Religion, skepticism, and carving out a spiritual life post-Mormonism
"Think about it" Thursday: The Afterlife
I do not believe in an afterlife. I have not seen any solid evidence to believe that there is one. It would be great if I could continue existing, but all the wishing in the world isn't going to make it so.
I do not believe in an afterlife. I believe that even if there were to be one (or even if there is one), we should live our lives in the idea that there isn't.
I think it's ridiculous to expect an afterlife, but there is a way that we can continue to live on. We can live on in the memories of the people we interact with most (mostly friends and family).Every time we interact with someone, they copy our behaviors (adding intentions and personality) into their perception of the world. These do not go away with death immediately but fade slowly. We live on through the purposes we can make for ourselves.Immortality can be achieved through extraordinary endeavors in common purpose. You can attach your name to some action that furthers the understanding of human experience and progress in the institutional memory of the human race (through books or the internet).Just because there is most probably no afterlife doesn't mean we should free ourselves from the consequences of our actions, refuse to value contributions we've made to the world, or despair in futility of goals that may outlive us.I really think this is better than most forms of afterlife...mostly because life takes a lot of effort, and I'll be glad when I'm finished.
Oh no, I knew the "we live on in those we love" thing would come up.I personally do not believe in an afterlife. I think it would be awesome if there was one (who wouldn't?), but I'm with Ray; there really isn't any evidence to suggest a thing like an afterlife, and quite a bit of evidence -- people seem to stay dead, after all, when they die -- to suggest we just, you know, die.We don't "live on in the memory of others" any more than we exist in duplicate right now. People are using our mannerisms and remembering our names, yes... and if we die, those memories and mannerisms will endure, but those memories and mannerisms were around while we were still alive. Those memories can't be us "living on after we died" if those memories were there when we were alive.At best, you can say an incomplete caricature of you is living on after you died.
We make mental models of people and animals (and we anthropomorphize everything). We ascribe agency (intentions and motives) to those models. What's different between my perception of someone when they are alive and then when they are dead? The biggest difference I can think of is that they're no longer around to prove my mental model wrong.Honestly, when you talk about "knowing" someone, it's just that you've got a lot of information about them, and you can approximate how they'd behave.Of course you don't literally live on, and you do not experience this approximated agency...the other person experiences it (it's their hardware, inputs, and outputs). That said, it's still your approximate behavior that lives on.I don't see what harm this sentimentality bring, and I can certainly see how useful having working models of passed loved ones can help prompt thoughts and actions one wouldn't normally ascribe to one's self (even though that person is doing all the thinking and it *is* their thoughts).
I think that this discussion will be a bit one sided...I belive there is no after life. When I die, the part of me that makes me who I am: the electrical signals in my brain, the software of my "soul", will cease to exist.I will be dead; I will be gone; and there will be nothing else for me.Some people feel this is kind of depressing when I tell them. Personally I think the idea of an afterlife is depressing. If I will live forever, that what significance do my actions here count for?I think that having a limited amount of time makes my actions, and life as a whole more important and more precious than ever.If there was an afterlife, I would opt-out.
I'm of the mind that eternity=hell. An infinity spent doing anything, if it's feasting and hugging loved ones or wailing and gnashing my teeth, results in the same thing, madness. A common Christian argument is that, "We'll have different minds" or "Since there won't be any time, we won't be aware of the passage of time." But if our thought processes will be so radically altered, then we won't be the same people who accepted or rejected salvation. Also, time won't end. As long as we have consciousness and physical sensations, then we will continue to interact with our environment and have memory of those actions. Presumably, we'll have "perfect" minds. Capable of remembering, in minute detail, every sight, sound and taste from the second we enter Heaven, to billions of years later. And every memory will be as vivid as the next, Madness!John of Patmos just didn't put a lot of thought into it when he wrote "for ever and ever."
Just to try and start my comment a little differently, I believe there will be life after my death... it just won't be mine.As mythmon suggested, "having a limited amount of time makes my actions and life as a whole more important and more precious than ever."The real spiritual struggle is not to gain a victory for the individual in achieving an positive eternity of some kind.It's about that temporal chance at becoming one with everything -- finding wonder in an understanding from an individual perspective, or participating in the all.(How's that for trying to be all flowery and deep?)
There is no after life. That's why I'm hoping that by the time I'm in my 80's, medical science will have come up with really good brain transplant and cloning technologies ;)
Nope! Although I think it would be fun if reincarnation was real.
So what you're saying, Alex, is that we have an effect on those around us, and those effects linger on after we die, right?I totally understand that, and I don't have an issue with the sentimentality, per se, and share the sentiment to a degree, too. I think it goes even farther than that, though: our actions, however small, leave their mark on human history and change it, just like that old "butterfly flaps its wings, causing a hurricane thousands of years from now" idea. Things would be different now if even one person hadn't lived the life they did. That difference would admittedly be huge or subtle, depending on the person, but nevertheless different.So, even if we don't know their names, we're living on the shoulders of every action every person who came before us made. So you could, then, say there's an afterlife of sorts... but only our actions get to go there.I guess I've argued with too many zealots, lol; I read your first post and imagined some dull-witted guy using it as ammunition. ("See?! Even Atheists are instinctively inclined to believe in some sort of afterlife! Therefore, there must be one, therefore the Bible is true, 'cause it says there's an afterlife... blah blah blah.")Also, if it turns out that reincarnation is the way the universe works, I'd want to be either a dolphin, a snake, or (just to stick it to Thomas Nagel) a bat :D
I believe there is an afterlife for every afterlife, and a couple of prior lives to my afterlife. Hehehe.All kidding aside, I would say I can't comment. I haven't died, so I do not know what is beyond the grave. But like Hamlet, we can ponder what dreams may come once we've shuffled off this mortal coil, but I find it is sort of a useless question. Our mortality makes us cowards of death, and the pain we suffer makes us wish for a better life, even one of bliss, peace, perks, and longevity. But this is simply idealism, wishful thinking, not realistically in tune with the natural reality we live. The concept of an afterlife, although not conclusively decided upon, seems to be more wishful thinking than probable. It's sort of like the idea of reincarnation, to date we still haven't seen it happen. Which should cause any rational person to be skeptical of the claim that reincarnation occurs. I would suggest the same is true of an eternal afterlife, it is just not that likely.And if it should exist, that undiscovered country wouldn't change the fact that we have to try to make this life count, Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero. Working together to change for the better and attempt to make the world a better place to live for future generations is a goal which must remain regardless of any metaphysical existence.There's much to do in the now, to think of what might be beyond the beyond is, although an interesting philosophical question, ultimately is a waist of time, in my opinion.
When I was a Buddhist, I believed in reincarnation. I thought that it made sense, since where did we come from, if not through an eternal soul? But the main reason that the belief was so damn hard to let go of is this: I'm scared. I'm scared that once I die, I really lose everything. I'm scared that my life is finite. I'm scared that I'm simply a tiny carbon bag in the vastness of the Universe, which would simply cease to exist without notice.There. I've stated why I believed in reincarnation - FEAR OF DEATH.Now I don't think it's reasonable to believe in an afterlife anymore. There's no scientific evidence for it, there are simply to many versions of it that I can't choose from, and belief in it is easily explained psychologically. I won't come to definite conclusions, but I believe that no, there isn't any afterlife, at least until powerful evidence for it appears.
I'm an atheist who believes that an afterlife is possible, and eventually inevitable.All we are is electric signals. Our consciousness, memory, personality...everything. These electric signals could theoretically be copied to a computer, and therefore we would live on, creating new memories and experiences. We're closer to this technology than most people realize.Aside from that, you are most certainly not going to live on elsewhere. Being dead will be just like it was before we were born...nothing.
Mythmon was right...this discussion is a bit one sided. So, for kicks and giggles I'll throw in my two cents worth.The heart and soul of Christianity is that Jesus conquered death and appeared to his followers (the Bible says that at one point He appeared to over 500 people at once) in his resurrected body. So, yes, I do believe in an afterlife. Though nobody knows for sure what it will be like the Bible does hint in several places at certain attributes of the afterlife. One of the promises found in the book of Revelation is that of a new earth. II Peter also talks about a new earth that is filled with the righteousness of God. John of Patmos did not put much thought into what he wrote? How does one presume to know that?
Leah, I am interested in what your thoughts are. Do you think that you are nothing but a clump of matter or do you think that there is a part of you that transcends the physical portion of the universe? (I.e. that you have a soul or spirit)
Patrik, Do you believe the apostle Paul was giving an accurate historical account when he mentions Jesus appearing to the 500 brethren? Even though he was not a witness to the supposed event and it's not recounted in any of the four gospels? If you accept this (or any claim of revelation made by John or Peter) as historical truth, then you are presuming to know something you don't.
I bet Jesus is so bored. Do people think rationally about the 'afterlife'? It would scare the hell out of me. No body, in some strange place missing loved ones who must have gone to hell if they aren't up there. Religious people have told me that God 'puts us on drugs' so none of this distresses us. Well they didn't word it quite like that but in essence, they are saying that we are reprogrammed and in that case, we are no longer who we were. And they still want to go there.As Noddy Holder so succinctly put it, "I'm me, I'm now and that's all".
@ Tim: I know this is getting a bit off topic of the original topic of this post but the NT has stood up to much historical scrutiny. Are there any historical writings out there that meet the same high level of historicity as the NT that could discredit my presumption? On the other hand, you toss out that statement based on what?Though Paul was not an eyewitness, by his own admission (found earlier in the chapter mentioning the 500) he was relaying that which he had been taught. He doesn't specify who he learned it from but considering he spent quite a bit of time with the Apostles he could very well have gotten the info from an eyewitness. I don't see how it not being mentioned in one of the Gospels detracts from its credibility. Luke elaborates in the book of Acts on things he did not write about in his Gospel. The Gospel of John ends with the statement that Jesus did many things that were not recorded. Perhaps this is one of them.@ Leah - I'm still curious about your opinion on the afterlife or lack thereof.
Patrick, I toss out that statement based on the fact that the Bible divorces itself from history when it invokes the supernatural. Paul made the claim that 500 people saw a dead man returned to life. The 2nd century writer Suetonius mentions that Caesar Augustus, when he died, rose bodily to heaven. Do you doubt the historical fact of this? On what basis do you reject this claim but accept those of Paul and the gospel authors? This is the problem when the supernatural is shoehorned into history.Similarly, no presumption is needed when dismissing 1st century apocolyptic ravings. John is not merely speculating on what might happen in the future. He is claiming divine revelation on events that most assuredly will happen, including his description of the afterlife.
Would not Suetonius' claim of Augustus' bodily ascension be refuted by the fact that his body was cremated and buried in a mausoleum?
Perhaps his body reconstituted itself before ascending. decades later, early followers of Jesus, fearing a competing ressurection story, could very well have snuck in and placed the cremated remains of a deceased begger. These would be the remains that were scattered during the sack of Rome. I use "Perhaps" and "Could very well have" because these were the phrases you used when speculating on where Paul got his information on Jesus' miraculous appearance to the 500. See how easy it is to inject the supernatural into history?
Hmm I'm not sure if I believe in an afterlife. I like the idea of reincarnation if that counts.... however I think existence would get boring after a time and I would probably choose to be finished at some point.