Religious Views On Life After Death

What are your opinions on life after death?

I am doing a project in RE about different religions and peoples beliefs on life after death…What do you think happens after you die-where do you go?…do the bad/good things affect what happens and what is your religious/non-religious view on death?

It’s an oxymoron. Death, by definition, is the cessation of life.

Suppose you’re at the beach and you make a nice big fancy sandcastle, complete with moat and turrets and so on. Later, the tide comes in and washes it all away – the sand gets spread around the beach and all trace of your sandcastle disappears.

Where did it go? Well, clearly the castle didn’t ‘go’ anywhere as such – it was a temporary arrangement of grains of sand that went to make up something recognisable to us, and when the sea washed it away, it simply ceased to exist. Another day, someone else might come along and make another castle using some of the same sand that went into your castle, but the one you made is gone and can never exist again.

This is how it is with human beings – we are recognisable to ourselves and others as living organisms, but fundamentally we are temporary constructions of atoms and molecules and will one day simply cease to exist. Just as the sandcastle consists solely of the sand from which it is made, so human beings consist solely of the atoms and molecules of which we are made. When we die, our bodies will be returned to the environment to be incorporated into new living organisms, or to fall as rain, or to make the bedrock of a million years from now. We are ephemeral creatures, a brief pattern of order and complexity imposed on the raw material of the natural world.

Some people argue that there is something called a soul, which is independent of, and can survive the death of, the physical body. What could this ‘soul’ be?

If it’s postulated that consciousness, or awareness, or sense of self resides in the soul, it’s difficult to see how this can be reconciled with the complete oblivion which accompanies general anaesthesia. How could a straightforward chemical, injected into the bloodstream, anaesthetise a soul so that it effectively ceases to exist during this time? If consciousness, in the form of a soul, were some kind of supernatural faculty, it would seem implausible that it could be completely disabled by a chemical.

How about some of the other things which we regard as essential parts of what makes a person what they are? How about love, compassion, reason, empathy, memory, conscious thought, character, ‘spirituality’ and so on? Well, there is really no plausible doubt that all these things are properties of the physical brain – We can alter all of these properties very simply with alcohol or other drugs, and observe how they change in people who have suffered significant brain damage. Previously placid people become uncontrollably violent, intelligent people become imbeciles, and so on. Stimulate the brain artificially, and the subject reports corresponding mental activity, e.g. ‘religious experiences’. We can see from brain research that all these things – thought, emotion, sensation, character traits and so on – are correlated with activity in the brain, and some things can be identified with specific areas of the brain.

So, if all these faculties and characteristics of what we regard as the ‘person’ reside in the physical brain, as seems to be undeniably the case, and they all cease when the person dies, then what is left to be attributed to a ‘soul’? As far as I can ascertain: Nothing. If there is no part of us that can continue after death, then there is no ‘afterlife’… and if there is no afterlife, then most of religion is null and void.