Immortality is a belief in unending life. What form immortality takes, whether a virtual soul exists, is a major focus for religions, philosophies - and dinner topics.
The perpetuation of our soul as a non-biological essence, existing again through reincarnation, in heaven or some other realm or state, is for what many throughout time have made their own explanation, within or without a structured dogma.
The soul is embodied in flesh, in human form. In death there is rebirth of the soul into a new form. Reincarnation beliefs have many scenarios and the main ones are described below.
Earthly existence is a journey of successive lives. In each, one learns more, ultimately incarnating as a wise person or becoming one with god. Some believe hardships in this life are a result of a misstep in a past life. Others believe we become a blank slate at each birth.
One's soul scatters at death, contributing to the divine energy of all life. Parts of these souls are wisdom given to the living.
The soul is born again into a new body, at random.
Family members reincarnate as their descendants. This may be linear or non-linear.
The soul is born into a new body, with no restrictions on time or space. One's soul can incarnate in 2015, then die and incarnate in 1857, then die and incarnate in 2015 again. Two people could be the same soul at different stages of incarnation.
It is a common belief of Islamic, Jewish, Christian and Zoroastrian religions that the dead will be brought back to life. In some beliefs, only a select minority will be resurrected. In others, universal resurrection applies and also extends to renewal of the world or universe.
Four themes reoccur in realms, sometimes collectively termed Otherworld, described below.
Limbo comes from the root limbus meaning a border, edge, hem or fringe. It is defined as an uncertain period in a sort of waiting-room realm. Limbo is reserved for the uninitiated (in religion), those who have shown a neutral contribution in their lives (cannot be shown to be bad or good), or in some cases those who await resolution or closure related to their recent life. Unlike Purgatory (see below) there is no purification process attributed to Limbo.
Heaven, under various names, is the concept of a paradise-like realm typically also home to heavenly beings (deities). Earthly beings ascend to heaven in the afterlife (and in some cases while still alive). Heaven in some religions is said to be a union with god and a state of supernatural happiness. In many beliefs, access is conditional and granted according to certain standards. Some believe in a world to come that will be heaven on earth.
Hell is said to be a separation from god and a state of torture.
Purgatory is an intermediate state, often one of purification. In Catholicism, even those who die in a state of grace need a purification stage before they can proceed to eternal salvation. Though not always called purgatory, the scriptures speak of a "cleansing fire".
All souls are believed immortal and will receive salvation. Some souls will also have a positive afterlife, given they meet certain criteria.