Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Comforting Evidence

Why do people hold conclusions in spite of contrary evidence? Specifically, why do so many people believe in the afterlife even though many of them have seen evidence that consciousness is not sustained after physical death? [Edit: anonymous person] answered this question:

There is no continuation of consciousness or of licafe in it's original form. For a religious and/or spiritual person, the afterlife might represent "comfort" in that he/she believes there is no "end". This person uses learned religious and spiritual beliefs as coping mechanisms for painful emotions such as those felt from loss. Science and empirical research are not enough for these individuals to break their unconscious coping habits and to learn that acceptance of an end is a more realistic and healthier method of coping. The emotions are powerful and it's difficult to motivate people to question and reexamine their deeply embedded belief system when there are such powerful influences involved.


[Edit: anonymous person] says it perfectly. Most people have a "need" to believe, for it is comforting to think that you will somehow escape the death of your physical body through some magical continuation of your consciousness. Again, I want to quote Daniel Kolak and Raymond Martin: "You want you - not the atoms of your body, but you - to survive the decomposition of your body."

What I am trying to say, is that people will tend to believe what they want to believe. Religion is often referred to as a "crutch" and I believe the same thing applies to the afterlife. It is a crutch for the weak minded. It is a comfort for those without the stomach to face the evidenced truth. Some people (indeed, more every generation) have the guts to face reality, but most do not. Discarding the afterlife belief makes this life much more important; it raises the stakes; it puts more responsibility on a person to make this life the best life possible, when most people would rather not have such responsibility.

The mind's need for comfort is a powerful, overriding desire. An objective, logical scientist will start out with evidence (consciousness depends on the physical brain for existence), and then arrive at a conclusion (life after death is not possible). But the emotional afterlife has it backwards: they will start with a conclusion (I want/need to continue to exist after I die), and then select "evidence" that supports this want/need (near death experience-testimony, ancient scriptures).

Currently, mere evidence of the material dependency of consciousness does not suffice to convince people of the non-existence of the afterlife. Emotional and morality-based arguments are needed. I must admit, that I have neglected to develop too many emotional and morality-based arguments against the afterlife, although a few have been brewing in my head. In a way, it seems easier to battle the afterlife concept with logic and science, than with emotion and morality. But I believe that it still can be done; after all, the mission statement of my blog says "Belief in the afterlife is inhumane and immoral."

Belief in the afterlife is most definitely inhumane and immoral. It forces this existence to play second fiddle. It forces one to shortchange this existence for the next. But I am getting ahead of myself. In this post, I exposed man's need for comfort thanks in big part to [edit: anonymous person]. In future posts, I will be further exploring the inhumane and immoral mentality that comes hand-in-hand with the afterlife concept.

54 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why do you have a blog? Because you have a psychological need to be seen and heard? Does a psychological analysis really explain things away like you seem to want it to do?
In my experience, your statement, "Discarding the afterlife belief makes this life much more important; it raises the stakes; it puts more responsibility on a person to make this life the best life possible" has proven absolutely ridiculous. It is relaxing to think that there is no God or afterlife. I wouldn't have to worry about any reward or punishment. I wouild just fade away into nothingness. I could do whatever i wanted and not have to worry about"being good" or "achiecing anything". It wouldn't matter even if I did. Things like love, meaning, responsibility, and morality would all be just be epiphenomenal constructs of the human brain. To the contrary, believe in God and and afterlife makes me want to live the best, most fruitful life I can. It is very stressful often times when I don't live up to those standards. It brings more to this life, not less. I suppose your point is valid for people who think "flesh" or "the things of this world" are evil, but they are misinterpreting their own religion if they follow Christ. I will grant that many believers can be ignorant about the concepts of the very soul they believe in, but so can nonbelievers. Physical science is is only one level of analysis. Logic, mathematics, metaphysics, etc are all deeper modes of reasoning. The soul is a metaphysical entity that can be easily misunderstood by even the best of philosophers(Descartes, plato, etc). It is beyond the realm of physical science to even study such a subject. You think( as I once did) that physical science is the only way to no anything. If it can't be studied in a lab, it doesn't make sense to you. You are also a cafeteria atheist. Get rid of God, but keep all that toehr stuff about meaning, goodness, and responsibility, etc. Atheism is meaningless blackhole. Anything you choose to about purpose, importance, etc doesn't belong. Maybe you will have some witty, clever retort on your blog. It doesn't matter. All I am is a fellow traveler trying to lead you away from insanity and doom. Ignore me if you choose. But get off this idea that theists are so ignorant. You could learn a think or two from us.

Anonymous said...

think =thing, any other grammar errors i apologize for as well

Aaron Kinney said...

You set up a wonderful strawman, and you also misrepresent your religion.

If what you said was true about atheists, then they would be the scum of the earth. But it isnt so. Atheists are a disproportionately exceptional segment of society. People with PhDs and people who change the world for the better are more likely to be atheists than the general population.

People in prisons and mental institutions, on the other hand, are disproportionately theistic. They have more god belief than the average Joe.

When you believe in Jesus and heaven, you follow the Christian rules to secure yourself a place at his side. You put your fellow man and your current life in second place. Do you deny this? Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love him first and foremost.

Atheists and humanists (of which I am one), on the other hand, put their fellow man and this life above all else. They have to deity to worship and slobber over.

An atheist will work harder and strive for more happiness in this life because this life is the only one they have. This is the ultimate destination, not some afterlife. It makes this life more important when its the only one you have.

For example: If you play a video game where you have three lives, you will not mind so much about the loss of one or two because you have the extra one. But if you only have one life, you will be more careful about how you play the game because you only have one life to spare. It may seem like a trite and oversimplified nalogy, but it is accurate.

Your belief in God is a removal of your responsibility from yourself. A lack of belief in God, on the contrary, puts all responsibility on oneself.

Your religion says that faith is the most important thing: that a Christian Hitler goes to heaven while a non-Christian Ghandi goes to hell. That is immoral and inhumane. It is evidence of the "second place" status that theism puts on ones fellow man.

I tell you this: works are more important than faith, and a good man is defined by his works. This is why even Christians would agree that Ghandi was more deserving of heaven than Hitler, even though the Bible tells us the opposite. Even a Christian cannot always escape the instinctual humanistic values inherent in all of us.

Anonymous, your assertions are, for the most part, strawmen. I challenge you to give me an example that backs up your assertions about atheists. In the meantime, why dont you chew on this link? Intelligence and Religion

The more exceptional members of society tend to have less religious belief than the general population. And the less desireable members of society have more religious belief than the general population. That is a fact. And it contradicts your assertions quite sharply.

I used to be a theist, and a rather passionate one at that. But I grew, I learned, I changed, and I am much happier and progressive now that I lost my religion.

As to why I have this blog, you are correct in a sense. I do want people to notice. I am evangelizing for atheism. The state of the world, and the infection of religion on humanity has grabbed my attention. I love my fellow man too much to let it continue to be hurt by such inhumane and immoral ideologies. So I decided to hasten in secularism and godlessness as much as I can. I want to help deconvert people. I want to help provide new ideas. I want to help people take resonsibility for themselves and put their fellow man and this life first, rather than put Jesus and an imaginary afterlife first.

Again, I challenge you to support your assertions. Give examples that back up what you claim. And explain to me why secular, godless Europe has less crime and less divorce and more happiness and more health than the richer, godlier USA? And I also dare you to look at that link I provided. So many theists refuse to look at my links. I hope you arent one of them.

BTW, it would help your cause if you would organize your posts in paragraphs, like I did. It will make your statements more readable. Thanx.

Kafkaesquí said...

I'd personally like to know how being aware there is no sentient creator, and more particularly no continuation of life after this one ends, is a "relaxing" state of mind. For a person without conscience maybe it could be, but for most I suspect there's an ever present background awareness (though sometimes it leaps straight to the front) that eventually you'll no longer be around to enjoy all that pointless "love, meaning, responsibility, and morality" stuff. Yes, a truly relaxing thought, that.

As I consider myself trying to live as good and as fruitful existence as I can while still taking in oxygen, sitting as I am on the event horizon of atheism I guess I'm doing something seriously wrong. Perhaps it's the excess gravity.

boywonder said...

Boy, does anonymous have it wrong. Your topic concerning this blog is very relevant. I do wonder what you will focus on, though. I mean, you can go the neurobiological way, the philosophical way(an eventual dead-end methinks)or the way of the virual infection- that is, trying to kill religion from the inside out. I personally am for knocking out each crumbling pillar that represents a large piece of important dogpoo, I mean dogma. Eventually, if enough rebuttles from religious nutters are disproven, organized religion will fall. It's just going to take a long time.

boywonder said...

By the way, I know you (AK) don't know me. You might have seen my display name on TRA though. I just wanted to let you know I am very interested in the premise of this blog. I don't have a blog myself. You can e-mail if you want to talk. I am working on writing an overview of the evolutionary aspects of religion. Ofcourse, the topic of religion can be very broad and encomposing, so it is easy to get sidetracked. I just think you are onto a similar idea( albeit not a new idea) that is to disprove important aspects of religion in an effort to be rid of the entire thing for the good of mankind. Maybe that's a little overboard, but let me know if I'm wrong. I'd like to compare notes and ideas.

Aaron Kinney said...

Boywonder,

I would love to email you but I cannot see your email address. Can you see mine and email me possibly?

Comparing notes would be great. Personally, I am interested in pretty much all aspects of atheism and anti-theism. I do alot more than make this blog. The afterlife concept became kind of interesting to me recently, and I think its a very important "pillar" as you say but it is sometimes a bit overlooked.

So help me get in contact with you via email because I cant get your address from this comments box when I click on your name.

Aaron Kinney said...

Kafkaesquí,

Its relaxing because what you see is what you get. Everything is straight up. You are in the ultimate existence already and your happiness is up to you and only you in the here and now. No cosmic big brother breathing down your neck, no past lives to be blamed for or judged by, no afterlife to inhibit your actions in this life. No other lives to cheapen this life. No ability to give up any responsibility or receive any undue responsibility via before-or-after-lives.

Kafkaesquí, you didnt have a problem not existing before you were conceived, so why is it so hard to accept the fact that you wont exist after you die? Why are you so uncomfortable with the thing you already know: that your existence depends on your living body?

Why cant you accept your mortality as something valuable? Mortality makes life valuable, because the time is finite and therefore has ultimate value. With neverending life, you will eventually get bored and sick of life. Life will have no value because time will have no value, since you will have unlimited quantities of it.

If time is not the most valuable thing in life, then what is? Life itself? No. Life has no value if it comes in unlimited quantities. Like time and money, if you get life in unlimited quantities, it is worth no trade. It becomes a nuisance that you must dispose of but you cant.

Aaron Kinney said...

Let me put it this way: Lets use money as a metaphor for life.

Bill Gates will always value money, even if he has $99999 billion dollars. Even 99999 billion dollars is a finite number. You can still add to that total and make it bigger. The finiteness of a thing makes it valuable.

But what if Bill Gates had an infinite amount of money? He couldnt possibly add to the total amount of money he already had; his bank account was infinity. If Bill Gates was born with infinite amounts of money, would he ever work for money? Would he ever try to obtain any? Could he ever spend all his money? The answer to all these questions is no.

When you have unlimited or infinity anything, it becomes worthless. Infinity is literally the most absurd extreme version of inflation. Its an uber-inflation of a commodity, even time or life.

EricJP said...

Here is where the theist argument falls on its face.

I am an atheist, and I am scared of death. I know that there will come a point in time where death will come knocking. I know that on that day it will be over. No more second chances, no do-over.

What that has done for me is made me keenly aware that every second matters. I make time for my wife and my children. I do the things that I love. I EXPERIENCE my life, not just wait for the next life. I make the most of the time I have, and that has made this life worth living for me.

And I also have realized the true value of human life; how short it is, and how frail it is. It saddens me when people die unnecessarily, or suffer needlessly. I don't understand how some people who claim to be religious can place such a low value on human life.

Religious people can always say 'he/she is in a better place,' or 'he/she will get what they deserve in the end.' It allows all forms of human suffering and death to be trivialized in the name of what is to come.

When you are going to a better place when you die, there is no reason to take care of your planet. The idea of an afterlife eliminates personal responsibility for this world, and look at what we have done to it so far. It is a tragedy.

I would prefer that people believe in reincarnation; at least then they will have to reap what they sow.

Kafkaesquí said...

Aaron,

My comments were directed at Anonymous and the obvious ploy to equate atheism with immorality and bloody-minded egotism, because without the threat of eternal damnation (or perhaps karmic payback, though Anon is apparently not arguing from a belief system born of the East), why would one ever need to act with love, compassion and a concern for others, right?

Beh. But responding to your points:

"[Y]ou didn't have a problem not existing before you were conceived, so why is it so hard to accept the fact that you wont exist after you die?"

That's very zen. A student could give a rote answer to that question (for which he'd be whacked). Yet he helps others in need, and keeps in touch with family, and feels for those in distress, and behaves towards and worries over thousands of everyday experiences in much the same way any Christian or Muslim or Jew -- or Atheist -- do. Why is that, when life is an ephemeral event, and all things in it have no external, universal purpose or meaning? To your question, the master might comment that desire for this life is an attachment, and such things should be let go of. Just do this: when hungry, eat; when tired, sleep--a simple yet awesomely difficult precept to embrace. And incongruous in its own way, since one without attachments would have no need of food or slumber, or any of the things that keep us attached to this life. They are attachments of the gut, but attachments nonetheless.

"Why cant you accept your mortality as something valuable?"

As should have been understood, I do value it.

I will be absorbed into the nothingness I was excreted from, but that knowledge is not something one can just accept and move on from; this life is the only one you get, and it doesn't last forever. This makes it inestimable and something to concern yourself over each and every waking moment. That lensing effect caused by the singularity of non-belief makes it impossible to see it any other way.

Eric,

Your fear is noted. And normal, even for those who should rightfully claim to have no reason to, such as Anonymous.

Aaron Kinney said...

Kafkaesquí,

Thanx for the clarification. I was under the impression for a moment that you might believe in reincarnation, or at least hold immortality as a more valuable state than mortality. But now I see that is not so.

I like your insights. It seems that you also know alot about eastern philosophy and belief systems. I know virtually nothing about the specifics of eastern belief systems, myself being raised in America and immersed in western thought/belief.

Pope PiAss said...

Great Blog

"Millions long for immortality who don't know what to do on a rainy afternoon."
Ertz, Susan


Suns may rise and set; we, when our short day has closed, must sleep on during one perpetual night. Catullus, Marcus



The average man does not know what to do with this life, yet wants another one which will last forever. France Anatole


Up, sluggard, and waste not life, in the ground will be sleeping enough. Benjamin Franklin


If your contribution has been vital there will always be somebody to pick up where you left off, and that will be your claim to immortality. Walter Gropius


What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us, what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal. Albert Pike


Immortality is the genius to move others long after you yourself have stopped moving. Frank Rooney



I recently picked a new primary care physician. After two visits and exhaustive lab tests, he said I was doing "fairly well" for my age. A little concerned about that comment, I couldn't resist asking him, "Do you think I'll live to be 80?"

He asked, "Well, do you smoke tobacco or drink beer/wine?"

"Oh no," I replied. "I've never done either."

Then he asked, "Do you eat rib-eye steaks and barbecued ribs?"

I said "No, I've heard that all red meat is very unhealthy!"

"Do you spend a lot of time in the sun, like playing golf, sailing, ballooning, or rock climbing ?"

"No, I don't," I said.

He said, "Do you gamble, drive fast cars, or sexually fool around?"

"No," I said. "I've never done any of those things."

He looked at me and said, "Then why do you give a shit if you live to be 80?"

Aaron Kinney said...

Pope Piass,

Thank you for the compliments. But mostly, thank you for the wonderful quotes. Especially the last one about the doctor.

The last quote of yours puts in laymens terms what all the other quotes were saying from an intellectual/philosophical perspective. Very nice!

Peter said...

Hello Aaron,
Thanks for "Kill The Afterlife". If the faithful won't be engaged in a logical debate about the existence of God (god?) then we can at least grind off the point on this "hook" they use to get and keep adherents.
My personnal experience is that I wasn't born with self awareness-it developed gradually, and it can be extinguished quite easily with general anesthesia, both suggesting that consciousness is a biological function.

ToddinHB said...

This is a fascinating discussion, and one that I adore. I "became" an atheist ten years ago, shirking my Roman Catholic upbringing in favor of a logical look at life, death and the fictional "afterlife." I think I'll visit here frequently.

I often tell my evangelical friends (few as they may be - thank god!) that Andrea Yates had it right. If you truly believe that there is a place called heaven which is paradise, then why wouldn't you want to get your children there as soon as possible? Hell, if I knew Pam Anderson was waiting in my bed for me, I'd get the fastest car possible and drive there right now!

Stryke said...

Loved the article. I always remind believers that I was already dead once so I know what it's like when I croak -- black nothing. I just wish all believers had 5 minutes after they passed away to realize they were wrong all along, but unfortunately that'll never happen.

As Philip Wylie once wrote, man created God.

Amen.

Aaron Kinney said...

that, my friend, is the irony of mortality. The only way to know for sure is to expire. And when you expire, you are in a state of non-existence and youll never really know whether or not you expired or got to heaven.

Life is the great indulgence, and death os the great abstinence.

Nice comment stryke :)

Peter said...

I really am amazed that there are still people who believe that 'there is no evidence' for the continued existence of, for want of a better term, the soul. What evidence there is on the subject actually points to the opposite - that there is in fact an afterlife. To claim that science has proven immortality to be nothing more than a misguided hope, merely highlights the ignorance of the one making the claim.
Let's face it - no amount of evidence will ever convince the closed-minded sceptic or athiest of the absurdity of the materialist/reductionist stance in regard to this issue, and the claim by some that they have 'proven' the non-existence of consciousness after death is truly the height of arrogance and conceit.
To believe that there is no afterlife - now THAT is wishful thinking!

Aaron Kinney said...

Peter,

Do you care to support your assertions, as I did mine? Or will you just float around some empty claims? This comment space can take alot of typing, so dont be aftraid to refute my arguments in detail and list the specific pieces of evidence that you claim point to the existence of an afterlife.

I get the feeling that you wont be back to support anything you said. Maybe I should just believe you because you said so.

Peter said...

'I get the feeling that you wont be back to support anything you said' - wrong, I have returned. I never suggested that anyone should believe me simply because 'I said so', however, like I said before, there is evidence that is suggestive of a continued existence after death, which I should emphasise does not prove beyond doubt, which is the claim you make, ie. that science has proven there to be no afterlife.
For example, a number of researchers (Sabom, Ring, Moody et cetera) have actually taken the time to investigate, among other things, out-of-body experiences where a patient had information about events that were taking place that they could not possibly have attained at the time those events took place. Now you will probably try to counter this with,'they were delusional' or 'imagining things' or simply mistaken, or the researchers were devious and/or dishonest or sloppy (the list of excuses that athiests use to hide their bias is literally endless), but if you take the time to dig deeply (as I have) you will realise that you were mistaken regarding your claim that there cannot possibly be an afterlife of any description whatsoever.
The example I used above is just one among many others that I could use, but like I said before, I do not believe that any amount of evidence could possibly ever convince the closed-minded sceptic, because they only see what they want to see. If it doesn't fit into their pre-existing world-view then it is either criticized or simply ignored, and while reading some of the claims you make I get the very strong impression that you only ever examine evidence that supports your pre-existing dogma. Am I correct?

Aaron Kinney said...

Peter said:

"- wrong, I have returned."

Okay you returned. Good. But did you bring anything with you to support your assertions?

"I never suggested that anyone should believe me simply because 'I said so', however, like I said before, there is evidence that is suggestive of a continued existence after death, which I should emphasise does not prove beyond doubt, which is the claim you make, ie. that science has proven there to be no afterlife."

And what is this evidence? Will you share it with us?

"For example, a number of researchers (Sabom, Ring, Moody et cetera) have actually taken the time to investigate, among other things, out-of-body experiences where a patient had information about events that were taking place that they could not possibly have attained at the time those events took place."

Like a shoe on the top of a hospital roof?

"Now you will probably try to counter this with,'they were delusional' or 'imagining things' or simply mistaken, or the researchers were devious and/or dishonest or sloppy (the list of excuses that athiests use to hide their bias is literally endless), but if you take the time to dig deeply (as I have) you will realise that you were mistaken regarding your claim that there cannot possibly be an afterlife of any description whatsoever."

No, I will counter it with this: Can you provide an explanation or process for how this happens, and can you provide a quantifiable account of the actual spirit leaving the body?

See, since I have demonstrated that consciousness is a quantifiable and mesaruable material electrical/chemical process in the organ known as the brain, then there is no reason that these electrical/chemical cannot also be quantified and measured when they occur outside the brain. Right? So where are those measurements and observations?

"The example I used above is just one among many others that I could use, but like I said before, I do not believe that any amount of evidence could possibly ever convince the closed-minded sceptic, because they only see what they want to see."

Closed minded skeptic? See what they want to see? LOL, the same exact things can be said about you and your afterlife beliefs. And the example you used is nothing more than a few researchers names thrown around (Didnt Sabom and Moody do their research like in the early 80s? Thats over 20 years ago), with a few unsupported assertions tacked on.

"If it doesn't fit into their pre-existing world-view then it is either criticized or simply ignored, and while reading some of the claims you make I get the very strong impression that you only ever examine evidence that supports your pre-existing dogma. Am I correct?"

You are incorrect, because for the majority of my life, I was an afterlife-supporting Christian. When I was a Christian, it was specifically other evidence that I examined that challenged my pre-existing beliefs and made me realize that afterlife belief and religion is just a superstition.

So Peter, let me ask you a few things:

1. Do you agree or disagree that consciousness and thought are material processes supported by physical neurons in your brain?
2. Do you believe that everyones consciousness exists before their bodies are conceived? In other words, a "before-life"?
3. If you dont believe in a "before-life," what makes you think an "after-life" exists?
4. Do you agree or disagree that significant physical damage to your brain will result in loss of memories, mental capabilities, etc?
5. What religion/afterlife belief system do you subscribe to, if any?
6. What criteria do you hold that first convinced you in the existence of an afterlife?
7. What criteria do you consider necessary for you to be convinced that the afterlife does not exist? (this relates to falsifiability)

Thanx for coming back by the way Peter :)

Peter said...

Q1. 'Do you agree or disagree that consciousness and thought are material processes supported by physical neurons in your brain?'
I can't say that I do. Physical neurons within the brain are constantly dying, and as I understand it, they are never replaced. This being the case, wouldn't one's mental faculties steadily and consistently deteriorate over time? Yes, I know that some people go senile, but most do not. As a person becomes older they generally (there always being exceptions of course) become wiser. Then there is the not-so-little problem that, physically, a person's entire structure is renewed every 2 to 3 years so that, physically at least anyway, I am literally not the same person I was back then. Yet the strange thing is, I can recall who I was 15 years ago - I have memories of those events. If consciousness were merely a manifestation of physical neuro-chemical processes, then how does one account for my continued existence with the same consciousness and self-awareness I had all those years ago?
Q2. 'Do you believe that everyone's consciousness exists before they are conceived? In other words, a "before life"?'
Some people do (like my sister) but unfortunately I'm not so sure. I have yet to experience anything that would convince me that people do in fact exist before they are born, but I'm open to the possibility. For reasons of logical consistency there probably should be a 'before-life' if there is an 'after-life'; after all, nothing in nature is 'half-eternal' (i.e. has a beginning but no ending).
Q3. 'If you don't believe in a "before-life", what makes you think an "after-life" exists?'
I think that I have answered this question above. Have I?
Q4. 'Do you agree or disagree that significant physical damage to your brain will result in loss of memories, mental capabilities, etc?'
Yes I do. Mental capacity is affected by physical trauma, however even a person in a coma will display at least a minimum amount of electrical activity, and the moment this ceases they are pronounced to be dead, but since it is a law of nature that energy, electrical or otherwise, cannot be created or destroyed, it begs the question, 'what becomes of one's neuro-electrical activity when one ceases to be?' Can it in fact just disappear? Wouldn't this violate a fundamental law of physics?
Q5. 'What religion/afterlife belief system do you subscribe to, if any?'
I do not hold to any dogma or belief system, for belief systems merely retard a person's natural inclination to be open to the various possibilities that life has to offer.
Q6. 'What criteria do you hold that first convinced you in the existence of an after-life?'
I think I should point out that I am not 100% convinced that there is in fact an after-life. I remain open to the possibility, however from what I have studied and learned over the years I think that I can say that, at the moment at least, I consider it to be more likely that there is an after-life than there not being one (this could change of course).
Q7. 'What criteria do you consider necessary for you to be convinced that the after-life does not exist? (this relates to falsifiability).'
Simple really. A theory that would comprehensively explain, in a purely materialist/reductionist fashion, all of the varied manifestations of personality, consciousness and other assorted traits that go towards making us who we are.

Aaron Kinney said...

"I can't say that I do. Physical neurons within the brain are constantly dying, and as I understand it, they are never replaced. This being the case, wouldn't one's mental faculties steadily and consistently deteriorate over time? Yes, I know that some people go senile, but most do not. As a person becomes older they generally (there always being exceptions of course) become wiser."

They become wiser because of their increased knowledge and experience, but every old person has a deterioration of their mental faculties. The old people that live healthy lifestyles deteriorate much more slowly, thats all. Thats why there is such variation in the mental condition of old people. They deteriorate on the outside (its obvious in their wrinkles etc...) and they deteriorate on the inside. But healthy-living senior citizens look and perform alot better than not-so-healthy ones.

"Then there is the not-so-little problem that, physically, a person's entire structure is renewed every 2 to 3 years so that, physically at least anyway, I am literally not the same person I was back then. Yet the strange thing is, I can recall who I was 15 years ago - I have memories of those events. If consciousness were merely a manifestation of physical neuro-chemical processes, then how does one account for my continued existence with the same consciousness and self-awareness I had all those years ago?"

Its easy. Youre consciousness is a function of collective and cooperating parts. As those parts are replaced one by one over time, they take up the tasks of the other parts they replaced. So the point is that your conscious whole is maintained. Those parts that are discarded over time and replaced, they do not retain the functions they had when they were still a part of you. For example, you can replace the suspension or the transmission in a car, but the car is still functioning. You can replace the RAM chips in a computer, but the computer still functions. It is not about the parts themselves in your body, but the consciousness/functioning of your body that they all work together to sustain. You only die when the parts cease to function cooperatively, not when some o them slowly get replaced over time.

"Some people do (like my sister) but unfortunately I'm not so sure. I have yet to experience anything that would convince me that people do in fact exist before they are born, but I'm open to the possibility. For reasons of logical consistency there probably should be a 'before-life' if there is an 'after-life'; after all, nothing in nature is 'half-eternal' (i.e. has a beginning but no ending)."

Personally, I believe that the only thing "eternal" is matter/energy. If you think souls are eternal, then why do you not remember anything before you were born? If you dont retain your memories and personality from beforre you were born, then I contend that you or your soul is not eternal, for it is not what it was before your body existed.

"I think that I have answered this question above. Have I?"

Yup! You got two birds with one stone ;)

"Yes I do. Mental capacity is affected by physical trauma, however even a person in a coma will display at least a minimum amount of electrical activity, and the moment this ceases they are pronounced to be dead, but since it is a law of nature that energy, electrical or otherwise, cannot be created or destroyed, it begs the question, 'what becomes of one's neuro-electrical activity when one ceases to be?' Can it in fact just disappear? Wouldn't this violate a fundamental law of physics?"

It dissipates. The energy, like your molecules that are replaced over time, is discarded or released into the environment and it no longer performs the consciousness-sustaining functions. Sometimes the electrical charge remains in your body in the form of static electricity. This is similar to when you walk across a carpet and shock yourself on a doorknob. Its like this: If a computer is running, and you suddenly destroy it, the electricity that was in the RAM operating the programs is not destroyed in some violation of the laws of physics; rather, it just dissipates into the environment.

"I do not hold to any dogma or belief system, for belief systems merely retard a person's natural inclination to be open to the various possibilities that life has to offer."

My mistake. I was under the impression that you were some kind of liberal Christian.

"I think I should point out that I am not 100% convinced that there is in fact an after-life. I remain open to the possibility, however from what I have studied and learned over the years I think that I can say that, at the moment at least, I consider it to be more likely that there is an after-life than there not being one (this could change of course)."

So do you believe that other life forms might have afterlives? Where would you draw the line? At all life, including bacteria and protozoa and fungus and plants and animals? Or maybe you just think that plants and animals have afterlives? Or maybe you just think that vertebrates have aferlives? Or maybe just warm-blooded animals? Or maybe just primates and humans?

The thing is, if you think that afterlifes exist, it is more logical to to support afterlifes for bacteria and single cells AS WELL as multi-celled life forms, including plants and fungus etc...

"Simple really. A theory that would comprehensively explain, in a purely materialist/reductionist fashion, all of the varied manifestations of personality, consciousness and other assorted traits that go towards making us who we are."

It seems that you are asking for a theory that would prove a negative (prove the non-existence of an afterlife). I think the more appropriate question, Peter, is this: Is there a theory that would comprehensively explain and support the notion of an afterlife?

:)

Peter said...

'If you think that souls are eternal, then why do you not remember anything before you were born?'
Good point. I once asked my sister this very same question but the answer she gave me was, in my opinion, convoluted and unconvincing. I've searched the internet for an answer to this but no-one seems to know (or they think they do and give rather silly explanations for it), so I guess that this should count as evidence against there being an afterlife. Strike One!
'It just dissipates into the environment' (regarding electrical energy)
In much the same way that opening a container filled with gas will result in it's release into that same environment. Since electrical energy on it's own does not display signs of conscious behaviour, it must therefore work in tandem with something else for the quality that we know as 'consciousness' to work. A human brain perhaps?
Strike Two!
'So do you believe that other lifeforms might have afterlives? Where would you draw the line?'
I must admit that this is one of the more convincing arguments against there being an afterlife. To be quite honest, I have no idea where 'the line' would have to be drawn, and since bacteria and plants are quite obviously alive, they also share the common trait that they are not conscious/aware of their environment in the same way that we are. On the other hand, mammals and birds (fish as well?) display behavioural patterns that tell us that they can 'think' to a certain extent, but even so this is getting quite messy, and the 'line', at the moment, shows signs of being about as straight as one made by a drunk driver when asked by the police to walk in one.
Okay, Strike Three. Out! Congratulations, you have officially 'killed the afterlife'. Hey, let's celebrate!!

Aaron Kinney said...

LOL Peter, thank you! :)

So Peter, if you had to bet $100 right now on whether or not there was an afterlife, would you bet for or against the afterlife existing?

Peter said...

$100? If only I were so wealthy. Actually, since my last entry here I've been thinking that perhaps 'the line' can be drawn where self-awareness comes into play, but let's not get into another argument - you must be tired of hearing from me by now, and there are others who should get their chance to say whatever they want to say.

Anonymous said...

This pertains to the first "anonymous" commentor. I would hope that there are other human motives to do good deeds, besides the idea of a Santa Claus or a God figure watching our daily activities. Let's be real. If that's the case, "anonymous", are you saying that religious people only do good deeds for fear of someone witnessing negative actions? What does that say about the human race? That doesn't sound very positive to me. Read a bit on learning and behavior...human motivation. It's so complex. We are intelligent living beings, not objects dangling from strings, not beings living for an imaginary super power.

Guy said...

"Q2. 'Do you believe that everyone's consciousness exists before they are conceived? In other words, a "before life"?'
Some people do (like my sister) but unfortunately I'm not so sure. I have yet to experience anything that would convince me that people do in fact exist before they are born, but I'm open to the possibility. For reasons of logical consistency there probably should be a 'before-life' if there is an 'after-life'; after all, nothing in nature is 'half-eternal' (i.e. has a beginning but no ending)."

Actually, this is a heresy...souls cannot exist prior to the person, because they would then be eternal, and nothing can be eternal except god.

I'm saddened by the wide-spread reliance on an afterlife, because it is born out of fear. We obey supernatural beings, because we want to live forever, and we think there's a power that can allow this. Once we accept that this world is it, everything becomes simpler. We don't obey god's commands because we agree with them, we obey them because we fear god and his power. Theism allows no structure for us to evaluate god; it forbids us to speculate as to motives. We can only obey, with no understanding, like scared puppies learning not to wet the carpet.

There is in fact no evidence for the afterlife. Things like out-of-body experiences are anecdotal; there is nothing measurable about them. Researchers who comment on them are more likely disposed to believe in them to begin with, else they wouldn't bother.

I also wonder about the 'souls' of the profoundly retarded, and those of infants. What do they look like? Do they become fully developed in heaven?

I mean, come on...the whole thing is simply absurd.

Delta said...

It really is absurd. The silliness of the afterlife was actually one of the motivators for my liberation from religion back when I was 12.

It actually makes me very sad to see people waste their lives with this stuff. I mean, yeah, sometimes I'm like "ohhh man, stupid xian", but more often than not I truly feel sorry that they are squandering the time they have by going to church and worshipping non-existent beings. I know how much I value my life, and I wish they knew how much their's was worth.

Great post aaron!

Walter said...

Interesting blog, Aaron.

Where would I bet the hundred dollars? Depends on whether or not I am feeling lucky or not. Some days I think there is nothing after this life, some days I think that there is.

I will start with the concession that there is no indisputable and convincing proof of an afterlife. Based on the evidence at hand at present (and I have considered seriously and openly the evidence commonly cited to support existence of an afterlife), one could not hope to prove its existence in a court of law – or in a laboratory of science. If one could, someone would have.

Of course, similarly, there is no indisputable evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence. But the fact that it is not in our experience as a species and/or that signs of it cannot be detected by sensors available to us does not disprove its existence. One might even argue for its mathematical likelihood.

I draw this analogy because similar human traits and needs inspire the arguments for and against both extraterrestrial intelligence and the afterlife. People need to feel meaning. They need to feel a place and a purpose. They need to feel that they have importance beyond the confines defined by our physical, temporal existence - precisely because it is so limiting. Envisioning oneself as an eternal being with meaning beyond the confines of our three score and ten (or so) years of human existence is comforting. Imagining oneself as part of an intelligent and purposeful cosmos guided by an underlying eternal spirit, principle or force is - to me at least - comforting. We want to feel not alone, unimportant, small and finite.

That is exactly why I find a belief in an afterlife suspect - because the need to believe is so great.

We are first of all rational beings, and we have built our world on the elevation of reason and analytical thought - and owe much of what we call civilization and enlightenment to that foundation. I think that's a good foundation. I trust first my logic and reason, and that would tend to support definitions of human life as finite and temporal, and the soul as a construct of the brain. I live my life based on what I know, not what I wish.

But remember the comment about extraterrestrials not being detectable by our sensors. There are things today that we CAN detect - x-rays, sub-atomic particles, the planet Pluto - that not so very long ago would have had no more rational basis of proof than the afterlife. Is the fact that we cannot detect (convincingly and indisputably) signs of an afterlife the final word, or is it a function of the limitations of our sensors and knowledge? Again, my logic gives me cause to reserve judgment. I can say without irony that the fact that we “exist” within our physical bodies does not seem to eliminate automatically the possibility that we could exist without them. We just can’t determine definitively one way or the other.

I think there is - first of all – no necessity to kill or embrace the afterlife. Evidence – certain and incontrovertible - will come to each of us soon enough if in fact an afterlife exists.

What we do need to kill are attitudes and behaviors within the context of human life that squander what we are given here and now, or reduce the dignity of humanity, regardless of what (if anything) comes next. I do not know that I shall cease to exist when I die, but I do know that the day I waste today is by all evidence gone forever. The inhumanity, cruelty and discomfort I bring into the world are real today, even if they do not feed some greater karmic plan. Similarly, so are the justice, compassion, purpose and love I bring to the world. So I live every day as if this is the only life, because as far as I know, it is.

Ultimately, we are our deeds and thoughts, and the universe is what we experience and hold in ourselves. If we are just, considerate, purposeful and loving, then our universe is the same. If we are desolate and cynical, then so is our universe – the only one we experience. The fact that I did love and I did act nobly are by demonstration proof of the existence of love and nobility within the universe, and they provide benefit to others and uplift my “soul” here and now. They have importance and worth because I have given it to them, even if that worth has no universal foundation and does not outlive me. I made it real. They need no external value, blessing or purpose to have real worth.

I have seen many people who believe and many who do not believe in an afterlife, and I could not differentiate the qualities they present in this existence based on that belief. Obviously it is their thoughts and deeds here that matter here. We do not consciously exist anywhere but here.

It makes me a little sad to feel that the spark of any life only matters for an instant and then is gone. I have a beloved wife who died very many years ago, and if there is a continuance of life beyond death I shall seek her. As you see, my need to believe is so great – but that doesn’t necessarily make it any more true or likely. But even without an afterlife, my life will have meaning and my love will have been eternal, because I have given it meaning within my eternity.

nick's blog said...

im find the topic interesting, im kind on sitting on the fence on this one. there isnt enough evidence to convince me either way yet. i have read about the near death experience and i do think its something worth studying further before we can come to a final conclusion. other things worth considering are the appirition of ghost ( don't laugh millions of people have seen them could they all be hallutinations?) reincarnation has some evidence supporting it, even exorcisms have some evidence. theres the claim of miracles by some. the ressurection of christ, did it really happen? but to prove something scientificly means you have to be able to reproduce it in a lab, i dont know if science will ever be able to prove the existence of life after death like this. you know i think it would be cool that we have a soul and when we die we move to another dimension of existince but i couldn't accept such claims whith blind faith, extraordiany claims need extraordinary evidence but so far we don't have that undesputable
evidence and we may never will. but i have to say i for one will not rule it out, there just isnt enough evidence to convince me yet. the theory that we are here by chance and we evolved from a soup of amnio acid need a lot of faith too, so im still on the fence on this one.

Anonymous said...

nick, you're a genius, and i'm glad you provided such a rational "ending" to this sisyphean
sequence of comments.

Considering the lack of hard data
on both sides of the fence at present, only an idiot would label
either possibility as "FACT".

The only way to truly "know" is to actually die. Its ENTIRELY a matter
of individual perception, and i find it immoral to try to sway people towards either belief system. There is no empirical evidence supporting an afterlife,
ture, which is why I take a "whatever happens, happens" stance on the matter. I don't worship a god, I don't believe
in "heaven" or "hell", but as
a rational human being i cannot
dispute the existence of things
just becasue i can't see them.

This entire blog is ridiculous,
and any valid points made are
degraded by the overall presumptuousness of it all.

Anonymous said...

What is "moral" anyway?

Well, here's an example: Since
comforting thoughts are a perfectly NATURAL brain/mind mechanism, than why not just leave nature alone?

It is you who are "immoral" for assuming that it is your place to judge others for their beliefs about something that has no relevance to you.

As I said, i take a "whatever happens, happens" stance. becasue of this, i can make truly moral decisions.

i'm not trying to impress a god
so i can get into heaven or stay out of hell

becasue i assume that this could possibly be my only life, i take care of my health and treat life as sacred. but i also don't factor out the possibility of the
"spiritual".
If this is it, i'll take it. if there's more, cool. It doesn't matter to me because if there isn't anything after this, I won't know it will I?

Your problem is perhaps the fundamental flaw in humanity:
the need to pick a side, or more
specifically, the need to make others choose a side, or even more specifically, the human need to DIVIDE in the first place.

Food for thought: it was JUST recently discovered that it isn't
(just) the caffeine in coffee that
gives you that distinct coffee buzz. You see, there is another chemical in coffee which works with the caffeine, and that's why a cup of tea, which may contain even more caffeine, doesn't give you the same kind of buzz.

We JUST discovered this.

We JUST figured out COFFEE.

Are you follwing me there, gloom boy?

You'd have to be a complete and utter LUNATIC to assume that science actually has an answer to the afterlife debate.

Anonymous said...

Science can produce perfectly logically, but absolutely absurd theories of the afterlife. My favorite one is the idea of humans in the future, who through health breakthroughs managed to gain immortality and resurect the dead. It is a perfectly logically explanation but absolutely absurd in my view, and some people believe it, and then ridicule people's belief in God.

Modern Science to me is like the Church was in the Middle Ages. They don't want to admit there is things that it can't explain and will attack and silence anyone who dares question them.

And religion isn't based on fact or logic. It is based on faith and revelation. To not believe in an afterlife means you have to say that millions of good people, who have nothing to gain from lying, who are very credible and tell vivid details are lying. Only someone who hasn't lived in the real world can believe there is no afterlife, or no good and evil, or no God.

That thing about the prisoners and scientists is absurd. Einstein believed in god. Hawking believes in god. Newton believed in god. Thomas Hobbes believed in god. The smartest scientists ever believed in God. If anything, science lends evidence to the idea of a creator. Look at the Laplace formula: d2x/d2y + dx/dy + x = c One equation relates to electricity, mechanics, fluids, chemistry, population growth, and even how medicine is processed in the body.

If any society did not let morality govern them, and believed in no afterlife it was the Nazis. They based their society on Nietzsche, the Uberman, and God is Dead. who was just writing tongue in cheek anyways. What you think has already been debated and proved as just silly and naivee by civilizations long ago. Look up the Pythagreons or Stoics.

Anonymous said...

I am only 12 years of age. Yet i believe. I believe that one day, i will go to Heaven with Jesus. How can you say it forces one to shortchange this existance for the next one? The afterlife is not only a reward for the doings of this world, but it's properties enhance this one. What is your aim in life, other to achieve that eternal goal? Why do we even exist if this is not so?

When you are on your death bed, and you've done stuff that was wrong, but with the belief 'hey, i've only got one life, lets do what the whatever we like, as it doesn't matter' you can't tell me that there isn't even a seed of doubt, that if it were possibly true, you've just wasted the life and chance of eternal pleasures.

Thanx,
I hope i be seeing you up there someday.
:)

Steve said...

I think that injecting the religion vs. science debate into the issue makes it harder to get at an answer. There either is an afterlife or there is not. Not all religions say there is. The Buddha said we have to figure it out for ourselves. Science has some theories, but actually a theory that consciousness exists outside of the brain (quantum consciousness) and therefore could survive death seems to be gaining adherents. Science certainly has nothing that disproves an afterlife. In fact, quantum theory leaves plenty of room for perpetual consciousness. For example, there is no such thing as location at the sub-atomic level. In a very real, provable way all of reality is one and the same. And really, there is no such thing as physical matter. If you dig down into any object to the atomic level and then to the sub-atomic level, you never arrive at anything tangible that you could call a thing. All is energy and patterns of organization. Organized energy could also be a description of spirit. So ... you can actually arrive at a belief in the afterlife via science.

In reality, the only way to get any answers about the afterlife is from your own experiences and perceptions. I don't mean you have to die before you know, but if, for example, you've had one or more "encounters" with a deceased relative - as many people claim to have had - then that would tend to indicate that perhaps something continues after death. I know quite a few people who claim to have had unambiguous, very real encounters with loved ones who have passed. Did they imagine it or was it wishful imagination brought on by grief? Could be. I don't know because it didn't happen to me. But if something like that did happen to me, then perhaps I would know. I couldn't prove it, but I would know. There are also near death experiences, and insights gained through meditation that some say give you a glimpse of what lies beyond. Again, only if that happens to you personally can you gain any true insight. But I think you have to consider the possibility that some people believe in the afterlife because they know it to be real.

Will science ever achieve any objective evidence on the question of an afterlife one way or another? There are people doing double-blind studies on mediums' alleged communication with the deceased relatives of people they sit with. I find that research intriguing, but too flawed in many different ways. However, even if there was a science experiment that "proved" the afterlife, it would not be convincing when it was communicated. If you read a book about a science experiment that convincingly showed that there was an afterlife, you would still have doubt because it did not happen to you. The nature of that kind of knowledge is such that it cannot be obtained second hand or third hand. It can only be experienced. The same is true of a science experiment that says there is no afterlife. It makes no lasting impression because it did not involve you. You will always have doubt. On matters as profound as the nature of existence, there can be no voices of authority beyond your own.

Daniel said...

Aaron,

Whether science, your own thinking, or others that agree with you, there will be an answer eventually.

As Stephen said science does not disprove the existance of a Creator and I already know that you still don't believe which means that with the evidence that is the physical universe and all that is contained within it, your own conscience (that being seared as with a hot iron), and the bolstering of all those that share in like manner that which you proclaim you will continue in a forward walk of the human life in that direction, unless like Paul you get knocked off your high horse by a bright light.

As you have stated you were once a theist and seem to have started your life in the beginnings of Roman Catholicism but did you ever experience God? Did you ever vehemently search for Him and grope for Him as you now do so for atheistic beliefs and find Him? You certainly could not have. It seems you want hard evidence and you cling very tightly to that which science offers as well as your emotions, mind, and will.

For you to understand the Bible and God you cannot use science, your mind, emotions, or will since God is Spirit. You have to use the right organ to make contact with that essence. For example you eat steak by using your mouth and physical body, you can enjoy it, and it even becomes part of you. You read a report in any particular news source and that information even needs the correct organ for substantiation which would be your eyes and then your mind. You think about it with your mind, feel a certain way about it using your emotions, and even make a choice to act concerning that information using your will. Science is based upon using the correct tools and organs for proof of something.

Using your mind to know God or the Word of God is like putting that steak in your ear and trying to enjoy it; not too enjoyable is it? The right organ to use is your human spirit since God can only be contacted through spirit. Remember that verse I gave you? Job 32:8. You have a human spirit and it is not synonomous with your soul. You can't put God into your mind and comprehend Him. He is incomprehensible since He is Spirit. No instrument (save for the human spirit) in existance can contact, substantiate, or prove God. When one looks at the creation one only sees how frail, small, and needy he really is. Like I said before even your athieem is a religion. To believe that you evolved from the Pre-Adamic race or from some primordial soup billions of years ago is just another religion but the god of that religion is as you have made it to be so, the human being. I would say that will be unveiled as the strawman of all strawmen. Give me a geiger-meter and I'll prove that a given amount of radioactivity is emitted from a radionuclietide. I tell you to use your spirit and you will prove that God is real and living.

You put too much trust in mankind and limit your whole living to that of the frail human life which is short and vain without the proper purpose made clear and established. Man is born, man lives, and man dies, and you think that is it. Don't keep putting a lid on your conscience every time there is a speaking to the end that this is false security. You don't believe in Satan yet He belives in God.

I don't stand for the convincing of the mind but rather for the power of the Spirit. Even if you were convinced by some lofty eloquent speaking to believe in God you would last a very short time.

To know God you must use the right organ.

Anonymous said...

I find athiesm to be nothing more than a self-proclaimed act of individualism. An egotistical transformation of the psyche. To say that there is no god, no greater power, I'm the driving force in my own life, I have made my own moral values, I can do whatever I want.

Way to wrench yourself out of any personal responsibilities. I guess we could all be a bunch of hedonists living off of whatever fantasies we please, living only for the moment and for ourselves and not giving a second thought to anything else in the world. I mean, why bother? We only get one shot at this right? Why bother with morals? Who are you trying to appease, your own ego? Who's going to care if you followed your own rules or not after you're dead and gone?

The bottom line is, if there is no greater power, and no god, then life has no purpose. A meaningless futile existence meant only to appease our very limited senses.

"The concept of an afterlife is inhuman and immoral".

I bet that's really easy to say sitting behind the wheel of your sports car, "living it up" in Cali with the rest of the wealthiest economy in the world. You make the most of your life becuase you were blessed, "BLESSED", to be in the position you're in (even if you don't have a sportscar or the highlife you're still better off than 90% of the rest of the world).

Try preaching your anti-Christ doctrine to the disease ridden, starving people in 3rd world countries. Tell them that after the malnutrition and genocide that this was all just a big sick joke. Tell them about how you're living your life just the way you want to and you're happy about it. I hope their eyes pierce your rotten core and humble your tounge.

Darwins theory has been abandoned for lack of logic, the theory of amino acids being created at the earth's conception has been debunked, even scientists have banned together in conclusion that there is indeed a higher power.

Explain away at the obvious you fools, look into the cosmos and say that you are in control.

Aaron Kinney said...

Re: Anonymous 12:01 AM 08/15/07

"I find thiesm to be nothing more than a self-proclaimed act of submission. It is a debasing and immoralizing transformation of the psyche. To say that there is a God, a slave master, I'm a victim of the sins of another, I subject others to my (religion's) pseudomoral dictates, I can do whatever I want in the name of God.

Way to wrench yourself out of any self-responsibility. I guess we could all be a bunch of robots studying nothing other than an ancient book, living only for the apocalypse and for our cosmic master and not giving a second thought to anything else in the world. I mean, why bother? We will be absolved of anything we do as long as we believe in Jesus, right? Who are you trying to learn, question, examine, and revise? Why would you care if you were right to your fellow man as long as you were first and foremost goveling at your master's feet only to secure yourself a sweet spot in the next life?

The bottom line is, if there is a greater power, and a god, then life has no purpose. A meaningless futile existence meant only to appease our slave driver."

Wow, anonymous, I think your letter so far makes much more sense when its all reversed to talk shit against your omnimax invisible superhero friend from an ancient comic book.

But in response to this:

I bet that's really easy to say sitting behind the wheel of your sports car, "living it up" in Cali with the rest of the wealthiest economy in the world. You make the most of your life becuase you were blessed, "BLESSED", to be in the position you're in (even if you don't have a sportscar or the highlife you're still better off than 90% of the rest of the world).

Not quite. All of the shit I have now I can account for with my own effort and skill. Back in the day when I was wasting time praying to Jesus, I had nothing. When I got rid of my cosmic big brother, and took responsibility for myself in my own hands, and recognized that this is the only life we have, I realized the importance of making this life the best that I can. Hence, my success. All thanks to my loss of faith.

Losing faith is kind of the popular thing to do nowadays. Christians themselves acknowledge that over 50% of young adults nowadays lose their faith after entering college. Ouch. Are you in college yet, or have you graduated it? You write kind of immaturely, so Im guessing no.

Anyway, lets get back to fixing what you said:

Try preaching your Christian doctrine to the healthy, educated people in modern, safe countries. Tell them about Jesus after they find happiness in the ability to pursue and achieve their real-world goals and dreams. Tell them about how you're living your life just the way Jesus wants you to (poor and uneducated) and that your successes at preaching in uneducated, terrorized, famished, subjected, persecuted parts of the world. I hope that you wake the hell up and start living for yourself in this world, rather than living for Jesus to secure a spot in the next.

Explain away at the obvious you fool! Look at yourself in the mirror and say with a straight face that 1) you are guilty for the fruit-eating crimes of an ancestor, and 2) that while your consciousness did not precede your body, it will survive your body's eventual demise.

Francois Tremblay said...

I like how vain this Christian is, while accusing us of having big egos. I like how his every argument is a complete projection of the immorality and lack of moral responsibility in Christianity.

Keep sinking lower and lower, anonymous coward. You are a sad excuse of a human being.

Anonymous said...

What is your proof?

Show me actual data, show me numbers, show me something that proves nothing lies beyond the grave.

All you have done is say that an afterlife devalues the current existence, perhaps this life is the afterlife of a previous one?

Is your opinoin enough to prove that there is only a black oblivion?

Aaron Kinney said...

Re: Anonymous @ Oct 17th,

What is your proof?

Show me actual data, show me numbers, show me something that proves nothing lies beyond the grave.


Proof of what, exactly? Proof that the afterlife doesnt exist? Or proof that it devalues this existence? Or proof that its immoral? Ive got lots of arguments here.

All you have done is say that an afterlife devalues the current existence, perhaps this life is the afterlife of a previous one?

And Ive proven it in the hundreds of entries on my blog. Ill be happy to present some specific proof or evidence if you cite a specific argument.

Is your opinoin enough to prove that there is only a black oblivion?

No, and neither is your opinion enough to prove that there is an afterlife.

honeypotbot said...

"Try preaching your anti-Christ doctrine to the disease ridden, starving people in 3rd world countries. Tell them that after the malnutrition and genocide that this was all just a big sick joke. Tell them about how you're living your life just the way you want to and you're happy about it. I hope their eyes pierce your rotten core and humble your tounge."

Are you saying a person shouldn't be happy just because others are suffering? Whatever you're saying, I want to throw something I believe very deeply at you: If the people with good lives don't enjoy them, instead overwhelmed with guilt and worry because others suffer, they are essential throwing their good lives away. One of those "disease ridden" people would surely say, "You have all this, yet you don't enjoy it??" with disdain.

We can still empathize and help others without the Christian or any god, and without devoting our entire lives to helping those less fortunate. Some people are happy with such lives and some aren't. Everyone should do what makes them happy, with only one exception: the bunk new-age religion Huna has only ONE rule/commandment/whatever: don't hurt another being. That's it. And that is all there ever needs to be.


I also wanted to mention about our host's comment...


"When you have unlimited or infinity anything, it becomes worthless. Infinity is literally the most absurd extreme version of inflation. It's an uber-inflation of a commodity, even time or life."

I don't agree with this. It makes perfect logical sense the way you've put it, but it's only logical from one angle. There aren't infinite amounts of books in the world, but there are far more than I could ever read in my lifetime. Let's just pretend there are infinite amounts. Are books suddenly useless to me? Are they worthless? Of course not.

Because infinity-bills Bill Gates can't spend all of his money and doesn't HAVE to work, does this mean he considers his money worthless, or that it is worthless? Of COURSE not. He can look around him and see that he is very fortunate.

It really all depends on the personality of the person. Just because I've always had a home doesn't mean I don't appreciate that fact. This is partially due to empathy. I can see homeless people and imagine not having a home, and be grateful for it. Something always being one way, or extending forever, may lessen the value of it for some people, but that doesn't mean it's worthless.

Just look at the universe. Many people don't know all the details and think it's going to be around forever, and appreciate its complexity and beauty very much. You are making sense while making no sense at all on this one.


I also wanted to ask what your thoughts are on the "force" pushing evolution along, making planets round and stars explode. I guess most of us nonreligious folk call it Nature. There are laws that predict the way things move and so on, and I was wondering what your thoughts are on how this force came to exist.

Christ said...

Hello all.
First of all, I'd like to apologise for my english. I'm a portuguese native speaker.
In fact, Christ is my name.
So, I think I'll preach a bit.
All of you made a significant effort about explaining your own points of view.
I think it's curious how everibody (believers and non believers) ask themselves about afterdeath.
Everybody knows that known churches are for dummies, they intend to explore the miserable (not all) people.
But being an atheist doesn't exist.
Most of religious people need an external advisor, father.
But the ones I call really religious are the ones that intelligently understend the true meaning of religion. You will never have a life like the one you know, thats for sure. And you gotta do your best NOW. Understanding this is assuming death is the end for sure. The bible says: death, the end of a Man's history. THE END, I said.
But deep inside us, with our eyes closed, we feel some ancient wormth, that kinde of wormth that mean people dont feel, because no one ever gave that to them. That wormth is religion, true religion, and its a force inside each one of us. If we get payd for using that correctly in this or other life to come... well, I wouldnt take a chance. Just do well and youll be well. When you're there, death isn't and when she is, you're not.
Thanks for your atention my friends.

Anonymous said...

My dad is 68, he has been an atheist since studying religion in his early twenties for his undergraad degree. I, as an atheist, was scared of death; and so I would ask my aging parents to impart me with my wisdom. My favorite two jewels were this:

My Mother said being an atheist freed her to truly care and love for others. When she was a catholic she lived for pleasing God so that she could obtain the otherside. It was a sale of her morality for a little slice of immortality. It was a repression of values, which could make the world a better place, justified via nonsensical and ancient dogma. Catholicism was an exercise in selfishness, masked as devoted love. But when she became an atheist and "threw the monkey off her back", she became in essence the divinty on earth which she once sought in heaven. Her love and devotion would now be placed on life itself, seeing it as fragile, unique and worthy of reverence for this reason. Each passing moment was all the more savored, the people she knew all the more cared for, the mission to alleviate misery from this world all the more urgent. This is the honor of the atheist: their ability to love harder, live fuller and be more selfless than others. As a Mother, she seen her passing as yet another sacrifice in a long chain of sacrifices we all make. She articulated it as such: "Would there be room on this planet if no generation left it? Would a parent not do anything in their power to ensure the life and happiness of their offspring? As a Mother, I shall die and tell myself that in doing so I shall leave room for my children's children."

My Father, is a scholar. A brilliant mind who can talk of any topic from sub atomic particles to ethology. Yet despite his education and status, he always is direct and speaks in laymen's terms. His philosophy appeals to me more than my mother's. "Nature has a way of taking care of itself. She makes you so decrepit and sore in your old age that you will WANT to go. Your goal is to make it to that age where you can't wait to get the hell out of here!"

My Dad is 68 and is dying of lung cancer, as of right now I believe he has a few weeks left. My heart is breaking to know the world shall lose this incredible philosopher and philanthropist. He is one of the very few human beings who can truly say he lived his life with honor, morality, reason and compassion.

He could have fought the cancer, but he elected not too because he didn't want to deal with surgery or chemo. He wanted life to the fullest until the very end. He has only began taking pain medicine four days ago because he wanted to remain alert for all of us. Even now, in pain, he forces himself to sit up and tell each of us how he loves us and how his life was good, he cares for us even in his moment of passing. My Mother has offered to go with him, they have been companioned for 50 years and she can not envision living without him. He refused her offer, insisting she must go on to care for the grandchildren and me, their youngest child.

My Dad is dying the way he lived: with honor, brilliance of mind, fortitude of will and the thought of his fellow beings though he will not be with us to see how we fair. I wish there was an afterlife for the sake of such a man. But I know it is merely eternal slumber. He is not scared of facing that sleep, my brave father. The one consellation I have is knowing that he can go to rest with the knowledge he lived this life to the fullest, every moment and because of it he will live in the memories of many.

Anonymous said...

Let it go. You can't disprove an afterlife anymore than others can prove one. We'll all find out when we die. Until that time have a blast if it is at all possible...

Tristen said...

Is there any evidence for consciousness surviving death? I have had a paranormal experience and there exists a collection of striking audio, video, and IR evidence of activity that is beyond physical explanation. This does not mean that conscious beings are producing such activity. It is merely beyond our ability to explain.

After reading many near-death experiences, it is clear that the sensation and perception undergo some profound and unusual changes at death and shortly after. Based on my personal paranormal experience (an apparition), the experiences of a trusted loved one (my mother), and secondary souce information on near-death experience interviews, I think we may have to examine the possibility that some kind of alternate universe/reality does exist - it is simply very elusive and difficult to detect with our current technology. Doubt the evidence? Try out paranormal investigation, ouija board, or physical mediumship for a bit and notice how difficult some of the resulting phenomena are to explain.

Anonymous said...

Science has proven nothing concerning an afterlife, which is why the premise of this blog is false.

The fact is nothing has been PROVEN either way.

There are many acceptable theories as to how a conscious mind can survive the death of the brain. However the only evidence this has happened is anecdotal. As such there is no proof.

Equally there is no evidence of any kind that consciousness is a biological construct. The so-called evidence usually refers to areas of the brain that 'light-up' when a particular emotion is experienced. So what? You say the brain lights-up and therefore the brain is consciousness, I say consciousness lights up its communication and reasoning tool - the brain.

There are sufficient accepted theories and laws of physics and quantum mechanics that can explain how consciousness is

a/a separate entity from the brain
b/a type of energy

As energy can not be created or destroyed, only altered (first law of thermodynamics - which also states the amount of energy within the universe is and has always been constant) if consciousness can be proven to be energy, then consciousness can never be destroyed, only altered.

That doesn't prove consciousness can be aware without a tool called the brain or that religious fantasy is real. It simply proves part of you can exist after you die.

The fact is this blogger is just another religious fanatic. He is identical to those that said the earth is flat and that flight was impossible. This is because he belongs to a group of pseudo-scientists that believe everything that can be invented has been. These people have existed throughout history and have always been proven wrong beyond their wildest imaginations. The arrogance that states everything within a field of science has already been discovered is astonishing.

Fortunately real scientists are open to continually adapting and altering their views on the universe, it's properties and how it was created.

Unfortunately people who have vested interests in preventing new discoveries in their fields of expertise are allowed to continually publish tripe like this blog.

JonB said...

Ultimately all any of us truly have is our own perspective. Who or what is to say that anyone outside of myself even exists? There is no scientifically verifiable way to prove that anyone outside of my own consciousness was not a product of MY own consciousness.

Essentially what we're trying to prove or disprove is that consciousness survives physical death, and we're using our consciousness to try to quantify our consciousness. This problem is essentially like a ruler attempting to measure itself using itself for measurement.

Those that dismiss consciousness surviving death are using measurements based on this plane of consciousness in which the rules of time/space apply. The problem with this is that almost every living thing on earth has at LEAST two states of consciousness. One of these states is the time/space physical reality, and the second is the dream reality.

When we dream our conscious focus flips into a reality that doesn't conform to that of the time/space reality. What happens when someone in your dream asks to measure your brain activity inside your dream? Which brain is now the "real" brain, the one in your physical existence or the one in your dream existence? Do you even have a brain in this dream reality? Maybe, maybe not, but the one consistency is your sense of being. Why shouldn't we require the same evidence from both existences? Furthermore, having two states of consciousness with different rules for each state potentially opens the gateway for their being other states that don't rely on being physical.

The beliefs that are handed down to us through our existence is what shapes our attitudes and views of the world. The belief that humankind has currently chosen to pass down is that the time/space reality is what is "real". Now imagine a strangely different world in which children were taught that time/space wasn't real and that the dream world was "real". This view might be one in which the search for evidence is based in the dream state and not the physical state. Instead of falling asleep in the physical, we would fall asleep in the dream world and awaken in the physical. Again, this is all perspective.

Maybe consciousness is what drives the entire universe, just as my consciousness created my dream world, it is legitimate to think that consciousness may have created the time/space reality. One poster mentioned that having an infinite amount of anything makes it worthless. The problem with this analogy is that it doesn't apply to thought, and it is also an idea rooted in a cultural belief of valuing things. As conscious beings, new ideas, feelings, dreams, and perspectives NEVER cease. Every animal and plant on this planet has a unique perspective to share. The conscious "fabric" is finite, but always expanding with new thoughts, perspectives, feelings, and beliefs.

One thing I am curious of is whether or not the expectancy of death/non-existence is a learned belief. I can vaguely remember being a small child and my mom telling me that she and I wouldn't live forever, and that did create anxiety in me. Intuitively, before my moms reveal, my natural instinct was to believe that I would always be, and my question is why did I believe this?

Kumera said...

How is it that nobody has been able to take the genuine million dollar challenge by Victor Zammit (www.victorzammit.com), to offer evidence that genuinely debunks (as opposed to merely badmouth) any of his 20-odd proofs of the afterlife? (His offer comes with a guarantee, unlike the much more spurious, but more-widely publicised, offer by James Randi, in which he sets himself up as prosecution, judge and jury all at once!)
You should also read www.debunkingskeptics.com/
There are many other persuasive and evidential sources too, for anybody who cares to look around, as opposed to the mere hypothetical fluff that can be found on the skeptics' web pages.
Look at the evidence for yourselves! Don't just believe the misleading nonsense that the skeptics spout about it. Google "afterlife evidence", "reincarnation evidence" and the like, and be amazed at how much is out there.
You do not need a "need to believe". All you need to do is look with an open mind at the actual evidence.

Anonymous said...

Aaron, your argument about "atheism and IQ" is bullshit. For example you have Iran topped Turkey, Netherlands and Sweden. And doing it in the context of international sanctions. May I remind you of who discovered insulin and other things you take for granted.
If "Atheism" was such an improvement, you'd have no breadlines in Soviet Russia, no useless blogs. In fact, most atheists simply waste their time BAWWWing on forums like you.

Jonathan Matthews said...

Any evidence for the afterlife or spiritualism of any stripe is so far merely subjective and selective. Circumstantial evidence is one thing but if it cannot be used to create a cohesive and objrctive metaphysical argument then its no better than the rantings of every religious fanatic one passes in the street. And therefore its a mistake to afford undue respect to the circumstantially supported beliefs of the spiritualist population. Religions and belief structures are not exempt from criticism and they should provide proof of their assertions. If they are unable or unwilling to do so then their arguments and beliefs arent even worth debate. And having read as many sources as i can that refute sceptics ( or realists as they should be called in this case) i have yet to find a single one that offers an intellectually valid and truly objective piece of evidence for the existence of any spiritual force. The simple fact is that there is no logical reason to accept spirituality other than than the desire or need to believe which is simply a psychological issue. There is no objective evidence and all supporting evidence so far is, to put it mildly, questionable at best. The collective experience of religion and faith is closer to that of mass insanity than anything else and people who feel the desire to genuflect and grovel to forces that solely exist in the mind should seriously seek help. As an aside i feel it is important for all atheists to regularly challenge the beliefs if spiritualists, its nit just 'bawwwing' . Most members if faith groups dont gave thr first idea what their beliefs really mean on the level of a philosophical and metaphysical debate. Most never research the history or unternal details either because ut threatens their faith and unfortunately means that the vast majority are ignorant to the intellectual consequences of their beliefs. They should be challenged if for no other reason than to expose them to their own ignorance and give them the opportunity to better themselves. Excellent blog btw with the exception of one or two individuals getting too emotional and undermining their own arguments by making it personal. It not, its very clinical objective and straightforward. There is no argument for spirituality other than the flimsiness of "faith", which to paraphrase nietzche is merely a denial of rational evidence to maintain an otherwise untenable belief in the face of mounting contrary evidence.

Kumera said...

Jonathan:

Try reading the list of evidence at http://www.near-death.com/evidence.html, or the Near Death Experiences described at http://nhne-pulse.org/resource_pages/near-death-experiences/, and see whether you still agree with the vague assertions you have made.