Notions of an afterlife
My personal view on why there isn't one

Notions of an afterlife
tentex25
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Posted Nov 13, 2012 - 12:06 PM:
Subject: Notions of an afterlife
I used to be a fundamentalis Christian westerner, but lately I have been wrestling with myself on a few things. One is mainly that I no longer believe in much of a possibilty in any type of afterlife.

I know this is something that can never be proven or disproven. I just wanted to start another on of the millions of discussions on the subject. I just thought it would be interesting to have personal takes of individuals drawn to this forum.

My main reason for not believing in an afterlife is...

1. I, as I know I, didn't exist billions of years before my conscious birth. Why should I exist further after death? Makes no sense to me.
2. Earth floated around for billions of years before humans arose. Why do we think we're so special?

Life appears to me to be an accident with no intrinsic purpose so how in the hell can we talk intelligently about an afterlife?

A contradicting notion I have though is that I believe in an 'unmoved mover,' however really can't see any legitimacy to any type of afterlife even examining the idea from a scientific point of view.

I would love to hear your thoughts.
busycuttingcrap
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Posted Nov 13, 2012 - 1:23 PM:

tentex25 wrote:
I used to be a fundamentalis Christian westerner, but lately I have been wrestling with myself on a few things. One is mainly that I no longer believe in much of a possibilty in any type of afterlife.


Waking up and smelling the coffee is always a good thing.



My main reason for not believing in an afterlife is...

1. I, as I know I, didn't exist billions of years before my conscious birth. Why should I exist further after death? Makes no sense to me.
2. Earth floated around for billions of years before humans arose. Why do we think we're so special?

Life appears to me to be an accident with no intrinsic purpose so how in the hell can we talk intelligently about an afterlife?


And there are more reasons besides. For one thing, what would an afterlife even consist in, after your physical body is gone? The conventional notion of an afterlife is based on an anachronism- the Cartesian soul, the ghost in the machine, who operates your body as a pilot operates a plane. There simply is no grounds for believing in such a thing anymore- it runs afoul of most important results in the cognitive sciences over the last half century or so.

Here's another reason that's slightly different- not believing in an afterlife will make your life better. You will stop living for some other life or state of existence, and start living for this one, which is the only one you're assured of having. Live this life right, and you won't need an afterlife.


A contradicting notion I have though is that I believe in an 'unmoved mover,' however really can't see any legitimacy to any type of afterlife even examining the idea from a scientific point of view.


An unmoved mover needn't be God- in fact, Aristotle (from whom we get the phrase "unmoved mover") deduced the existence of something like 20 unmoved movers, and the arguments in Christian natural theology that co-opt this causal argument as an argument for the existence of the Christian god are guilty of so much arbitrariness; if you feel that the universe must've started at some point, you need not posit any occult or divine entities, and you need not suppose there is only one initial cause (uncaused causes being problematic anyways, you may as well go whole-hog; if you have one, why not have a bunch!)
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Posted Nov 13, 2012 - 2:59 PM:

Yeah, I'm surprised the Christian notion of afterlife in Heaven and Hell has survived so long.

For instance, the theologian, theorizing about the afterlife, would probably assume that the kind of love or pain we will feel in the afterlife is unknowable to us as we are now, just as the identity we will have is also beyond comprehension. But if 'I as I am now' will not be able to understand 'I as I am then', then our identity would seem to differ from now to then - whoever I am now I will not be then.

So, do we have some sort of 'memory' of our earlier, 'misspent' life while we are burning in hell? For if we do not, it would seem that our pour soul will think its eternity in hell the worst, most profound injustice possible.

And what is the point even if we do remember our earlier life? To punish us? But shouldn't the purpose of punishment be to bring about contrition and change toward something better, to deter us from doing the same act again? Eternally burning in hell with no escape is no punishment, it is mere revenge.
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Posted Nov 13, 2012 - 3:08 PM:

tentex25 wrote:
I used to be a fundamentalis Christian westerner, but lately I have been wrestling with myself on a few things. One is mainly that I no longer believe in much of a possibilty in any type of afterlife.


You are well on your way to freeing yourself from everything you've been taught and enjoying the fruits of knowledge. Beware though, the waters are dark here. Philosophy can, at times, make the squeamish extraordinarily uncomfortable.

That being said, if you'd like, I can suggest a library of books for you to read to help you on your way. Feel free to contact me.

The notion of the "unmoved mover" is an attractive one. Contemplating a First Cause, or how we find ourselves in a universe formed from "nothing" can cause one to fall back on a theological explanation. One of my favorite examples of poor logic comes from William Lane Craig's Kalam Cosmological Argument. Craig is a brilliant man but his conclusion that the "mover" has to be a personal one is weak at best.

You'll find, when exploring these ideas, that you will unearth more questions than answers.
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Posted Nov 13, 2012 - 3:31 PM:

Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death. - Albert Einstein, "Religion and Science," ...
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Posted Nov 13, 2012 - 9:29 PM:

"1. I, as I know I, didn't exist billions of years before my conscious birth. Why should I exist further after death? Makes no sense to me."

Well first off you don't know the first statement, as to whether you existed previously or not. And whether you did or not doesn't necessarily affect if you will after you die. You don't really provide a connection as to why the first statement infers the second. You asked why should you exist after death? You said you're a christian fundamentalist. The Bible makes it clear that the afterlife supersedes the reality we experience now by a large factor.

"2. Earth floated around for billions of years before humans arose. Why do we think we're so special?"
The second statement makes me disbelieve you were ever a Christian fundamentalist even more. Christianity doesn't propose that we humans gave our self a purpose but God did. Asking that question from a Christian perspective doesn't quite make sense, but from a secular perspective it does which makes me wonder why you'd ask the question in the first place? Especially on here when you're not going to get a theological answer. If you're curious as to how these questions are reconciled or if they can be with respect to what the Bible says then there are plenty of websites online.

"Life appears to me to be an accident with no intrinsic purpose so how in the hell can we talk intelligently about an afterlife?"
What aspect of life makes you think it is an accident?

"A contradicting notion I have though is that I believe in an 'unmoved mover,' however really can't see any legitimacy to any type of afterlife even examining the idea from a scientific point of view."
The idea of a being that is infinite doesn't fit in with science, it can't, because science functions on basic axioms(or at least some say) of logic that don't reconcile absolute infinities. That is part of the reason it is considered supernatural. Infinities could may way well exist but whether or not absolute infinities exist in our natural world? well that is a matter of debate, depending on whose side you are fending for. I know objects can approach infinite of become infinitely small but the idea of something absolute infinite in the aspect of modern science doesn't quite work and isn't necessary. It doesn't mean God doesn't exist at all but at the point where science thinks it is in terms of defined knowledge, it isn't.
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Posted Nov 14, 2012 - 12:07 AM:

I don't know whether there is life after death or not. Nobody else knows either. There is no great harm in believing in an afterlife. If it helps you get through life, fine. If it doesn't, then move on.

Life is special, and as part of life, we are special, and we have some features (like a need to exercise our intellects) that keep web sites like this going.

If subscribing to a religious creed helps you get through life, fine. Believe it. I am a latitudinarian atheist. I may not believe, but other people can believe as they will. And more power to them. Just don't keep getting in my face about it; otherwise, coexistence is entirely possible. (I don't want atheists getting in my face, either.)
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Posted Nov 14, 2012 - 12:30 AM:

BitterCrank wrote:
I don't know whether there is life after death or not.
While I understand what might possibly be the intended suggestion of this, I cannot seem to get over the fact that it is quite obviously, and soundly demonstrated enough, that when a cell breaks up after having died, it is never continues functioning as it had been as a cell.

Why can't we just be plain ole simple and honest with it? (this is not directed towards you, BC san, but just asking in general to the public) In cases where the amygdala is bilaterally damaged (a large enough number of dead cellss presented) the affected brain (the person) has quite flat emotional tagging. No more highs and lows, much less robust reward and inhibitory drives. If the cells in the clusters handling auditory signals all die, no more auditory content is found by the 'spotlight' of consciousness.

When we say 'life' as a general, uncountable noun, we are surely talking (or should be, at least) about that process. If we use the countable form, 'a life,' as in that living individual as that particular, distinguishable individual, then we are essently putting a really big weight on the processes of brain. That should go without saying, by now. When people ask questions about 'life after death' (and we seem to have gotten a sudden burst of them recently), why of course they are talking about whether the normal brain functions which they enjoy now, just keep on going as are... with all that inner speech, that phenomenial feeling, that logical planning, judging, and calculating that the left hemisphere does, and so forth and so on. As an indiviudal self, a instance of personhood, they are asking is death means a cessation. The answer is clear positive.

Some folks do walk or act during deep sleep (SWS). The brain does not exhibit the state of consciousness in such moments/events. When a person, or an animal, is in slow wave sleep, the brain centers which do what they do otherwise, do what they do otherwise. These have extremely little to do with consciousness and all that goes with it. A brain, otherwise still intact within the dura matter, within the skull of an animal, if totally dead--every last cell--can in no way whatsoever produce sleep walking even. By mere definition, therefore, such can in no way produce consciousness and all that goes with that. (not to mention long-term memory, neuromodulator deduced emotions, and so forth and so on)

Whatever notion of an afterlife has been created by human beings, the very root, source idea, and essence of the bare notion, was created in ignorance. That ignorance, now expoused as such and corrected for, need no longer be bought, or sold--in most cases. (I say this very last because there may be some instances of a great immediately pragmatic reason when a person may be left with so small a thing due its being all they can muster up.) 
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