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  • Writer's pictureHWalker79

Afterlife Doubts: It's a Myth!

The Afterlife is a comforting fairy-tale, a belief you should grow out of!

Karl Marx believed religion was the “opium for the people”. He thought that religion preached beliefs designed to comfort and cajole the oppressed. Opium is a powerful and addictive drug that numbs pain; in the same way, religion offers hope to despairing people that one day all will be well. Marx despised religion for discouraging oppressed people from rising up and challenging the status quo. Instead they console themselves, thinking that God looks on and is pleased with their humility and long-suffering, and will reward them accordingly with a glorious Afterlife. Who has to gain from such a system? Marx argues that those in positions of authority perpetrate this myth of religion because it benefits them. Whereas the masses don’t challenge them in this lifetime, because they would rather wait for future, heavenly justice to be handed out.

I haven’t seen much evidence in favour of Karl Marx’s view. William Wilberforce campaigned against slavery in the UK until it was abolished; Dietrich Bonhoeffer plotted to assassinate Hitler and was killed for his failed scheme; and Romanian Pastor, Richard Wurmbrand, would not stop speaking out against the evils of communism in the 1940/50s and was tortured in prison for 14 years as a consequence. These Christians show that religious beliefs are often the cause of fighting for change, not passively submitting to corrupt systems. When communist governments in China and the Soviet Union attempted to eradicate religion, assuming that everyone would flourish, Mao Zedong and Stalin racked up over 100 million deaths from their own people. During this time Churches met ‘underground’ (in secret); grew spectacularly in number; and were responsible for sharing food, clothes and shelter with the ‘liberated’ masses who were now starving to death on a vast scale. Whenever put into practise, Karl Marx’s communism and negative views about religion have only ever led to widespread death and destruction.

Has there been a period in History where religious beliefs (and beliefs about the Afterlife) have ceased in the general populace? We have greater scientific knowledge now and yet religious beliefs are held by 80% of the world's population[1]. It may be tempting to accuse the 80% of being uneducated and unscientific, However, many incredibly intelligent people held/hold religious beliefs: Blaisé Pascal (helped develop calculus), Johann Kepler (founder of modern astronomy), Francis Collins (directed the National Human Genome Research Institute), Ernest Watson (artificially split the atom and proved that E=mc²), and Werner Heisenberg (a primary creator of quantum mechanics). These scientists demonstrate that as knowledge progresses, it has not brought about the "death of God" that Nietzsche predicted.

Just because many highly educated people believe an Afterlife is possible, that doesn’t make it true. But it does require us to assess the evidence for ourselves rather than dismiss it automatically as a childish notion. Some sceptics claim that these scientists have been brought up in Christian homes/cultures, which forms the lens through which they view the world (although that isn’t true for them all, as Francis Collins was an atheist before his conversion). The theory is if you could remove the impacts of their upbringing, they would reach a more enlightened view on the falsity of religion. But are the sceptics guilty of the same fallacy? Have they been brought up in atheist families/cultures but never looked into the contrasting evidence for themselves? Sceptics such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, argue the afterlife is a fairy-tale that no respected educated person could believe. When they are presented with a list of credible scientists who are religious, they simply alter their argument and accuse those examples of viewing the world through a bias lens. Are they guilty of being similarly bias? How often will they alter the parameters of the debate before they analyse their own point of view and the evidence upon which it stands? Socrates said that “an unexamined life is not worth living”, but I wonder how many of us do take the time to critically analyse the beliefs we have inherited, whether they be religious or not.

Notions of an Afterlife have existed since the earliest human civilizations. 100,000 BCE is the earliest known human burial in the Middle East. Wikipedia states “the earliest evidence of religious thought is based on the ritual treatment of the dead. Most animals display only a casual interest in the dead of their own species. Ritual burial thus demonstrates a significant change in human behaviour and represents an awareness of life and death and a possible belief in the afterlife.[2]

The evolutionary argument for religion attempts to explain why humans evolved into 'spiritual' beings that engage in ritualistic behaviour. Maybe religion evolved to help offer a standard by which to codify our behaviour. Thomas Hobbes argued that human lives are “nasty, brutish and short” unless we agree to live in communal societies. The 'social contract' we make with the group entails giving away our freedom to act how we like, in order to benefit from the protection of the group. Groups only work when there is an agreed morality to which everyone subscribes. If you do bad deeds, you risk being ostracized. The code of morality needs to be enforced by a high authority otherwise people rebel. When Dominic Cummings broke Lockdown rules in 2020, it caused many citizens to question the validity of the laws when the leaders were free to break them. What is the highest authority for a code of behaviour? Religions teach of a divine figure whose essence is Goodness-personified and this figure reveals a code of morality for humans to follow; break it at your peril! The evolutionary argument also suggests that religious ritualistic behaviours create unity cohesion, which fosters mutual dependence, connectedness, wellbeing, stable family units, altruistic acts and gratitude; all of which contribute to good mental health.

If the evolutionary argument for the origins of religion is true (see my post 'Morality: Proof of God?'), then this is a naturalistic argument to explain why religion may always be with us and humans will always posit an afterlife. It’s not a fairy-tale for uncivilized societies; it is an essential behaviour for maintaining emotional and mental wellbeing. According to a 2014 Pew Research survey, “religiously active people are typically happier and more ‘civically engaged’”. Attempts to remove religion from societies would therefore have tragic repercussions.

However, just because a belief is useful (for the effects it produces) and clearly not going away any time soon – that doesn’t make it true. Descartes’ Causal Adequacy Principle assumes that you can’t get something from nothing[3], and if a real effect exists (a belief in an afterlife) then you have to wonder what the sufficient explanation is for its cause? If it’s a fabrication, then fabricated out of what? How do evolved primates suddenly understand the concepts of Past, Present and Future; Morality; Mortality; and Infinity? The Bible teaches that God designed us with these tools so that we could discover the truth of His existence[4]. We were made in “the image and likeness” of God[5] which gives humans unique abilities that separate us from the animal kingdom. The Scriptures are divine revelation to teach us unknowable things[6]. The truth of these revealed mysteries is verified through hundreds of prophecies which accurately predict the future (e.g. during 351 occasions in the life of Jesus). Other evidence for believing in the Afterlife are Near Death Experiences and Jesus' resurrection (Jesus did raise at least three others back from the dead, but His resurrection is unique in that He will never die again).

Afterlife beliefs existed in the world’s earliest civilizations (Egypt and Mesopotamia) and still exist in the six major world religions of today, as well as many minority religions. Even Science is open to the possibility of other dimensions existing outside the confines of our universe (the Multiverse). If you can believe in that (without any concrete evidence[7]), how is that drastically different from believing in Heavenly dimensions? At least Religion can offer a sufficient explanation for why those dimensions exist (they were created by an omnipotent Being). The alternative is trying to account for how the most complex collection of entities we have ever theorised (the Multiverse) exists of its own accord, with no designer behind it. A common response to this line of argument is: who made God? But I will save that discussion for another time.

What is the sufficient cause for the belief in an Afterlife? Is it merely a comforting delusion that has tricked the vast majority of people throughout history or is it a spark of an idea that an evolved animal couldn’t have conjured from their own grey matter? How does a finite being understand the concept of infinity (especially when we don’t fully understand it!)? Our Maker has designed us in such a way (and provided divine revelation) so that we can explore mysteries beyond our comprehension and conclude there must be other realities beyond our own. Once we’ve made that step, we can then reach out to that Maker and know Him for ourselves[8]. What do you think is the best explanation?

References [1] Religion by Country 2021 ( [2] Evolutionary origin of religions - Wikipedia [3] The common-sense notion that “you can’t get something from nothing” demonstrates a huge flaw with undirected evolution (more complex beings evolving from a simpler, less complex organism – where is the added complexity arising from?) It also seems to contradict the 2nd law of thermodynamics (all order resorts to chaos when left it its own devices). If evolution is not a guided process then you should expect to see organisms getting less complex over time, not more. [4] Roman 1:18-20, Psalm 19:1-4, Hebrews 2:7 [5] Genesis 1:26, Luke 12:7 [6] Jeremiah 33:3, Proverbs 2:6, Psalm 51:6, Eph 1:17, Ecc 2:26, Job 11:6, Daniel 2:21, Proverbs 2:10

[7] Their is no proof yet provided by scientists for the Multiverse Theory - it can't be detected, observed or measured. [8] Luke 11:9

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