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Is there life after death?

One of the major clashes between the scientific world view and religious world views, is that science does not support a belief in life after death. Christianity and Islam regard life as preparation for judgement at death, which will determine one's fate in the afterlife. Judaism regards death as not the end, but is much less focused on the afterlife than life itself. Buddhism and Hinduism believe in continual rebirth until enlightenment is attained.

Implications to Other Questions

Experts and Influencers

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Experts In Religion

The Catholic Church    Largest Christian Church
Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification or immediately, or immediate and everlasting damnation.
01 Jan 1992    Source

Sub-Arguments Of This Expert:
Do we have an immaterial soul?

Experts In War

Osama Bin Laden    Former Leader of Al Qaeda
To us, the life hereafter is really important, not this life.
05 Aug 1999    Source

Deepak Chopra    Inventor of Quantum Healing
There are many [proofs]. One is near-death experience, and the second are the stories that are recounted by children who've experienced reincarnation... The third are the conscious death experiences of the bardo Tibetan rituals. And fourth is afterlife experiments where, through mediums, contact is made with a disembodied consciousness. ... Then there are the theoretical constructs that come to us from information theory... Being non local, [consciousness] cannot be created or destroyed.
01 Nov 2006    Source

Sub-Arguments Of This Expert:
Is rebirth/reincarnation plausible?

Experts In Law

Barack Obama    United States President
I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life.
23 Jan 2008    Source

Ambiguous or Flip-Flop
Experts In Science

Albert Einstein    Physicist, Icon of the 20th Century
Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation. For they are us; our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life.
26 Feb 1925    Source

Albert Einstein    Physicist, Icon of the 20th Century
Mostly Disagree
I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own -- a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms.
19 Apr 1955    Source

Experts In Philosophy

Bertrand Russell    Iconic Philosopher of 20th Century
But in the present state of psychology and physiology, belief in immortality can, at any rate, claim no support from science, and such arguments as are possible on the subject point to the probable extinction of personality at death.
01 Jan 1935    Source

Evan Fales    Philosophy Professor
Because [humans] are able to think about our future, have long memories, and form deep bonds of affection with our comrades and family members, facing the fact of death is more difficult than for [other animals]. Nearly all of us fear death. But because our culture is permeated by a religiously grounded belief in an afterlife, loss of faith in God raises the question of death in a different and more anxious way than would be the case if religion had never offered the hope of eternal survival.
28 Apr 2005    Source

Keith Augustine    Atheism Activist
I think I have presented a fairly accurate representation of the evidence on both sides of this issue, and in weighing that evidence the scales are clearly tipped in favor of extinction.
18 Mar 2007    Source

Experts In Science

Steven Weinberg    Nobel Laureate in Physics
The more we reflect on the pleasures of life, the more we miss the greatest consolation that used to be provided by religious belief: the promise that our lives will continue after death, and that in the afterlife we will meet the people we have loved. As religious belief weakens, more and more of us know that after death there is nothing. This is the thing that makes cowards of us all.
25 Sep 2008    Source

Experts In Feminism

Gloria Steinem    Author, Feminist
It’s an incredible con job when you think about it, to believe something now in exchange for something after death. Even corporations with their reward systems don’t try to make it posthumous.
20 Jan 1993    Source

Experts In Business

Steve Jobs    Founder of Apple
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
14 Jun 2005    Source

Experts In Entertainment

Adam Corolla    Radio Personality, Television Host
When you have kids it really kicks in - if something should happen to my child that feeling of "you know, the Lord had a plan, He wanted her or him to come with him, you know, blah blah blah, we'll be reunited somewhere at some point... I understand that that's powerful because there could be nothing more devastating... There's no equal to that in terms of dealing with that as a human being. And I understand why we needed to block it out... And I wish I could buy into it but I can't.
19 Mar 2009    Source


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0 Points      MTC      23 Feb 2013      Stance on Question: Disagree
The probability of an afterlife is roughly the same as the probability that gods exist. That is, highly unlikely.

0 Points      Nashhinton      12 Feb 2013      Stance on Question: Disagree
Long story short after much research and investigation into the matter: NO. An afterlife does not exist.

0 Points      Anonymous      23 Aug 2012      Stance on Question: Agree
This entire debate is rather pathetic.

"I have weighed the evidence on both sides..." What on earth do you mean? What evidence, for or against, truly exists when we question the basis of reality and existence?

That science replaces spiritual thought is a great misstep on the part of skeptics and materialists. You take evidence of the complexity of the universe and life as some sort of proof against the existence of God or an "afterlife." Honestly, speaking of "the afterlife" like some monolithic idea is silly and ignorant. The number of theoretical suggestions of what life and reality is and what happens upon death (reincarnation, salvation, liberation, etc.) is staggering, and not represented in any way whatsoever by this topic or subsequent conversation.

And seriously, Osama Bin Laden on the "pro" side? I think you've shown your hand a bit on that one, and as a result tainted the seriousness of this argument or any otherwise valid points any dissenters made. You all sound like teenagers rebelling against some oppressive religious order that you grew up in. It's all unfounded, totally materialistic self-adoration that spits in the face of your ancestors.

But if you have some other wonderful theory about why existence came to be or the nature of reality that your feeble material brain was able to allow itself to conceive. Does the idea that your ability to grasp reality (while you exist within its boundaries) is totally suspect? I'd never think to quote Descartes, but seriously: All other faculties of perception are subject to their environment-- what the environment allows. Does that somehow not apply to your brain and logical faculties?

Oh, that's right, humans' ever-developing capabilities of reason and logic is your conception of God.

0 Points      Anonymous      24 Aug 2012      General Comment
Take a deep breath.

Calm down.

It's OK to get excited by the topic, but you sound like you just had a seizure.

1 Point      Nick      29 Apr 2012      Stance on Question: Disagree
A big problem with this question is that it is too vague.
Surprisingly(?) few people are willing to pin down exactly what they mean by life after death. This is probably because once made explicit most positions are either easy to shoot down or make the question worthless.

It is difficult to tease all the problems apart but here are a few:

Those who believe that we are effectively frozen as we were at death are going to have a big problem with children or people with alzheimers dying. The rational man would presumably then kill himself whilst in his late 20s.

Those who believe that people have no bodies in the afterlife just don't understand that we don't "have" bodies - We "are" bodies. An afterlife without a body is not a human afterlife.

Those who believe that there is some eternal soul that passes on or is recycled may well be right but if we do not carry our memories then there is no value in the afterlife.

Those who believe that the afterlife is just a big party or sitting around basking in god's love are just ignoring human nature - It is human to compete and to get bored.

In summary there is either no afterlife or at least none that interests me.

0 Points      Anonymous      23 Aug 2012      General Comment
No value in the afterlife? Take a philosophy class, dude...

How about virtually every Eastern tradition that believes such egoisms are the direct cause of your earthly suffering? That you believe the only thing of value in an "afterlife" is your own ego and personality is a bit telling of your own understanding. For instance, Hindus believe that the ultimate essence of all reality is Brahman-- all things, you, the house you live in, the universe is Brahman. Your issue is that you distinguish yourself FROM Brahman. You separate yourself from the ultimate nature of reality, which is that everything is the same, born from the same, to return to the same. It's called monism. There's more than likely a wikipedia page on it if you'd like to dedicate more than 5 minutes to philosophical inquiry.

But this conception of God and reality and life is totally consistent with science. The big bang? Want to explain that to me in totally objective, rational terms? The concentration of explosive energy that manifested itself from absolute black nothingness? To continue to procreate, to obsessively continue life, the very will to live that was implanted in the very first thing that resembled life on this planet?

Truth be told, you are very self-satisfied with what other people have told you-- what other people have discovered objectively, and have passed onto you to consume. You have not departed on your own journey of self-discovery, of discovering what you need to know. Logical, scientific inquiry has limitations-- another Hindu concept-- and intuitive insight is sometimes the only way to light the path before you and illuminate the meaning from the sets of numbers and facts that you base your entire existence and understanding of things upon. Open your mind-- please.

0 Points      aak      15 Aug 2010      Stance on Question: Agree
If one applies the idea that there is no life after death to Sociology, one will encounter great difficulty. The fact is that by his innate disposition, man believes in continuation of life after death. His instincts tells him that there is happiness and unhappiness in the other world where he goes after death; and if he wants to enjoy happiness there, he will have to sacrifice many comforts of this life. This is specially true about great affairs and ideals which cannot be established except when their supporters and adherents are willing to die for them, to sacrifice their lives for the cause. They have to die so that others may live.

Now, here is a question for those who do not believe in life after death:

If death is the end of life, if man, after his death, is lost for ever, then why should he sacrifice his life so that others may live? Why should he deprive himself of the comforts and enjoyments which he can easily get through injustice and tyranny? Just to let others live in peace? What has he got to gain by his sacrifice? Nothing. No sensible man gives something if he is not getting something in return. Human nature rejects the concept of giving without receiving, of leaving something without getting something in exchange. It rejects the idea of dying to enable others to live, the notion of denying oneself the enjoyment of this short life so that others may enjoy it.

0 Points      blacktrance      10 Feb 2011      Stance on Question: Disagree
"If death is the end of life, if man, after his death, is lost for ever, then why should he sacrifice his life so that others may live?"

He shouldn't.

0 Points      Benja      15 Aug 2010      Stance on Question: Disagree
"The fact is that by his innate disposition, man believes in continuation of life after death."
That's debatable - the fact that we're so fucking scared of death is obvious evidence to the contrary (and the 'scared of the unknown' argument seems weak). It seems plausible cultural conditioning is responsible for the belief in life after death. Also, for people like myself who become atheists, were we overcoming our "innate" disposition, or did we have an "innate" disposition to become atheists? I'm not saying you're wrong, but it seems like you're making a bold empirical claim based on intuition.

"If death is the end of life, if man, after his death, is lost for ever, then why should he sacrifice his life so that others may live? ..."
This is an Appeal to Consequences. Whether or not there are good or bad consequences to believing there is life after death, has no impact on the truth of whether there is life after death.

1 Point      Anonymous      17 Jun 2010      Stance on Question: Mostly Agree
This is the most difficult and unanswerable question Humans will ever deal with. Even if we solve every problem we have, I think we still will not be able communicate with the dead satisfactorily. This is a very complex and very strange concept.
Despite the above statements, I "Mostly Agree" because you do live on through your friends and family, through the lives you have touched and through things you have written, and, with the advent of the internet, through a great many more things. I honestly believe that if one thing you said at any point changed any part of someone's behavior (or even existed, for that matter), you live on. I think that view would fit very well with chaos theory. (think about it)

0 Points      Benja      17 Jun 2010      General Comment
"I 'Mostly Agree' because you do live on through your friends and family, through the lives you have touched and through things you have written, and, with the advent of the internet, through a great many more things."

I agree with that sentiment. I don't see my own identity as entirely locked in my head, because it has a distributed aspect to it as you describe.

0 Points      Benja      06 May 2010      General Comment
Note: There must be philosophers debating the following type of thoughts. Can someone point me to a source?

If we can't precisely determine what identity means, we can't precisely determine what death means.

Neural connections are continually made and lost; if our identity was dependent upon an exact configuration of neurons we would continually die and be reborn as a different person. For the question of our death to have any significance, there must be something that ceases to exist that actually has some permanence. But exactly what about me must be permanent for the past me and the future me to both be me? I'd argue no one thing. Our identity is more like the kind of thing that would be described by a Naive Bayes classifier (where the relationship between past mes and future mes bear a Wittgensteinian Family Resemblance).

Let's define I(p,q) such that I is a function that determines how similar the identities of person p and person q are. I(p,q) = 1, where p and q represent the same person at the point in time. I(p,q) = 0 where p and q represent entirely dissimilar people (or perhaps q is not even a person). We can now say I have life after death if the sum of I(p,q in Q) > 0, where p is me just before I die, and Q is all people living after I die. Under this conception, a famous author really does live on after they die; in fact they live in other people even before they die.

To be explicit about this model: physical death is replaced with information death, holistic death is replaced with partial death, and abrupt death is replaced with continuous death. For evolutionary psychological reasons, I see why we're predisposed to care more about abrupt holistic physical death than continuous partial information death, but it's not clear to me this restrictive view is rational. (Alzheimer's seems to be better described as continuous partial information death.)

Now how would we define function I?

1 Point      Packbat      09 Apr 2010      Stance on Question: Disagree
It seems pretty clear from everything we know about human beings that we live in our bodies - chiefly in the brain. At least in the ordinary course of events, this means that disruption of this body destroys the human being, just as destruction of a computer halts the programs running on that computer.

0 Points      Radioactivity      09 Apr 2010      Stance on Question: Disagree
Mostly answering because it's projected my answer to this as "mostly agree" and I do not know why (the suicide question, maybe). That is wrong. No evidence, doesn't fit my paradigm, etc.

0 Points      Adam Atlas      05 Apr 2010      Stance on Question: Disagree
Once again, I agree with JGWeissman.

(On a side note, I'm not sure the Steve Jobs quote is applicable here. All he says is "Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there", which isn't an explicit denial of an afterlife. I don't think he believes in one — I think he still considers himself a Buddhist — but we'd need a better quote to support that.)

1 Point      JGWeissman      06 Mar 2010      Stance on Question: Disagree
Expanding successful theories describing the universe to include an afterlife requires adding complexity that is not supported by any evidence.

-1 Point      Praveen      13 Nov 2009      Stance on Question: Agree
its irrespective of any caste or been dead or alive !
its mere ke we are EXISTING TODAY and not alive, we have created a own hell here .
we have no relations but only money matters.
we have money but no time.
we have time but no life to enjoy wht we are doin.

soo i suggest request please look at the present and live rather then jus been existing!

1 Point      Anonymous      18 Aug 2009      Stance on Question: Disagree
Your "mostly agree" answer on life after death is (no pun intended) dead wrong for Einstein. It should be disagree, pure and simple. Google this; better, try Google Books/Google Scholar for credibility: Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotism. I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it. And your quote supporting "mostly agree" is weak; even atheists admit that they "survive" through their children. That's not the survival the question is talking about.

-1 Point      Malcolm G      01 Feb 2009      Stance on Question: Agree
Many years ago I clinically died and had a NDE/OBE so I 'know' life continues after this life.

1 Point      XpiloT      09 Nov 2010      Stance on Question: Disagree
No, you know that dying feels 'from the inside' like you were experiencing life after death. You don't know whether it really was life after death or just your dying brain activity.

0 Points      PJay      05 Mar 2009      General Comment
Wow! What faith are you? What did you see/feel? I've always just thought such episodes were the result of misfiring of neuronal synapses...?

1 Point      Anonymous      19 Oct 2010      General Comment
They are. But it's a wonderful, wonderful dream for those who can't bear the truth.