The Law and the Afterlife

If it was possible, would you choose to allow living persons to go into the afterlife and ensure that those who ought to be punished in the afterlife are in fact punished in the afterlife?

The thing that spawned this particular idea was a discussion with someone about international law, war crimes and the impossibility of punishing national leaders in international law – albeit that is a condensed form of the discussion and my understanding of international law comes via people who have done all the studying and knowledge gathering, which means that while I can convey the concepts my actual expertise is minimal.

I was discussing the means by which a country, the leader of a country and a group which functions as a country but for all legal purposes does not exist could or could not be prosecuted when the thought occurred to me as to what happens to the leaders of nations that we condemn after they die.


There are an almost limitless number of things to consider, hypothetical though it is, that make such an idea fraught with peril. One of the most prominent that comes to mind is similar to a problem that arose regarding… the Mormons I think, several years past where their church or at least elements of it were retroactively baptising well known people who had died. Their intent was, well, obvious however it brings to light an unfortunate likelihood to the surface.

In such a context where the living can go to the afterlife and ensure the punishment of those who escaped punishment in this life, there would be I fear a near irresistible urge to undertake such a task on an entirely personal level with no consideration for the spirituality (or lack thereof) of the person under question for punishment in the afterlife. The simple fact is that even different Christian denominations have differing opinions on how someone is/should be punished in the after, even what is/is not punished, before even touching upon interfaith concerns.

There are also questions as to whether such a thing, punishing someone in the Afterlife, would ever be a question of legalities. By the very nature of the person being dead it could be construed that the person in question can no longer have the laws of living mankind applied to them. Which brings into question a whole other set of questions based around whether the laws of the afterlife are the same, or more to the point vastly different, to those of the this life.


3 thoughts on “The Law and the Afterlife

  1. one would also have to worry about the living trying to dictate what punishments could be used in the afterlife. Those who are beyond anything acceptable are fed to Nidhoggr in the Norse and I think Apep in the Egyptian, which ends their existence completely. How long would it be before those who oppose the death penalty started trying to prevent that punishment. Or how about the torments that happen in the Monotheistic and Buddhist Hells, which no doubt violates all kinds of “cruel and unusual punishment” standards for numerous countries and international courts? It would be the great irony, that in trying to make sure the evil were punished in death as they could not be in life…would inevitably lead to attempts to make sure that the evil dead were punished as they were in life…which created such feelings that those who did evil were not in fact punished enough.

    Which isn’t even getting into the issue of if the guilty party would go to be punished by the pantheon of those he wronged, or to be judged by his own pantheon. How would people feel if say we went to the Infernal Hell hoping to see Bin Ladin being punished for all the death he brought, only to find out that in fact he was in the Islamic Heaven enjoying his reward for pursuing a Holy War. Or Hitler, who believed himself a good and faithful Christian, was to be found not in Hell, but in Heaven? What would that do to Jews whose people were slaughtered, and Heathens whose culture was stolen and blasphemed? Often the villain of one person’s story is the hero of another person’s story. What would it do to people, to find out that in fact your villain in the “right” according to his pantheon and wasn’t being punished, and you were the one in the “wrong?”

    1. There is so much here that I would like to comment on (in a positive sense) that I don’t think a simple comment response is sufficient; keep an eye out for a proper post as a response!


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