afterlife

by BBC Two, (2014)

A Humanist funeral sparks the conversation around the possibility of the afterlife.

Further Materials

What Jesus Really Said About Heaven and Hell by Bart D. Ehrman, published by Time Magazine, (2020) Read this article
A Question of Faith: Afterlife, published by BBC Two, (2014) Watch this clip
The One Where There Is Life After Death by Louisa Jane Smith, published by The RE Podcast, (2022) Listen to this podcast
Ruth Marx teaches Religion and Worldviews, is a Consultant for Religious Studies and PSHE, a Farmington Fellowship Scholar and a published blogger on Re:Online.

Text © Ruth Marx, 2023.