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.