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Christian beliefs about the Afterlife


A mainly Catholic belief about the afterlife

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bullet Anon: "Coming from a Catholic home, I often wondered why the church taught that that I would burn in Hell if I ever died in a car accident before -- rather than after -- doing 'confession.' I also wondered why I would be tortured in purgatory -- perhaps for millennia -- if my friends and relatives don't pray for me after my death." 

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"Purgatory (Lat., "purgare", to make clean, to purify) in accordance with Catholic teaching is a place or condition of temporal punishment...." 1

Purgatory is believed by Roman Catholics, and very few other Christians, to be a location or state where the souls of most individuals go at the time of death. It has traditionally been viewed as a place of torment, where "nearly all of us shall...have to pass a period more or less long in the excruciating fires of Purgatory after death." 2  Gregory the Great wrote "that the pain be more intolerable than any one can suffer in this life."  Augustine 3 and St. Bonaventure 4 agree. The purpose of this pain is to cleanse the individual from the temporal consequences of her or his sins while on earth. Eventually, the person will be sufficiently purified to be eligible to be transferred to Heaven. The end result of this teaching is that many Catholics are particularly frightened of death.

Belief in Purgatory as a place or process is rejected by essentially all Protestants. Eastern Orthodox Churches have no detailed teaching of Purgatory.

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Topics discussed in this section:

bullet Beliefs about Purgatory:
bullet Overview and history of the belief;

bullet Roman Catholic beliefs
bullet Indulgences

bullet Eastern Orthodox beliefs

bullet Protestant beliefs
bullet Rick Warren's beliefs

bullet Bible passages about Purgatory

bullet Purgatory: what and where it is

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  1. "The Catholic Encyclopedia, Purgatory," (1911). See:
  2. Fr. Paul O'Sullivan, "How to avoid Purgatory." See:
  3. Op cit., Catholic Encyclopedia: Gregory the Great, Ps. 3 poenit., n. 1
  4. Op cit., Catholic Encyclopedia: Augustine, Ps. 37 n. 3
  5. Op cit., Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Bonaventure, IV, dist. xx, p.1, a.1, q. ii

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Web sites with multiple links to essays on Purgatory:

bullet AlaPadre at:
bullet Dave Armstrong at:

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Site navigation: Home page > Christianity > Christian beliefs > Afterlife > here

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Copyright ©1998, to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update and review: 2008-DEC-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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