Belief in Some Kind of "Afterlife"

I’m curious to know if atheists and agnostics belive in some kind of afterlife. Not a supernatural heaven or hell situation but more a natural progression of our consciousness on another plane?

As for me: the answer is no. There is no evidence to show it, so to believe in such an afterlife is nothing else, but wishful thinking. Would be fun, though… just like heaven would be nice.

One of the reasons I ask is that energy - which is what we really are - cannot be destroyed - it only changes forms. I’m using energy and consciusness as meaning the same thing here - a self-awareness (I don’t know that “soul” would work), sort of in the Buddhist sense that our energy surives the death of our bodies because our bodies are only temporary repositories for our energy. Am I making sense? :confused:

Yes, you do.

But energy and consciousness are not the same, not by a long shot. “Who” we are is our mind, which is the configuration of our brain-cells (the zillions of connections among the billions of them) and that configuratoin is lost at death, when our brain deteriorates.

Any kind of belief in any kind of afterlife denies this. Of course there is not one iota of evidence which would support them. All the available evidence supports the materialistic hypothesis. As usual, that does not “prove” the materialistic approach, however it makes it very plausible.

Um…wrong. Belief in the afterlife is about the soul, which is the non-materialistic part of the person (body + soul).

All ***what ***available evidence? Scripture is evidence; whether one chooses to accept it as evidence is another matter.

And there is no evidence for it, nothing that could be examined, tested for and verified.

The “scripture” is nothing but a collection of stories written across many centuries by fallible (and quite ignorant) people, and arbitrarily selected by other fallible people. Not much of an evidence…

And there is no evidence for it, nothing that could be examined, tested for and verified.

I’d say that the entire scope of human history in which it was taken as axiomatic by almost everyone who ever lived until modern secular white Western man is a pretty nice chunk of “evidence”. The arrogance, and ignorance I might add, of relegating the concept to the dustbin of obsolete historical curiosities because we have found an effective way to make predictive statements about chunks of matter is more postmodern than it is scientific, more gleefully destructive than it is open minded and honest. I myself suffered from this malady for many years and thought I was just being clear-headed and brutally honest, given the “evidence” we were presented with. I can be more objective now that I don’t worship a method of gathering and verifying data.

The “scripture” is nothing but a collection of stories written across many centuries by fallible (and quite ignorant) people, and arbitrarily selected by other fallible people. Not much of an evidence…

This is more reductive postmodern silliness with no basis in history or science, and completely lacking in evidential support. As near as science has been able to show, the old and new testaments are (to the ire of postmodernists) largely grounded in historical fact. A Catholic, for example, might believe they’re grounded in something else too. Your claim that the people who wrote the scriptures were “quite ignorant” (I’d really love to see you support that claim with “evidence”) betrays a very essential ignorance of history, the scriptures themselves (read 'em much?), literature, religion, poetry, theology, philosophy, historical science, education, hermeneutics (surprising given your postmodern stance), sacred texts, culture, sociology, psychology, etc., etc. Scientism is old and crusty philosophical fashion. All of the available “evidence” points to the truth of that statement. A robust scepticism is very useful, particularly on one’s own prejudices. People tend to be most prone to error in those areas. From one fallible crank to another.

God Bless

Jon Winterburn

Again, there is evidence of an afterlife, and that comes from people who have had an out of body or near-death experience. No, not scientifically verifiable, but science by it’s nature is not equipped to deal with spiritual matters.

Some of those writers would put your intellect to shame. :smiley:

I find it fascinating that certain people will use a double standard when claiming biblical evidence to be false and other ancient writings (ones which cannot be verified by historical ‘evidence’) as, pun intended, “Gospel” truth. :shrug:

Well, if something is not scientifically verifyable, then it is just a story. The people who claim these may be very honest in their opinion, but that is neither here nor there. Honesty is a nice trait, but as a “tool” to obtain knowledge about the world it is useless.

I don’t know what you are talking about. The other “genesis” stories are on par with the Bible in veracity.

Yes, this is called Scientism. It’s also very close to Logical Positivism, except that whereas you would say that “something” is “just a story” when not “scientifically verifiable”, the Logical Positivist had the good sense (and at this point undermined their very axiom) to claim that any sentence that was not amenable to the verifiability criterion of meaning was thereby rendered meaningless. This silly notion was dismantled by Quine, among others, himself a fan of logical positivism, seeking to reform it, but succeeding in destroying it. Quine was also a fan of “scientism”, as was I, for many years. Scientism claims that scientific knowledge is the only kind going, but here Quine cheated by positing a continuum of hard science with good responsible philosophy, eschewing any sharp demarcation whereby to distinguish the disciplines, thus salvaging much of traditional philosophy from an oblivious meaninglessness, along with his own system of thought from the dungheap of self-undermining nonsense. Quine had an inordinate amount of good sense for a philosopher, and as such, it is possible to engage his ideas intelligently. One important and, as I see it, deeply flawed aspect of it is his scientism. So, since you claim something similar, do you care to defend it?

God Bless

Jon Winterburn

It is “evidence” all right, but not evidence to the veracity of such claims, rather to the rampant superstition and outright ignorance of the claimants.

It is rare (but not rare enough!) to see an “argument” which asserts that the number of people subscribing to a “claim” somehow gives credence to the claim.

There was only one doctor who claimed that stomach-ulcer is actually caused by bacteria and treatable with antibiotics. The rest of the medical professionals howled in disagreement. They called this doctor a charlatan. Guess what: they had to eat their words. All of them were uniformly wrong and the doctor alone was right. So much for the opinion of the majority as a usable epistemological tool.

Millions of people today still believe in fairies, leprechauns, angels, demons, dragons, gosts, poltergeists and other nonsense. Should we take these seriously, just because millions of people still believe in them?

Those “predictive statements” are responsible for the doubling of life expectancy in the last 100 years. Those are responsible for allowing you to disparage them across the Internet using a high-tech computer. And also millions and billions of other improvements in our lives. (Before you or someone else will mention it, they were also “responsible” for the events in Hiroshima. Science and technology are value-neutral. Their usage is not - but that is whole different ballgame.)

There is nothing “open-minded” about accepting all possible claims without demanding objective, repeatable verification. Actually it is called gullibilty. “Auras”, “horoscopes”, “astrology”, “astral projections”, para-normal “spoon bending” and the rest are to be exposed to what they are: sheer nonsense.

That is your business. By the way there is no need to “worship” the method. It stands on its own feet.

There are some facts which were supported by outside evidence, but not a whole lot. But that is not relevant. If a math book would contain thousands of valid proofs of thousands of theorems and one incorrect proof, the validity of the rest will not make the error disappear.

Just because there were historic sites which were described in the text that does not lend credence to the “magic” allegedly happening in those places.

Well, here is one for your edification: the Bible claims that the value of “pi” is exactly three. Even back then people had a better approximation for this value.

There is no “scientism”. Science is the one and only endeavor which does not require a-priori acceptance of a claim. The claim is made and you are free to conduct your own experiment to see whether it is correct or not. Many times its claims are erroneous. But the process is self-rectifying.

That is your only statement I can agree with. And urge you to follow it. :slight_smile:

Not a correct representation. I am talking about propositions concerning reality. The verifyability principle is a meta-proposition, which cannot be applied to itself.

To be precise: any proposition about reality is subject to verification if wishes to be taken seriously.

If someone wishes to propose that there is some kind of an afterlife, then it is incumbent upon him to define what that afterlife is supposed to be, and how can its existence be ascertained. Otherwise it is merely wishful thinking, which is dime a dozen.

[quote=ateista]Not a correct representation. I am talking about propositions concerning reality. The verifyability principle is a meta-proposition, which cannot be applied to itself.

To be precise: any proposition about reality is subject to verification if wishes to be taken seriously.

You’re in more trouble than I thought. Here I thought we were talking about language and science, you know, theory. If you are interested in reality, please define it first. You’re also assuming a correspondence theory of truth. As such we are very clearly talking about theory. You’re referring to propositions. Shall we stick to first-order logic with equality? If so, can we agree on expressions, sentences, and formulas? Propositions are an unnecessary encumberance here. Finally, if you’re going to assume a correspondence theory of truth, please defend that. Thanks!

God Bless

Jon Winterburn

I don’t know any of us who think that other historical writings are the gospel truth. It rather depends on what they are saying.

That a man died on a cross, did healings, attracted a following, even that he appeared to his followers after was supposed to be dead, are not miraculous. They all fall firmly within what can be observed.

When you talk about invisible, intangible, and unverifiable spirits there is no reason to believe that the person writing had witnessed these things anymore than we have to believe Sylvia Brown can see people’s guardian angels.

When Caeser says he attacked Gaul, we have no reason to doubt it. When other ancient writings say he was the son of a god, we do.

No, we were talking about a belief in some kind of an afterlife.

I stated my opinion about the matter, and you criticized it by bringing up the many people who accepted the reality of an afterlife in an axiomatic fashion. I answered to your points in a rather long post, which you seemed to overlook.

The point is still the same: what is that “afterlife” and what kind of evidence is there to support it? The argument appealing to the number of people who believed that claim is clearly fallacious (argumentum ad numeram). Is there anything else?

If there is no evidence showing, the whole concept must be relegated to the categories of wishful thinking.

To answer the original question. I don’t believe in an afterlife.

Energy, as used in the statement “energy can neither be created nor destroyed”, means “the capability to do work”. How is self- awareness and the capability to do work in anyway the same?

Every experiment and observation has confirmed that when you change a person’s brain, you change their personality. You can give people drugs their thoughts and feelings about the world. You can remove the part of their brain that will enable them to be empathetic. You can damage their ability to learn, to remember, or to even recognise themselves in a mirror. If you damage it enough, you can take away their ability to think or feel at all.

Changing brains is not an exact science, but the important point has been established and reestablished repeatedly. The brain is what makes a person a person, not their energy. Take the brain away, and you take away the person.

Until I have a reason… and the opinions of others doesn’t count as a reason… then I have to assume that there isn’t anything to the idea that I can live without my body.

I think it would be great if their was, but sadly I don’t think I’ll ever see a reason to change my mind.


May apologies. You were correct that I entirely missed your long response to mine. What’s more, I agree with everything you said there. With a couple of caveats: I don’t wish to denigrate science. I’m a scientist. But I still don’t see why this should hold you to scientism. That’s what it is, under any moniker you choose. I’m not concerned with whether or not you worship it, but if you think that science is the only source of true knowledge, that’s called scientism. It’s an interesting idea. But it requires evidence. I imagine you’d site scientific evidence. But, alas, it’s philosophy, and unless you’re a Quinean or something similar, you have no reason to hold it.

I brought up the number of people who believe in an afterlife as a kind of evidence, not proof. So, the fallacy was in your interpretation, not my statement. My point was that “evidence” as you mean it is not the only kind.

We agree on the value of modern science. Let’s get to your real beef then. The afterlife in the Judeo-Christian tradition is a spiritual reality, not a physical reality in the way that science goes about investigating it. As such, it is neither amenable nor beholden to scientific standards, since science can have nothing to say about it even in principle. That’s why I was interested in your definition of “reality”, since I have no doubt that it would have exposed you for your scientism. I don’t have a beef with your scientism if you can defend it. There is a subjective and objective truth to spiritual reality. The objective part is in morality and, possibly, arguments about God’s existence. But this isn’t science, as you know. And any attempt to reduce it that way also has a philosophical moniker attached to it. It’s called reductionism. And, as coincidence would have it, that completes the list of the two dogmas of empiricism which philosophers agree Quine dismantled.

God Bless

Jon Winterburn

So experience isn’t a reliable tool? Many would beg to differ. Besides, science has limitations; it cannot verify or deny everything. I would argue that science isn’t always the best yardstick for measuring objective reality.

For example, the universe is considered to be infinite…yet science is incapable of confirming or denying this. Some things have to be taken on faith; the only other choice is to dismiss the discussion as irrelevant and unimportant.

What I mean is that other historical documents are taken as fact, by some, while scripture is “just made-up stories”. There is quite a bit of archeological evidence for things that happened as told in scripture…yet it is dismissed, while other non-scriptural writings that have less evidence to back them up are many times taken to be more reliable.

I think it’s a bit sad to be tied down by science, as well as not having anything to look forward to after this life.

Que Sera, sera. :shrug:

It depends on what you call “true knowledge”. To me this phrase has two possible meanings:

  1. The result of a logically precise set of propositions based on some mutually agreed upon axioms. (Exact science, like mathematics).

  2. The proper correspondence between reality and our interpretation of it. (Natural sciences).

Now, it is true that not all claims can be proven scientifically. An example might be: “I claim that my wife loves me”. I cannot “prove” it to you. It may even be true that I am mistaken, and the 28 years worth of “personal evidence” is just a huge misinterpretation on my part and in reality she hates my guts. (I don’t think so.)

But that is just a personal opinion, which is totally irrelevant to you. Many times personal convictions cannot be proven. But since they are personal convictions, it does not really matter. If I were to assert that your well-being is contingent upon accepting my personal claim, then you rightfully could demand a formal proof, and if it never shows up, you could rightfully scorn my unprovable assertion and discard it as irrelevant.

Sure. But let’s be precise about it. It is not a theorem to be “proven”, it is a principle to be used. Its veracity is established by the zillions of actual experiments conducted.

As for asserting that there are other methods beside it, go ahead. Show me what that other method is and what makes it reliable.

A “foolish example”: let me assert that a “somewhat” valid way to answer yes-no questions is by tossing a coin and answering “yes” if heads show and answering “no” when a tail comes up. This epistemological “method” is 50% reliable, isn’t it? So is it an acceptable epistemological method? I don’t think you would agree.

At best it would be a “hearsay evidence”, which is usually not admissible even in the court of law, even though the requirements there are much lower. As an evidence about reality it carries no weight whatsoever.

This is where you lose me. The phrase “spiritual reality” is gobbledegook to me. It literally carries no meaning.

The proper word would be “materialist”.

No, it is not science. So is it just a personal conviction, which is irrelevant to everyone else, or is it an objectively existing “reality” (observe the quotes!) which is “binding” on the unbelievers? If it is the first, then it belongs to the “who cares” category. If it is the second, then some kind of a “verification” process is required.

If you say that it cannot be verifed empirically, then you should show an alternative method, which does not rely on a-priori acceptance of the claim. Moreover you should be able to give some indication as to “why” is this method reliable? Looks like a losing proposition to me. But go ahead, I am here to listen.

You should have said: “some philosophers”. Empiricism is alive and well. Precision is a virtue!

Show me someone who “experienced” afterlife and came back to prove it. Movies and recordings preferred.

What other way is there, and why is it reliable?

Which they usually are.

Archeological evidence for “walking on water”, for example?

No, it is not sad at all. It is called “accepting reality”. True, it would be nice to have another shot at existence. So what? It would be nice to be a millionaire, too. Lots of things “would be nice”. But one should not give up what exists for something that may not exist.

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