What do atheists think will happen to them after death?

I wasn’t sure whether to post this thread here, in the Philosophy section, or in the Back Fence. Even though atheism is not a religion per se, I’m wondering whether any atheists have an idea similar to that of any religion regarding where they will go after they die. For example, does anyone believe in reincarnation, karma, or even a kind of heaven or hell in another universe, based perhaps on the laws of nature and physics?

Some atheists believe in some sort of an afterlife, some do not. I personally do not.

When we die, consciousness dissipates and life functions end. There is no soul or anything else that survives death; we cease to exist. That’s it.

If appropriate scientific evidence or even a working scientific hypothesis emerges (something that is being seriously peer-reviewed and being discussed in publications such as Scientific American or the New England Journal of Medicine) that may suggest otherwise I would re-evaluate my current position.

The Ancient Sadducees believed this as well. Most Jews today, following the Pharisaic tradition, believe in an afterlife, but not all. Thanks for your reply.

You’re welcome!

There was a movie called “Flatliners” that involved the study of life after death.
I wonder who in real life would volunteer to participate in such a study!

Haha, I remember Flatliners!

I can’t think of anyone personally who’d want to try something like that, I certainly wouldn’t. Too much risk of brain damage, other permanent bodily injury or death.

However there probably would be takers if you dangle enough money in front of them or make it a reality show. Some people will do anything to get on TV. :rolleyes:

In all seriousness there should never be a study like this, it would be a violation of scholarly conduct and ethical behavior in professional scientific research. If there were evidence of “something else beyond” then it’ll have to be found some way other than purposely flatlining test subjects.

After death, I will be dead, and exist in the same way that I did before I was alive, i.e., not at all. My perception that there is something I identify as ‘me’ inside by body is probably false. Google ‘Susan Blackmore’ if you want to know more about this idea. ‘I’ may therefore be no more non-existent than ‘I’ am now! The more I think about this the more I think of life being the continuing thing - across species and eons of time; more and more I think of us as a part of life, and not primarily as individuals. In such thinking, death shall have no dominion.

This thinking sounds to me close to that of Hinduism, that is, the individual self as an illusion and a gradual return to the life of the universe without a personal consciousness. But better for having made the journey.

What about energy thus lifeforce? Where does that go? It can’t be destroyed only displaced? Or do you see otherwise?

What energy do you mean? My body is a net consumer of energy; this is why it needs food. I can grapple with the idea of ‘life’ but what is ‘lifeforce’?

I agree with meltzerboy and his thinking. Matter would be a different reality than energy though no? Or dust to dust of the flesh.

Part of the same reality I think.

Electrical signaling, for example sodium or potassium which relate to what you are saying in relation to the nervous system thus life itself. Though the ultimate of life can be destroyed as we well know in the physical sense. We also know energy cannot.

To date - scientists who have sythensized protiens have been unable to assign self-sustaining protein functions to a chain without outside interference. In essence, all matter used to sustain life cannot spontaneously resusitate to life without the outside interference or assistance of pre-existing life. In short, Frankenstein has never happened successfully.

That’s not to say that it is impossible. My personally theory is that it is impossible. Life itself cannot be quantified or replicated. It can only be divided as part existing life to extend life elsewhere. Offspring and tissue transplants are limited by this function. The material is all there, but the energy needed to begin cellular function is not just a matter of electrical or magnetic charge. The matter may be present with no sign of decay, but life will not begin without the introduction of pre-existing life.

What makes us sentient is not our physical makeup, or even our mental capacity because of that makeup. That which makes us human separates us from the animals, and thus, in some way or another, there must be a Creator, and if the Creator is real, then our lives are not our own, and it is our responsiblity to seek the Truth.

That’s a fantastic way to think about our lives.

Thanks, I’ll remember that.

Well, i think the majority of people who self-identify as atheists in the modern era (such as myself) attach themselves to the notion of Scientific Materialism - in which case this is kind of it. Once the body ceases, all that complexity ceases to exist.

That being said - there are a number of atheists who deny the Material world is all there is. Or at least kick open the door to some sort of Substance or Property Dualism when it comes to the operations/functions of the mind.

There is also the problematic case of Buddhism which can be classified as a form of atheism (although having interviewed a number of monastics from different traditions, such a classification is essentially unhelpful in characterizing their beliefs).

I would go to metaphysics and energy for yet more understanding. Google, Metaphysics, Life Force and Energy, and you should get a basic idea.

Now its believed Einstein “may” be wrong.

From there read the CC or the EO on “essense” and you “sort of” get an idea how you as creature relate to the Creator. Simple reason being we are limited in understanding the Lord.

At the end of all this you reach whats called “Mystery” maybe theory, thus the Lord. Unless you believe man will figure out the Universe completely any time soon? I would go with God.

What we don’t know? Long List! Lets put this in perspective.

Gravity alone has us stumped. Creature’s:shrug:

Well here…



“This textbook contains material on Gravity. Universal Gravity is a theory, not a fact, regarding the natural law of attraction. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.”:shrug:


This is precisely my belief as well. Cease to exist. No consciousness. No thinking or feeling or experience can occur unless we are alive!
I am more sure about the nonexistence of an afterlife than the nonexistence of a deity.

No, I am especially opposed to the idea of there being a place we go to. However, I am not opposed to ideas one might find in pantheism or certain nature-based religions (dont know any in particular though) that there is an aspect of immortality in the sense that our bodies are recycled into nature. That can hardly be considered an afterLIFE but it is a religious belief related to what happens when we die so I think it answers the question. :slight_smile:

Nothing. They will cease to exist. Not even black, just nothing.

I’m Lutheran now, but when I was agnostic I certainly felt that there would be an afterlife:

Given an infinite universes and infinite time, at some point the exact combination of atoms that constitute your brain will come again. It’s exceedingly rare, but infinity has a way of overcoming all the odds.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.