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Definition: immortality from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate(R) Dictionary

(14c) :the quality or state of being immortal: a : unending existence b : lasting fame


Summary Article: immortality from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

In religious belief, a state of perpetual or eternal life attributed to divine beings, mythical or angelic. A belief in immortality is common to many religions, though each has its own conception of an afterlife.

In some mythologies, for example Greek and Chinese, heroes or sages can become divine and therefore immortal. The ancient Egyptians believed in physical resurrection and took great care in the preservation of the dead body and the provision of food and material goods for the dead person. In Christian and Muslim thinking, immortality also refers to the belief that human beings will enter a new form of eternal existence after physical death. Hinduism teaches that the soul, atman, has no beginning and no end; it is indestructible and transmigrates into another body after death.

Among the Hebrews and Persians, the idea of immortality was generally associated with the resurrection of the body. To the ancient Greeks the resurrection of the body was entirely foreign, though many of them (including the philosophers Socrates and Plato) believed in the immortality of the soul. The Christian faith teaches both the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body; however, the resurrected body is not carnal but spiritual. In Hinduism and Buddhism, the idea is not so much of immortality, as of continuation between one life and the next through reincarnation. The eventual aim of the soul is not immortality, but a release from the cycle of rebirths, known as moksha in Hinduism and nirvana in Buddhism. Chinese mythology has many stories of mortals becoming immortal through acts of kindness or self-sacrifice. There was also an ancient belief in the possibility of physical immortality through various practices such as imbibing gold or other rare metals, use of herbs and mushrooms, control of breathing, or particular sexual practices.

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