Afterlife: Who wants one?

This inquiry deals with your preferences as opposed to your beliefs. In a variety of SD threads, I’ve noted that quite a few Dopers have expressed not only a disbelief in an afterlife (a perfectly rational opinion, IMO), but also a desire for one not to exist. Finding the aversion to an afterlife to be somewhat of a befuddling preference, I wish to expand on this theme.

Which of the following statements best describes your preference (not necessarily your belief, though you may include that as well)?:

  1. I prefer to not believe in the existence in an afterlife, and for this to be false.
  2. I prefer to not believe in the existence of an afterlife, and for this to be true.
  3. I prefer to have faith in the existence of an afterlife and for this to be true.
  4. I prefer to have faith in the existence of an afterlife and for this to be false.
  5. I prefer to have proof in the existence of an afterlife.
  6. I prefer to have proof that an afterlife does not exist.

I believe that the declarations listed above cover all the bases and that a compelling reason may be expressed for any of them (with the possible exception of #4…I can’t imagine anyone validating that one).

If appropriate, include your reason (s) for choosing your particular preference.

I can understand some people preferring not to have faith in, or proof of an afterlife (be it true or false). Reasons may include (but are not be limited to):

  1. An afterlife for most people implies the existence of a creator and for many people the existence of a god implies a diminishment or absence of free will - or perhaps the implication of a deterministic existence simply seems unsavory. My guess is that people who feel this way will most likely choose #2 or #6 above.
  2. Reliance on the belief of the existence of an afterlife may unduly influence the way some people live their lives on earth. My guess is that people who feel this way will most likely choose #2, #6 or #1 above.

Though less clear to me, I understand some argument for the preference of a non-existent afterlife. Reasons may include (but probably aren’t limited to):

  1. Boredom: An afterlife implies some form or fashion of immortality and it’s difficult to imagine any existence, beyond an eon or two, not becoming inexorably mind-numbing.
  2. Tired: Some may harbor the following attitude toward life: *been there, done that – now I just want an eternal rest. *
  3. Scared: Infinite agoraphobia :eek: .
  4. Displaced Martyrdom: “You call this suffering?”

Continuing on (if you’re still game): For those of you who prefer that afterlife exists, describe your perfect post-mortal existence. Anything goes, but don’t forget to factor in potential problems with infinite time (i.e. engaging in flagrante delicto in paradise with 72 virgins may be invigorating for a few millennia, but beyond that…well, even Dr. Poopiepants may need a little Viagra…
As for me: I’m agnostic, leaning slightly toward non-belief. I wish that I had faith in an afterlife and that it was factual (#3). In order to guard against immortal ennui, I would fashion my afterlife on some model of re-incarnation (I may elaborate, if this thread gets hopping).

Lastly, for those of you who prefer a non-existent afterlife, would you feel differently if you were assured the right to model your own post-mortal existence?

BTW: You all may owe me eternal gratitude for getting you to think about your immortality model early: That guy manning the Pearly Gates may give you but a few moments to put in your order and you don’t want to blurt out some interminably asinine existence. (…uh…uh…I want to spend eternity having sex with 72 Abe Vigodas…<done>… :smack: d’oh…I meant 72 able virgins.

I’d like a finite existence, but I’d like to be able to decide when I’ve had enough. Even if given perfect, eternal health, I don’t think I’d ever want to live forever. The concept is one of unspeakable sadness.

My faith and life experience leads me to believe there is a God who will take care of me in the afterlife, and I can’t wait to meet Him and hang out forever. At the same time, the unknown is scary and it would be nice to know for sure.

I’m not sure I intrepreted the choices correctly, though.

3a) I prefer to have faith in the existence of an afterlife and for this to consist of something besides clawing desperately at the inside of a very small box, as I’m claustrophobic and tend to panic easily.

I think that I’m closest to number four, actually. I believe in Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. I was raised Catholic and haven’t the inclination to shake my brainwashing, but the idea of an afterlife scares the shit out of me. In more suicidal points in my life it really bothered me that I had no choice in the fact that I exist. My parents shacked up and batta-bing, batta-boom, here I am. There’s no way (assuming my belief system to be correct) for me to end that. If I kill myself, I still exist. When you’re looking at suicide as a way out dealing with existance, that’s a really depressing though.

I’m not currently suicidal, but the idea that I don’t have any choice in the matter of my existance still bothers me a bit.


Maybe we should switch places. As an agoraphobic, I’d prefer the safe confines found inside the box as opposed to the anxiety-riddled, wide-open infinite space of eternity.
…just kidding :smiley:

I’m not quite sure where I am right now, maybe 1 or 2. Depends on the kind of afterlife. I’ll explain: I was raised in a church that believed in God as loving and compassionate, but also believed in Heaven and Hell. When I was pretty young, I thougt that there was nothing someone could do in thier relatively few years on Earth that would make them deserve to suffer in Hell FOR ETERNITY. Maybe a couple years later, I realized that I didn’t want to go to Heaven, either; being happy all the time sounded nice, but I didn’t want to do it FOR ETERNITY. It was important to me to sometimes be unhappy in order to live a complete existence and appreciate happiness. Another couple years pass, and I learned of the concept of reincarnation. For many years, I believed in a sort of combination of Heaven and reincarnation, where souls go to Heaven/Nirvana after death to evaluate their life and get their spiritual bearings before heading back to Earth. This belief was always on shakey ground because I knew that I had essentially created it myself based on what I wanted to believe, but I couldn’t conceptualize simply ceasing to exist.

I’ve been undergoing another spiritual metamorphosis in the past couple years, and I now consider myself an agnostic. I doubt there’s any afterlife, and I suspect that all concepts of afterlife and reincarnation stem from the inherent difficulty human conciousness has imagining its end. I still like the idea of a Heaven-reincarnation cycle, though I hardly believe it anymore, and I still have an aversion to an eternal afterlife, so whether I’m option 1 or option 2 depends on the afterlife under discussion.

Nonexistence is heaven. No worries and perfect peace quietly and forvever just like they described it.

I am absolutely certain that there is no Heaven, no Hell, no Purgatory, and no reincarnation. I am absolutely certain that existence terminates at death, for every human being. With that certainty, I rarely have reason to ask whether I want an afterlife, just as I rarely ask myself whether other facts of existence should be different. Should the grass be blue and the sky pink? Should up be down and down be up? All these are trivial questions, because it doesn’t matter what humans think about the answers.

But if there was a hypothetical cosmos where the question of afterlife became relevant, would I prefer it. No, I sure wouldn’t.

Death plays an important role in our society. Death removes old people, and with them goes archaic ways of thinking. Death allows younger people with more advanced and dynamics mindsets to reach positions of power. This is how progress happens. (Progress rarely results from people changing their minds, because people rarely change their minds about important things.)

Suppose Heaven existed, along the same lines as typically imagined by followers of the western religions. What a horrible place it would be! The first people to arrive would be old people from primitive tribes and ancient and mideival societies. They would set up a society in Heaven based on the societies they experienced on Earth. They would create a power structure in Heaven with themselves at the top. With no death, that power structure would never crumble. Whoever made themself king at the start would stay king forever. And ever. And ever. New arrivals would be oppressed and bullied into accepting this archaic and unchanging milieu. The entire society would calcify without the necessary turnover created by death.

(Some, of course, will say that Heaven could be governed by God, Goddess, gods or angels. But what would that change? The Divine unhuman ruling party would have exactly the same problem. He/She/it/them would be too old fashioned for modern tastes, but there’d be no way to get rid of them.)

I’m also would prefer not to be reincarnated. The beginning’s of a human’s existence are strange. None of us ask to be born, and certainly none of us get to express preferences about the circumstances into which we are born. Birth is basically a role of the dice. A few people are lucky, and get born in happy circumstances. The vast majority are unlucky, and get born to lives of poverty, violence and misery. Those born into the lucky class did nothing to deserve being in the lucky class. (Most of us in the lucky class prefer not to think about this too much.)

Having gambled (unwillingly) once and won, I count myself quite fortunate. But if I were to be reincarnated, I would be taking the same gamble again. The probability of winning a second time is not good. I might get reborn as an oppressed Chinese peasant, a slave laborer in Indonesia, a women in Saudi Arabia…the horrible possibilities are endless. I much prefer to take this single good life, and then get out while the getting’s good.

Never met a real fire-breathing Southern nihilist before.

Eternity is too long.

There is no afterlife. I am choice 1.

I’m not really sure what you mean by “preference”. If it’s “which of these statements would you like to be true”, put me down for #6. I would like nothing better than to have convincing proof that there’s no afterlife; I would also like to have a great deal of money, be handsome and popular, and have an interesting, fulfilling and useful career.

However, if it’s “which of these statements do you agree with most?”, it’s #4, your “impossible” choice. This is how I’d rationalize it - something like the inverse of Pascal’s Wager:

By having faith in an afterlife, I have some motivation to try and do some good, and, more importantly, not to commit suicide. However, if there isn’t an afterlife, then I’ll get my desired reward at death - eternal annihilation.

If I choose your #2, I don’t see any reason not to indulge in an orgy of vice, murder and suicide-by-cop. If I choose your #3 or #5, then I only have Hell to look forward to. #1 implies a desire to live one second longer than I need to, which I do not possess. :slight_smile:

Why? I can understand the visceral fear of death and the end of Everything As You Know It; that’s only natural. But the opposite of that would be to want to go on living the way I am now, in the flesh. Infinite spiritual (non-corporeal) existence is so beyond my experience and concept of reality that if it is true, I can’t imagine it at the present time, and I’ll just have to deal with it if it happens to me when the time comes. But I certainly won’t be living my life thinking that it’s true.

An oft-quoted excerpt from Charles Swinburne’s The Garden of Proserpine goes:

From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no man lives forever,
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.

If I were to take as a given the existence of “souls”, then the reincarnation of souls makes the most sense to me; as a computer programmer, this would basically be equivalent to the concept of system memory being returned to the “free store” after being released. If souls hung around forever then the Universe would essentially leak memory and eventually crash, which is clearly a Bad Thing so I hope it’s not true.

In the spirit of answering your poll as directly as possible without nitpicking…

I am not sure I understand your choices: I WISH there were an afterlife, but I don’t think there is. I really like life, and people, and I don’t like the thought of that ending: I love my husband, and 50 or 60 years together doesn’t sound like even the beginning of nearly enough–my god, we’ve already burned through almost 15% of that, and it feels like no time at all.

On the other hand “I really don’t want death to be the end” isn’t compelling evidence that it isn’t.

This sums up my feelings, too. I fantasize about meeting my mother again in the afterlife, where she has been waiting for us, surrounded by our beloved cats who have gone before us. I’d also like to be able to fly. Logic tells me neither one is likely to happen. But it would be nice.

I don’t want an afterlife. The whole idea is stupid.
Nor reincarnation.
I also don’t want a guardian angel.
I don’t want Santa to be real.
Nor a magic carpet.

I hope there isn’t an afterlife. I’d like a magic carpet though.

Science will probably give us magic carpets soon enough, but it won’t give us an afterlife.

I have absolutely no reason to believe that there’s any manner of afterlife. Asking me whether or not I like this is asking me whether or not I like gravity - it’s simply a truth.