This is my first attempt at a discussion, I am hoping this is a topic others find worthy of discussing.....in my opinion, this is the heart of what it means to be an atheist, and coming to terms with this issue. For theists as well, this is the heart of their delusion.....that this life is not as important as the "next", after their rapture, reincarnation, etc.
I admitted to myself about a year ago, once and for all, that there is no rationale basis for the existence of a god/gods, and trying and failing countless times to "convince" myself to believe in the Christian god....and even tried my hand at Buddhism briefly-to no avail. My rational, scientific mind would reject it every time. Even a confrontation with my father, who is a retired Pentecostal Christian Pastor, just further pushed me toward atheism....not out of spite, but just seeing a prime example of someone who has given their life, their mind, over to the delusion that the Christian god offers.
Since embracing atheism, I have found myself thinking frequently about the finality of this life, that I am truly "mortal". And that whenever the few decades I have left on this planet are over, that will be it. I have found my initial response to this fact to be at times anger....particularly as it pertains to my inability to be there for my 2 children, ages 3 and 13 months, once I pass away from this life. Were I a theist, I could comfort myself with the thought that I would see them again in "heaven" and be with them eternally.
I am curious what atheists, particularly those that have come from a theistic background, have done, or are doing, to address this hole that seems to emerge when a deity is taken out of the equation. Perhaps I am even generalizing too much, and there are those that do not share this feeling.
All comments welcome!
Discussions by atheists of this nature all seem to assume one thing as given fact: that one's awareness, consciousness, memories or simply the information that comprises them simply disappears after death. You often seem to conflate the likely non-existence of Heaven/Hell with the non-existence of any kind of "afterlife" at all.
You don't know what happens after death. Nobody does. You might reincarnate (and given the cyclic nature of events in the universe this is more likely than some might realize), you might ascend to a higher level of existence which you cannot now perceive, or you might wake up in a virtual reality cubicle having just finished experiencing what you thought until now was your real life. All of these scenarios are equally as possible as simply ceasing to exist.
While I identify as agnostic more than atheist (yes, I've heard all the arguments about knowledge versus belief and all that, but I still don't identify as atheist because I don't make assumptions about the afterlife or the existence or lack thereof of higher beings) I have over the course of my life come to believe that we shape our own reality. As the act of observation influences quantum events, so our minds shape what we experience. I hold that you may create what happens after death. If you believe you will cease to exist, then that is what you will make happen. If you believe you will spend eternity sitting on a cloud playing a harp, that is what you will experience. For my part, I hold that I am most likely to reincarnate, not necessarily on this world, because it ties in with my perceptions of the cyclic nature of events in the universe.
Many of you will disagree with me on this. I would be disappointed in you as critical thinkers if you did not. But when you state that you will cease to exist when you die, remember that you are making a positive claim about something you cannot know - as positive a claim as someone who believes in Heaven or Nirvana or reincarnation. And if you then hold to that belief in the absence of any evidence, remember that at that point you have turned your atheism into a religion, as much as any Christian or Buddhist.
Actually, I believe some people who have posted on this site may have died and been revived.
An analysis of death-revival experiences would take volumes of books- needless to say, it seems most likely to me that as people are revived or as they are "going out" their brains generate dream like images or experiences that they may or may not remember as the "lights go off and back on again," so to speak.
And the "you mights" could go on endlessly- but is it not more likely than any "mights" proposed that we resume the state we were in before birth?
If we applied evidence based thinking to this topic, I think we would need to investigate the claims of those who have died and been revived as part of exploring this topic. I have looked briefly into this. Many people claim to have experienced nothing. Others make claims about extracorporeal experiences and experiences with divinity (and I have yet to read a story about a divine experience that was cross cultural or not expected based on the person's life experiences and culture- which leads me to believe these were simply dream like states created as their brains were shutting down or being restarted). But as many have experienced, being knocked out, going under anesthesia, and even dying induces a state of "nothingness."
But, if it makes you happy to believe you create your own reality after death, go for it.
Thanks for your comments Steve. I have struggled with agnosticism vs. atheism vs "some type of ongoing consciousness" before. The problem I have with your statement is that your statement you partially base your argument on is false
"All of these scenarios are equally as possible as simply ceasing to exist."
What you describe, some type of ongoing consciousness I would be aware of after the death of my human body is infinity more complex, and hence much more unlikely. Much the same way Dawkins, Sagan, and others have stated that the probability of the existence of a deity/deities is limited by the fact of its complexity. It is MORE probable to say that there is no god, and no ongoing consciousness after death, because it is the simpler explanation. I think that Occam's razor gets a little too much use, but I gotta say it really fits for refuting theist/agnostic arguments. You are correct however, humans will likely never be able to rule out the existence of a higher power or consciousness after mortal death-but this does not make what you describe more probable or likely to be the truth. Thanks for joining the discussion!
Another take on the 10 commandments, and some morals for you. George Carlin. Genius.