Do you believe in an afterlife? If so - how does that work with evidence-based science?

I’d like to believe there’s an afterlife. I actually did believe it until I was in late elementary school and read the entire Bible. Instead of solidifying my faith in religion, reading the Bible totally destroyed it. I’m still not sure how that happened since most pastors/priests say to “Read the Bible!” to help you find God.

Technically one could argue on distant grounds that the Big Bang theory hasn’t been fundamentally proven in its exact and current form, but at least we have radio echoes and can see it’s effects. Maybe in our current Universe this wasn’t the first big bang but the second or third. Technically there’s no reason God couldn’t have created the Big Bang himself/herself and set all the laws of physics upon which our Universe exists. But I keep coming back to the fact that religion is all too often warped, and there has never been a single iota of proof God is truly there… though when you look at some creatures, it is absolutely mind-boggling that natural evolution could make something like this (even with 100 million years to make it happen):

My best theory of God is that he/she is actually a gamer playing a SimEarth/Spore-like title, and we are all the little creatures that evolved from the set of rules he laid out. While we’re forced to use digital 1’s and 0’s he/she has quantum physics to make it happen. Unfortunately it doesn’t make him very benevolent, and doesn’t mean we exist in any form after we die.

Nearly all of you are super amazing people and of course extremely intelligent. So I would love to hear how you manage this very difficult conundrum.

My personal understanding of reality does not allow me to believe in a god or afterlife. Although I suppose that I might be convinced otherwise.

I’ve read many times of people who do acid or mushrooms, come to find a greater essence of the Universe that the experience bestows upon them. Often making them calmer and happier with the newfound understanding of their place in the Universe. I’m too scared to do such a thing because it’d most certainly kill me with all the meds I’m on LOL, but I am jealous of those people as well, even though it’s not a traditional, religious-based interpretation.

Stuff will continue on after I die. Will the consciousness that is typing this continue to exist? No, but the consciousness that was contained in this body when i was a child doesn’t really exist now either.

Nobody knows, because nobody can know.
There are more theories than religions, with nothing ever proven. Likewise, nobody was ever able to prove that nothing comes afterwards, either. Just that our very limited understanding of the universe doesn’t allow for it. Perhaps it cannot be proven, if it exists, or disproven, if it doesn’t exist.

I just know that spending too much time on these questions that can most likely never be truly answered is ultimately a waste of lifetime - of which we might just have this one, so why waste it?

In the end, I think Keanu Reeves (what a wise man, really) said it best:
Those who love us, will miss us.

That’s enough for me, really. But I’ll accept an actual afterlife as a bonus.

I will also say that people who truly believe in an afterlife are in a favorable position.
If they are right, well, cool for them! If they are wrong, they’ll never know as there is no afterlife.

I try to live as though there is one.

If there isn’t, then I just ended up being a better person. Not a bad trade off, really.

My father is dying, and it guts me to think he might not continue on in some fashion. It’s been upsetting me a lot. He’s a traditional Catholic and has always been deeply involved in the church, but some of what he’s said makes me think he’s having doubts about what happens later as well. I’ve never, ever seen him question anything before. Seeing him waver a bit, caught me off guard since he’s always been an unquestionable rock.

Not always. I just finished reading the book And Then I Thought I Was A Fish (which is a fantastic book) but LSD + psychosis made him think everything was a sign from god and god was giving him purpose. When the phsycosis finally broke he realized how weird it had been to believe everything so easily. So now he’s an athiest.

Leaf mimicking insects are nothing compared to the complexity of our nervous systems, along with many other things but all of them can be adequately explained by the theory of evolution through natural selection. And that, by the way, is probably the “strongest” major theory in all the fields of science. Relativity does not work on tiny objects, quantum physics fails at high scales but evolution has no exceptions, no contradictions, no paradoxes in ~150 years of observations and countless pieces of evidence. There’s nothing like it and the fact that there are still many people who “don’t believe” in it is a massive monument that symbolizes our stupidity.

As for gods, the afterlife, etc., they are psychological coping mechanisms, glorified, self-administered imaginary placebos, nothing more. There’s no logical reason to believe any of it, nothing gives credence to any object of faith, no matter what shape or form.

Creator? As credible as a teapot orbiting Jupiter.
Afterlife? As credible as the Universe being created as a result of a giant fart.
The Dungeons and Dragons pantheon is as likely as any iteration of the Abrahamic/Hindu gods.

And you know what? That is ok because it does not mean it is all pointless. On the contrary, it means that this, everything from the first good morning you say to the words you typed on this forum, all of it can both Heaven and Hell … and everything in between. Sometimes we control our lives it through our choices (for the better or for the worse), other times the environment gives us little/no choice (child living in Syria, various diseases etc.). It’s not fair, it is what it is and it’s up to us to make the best of it with every single step we make.

I don’t believe in anything, I dislike the word itself and I generally find it pointless. I prefer trust which, unlike belief, must be gained and can be lost so I trust life forms(including people), the scientific method or culture/technology. Some people have lost my trust, some have not, some cultural aspects as well, some not, but the scientific method has held strong every since I’ve understood what it means, it has never failed so I will continue to trust it.

That being said I do have one little placebo that I hold in high regard. It is based on long term historical observations but it has no real scientific basis and I can’t say I “believe” in it so let’s just say I would prefer it to be true: “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways … But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”.

I live like there is one, and I live like there isn’t one. It sounds conflicting, but the way I see it is it’s not fear that pushes me to make a moral decision so much as knowing I am small in a much larger picture, and when I answer for what is unseen, these tiny dark marks are not worth it.

… but I also live like this could be it, so that means… the Earth does matter, the here and now still matters, the physical matters and the future ought to be nurtured.

It’s not easy but there are a number of individuals who believed in a religion and also the importance of there here and now, and when it comes down to it, they don’t conflict as often as some might expect them too.

I do. I’m influenced by works like “The Self and Its Brain: An Argument for Interactionism,” which is so good that I’ve purchased it twice.

A number of incredibly brilliant people do, ranging from conventional (George FR Ellis or perhaps Francis Collins) to unconventional (John Sanford, creator of the biolistic process springs to mind), but it’s hard to argue that they are not weighing evidence and and being rational.

I guess I view it like this: George Ellis, who I mentioned above, is perhaps the brightest cosmologist that the world has seen, having won awards for his science and his humanitarian efforts. Along with Hawking, he wrote, “The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time.”

Ellis is a theist, while Hawking was an atheist.

Francis Collins headed the Human Genome Project after taking it over from his predecessor, Jim Watson, and has gone on to be the Director of the National Institute of Health.

Collins is a theist, and Watson an atheist.

These two pairs of men share attributes. They are top scientists in their fields; they have collaborated as pairs. We can see that there is a divide, but it is not in their science, which is the same. It is their worldviews; theism vs atheism. There are scientists on both sides, and the “conflict” view of science and religion is a statement of personal philosophy.

I look at death as a sort of boundary line beyond which nothing is knowable. This not only means that we don’t know for sure what happens after death, but also that our experience on this side is useless in predicting what happens after. That’s not the same as saying that experience before and after death have nothing to do with one another, but it does mean that there’s no point in trying to use logic or evidence to figure out which afterlife to believe in. (By the way, I feel the same way about the creation of the universe.)

So if you can’t know what happens after death, what’s to be done? The answer is faith: “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” We tend to think of this as meaning religion, but really anything one believes about the afterlife…including nothing…is a matter of faith.

I put my faith in the Bible when it comes to such things. The intent behind what’s actually written there, not the awful, intolerant, hypocritical bullshit that we’ve come to think of as “evangelical Christianity” here in the United States. I believe not because there’s some sort of proof or evidence - there can’t be any, as I said above - but through faith.

Obviously there’s a huge amount of stuff in the Bible, but in a practical sense, it mostly boils down to “love God” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” Which is of course impossible to do perfectly, but a good guideline for life nonetheless. As for the afterlife, this faith means that I don’t need to concern myself with it. I have faith in where I’m going, and I try to live my life in a way that reflects that. When it comes to other people, if I’m doing it right then the example of my life will lead them to be interested in learning what I believe. I’m happy to share when asked, but don’t need to push it on anyone else.

Here’s a place to start. It’s not absolute proof of an afterlife, but I think it reveals some philosophical evidence, or, at very least, is a worthwhile thought experiment:

Why are we capable of imagining a better life than the one we have?

The materialist answer is probably something like “It has evolutionary benefits.” And I can’t prove that’s not true–although like most evo-bio arguments, I think we need to be wary of the circular argument of “Why does an organism do X? Because X gives a biological advantage. How do we know X gives a biological advantage? Because we observe the organism doing it.”

Evolutionary benefit or not, human beings seem hard-wired to look at a world in which every single example of life inevitably dies and to imagine–and long for–a kind of life that doesn’t end. On top of that, they imagine life without suffering, life without unfulfilled needs, a life of perfect happiness. They go on to search for and speculate about ways and reasons that they–despite never seeing such a thing in the world–might be able to achieve that kind of life. If this is an evolutionary benefit, it’s evolution convincing us of the most blatant self-delusion.

Okay, but try working from a different premise, just for the moment: Imagine that what we experience as life is not “true life.” Or, let’s say, it’s life that’s been compromised–broken in some way. And our species’ universal longing for a life that is eternal, fulfilling, and lacking suffering is a result of the fact that that perfect “true life” is actually what we’re built for, what we are meant to have. Instead of being organisms arbitrarily wired to struggle uselessly against the plainest fact of our existence (the story of materialist science), we’re eternal beings suffering, for some mysterious reason, from a broken nature, a corrupted life.

One way of telling this story is in the book of Genesis: We were not made to live and die, struggling for survival in a merciless wilderness. We were made to live forever in a peaceful, ordered garden that perfectly suits our needs. And in our bones, we feel that fact, in every moment of our existence. (The Christian story goes on to explain why we can hope that we might still attain that true life. Super abbreviated version: The creator of everything that is, source of all life, shared our broken human nature and through a sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection, showed us what a human being living his true life looks like. But making any of that convincing will take a lot longer than anyone wants me to spend here.)

Believing in an afterlife (and here I’m voicing the Christian view) doesn’t mean believing that death transports us to some other world, or transforms us into a different kind of thing, or sets free a part of us that’s been trapped in our broken body. It means believing that death was never our destiny at all. And it means hoping that–somehow–creation (ourselves included) can be healed, and renewed to the perfect state it was intended to have.

Here’s another view of God: God is not one being among many, just another entity in (or outside of) this world. God is, instead, Being Itself. Everything that IS shares in that Being. That fact doesn’t dictate any specific physical process of creation, and doesn’t require treating Genesis like history. Our scientific examinations of the world reveal a story of physical creation, and (other than the fact that we’ll continue to refine that story further) we have no reason to doubt that story. Regardless, every scattered fragment of the Big Bang–you, me, the planet Neptune, a leaf insect–is sustained in every moment by Being Itself.

We can come to that conclusion through philosophical reflection–through something similar to Aristotle and Aquinas’ Unmoved Mover argument. Further understanding of the nature of God requires God to reveal itself in a special way. One example of that revelation comes in the story of Abraham and the Hebrews. What that revealed is that Being Itself is capable of a personal relationship with his creatures. The Christian revelation goes on to tell us that Being Itself creates and sustains us because of Love, and Love is synonymous with Being Itself.

We can’t get to these places through science or philosophy. All we can do is consider how a revealed idea might fit into our philosophical and scientific understanding, and see if it enhances the picture or muddies it (or breaks it). Deciding to accept revelation because of how it enhances our understanding of God, the universe, and ourselves and opens up new avenues of reasoned knowledge is the definition of religious faith.

I worked with Francis Collins for years, so I had long discussions with him on this issue. Frustratingly (for me) he really couldn’t give me the proof nor solid foundation I was looking for.

I’m jealous that you got to; he seems like a pretty amazing human being. I think that you’d really like the book I mentioned. The authors take turns explaining their points of view, which are different, but collaborative, and they target the concept of consciousness.

Some individuals do find it a bit too scientific to comprehend, but it seems that this wouldn’t be the case for you. (Though it still might be a slog.) (Assuming that you haven’t read it already.) (That is interesting.)

I do, and it works from my perspective because it has nothing to do with evidence-based science; they’re entirely apart from one another. There is no evidence to be found one way or another, and I think looking for it is a pure waste of time and energy due to that fact just as much as I believe any efforts to disprove it are (and by extension, proselytizing either view with any edge of vehemence rubs me very much the wrong way). I mean, why would God need a spaceship? (sorry, couldn’t resist)

Any holy book is going to be filled with inconsistencies and absurdities, because it’s written by humanity and we’re rife with inconsistencies and absurdities. In my view, they’re fascinating, living pieces of anthropology and sociology containing codified efforts to explain the unfathomable. They say so much about us, but likely very little about what may wait beyond the horizon of our knowing.

A good question would be why I have such a belief in the afterlife; some family members are deists while others aren’t, so it’s not necessarily a dogma thing. My parents had very bad experiences with organized religion, so they made sure not to push anything along those lines onto my sister or me. But while I don’t look for any proof of afterlife or God or anything supernatural, I’ve spent much of my life trying to grapple with the same unanswerable questions the rest of us have and for me the best fit is yes, there’s something.

My speculations align somewhat with the generalities of my faith but certainly not perfectly, though I’m good with that and also knowing my perspective can and will change over time.

I have :)

When he released his book(s) I desperately looked to find something he left out of our conversations that would be an exclamation point that changes everything… or even a single thing. I’d rather not speak for him, but some of the items diverged between conversation and written material. But I think as his knowledge progressed it deepened his faith, whereas I went the opposite way. The more I saw exactly how intracellular and molecular mechanisms worked, and the evolutionary and embryological processes that controlled or shaped them, the more difficult it became to add a God into the mix ie. when the magic is explained, magic ceases to exist.

As to Francis as an individual? He is literally incomparable. Incredibly kind and extremely caring. One of the greatest minds in all of human genetics and yet humble and soft spoken. The best person this country could have selected to lead the Human Genome Project and now the NIH. I nearly cried any time he talked about CF because it humbled me to my core - that people who may not have known a single CF patient would still have such a strong desire to heal our lives. Most people don’t understand a researchers life either. Insane hours, laughable pay, few if any vacations ever, and little to no job security. Knowing how much they sacrifice to be purest of research scientists… no giant payout on the back-end, it makes you feel unworthy. I can say unequivocally he is the exception to, “never meet your idol”.


Wow. I’ve read what you wrote twice and I think I need to sleep on it and take it in again tomorrow just to properly parse. But for some strange reason, it made me think of something that sprang into my brain when I popped out of a coma many years ago. It is a combination of fear but also insight into the idea of heaven and hell. I can’t really understand why your writing made me think of this, but if you don’t mind the tangent hear me out? Short story time:

When I was in coma and on a ventilator it was 3 weeks of hell, a literal alternative reality my brain lived in. I’ve mentioned before, but to two sentence it, there was a nuclear war and the auditory and sensory responses I picked up in real life I assembled this into a working world. Nuclear war, temp changes was me being moved from enclosed room to exposed radiation environment, crying was the masses of people dying, my body’s destruction and paralysis due to me being crushed by debris and suffering from end-stage radiation sickness.

When I came out of the coma, I was terrified beyond belief. Not just because they still didn’t think I’d live, but much more - the simple fact I could not, under any circumstance, risk going back to sleep and re-entering that hell. I did not sleep… for a very, very long time. The lack of sleep nearly killed me yet again. This began my long journey with insomnia and as you all know, Ambien Walrus posts (once I started getting medicated) and became a member of QT3.

What I thought about in the following week where I laid awake too terrified to sleep is I may have witnessed actual hell. Not the one ascribed in the Bible, but the one God actually intended. After all, the Bible was written by humans with all the influences and prejudices of their time, and total lack of understanding of life itself. How could they possibly interpret God’s actual will if they couldn’t figure out something as basic as time? So what if God had meant to infer that hell, or purgatory, would actually be a personal experience, a technical worst nightmare… not a figurative one but a literal nightmare -wherein upon death if you knew deep down you hadn’t led a good life, your mind would create an everlasting construct of a hellish landscape your brainwaves could never escape. Thus, the need to believe in the “correct” God wasn’t a pre-requisite for heaven, what was most important, one that was inescapable upon death, was that you had lived a kind and benevolent life.

When the Bible (or some Christian authors) talk about “your life flashes before your eyes”, or “you’re at the gates of heaven and God lays forth your life’s history showing the underlying truth at the root of your soul”, this is in actuality your very own judgement as you can’t escape the truth that lies within you. You end up determining your own fate. You live in happiness and peace forever if your honest mind feels you were good, whereas those who were evil will have nowhere to hide it, and their mind-soul construct is frozen in time, forever in a damning fate - the worst thing they could ever imagine. For example, an individual like trump would be poor, black, living in a desolate African environment, starving, diseased, forever a nobody. This is not to be ironic or funny, but what I’d imagine for someone who is so narcissistic, so selfish & greedy - the worst thing their mind could create that would trap them as an eternal punishment.

For me, that’s simply being away from the people I love. Hearing the pain in their voice, never being able to hold them or be near to them again. Being helpless against the ravages of a world gone mad.

Yeesh, that is really messed up as I read it back. I deleted it then re-wrote it (which makes my bad grammar doubly embarrassing), but that’s something that’s been in the back of my mind for many years. I guess from that assessment I’m afraid I’m undeserving of happiness and peace if that came to pass. Not because I’m a bad person, but because I’m too angry and upset about the injustices and hypocrisy in the world.

I will need to read up on this. I see there’s a Bishop Barron and his interpretations on Youtube. Ironically, he may be the same Bishop my Mom had urged me to listen to several years ago.

@jpinard my bad, looks like I implied the wrong book. This is the one I meant to reference. Regardless of one’s position, it’s fantastic. SX385_BO1,204,203,200

On phone and it’s acting up so can’t post more! Goodnight to you and the 🐸 s!

On my list :)