Saturday, July 08, 2006

Life after death

Life after death is inherently implausible, much like life before birth.
Our conscious existence, our self-reflexive insight, our private I - that is our inner self - is a reflective loop that stems from and is based in the physical brain. Our personality, our temperance, our characteristics, our loves, hates, desires, emotions and sense of self are all mechanisms of our physical brain. We are not “consciously” aware of ourselves at birth and only acquire our conscious awareness after our brain has attained a certain level of development and our neuro-pathways have made the necessary connections and web. When we die our physical brain dissolves and so does our consciousness, our inner-self (sometimes, mistakenly, referred to as our “soul”), so as far as an afterlife involving ones personality, conscious awareness, inner-self, etc., such a thing does not exist. It only exists in the minds of those who, not only hold a phobia of an impersonal and random nature that is not concerned with human endeavor, retain a neurotic fear of death (which is understandable to some degree).
This is one instance in which I am an orthodox Freudian. In Freud’s The Future of an Illusion he explained religion and the mythology of the afterlife inherent therein as the highest form of wish fulfillment, being the cheapest form of our emotions. I believe this to be the case with belief in the continuation of self after death with regards to any religious precept and notion, there simply is absolutely no evidence that ones self will continue after the dissolution of their physical being.


Stardust said...

When we die our physical brain dissolves and so does our consciousness, our inner-self (sometimes, mistakenly, referred to as our “soul”), so as far as an afterlife involving ones personality, conscious awareness, inner-self, etc., such a thing does not exist. It only exists in the minds of those who, not only hold a phobia of an impersonal and random nature that is not concerned with human endeavor, retain a neurotic fear of death (which is understandable to some degree).

Excellent post once again, JD. Humans need to come to accept the inevitable instead of fighting against by making up fantasies of an afterlife. It's much more dignified to accept life as it is instead of with fear and regret. Be glad you are fortunate to have existed at all.

Dane Sorensen said...

I enjoyed your comment on the physical reality of our being. It takes a brave soul (sorry about the choice of soul) to admit that death is final. Almost as brave as the person who admits this universe does not need a creator. In same ways your posting is a damn good argument for cryonics. Preserve the brain and you preserve the person. It is true cryonics is still a long shot bet, but it is a far more logical bet than praying to Jesus. Cheers.

JDHURF said...

I agree with you it would be far more productive, on the whole, if individuals would simply look at their lives and science realizing that this life is the one and only. This life is all that we are afforded and that we cannot waste it hoping and wishing for better “realities” after our death. Afterlife scenarios account for so much of what is wrong with human civilization, Islamic martyrdom combined with Jihad provides all of the incentive needed for Muslims, even those well educated and fiscally well off, to strap a vest of dynamite to their torso and incinerate themselves and a crowd of “infidels.” Nietzsche pointed out how fundamental Christians, by focusing so much on the afterlife and minimizing so much of present reality, are inherently nihilistic.

dane Sorenson,
For some people accepting the implications of modern science and the fact that ones physical death equates the death of self entirely is either hard to do and scary or outright impossible. I find myself in no such quandary. To me this knowledge is a great motivating factor in my striving to reach my highest potentials and ultimately living life to the fullest. Furthermore the notion of life for an eternity based on the various mythologies is rather unappealing to me.
I agree even cryonics is an exceedingly more plausible continuation of self as opposed to praying to Jesus, which I would argue is as good as nothing (see the blog entry “prayer is selfish beggary).

I’m very glad you both enjoyed the blog and equally glad that you left comments. Thank you!

JDHURF said...

dane sorenson,
I just visited your website, quite interesting. It seems that we may disagree on a number of issues but that, ultimately, we would find agreement on a majority of them.

I read your “On Death” and liked it, all in all you have a pretty interesting site….you should create a blog.

The Jewish Freak said...

JD: I'm glad you're back!

Good post. It is interesting (and telling) that people in general are very interested in their souls after death, but not before birth. That shows that it is not really a doctrine of immortal souls that motivates this belief, but a fear of and denial of death. I have even seen in atheist literature a need to be "remembered" after death, and people "don't really die" if their memory and deeds live on. To me this is the same fantasy. You are born, you live, and you die, and you ought to make the most of your life, and I believe it is irrelevant whether or not you are remembered after death. After all, how many people are truly remembered after several generations have passed? Very very few. It is irrational to fear death, we should strive to accept this inevitable fate, and do something good with our lives.

elijeremiah said...


Yet another excellent entry. I agree with you completely. I've never felt the need to believe in an afterlife (even after my brother died.) It would depress me to waste so much time thinking about heavenly reunions. One time a fundie Christian friend told me it would be awful to not have the comfort of knowing your friends are waiting on you in heaven. This confuses me, because he thinks only his Christian friends will go there. To me, it would be awful to spend so much time wondering who didn't make it to heaven!!

But I digress. All beliefs in the afterlife are just plain wrong, not just the beliefs involving an exclusive, country-club heaven.


I agree it's more dignified to just accept the here and now.

JDHURF said...

I have never looked at the “being remembered” aspect of individuals desires regarding the after effects of their death like that before, it’s a very good point. One should simply live their life to the fullest without wishing for specific things to come to pass after they perish, be this wish a continuation of self after death or a profound and lasting “memory” of self; for as you so insightfully pointed out, these two wishes are borne of the same fear and foreboding.

Not so much of a heaven if one were to be burdened with such worries, thus the inanity of the concept is illustrated well. It is perfectly clear that all of the conceptualizations of heaven, or any afterlife scenario, have been the wish fulfillment of human imagination and nothing more.

Thank you both very much for stopping by and commenting!

Anonymous said...

"we should accept this inevitable fate and do something good with our lives" --why? what's good for you might not be good for someone else. What if your a hedonist? Good could be stealing if it makes you rich and happy.
"one should simply live life to the fullest"-- sure if that "fullest" reflects what you or your society deems right, correct? Hilter lived his reality to a premium, is that ok?
This guys blog is frivolous. Everyone on this site fondles his nuts, no wonder he's so blog happy.
Here it is chief: I view secular humanism as nothing more then an exercise in futility. Under this worldview, life is nothing more then a dream that ends quick in the grand scheme of things, with no purpose or hope. Your quest for truth is as useless as Richard Dawkin's. Your a good little cohort.

Anonymous said...

May God have mercy on all your souls. Oh but that's right, such a thing does not exist...

Anonymous said...

JD,I would like to ask... What in the hell is so wrong in the belief of an afterlife??? The comment I hate the most is: "it would be far more productive, on the whole, if individuals would simply look at their lives and science realizing that this life is the one and only." HAHA! How so? I don't understand how it would be "far more productive" for all of us to start thinking there is no such thing as heaven. I think you need to seriously reconsider your theosis there pal. Religion is the glue of society, it holds the masses together. Without such a thing, this world would be chaos. It keeps people happy. How does the belief that I will be reunited with my mother in heaven have a negative effect whatsoever on anything? Like you said, this life is the one and only. Shouldn't we spend it being happy? And if believing that one will be reunited with his family in heaven after he dies keeps him from shoving a pistol in his mouth then how is that a bad thing?? Tell me...

EP said...

Hi! Interesting site!
I found it whilst preparing a Christian sermon for this Sunday on the biblical view of humankind -
(week 1) What were we?
(week 2) What are we?
(this week) What will we be?
Obviously you'll not be surprised to find Christian answers to the 3 questions differ from your own. Just as Buddhist, Jewish etc answers will differ.

It begs an important question I haven't found discussed so far - what is truth? and where is it to be found? In psychology theories? In the human imagination? In a 'holy' book?

I recall that there remains one problem that has never (to the best of my knowledge) been successfully accounted for. I guess you'll all know the biblical accounts about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, referred to in the gospels and in contemporary writings such as those of Josephus. Maybe you believe that Jesus's disciples were continually hallucinating on the many occasions when they saw Jesus - alive! - after the discovery of the empty tomb? Or that the transformation of characters like St Paul, a Jesus-hater until a dramatic encounter whilst travelling to arrest Christians, has some other explanation?

Sceptics who have sought to offer alternative explanations for the resurrection account, as in Luke's gospel for instance, of the empty tomb have stumbled at each 'alternative explanation'. I look forward with interest to the next entries on your site!

JDHURF said...


There is no need for an “alternative explanation” in the sense you describe, EP. The events so described quite clearly never took place. Relying upon the synoptic gospels for accurate information about this mythical event is just not very serious. The gospels, assuming they are without egregious error – being as they are the products of various oral traditions lasting decades and having been written down as, at best, second hand accounts and then copied and translated by hand by nameless scribes who were clearly subject to human error – are not eyewitness accounts, dismissing for now the wild unreliability of even first-hand eyewitness accounts, and succeed in being among the most biased texts in the human canon.

Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I am interested to hear everyone's point of view.

Anonymous said...

There may not be any evidence saying that we will live on after death, but is there any suggesting that we won't?

JDHURF said...


The evidence that life doesn't survive the dissolution of the physical body, the brain, is very strong.
Cognitive/developmental psychology investigates the nature, functioning and development of the brain and the cognitive subsystems which make up the structure of the brain.
It is obvious through examples such as Phineas Gage, Terri Shiavo, use of psychoactives, meditation, brain trauma and so on that effects upon the brain affect consciousness, in some cases (Terri Shiavo), dissolving consciousness altogether. Personality can be radically altered through such things as brain trauma (Phineas Gage).
What all of this suggests is that consciousness is an emergent property of the specific functioning of the cognitive subsystems of the mind (consciousness is in a sense the convergence and centralization of all of these complex and delicate subsystems).
Conscious awareness doesn’t even begin to exist until 15-18 weeks of development: after the prerequisite development of a sufficient portion of the neural-web, just as language acquisition occurs.
Before birth and before the required development of the neural-web, consciousness did not exist (in short, before the development of the brain, consciousness did not exist), added to this the evidence that demonstrates the clear connection and interrelation between brain states and states of consciousness, between functioning of the brain and consciousness and so on, it appears to be sheer wish fulfillment, the belief in the immortality of consciousness (the desire to survive death, the desire for immortality). All evidence points towards consciousness as an emergent property of the brain and, as such, a property that with the dissolution of the brain will dissolve as well.

Thanks for stopping by and posing an honest question.

Anonymous said...

But does your "soul" feel anything after death or do you just lie in emptiness for eternity?

JDHURF said...

You must have missed something in my writing or possibly I didn't explain myself properly enough: there is no such thing as a phantom-like specter that inhabits the human anatomy yet is independent of it – there is no soul.

Anonymous said...

So you mean you don't feel anything anymore after you die?

JDHURF said...

I’m not saying that it is a fact that you don’t feel anything after you die, I could not possibly know that. What I am saying is that there is no evidence that you could possibly feel something after you die, considering that sensations are registered in the brain and sent throughout the central nervous system and that when the CNS and the brain cease to function, when they are decomposing, it would be impossible for sensations and feelings to manifest.

Let me offer you a rhetorical analogy that helps simplify my main thesis: do you recall any feelings or sensations before your mother became pregnant? Of course you don’t and that’s because you didn’t exist before birth as some phantom-like specter or soul that flittered about the vastness of the universe before latching yourself onto the physical body that had developed within and birthed through your mothers womb.

Before you were born, before you were even a zygote or a fetus, you did not exist, your feelings did not exist and your conscious awareness did not exist and that is because for these attributes to exist it is required that there be developed a sufficiently complex neural web which then produces, as an emergent property, said attributes.

If you didn’t exist in any capacity before birth, what makes after death any more special?

Is it not as clear to you as it is to me that it is human frailty, fear, desire and so on that produces such notions as “life after death” – a contradiction in terms – or, as Sigmund Freud put it: "It would be very nice if there were a God who created the world and was a benevolent providence, and if there were a moral order in the universe and an after-life; but it is a very striking fact that all this is exactly as we are bound to wish it to be."

Anonymous said...

Well I'm telling you stop going against peoples religions there is a life after death and I'm not going to your side Racist Bitch

JDHURF said...

Well, that sure was an articulate and intelligent response. Thank you for yet again proving that what the fundamentalists completely lack in humility, grace and civility they amply make up in coarse vulgarity, parading ignorance and just sheer nastiness.