Tony Powell Prof Hasler Philosophy of Religion May 08 2012 Live Now, Or Forever Hold Your Peace Everyone

wants to live forever. Depending on what personal belief system you follow, you may just get that- but at what cost? Is there a view that can help maximize our fulfillment in life while still allowing an eternal life after death? Are the two mutually exclusive? Theists, atheists, and humanists all have a belief in regards to life after death, and consequentially, the path to the meaning of their lives is guided in defined directions. Some views value empirical evidence over faith-while others place emphasis on the importance of human life and focus solely upon enriching it. Here I will discuss life after death- and the meaningfulness of life from the three perspectives of the theist, atheist, and the humanist. One could say that a humanist does not believe in life after death, and would likely receive minimal counterargument from a majority of humanists. This is, simply put, because humanists have no concern with the afterlife or any variation thereof. Humanists are emphatically concerned with improving the life of mankind in the present, and have no interest with life after death. It is simply not in the purview of their beliefs. Their main focus centers around the well-being of man, the delight of life in the here and now, and the progression of mankind. Humanisms main principles place a scrutiny on the existence of life after death, and have consistently proven over time, to their satisfaction, that life does not exist after death. Humanists are naturalists; they base their evidence on scientific data and have a love for life in the world we live in. By definition, they would never adopt the belief of life after death.

Humanists are evidentialists; the justification of their belief relies solely upon the evidence for it, or lack thereof. They believe scientific evidence has a distinct lack of proof in regard to the existence of souls, and therefore, the afterlife, as affirmed in the second Humanist Manifesto: "There is no credible evidence that life survives the death of the body. We continue to exist in our progeny and in the way that our lives have influenced others in our culture." Humanists even take an obligatory stance against the speculation of life after death. They believe that if any credence is given to the existence of life after death, then we as humans risk the possibility of not living our life to the fullest. Humanists believe that life has meaning because we strive to develop as people and cultivate our own futures. Meaningfulness in life does not strictly require a higher power to bestow it upon us. We push forwards; we stay alive; we exert ourselves in an effort to be content and happy with our surroundings and ourselves, and provide our own meaning. With the thought of life after death, we may fall into an apathetic niche where we may partially or fully focus on the afterlife, and not the present. To the humanist, all efforts should be focused upon improving your present life with no thought to an afterlife. In short, if a humanist was prompted to assert his or her beliefs on an afterlife, the response may sound something like this, “We as humans can never be completely sure if there is life after death, we are, after all, not omnipotent. So, why focus on that which we can never have scientific proof- or be sure? We should completely focus on the one life that we have here, and now.” The atheist, on the other hand, has a very resolute mind in regards to life after death. He or she firmly believes that the body is that of a corporeal nature alone- with no possibility of life transcending the body after death. There is, however, a small variety of atheists which attempt to hold to a belief that there might be life after death that we as humans, for now, are too ignorant to possibly fathom. This brand of atheism still holds fast to the non-belief of an incorporeal, deific

being, yet has divorced this idea from the possibility that humans themselves may have an incorporeal spirit of some currently indescribable form. The traditional atheist would not look favorably upon this, as it rejects many of the evidentialist and physicalist principles that atheism is founded upon. Atheists hold science to be their most prominent guide in the decision making process in regards to God, and life after death. The verification of life after death with empirical evidence has yet to come, and therefore, should not be considered as a possibility, according to the atheist. Most atheists agree on one thing in particular once you die, and that is the complete absence of being and thought. There is nothing- you, as a traditional functioning being, cease to exist as living physical matter. This follows in line with what evidence has to offer in regards to a soul, or any incorporeal assertion for that fact. The atheist believes that our unconscious being, akin to before birth, will envelop us once again as we die. Like all other animals on this Earth, we share the same inescapable fate of a non-state of being after we die; we are no different in that fact than animals- except that we can reflect upon this grotesque reality. The atheist is not happy with the realization of this impending fate after death, but nevertheless attempts to live their lives to the fullest as long as possible. Many people do not share the atheist view, and question how an atheist can live a meaningful life. The answer to this question varies from person to person, and is dependent on each individual’s personal values and experiences in their life. If you were to ask a young, Olympian pole vaulter that is three years from the next Olympic games the meaning of life, undoubtedly his or her answer would be that the Olympics is their purpose in life, and by extension, the current meaning of their life. To some, their lives simply consist of its current purpose that supports the wants and needs of the individual human. The meaning of life, in the

grandiose sense that it is used here, is of no consequence to atheists who are purpose and goal oriented. Some atheists simply believe that the meaning of life is an emotion, with a social construct behind it that perpetuates its existence: an unnecessarily grand confab of the human mind. This school of thought subscribes to the idea that there does not have to be an allencompassing meaning, per say, to life. Atheists of this regard dismiss the question of the meaning of life as it is a wholly unnecessary idea. Additionally, some atheists believe that there is simply no purpose or meaning to life at all; and if there is, we simply do not have the information in the vast universe to extrapolate what our purpose or meaning is in the broad sense of the idea. These atheists do not completely dismiss the idea of the meaning of life, but simply reserve judgment on whether there is a meaning to life given the current empirical information that we have. These atheists are true evidentialists, serving up definitive answers only when provided undisputable, empirical data. In direct antipode to the atheist, the traditional, classical theist believes in life after death. Not only do theists believe in life after death, but they have a very specific life after death in mind. They believe that there are two undeniable options to life after death: heaven and hell. In the Bible, it is stated that, “for whom so ever believes in him(God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit) shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) What a powerful statement this is to the human being. All that is necessary to live on forever after bodily death is to believe in a supreme being along with the concept of salvation. However, if one does not believe in this concept, and reserves judgment until death, then he or she will eternally burn in a proverbial lake of fire as stated throughout the book of Revelation. With these two concepts firmly, and distinctly in place and offering, literally, eternal hope, it is easy to understand why the majority of humans on this

Earth hold fast to this belief system. Clearly, if one was to choose an eternal resting spot after death, Heaven, a place of perpetual bliss, would be the option of choice. Comparing the finite, materialistic life in which we all reside today to an infinite existence, naturally creates a shift in priorities for the theist. Even though the Bible simply states that one must only believe to get into heaven, a majority of theists assert that there is connotation behind this statement, and that acceptance into heaven entails more than just simply believing. One must lead a life of servile obedience to God, and actively lead a reverent life avoiding sin where all possible. Therefore, the meaning of life to the classical theist can be easily assumed: to live by the word of the Bible, to serve God in all that he asks, and to gain entrance into Heaven. They believe the meaning of life should be this, if one is to gain the ultimate gift of blissful, everlasting life. Theists think that without immortality and God, life would cease to be meaningful. Theists reason both of these must be present for there to be significance. If the universe and man were to last eternally, yet there was no God, man’s life would have no significance. If man were to die serving God, yet have no everlasting life, then life would be ultimately meaningless. This is an agreeable concept to a finite human being, as the alternative is quite unappealing when attempting to provide meaning to life. Out of the three views of life after death from the atheist, humanist, and theist, the atheist view is by far the most simple, requiring no belief beyond the obvious. The view of the theist is one based in faith, with no empirical evidence required to support its claim. The humanist view observes scientific data that, from their perspective, supports the claim of no afterlife through lack of evidence; however, some humanists are agnostic in their belief of life after death, leaving the possibility open for life after death. To some degree, this is a contradiction of their main focus of enriching human life, as a betwixed and between position can cause doubt and detract

from devout humanism. Atheism is the minority amongst a sea of different religions. The atheist view of life after death is grim, bleak, and aphotic. The atheist has to find their own personal meaning and drive in life, knowing that when they die, all consciousness will cease. The atheist is consistently under pressure from a majority of people who have a belief of life after death, an even further reminder that the mainstream believes in an afterlife while receiving the daily comfort that it provides. Does this make atheism sound appealing? No. However, with a foundation of empirical data, a taste for science, and knowledge through the naturalistic world, the atheist is poised for motivation to fulfill their life to the deepest extent possible. Each individual atheist decides upon the purpose or “meaning” of their life, and usually does not come to such a decision lightly. Because of this, the atheist enables himself or herself to lead a more meaningful life in general, as the constant realization of their one-time existence is always at the forefront. Additionally, the atheist has two supreme advantages over those who believe in life after death: altruism, and a life free of constraint in lieu of eternal punishment. The atheist- a moral one –has no other motive to maintain good intentions in his life except to bring positive actions and fulfillment to their lives and others. Without the suppression and promise of Hell, the atheist is free to make decisions on their own accord, free of duress. The decision to choose atheism may sound like a difficult one to follow upon first glance; however, when taking into consideration the possibility of a more personal, deeper meaning in life, the potential for a vastly more fulfilling life becomes apparent.

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