In the days after my grandmother died, my aunts introduced me to Iris DeMent's song “Let the Mystery Be." As is true for many people, from the early years of Christian faith, the loss of one dear to me sparked wonderings about what happens after death. I have fuzzy, 15-year-old memories of one of my aunts thinking aloud about the possibility of reincarnation, and older family members assuring us all that my grandmother was sitting at the feet of Jesus.
Christians don’t go to heaven when we die—that’s the dramatic way to summarize N. T. Wright’s book. The Christian hope is that our bodies will be raised on a transformed Earth when Christ returns, not that our souls will be freed of our bodies so that they can get to heaven.
Life after death is not quite a complete history of the afterlife in Western religion. Alan Segal follows the development of beliefs in the afterlife in Christianity down to Augustine and in Judaism through the rabbinic period. Only in the case of Islam does he comment briefly on contemporary beliefs.