I had a heated debate with my more intelligent other this weekend about our respective beliefs. She's about as non-religious as anyone I know, but declines to believe that death is the beginning of one's non-existence. "If so, then what purpose does life have if this is all there is?" she asks.
I, for one, believe that because life is indeed so short, we need to take responsibility for it and try to leave the world a little better than it was when you got here. But for her, the notion that consciousness--that something that makes you who you are--could somehow end, is unacceptable.
I suggested that consciousness is not a separate thing, but simply the brain's interpretation of neurons firing in response to stimuli, but my unartful (and uninformed) clinical description didn't convince her.
She argued that there's still lots we don't know and that, possibly the universe or us all, are somehow connected in some way that preserves our essence once dead. She likened it more to a spiritual thing, but tried to play by my rules and argued for it as a physical process.
She's certainly not the New Age type who's into crystals, the power of pyramids or other bunk; she simply declines to conclude that the end is the end. But I'm also not talking about a more naturalistic appreciation of the universe. Perhaps it's an agnostic approach; without putting words in her mouth, I think she believes there's some kind of afterlife, albeit not the religious type that requires judgement for deeds in this one.
So here's my question: Is this sort of thinking harmful? It seems innocuous enough. But where does one draw the line, if such a line can be drawn? Or does it really matter, since nothing we do now will have any impact on the outcome?
Thoughts on how to approach this is greatly appreciated.