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Author Topic: Life After Death?  (Read 25118 times)
Lykos
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« Topic Start: December 29, 2009, 11:03:40 am »

So, we come inevitably to the question of life after death. Is there something else out there waiting for us? Is it heaven? Hell? Reincarnation? An alternate universe? Or do we simply cease to exist? This is a question worthy of several weeks worth of discussion. Even then one would probably come to no solid compromise or agreement with others.

This has probably come up before, but I have a few questions that may or may not have been addressed.

First of all: Do you personally believe in a life after death? If yes, what do you see the afterlife being like? Where do we go?

Secondly: If there isn't anything else, what is the point of a moral system and/or why hold back from pleasure? Shouldn't we all be major Epicureans?

And: What is the point of religion?

Finally: Why do you believe/not believe in an afterlife of some sort? Furthermore, why do you think humans in general cling to this notion?
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« Reply #1: December 29, 2009, 11:51:44 am »

First of all: Do you personally believe in a life after death? If yes, what do you see the afterlife being like? Where do we go?

Yes and no. I believe in reincarnation, sort of- like a tree that dies in the forest, the molecules that made that tree will continue to exist, but they won't become that same tree. I think the soul is indestructible, but I don't think it will stay the same. I do think, though, that certain essence of ourselves lives on as long as we are remembered- a sort of memory ghost. I don't know where that ghost resides, nor do I care to speculate much. My interest is this life.

Secondly: If there isn't anything else, what is the point of a moral system and/or why hold back from pleasure? Shouldn't we all be major Epicureans?

I am not good because I will be rewarded for it in the next life, I am good because it is the right thing to do. I'm not really sure where the "holding back from pleasure" bit comes from- it strikes me as someone's bad Christian aftertaste. I do not refrain from indulging in pleasure when it is appropriate.

And: What is the point of religion?
To connect to the divine, however it is perceived? I don't really see what this has to do with the afterlife.

Finally: Why do you believe/not believe in an afterlife of some sort? Furthermore, why do you think humans in general cling to this notion?
My beliefs stem from my observances of the natural world- that nothing is truly destroyed, but goes on in some other way- and my personal experiences with my Beloved Dead. I have observed nothing, experienced nothing of the afterlife, therefore I have no real thoughts on it. It's something I'll learn about when I get there.

I think people continue to believe in an afterlife (the term 'cling' sounds really negative to me) because life is good- why would we want it to end with death? Also, it is reassuring to those who live to think that their loved ones are not completely gone when they die, that they continue on.
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« Reply #2: December 29, 2009, 11:57:04 am »



First of all: Do you personally believe in a life after death? If yes, what do you see the afterlife being like? Where do we go?

Secondly: If there isn't anything else, what is the point of a moral system and/or why hold back from pleasure? Shouldn't we all be major Epicureans?

And: What is the point of religion?

Finally: Why do you believe/not believe in an afterlife of some sort? Furthermore, why do you think humans in general cling to this notion?

I do believe in SOMETHING after death, and I believe the reason we need to live a good life is so that we can be rewarded after we're gone.  Now, the specifics I have an issue with.  I grew up Catholic and was taught that after death, going to heaven or hell was immediate, then our bodies joined our souls later.  I guess I sometime wonder what a person would do for eternity, you know?  What do you do??? I mean, there's just so much floating around and playing a harp and then you'd get bored, right?  Here, we have things to do everyday.  It might not be "heavenly" but it keeps us going and helps the time move along.  What do you do to move along eternity?  What is there to look forward to?  You're not getting older, you're not watching your kids grow, you don't have to work, so....what?

I think religion here is so important because humans DO tend to want to think that something happens after we leave this life and a belief in religion gives us the sense that there's something out there bigger than ourselves and that SOMETHING will happen when we die.  And, I think that's my answer to your last question as well.  We cling to this because most humans don't want to think that once we're gone, that's it...we're just gone.  Some people are fine with that idea, but most I know are not.
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« Reply #3: December 29, 2009, 12:42:35 pm »

I do believe in SOMETHING after death, and I believe the reason we need to live a good life is so that we can be rewarded after we're gone.  Now, the specifics I have an issue with.  I grew up Catholic and was taught that after death, going to heaven or hell was immediate, then our bodies joined our souls later.  I guess I sometime wonder what a person would do for eternity, you know?  What do you do??? I mean, there's just so much floating around and playing a harp and then you'd get bored, right?  Here, we have things to do everyday.  It might not be "heavenly" but it keeps us going and helps the time move along.  What do you do to move along eternity?  What is there to look forward to?  You're not getting older, you're not watching your kids grow, you don't have to work, so....what?
Hm, good point! I'd like to think that there is some dynamic to the afterlife. That is why I believe in reincarnation. Our souls are eternal and will continue to come back in different physical forms until we have learnt all that we need to rejoin the source of all things. I have stated before that my beliefs regarding the afterlife and metaphysics are a sort of mixture between the lifestream concept of Final Fantasy VII, my idea of a cosmic source is somewhat similar to the "force" from Star Wars, and my reincarnation beliefs are somewhat related to the "circle of life" of Lion King. We come back as other bodies due to the decay of our physical composition. Our souls, while our bodies decay, are sent to Erebus (Greek Hell) to be punished or lectured for lessons we failed to learn or mistakes we made.

I think religion here is so important because humans DO tend to want to think that something happens after we leave this life and a belief in religion gives us the sense that there's something out there bigger than ourselves and that SOMETHING will happen when we die.  And, I think that's my answer to your last question as well.  We cling to this because most humans don't want to think that once we're gone, that's it...we're just gone.  Some people are fine with that idea, but most I know are not.

So, unless I am misreading this, it is more or less based in wishful thinking? Or at least somewhat based on that? That is sort of what I think. We WANT there to be something more, we don't WANT to cease existing, so we posit some mystical belief to support that fervent desire. I feel that for most people that is less of a motivation than many others, but it is still an underlying factor when considering life after death.
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« Reply #4: December 29, 2009, 12:49:03 pm »

Yes and no. I believe in reincarnation, sort of- like a tree that dies in the forest, the molecules that made that tree will continue to exist, but they won't become that same tree. I think the soul is indestructible, but I don't think it will stay the same. I do think, though, that certain essence of ourselves lives on as long as we are remembered- a sort of memory ghost. I don't know where that ghost resides, nor do I care to speculate much. My interest is this life.
This is very similar to what I belief for the most part, very circle of life Lion King status, ha. I'm not sure I really understand the "memory ghost" part, though. Could you maybe elaborate? It sounds interesting.
I am not good because I will be rewarded for it in the next life, I am good because it is the right thing to do. I'm not really sure where the "holding back from pleasure" bit comes from- it strikes me as someone's bad Christian aftertaste. I do not refrain from indulging in pleasure when it is appropriate.
Haha, well, perhaps it is bad aftertaste from my years as a Christian. I never have leaned towards hedonism (not even as a pagan), but if there is no afterlife of punishment waiting, why shouldn't we indulge? That's my question
To connect to the divine, however it is perceived? I don't really see what this has to do with the afterlife.
My beliefs stem from my observances of the natural world- that nothing is truly destroyed, but goes on in some other way- and my personal experiences with my Beloved Dead. I have observed nothing, experienced nothing of the afterlife, therefore I have no real thoughts on it. It's something I'll learn about when I get there.
Well, most religions have something to say about an afterlife, so the ideas are linked. Of course, life after death is not the major contributor to religions, but it is a large part of it I would say. There are many religions whose greatest festivals and beliefs are based around death and the afterlife (ie. Ancient Egyption cults, the Aztecs and Maya, etc etc etc).
Hm, so you're following the "don't ask, don't tell" tact sort of? Just indifference because it doesn't concern you now? I can respect that. I try to keep my mind on the now and in this life. Sometimes it is nice to reflect on what exactly I thnk comes after death though, it can be illuminating.
I think people continue to believe in an afterlife (the term 'cling' sounds really negative to me) because life is good- why would we want it to end with death? Also, it is reassuring to those who live to think that their loved ones are not completely gone when they die, that they continue on.
So, again, sort of wishful thinking in part?
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« Reply #5: December 29, 2009, 01:01:59 pm »

I'm not sure I really understand the "memory ghost" part, though. Could you maybe elaborate? It sounds interesting.

A ghost made of memories, sort of? I'm not sure I can adequately articulate the idea, it's just something I know on a visceral level.

Haha, well, perhaps it is bad aftertaste from my years as a Christian. I never have leaned towards hedonism (not even as a pagan), but if there is no afterlife of punishment waiting, why shouldn't we indulge? That's my question

There's a difference between indulging and giving oneself over to a life of nothing but personal pleasure. As I said before- I do indulge, when it's appropriate, but my own pleasure is not the only important thing in this life.

Well, most religions have something to say about an afterlife, so the ideas are linked. Of course, life after death is not the major contributor to religions, but it is a large part of it I would say. There are many religions whose greatest festivals and beliefs are based around death and the afterlife (ie. Ancient Egyption cults, the Aztecs and Maya, etc etc etc).

I'd say that death being part of religion is only because it is a part of life, not because it is more important, which is the impression I was getting from you (which I certainly may have misread). I read your question as "If there's no afterlife, then what is the point of religion?" And I'd say there's quite a lot more to religion than that.

Hm, so you're following the "don't ask, don't tell" tact sort of? Just indifference because it doesn't concern you now? I can respect that. I try to keep my mind on the now and in this life. Sometimes it is nice to reflect on what exactly I thnk comes after death though, it can be illuminating.

I think it's less indifference than knowing that I cannot know it- without direct experience, or information from beyond, it's all speculation. And while I do speculate from time to time, if it has no direct bearing on my life as it is now, then I don't worry about it. I feel the same way about creation myths- how the world and humanity got here really doesn't affect my life all that much, so why worry about it either way?

So, again, sort of wishful thinking in part?

I'd say more of a case of "hope for the best".
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« Reply #6: December 29, 2009, 01:26:39 pm »

This has probably come up before, but I have a few questions that may or may not have been addressed.
I'll take a stab at this- not promising anything, though.
Quote
First of all: Do you personally believe in a life after death? If yes, what do you see the afterlife being like? Where do we go?
Yes, I believe that there is something of a life after death. I'm not positive as to what I think it is, per say. I've tossed around the idea of reincarnation, that we all go to one big "afterlife location", that we go where our religions dictate we go... etc. Truth is, no one really knows. I tend to lean towards going where your religion dictates, or that we move to another plane of existence. But who knows- certainly not I.
Quote
Secondly: If there isn't anything else, what is the point of a moral system and/or why hold back from pleasure? Shouldn't we all be major Epicureans?
Some morals I think are engrained within us, but really, most people live by a Christian moral code, which I myself don't overly care for. I don't hold back from pleasure, so long as it sits well with me. I think life should be enjoyed, as it's the only life we're guaranteed. As a general rule, I don't worry about the afterlife- it'll get here when it gets here, if it gets here.
Quote
And: What is the point of religion?
I think this depends on the person. For me, I was called to it, and felt as though something was missing if I wasn't practicing it. I never felt this strongly until I came to Kemeticism. What's the point of it? Who knows. To me, it's to work with the gods/beings/entities that have crossed my path, and to hopefully enrich my life with the experiences that come out of working with said gods/beings/entities. I can't really offer much more of an explanation than that.
Quote
Finally: Why do you believe/not believe in an afterlife of some sort? Furthermore, why do you think humans in general cling to this notion?
I don't know why I believe in an afterlife. Couldn't tell you, I just do. I've questioned whether I was correct in believing what I do, and I realize I could be wrong. Why people in general believe in an afterlife, I believe, is a fear of the unknown, death and a fear of no longer existing.
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« Reply #7: December 29, 2009, 02:06:29 pm »

First of all: Do you personally believe in a life after death? If yes, what do you see the afterlife being like? Where do we go?

I am not sure on this one. I do not think we "go" anywhere really. We just mull around the universe at light speed really.

Conversely once the body dies then it is over..which seems to be the more plausible course of action.

Secondly: If there isn't anything else, what is the point of a moral system and/or why hold back from pleasure? Shouldn't we all be major Epicureans?

Well..for the time being we DO live in a society and as such most societies have laws so it can remain functioning to some degree

And: What is the point of religion?

In my view there is no point. It serves no greater purpose. It may be a useful tool for individuals, like a spiritual kindergarten so to speak. But as one grows, matures and learnd we should ideally graduate from certain ideologies and learn on our own rather than just swallowing what others feed us.

There may come a time when one realizes that the sweet stories they have been told were just that and it is time to search on your own.

Finally: Why do you believe/not believe in an afterlife of some sort? Furthermore, why do you think humans in general cling to this notion?

I think people want to believe in a special place because it is comforting. I mean, you are told as a child that when you die you go to this wonderful happy land with happy animals, warm sunshine, meet all your old friends and so forth and be happier than you ever have been. It is quite appealing, no?

Few really want to sit and contemplate the alternative that there may very well be nothing out there for us. That you either just become a cloud of mindless mist, join some huge yet equally mindless cloud of mist, become a spark or that you just die and it will be as if you never were there to begin with.

No soul, no spirit, no happy place. Nothing. The power has been cut, the hard drive is kaputski. There is no seeming comfort in that and for many that thought is too terrible so it is easier and more comfy to make up stories. No one really knows and those who claim to "know" are either mistaken or just con artists.
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« Reply #8: December 29, 2009, 02:22:52 pm »

First of all: Do you personally believe in a life after death?

No.  Once you die, that's it.

Quote
Secondly: If there isn't anything else, what is the point of a moral system and/or why hold back from pleasure? Shouldn't we all be major Epicureans?

There's a lot of sides to this question, I think.  You're sort of asking 'if there's no punishment, why behave?', but this also reads to me like an implication that without life after death, there's no meaning to the world.

From my perspective:

a) I am a hedonist.  I do things that I want to, because I enjoy them, or expect some happiness down the line as a consequence.  Somehow I've managed to avoid going on a screaming blood frenzied murder spree.  This is because:
b) I don't actually want to do those things anyway.  I don't get my kicks (for the most part) from making life more unpleasant for others.
c) I still must operate within a society that includes others.  Therefore my pleasure seeking needs to take them into account also.

So...indeed.  Why hold back from pleasure?  Just don't be a dick.

Quote
And: What is the point of religion?

1) You got me there.
2) Given how some religious people put forward the idea that they couldn't possibly be moral without religion, I'm glad the means is there to keep those people in line.  Unfortunately, religion also provides another set of tools for crushing people.  On balance, I don't know if it's a net gain or loss, but then that's what I'd say about the human race.

Quote
Finally: Why do you believe/not believe in an afterlife of some sort? Furthermore, why do you think humans in general cling to this notion?

I prefer to follow the evidence.  Given the absence of evidence for an afterlife, or indeed a sound body of theory proposing to explain how such a thing exists, I feel quite justified in thinking that it's a load of rubbish.  I will be happy to revise my opinion when someone turns up some evidence.

Other people are free to believe what they want.  I wouldn't want to tar everyone with the same brush, but I suspect that ideas of an afterlife make the inevitable end of life a little easier to take - as well as the losses of loved ones.
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« Reply #9: December 29, 2009, 03:30:45 pm »

a) I am a hedonist.  I do things that I want to, because I enjoy them, or expect some happiness down the line as a consequence.  Somehow I've managed to avoid going on a screaming blood frenzied murder spree.  This is because:
b) I don't actually want to do those things anyway.  I don't get my kicks (for the most part) from making life more unpleasant for others.
c) I still must operate within a society that includes others.  Therefore my pleasure seeking needs to take them into account also.

So...indeed.  Why hold back from pleasure?  Just don't be a dick.
I really like how you explained this.
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« Reply #10: December 29, 2009, 03:59:43 pm »

First of all: Do you personally believe in a life after death? If yes, what do you see the afterlife being like? Where do we go?

I not only have no strong beliefs on this matter, I think conceiving of strong beliefs on it is dangerous.  I grew up seeing the effects of a culture where a major religious strand holds that life is just a prelude and everything important is "in heaven", and it very literally terrifies me.  If this life is treated so trivially, then there is no reason to care particularly for maintaining the world.

I have asked people who want to know why fear of hell does not motivate me why I should betray my vows, give up a system of behaviour that helps me to be sane, healthy, and a positive force in the world, become less present for my family, and otherwise become a lesser person in life on the off-chance that it will get me a cookie from their god after I'm dead.  Why, I ask them, should I be so selfish as to become smaller and less able to keep the world right in life?  None of them have ever answered me.

Quote
Secondly: If there isn't anything else, what is the point of a moral system and/or why hold back from pleasure? Shouldn't we all be major Epicureans?

The point of a moral system is to distinguish between things considered good and things considered evil.  Why drag after-death into it in the first place?  If it matters to make those distinguishing choices, it matters whether or not you're alive or dead.

And I don't know, why would you hold back from pleasure?  Does it gain you anything?  Is there some point to it?  Is "holding back from pleasure" being cast as a moral good for some reason?  Why?

Quote
And: What is the point of religion?

Systematisation of a relationship to the experience of the divine.  Baffling question in this context.

Quote
Finally: Why do you believe/not believe in an afterlife of some sort? Furthermore, why do you think humans in general cling to this notion?

I don't really do "belief"; the afterlife is not a special case.

I suspect that a lot of people cling to it because of the hope of some sort of playing out of justice - an answer to "Why do bad things happen to good people" and "Why do those guys get away with it all"; a lot of others out of fear of personal cessation.
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« Reply #11: December 29, 2009, 06:20:00 pm »

In my view there is no point. It serves no greater purpose. It may be a useful tool for individuals, like a spiritual kindergarten so to speak. But as one grows, matures and learnd we should ideally graduate from certain ideologies and learn on our own rather than just swallowing what others feed us.

There may come a time when one realizes that the sweet stories they have been told were just that and it is time to search on your own.

I think people want to believe in a special place because it is comforting. I mean, you are told as a child that when you die you go to this wonderful happy land with happy animals, warm sunshine, meet all your old friends and so forth and be happier than you ever have been. It is quite appealing, no?

Few really want to sit and contemplate the alternative that there may very well be nothing out there for us. That you either just become a cloud of mindless mist, join some huge yet equally mindless cloud of mist, become a spark or that you just die and it will be as if you never were there to begin with.

No soul, no spirit, no happy place. Nothing. The power has been cut, the hard drive is kaputski. There is no seeming comfort in that and for many that thought is too terrible so it is easier and more comfy to make up stories. No one really knows and those who claim to "know" are either mistaken or just con artists.
There is no point to anything then huh? Hm, rather bleak and depressing if you ask me. Admittedly not as depressing as an eternity in a burning pit of sulfur, but you get my point.

To be honest, I never understood how atheists keep from being suicidal (No offense meant, I am totally serious). No point to even existing seems a pretty good reason to cease existing, but maybe thats just me.

As far as following rules because society created them: well, ok, but why even create the rules in the first place? Why not just remain nomadic groups of primitive bipeds?
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« Reply #12: December 29, 2009, 06:32:43 pm »

A ghost made of memories, sort of? I'm not sure I can adequately articulate the idea, it's just something I know on a visceral level.
Hm, interesting. Sort of like an imprint the soul leaves behind then? A shade?

I'd say that death being part of religion is only because it is a part of life, not because it is more important, which is the impression I was getting from you (which I certainly may have misread). I read your question as "If there's no afterlife, then what is the point of religion?" And I'd say there's quite a lot more to religion than that.
Yea, I definitely see how you would read it that way. I should have said, what is the point of religious beliefs and practices pertaining to an afterlife?
 
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« Reply #13: December 29, 2009, 07:05:20 pm »

To be honest, I never understood how atheists keep from being suicidal (No offense meant, I am totally serious). No point to even existing seems a pretty good reason to cease existing, but maybe thats just me.

Meaning is a constructed thing; it requires the analytic presence of a mind.  That is, in fact, where it comes from.  People get to make their own meanings.  Whatever point there is to one's existence is what one makes, not something that turns up gift-wrapped.

Being only able to construct meaning with the assistance of a religion strikes me as a pretty severe disability.  Though I suppose, now that you bring it up as a possibility, it explains some of the horrible things people do in the name of their religions, alas.
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« Reply #14: December 29, 2009, 07:59:02 pm »

Hm, interesting. Sort of like an imprint the soul leaves behind then?

Something like that.

Yea, I definitely see how you would read it that way. I should have said, what is the point of religious beliefs and practices pertaining to an afterlife?

To ask that, you might as well ask "what is the point of beliefs and practice pertaining to anything outside of the physical, known realm of human existence?" What is the point in believing in gods we cannot see or touch? What is the point of honoring heroes who have long since fallen? What is the point of leaving an offering for a spirit?

Religion- beliefs and practices- connect one to the divine, and all it encompasses. If the afterlife is touched by the divine, then why would it not be incorporated into one's beliefs and practices?
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