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Is Atheism in compatible with a belief in the Afterlife?

  • 05-02-2017 3:07am
    #1
    Registered Users Posts: 10,687 ✭✭✭✭ Samuel T. Cogley


    As per title really.

    Personally I think a belief in the afterlife can be maintained, given that we're not entirely sure where sentience comes from. Could there be some sort of secular soul?

    Civil and considered posts welcome, especially ones who consider the notion complete nonsense!


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Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 10,707 ✭✭✭✭ denartha


    As per title really.

    Personally I think a belief in the afterlife can be maintained, given that we're not entirely sure where sentience comes from. Could there be some sort of secular soul?

    Civil and considered posts welcome, especially ones who consider the notion complete nonsense!

    I rarely post here, but I'm waiting for something so, why not.

    Aetheism, Noun, disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.

    A belief or disbelief in the afterlife doesnt really come into it. I like the idea of one becoming one with The Force. Or the remaining energy in your body going somewhere. In my heart of hearts though, I know thats it. You suffer and toil and expire and thats it. Believe whatever you want to to get through it.

    Some concepts of the after life don't make any sense though. If christians genuinely believed they would see their loved ones in heaven when they die, people would be offing themselves left right and centre.


  • Registered Users Posts: 23,313 ✭✭✭✭ King Mob


    As per title really.

    Personally I think a belief in the afterlife can be maintained, given that we're not entirely sure where sentience comes from. Could there be some sort of secular soul?

    Civil and considered posts welcome, especially ones who consider the notion complete nonsense!
    It's possible, but most of the claims about the afterlife and a soul fall into the categories of flawed reasoning that gods do.

    If an atheist does believe in an afterlife I think that they are being selective in the beliefs they are holding.


  • Registered Users Posts: 9,275 ✭✭✭ nozzferrahhtoo


    Personally I think a belief in the afterlife can be maintained, given that we're not entirely sure where sentience comes from.

    If by "could be maintained" you mean that the less evidence there is for a claim, the more you are able to maintain a belief in it..... then I am sure you can.

    But I think the sentence "we're not entirely sure where sentience comes from" is a little incomplete and misleading. It makes it sound like we are in the dark and that any notion of an after life is essentially nothing more than a 50:50 coin toss.

    The reality however is that while our knowledge of the workings of consciousness and sentience is incomplete (and how) it is far from non-existent. We know quite a lot about it at the level of the brain.

    So while we can not say 100% there is or is not an after life, we CAN say that 100% of the current data set links consciousness to a working brain and 0% of it currently suggests any kind of disconnect between the two...... let alone the survival of the former following the death of the latter.

    So when 100% of the evidence available points to X and 0% of it points to Y then while others might be able to "maintain" a belief in Y..... I know personally I certainly can not. Whatever way my brain is structured I lack the ability some people appear to have to subscribe to, or maintain beliefs that are not slightly but ENTIRELY unsubstantiated. Let alone beliefs that further go AGAINST what substantiation we actually do have on the matter.


  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 42,373 Mod ✭✭✭✭ magicbastarder


    not the first time this has come up.
    http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showthread.php?p=98290634


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 15,353 Mod ✭✭✭✭ smacl


    Being an atheist doesn't preclude you from believing in any old nonsense you care to, just so long as that nonsense doesn't include the existence of a God or gods. I know atheists who are into reiki, homeopathy and all sorts of other unsubstantiated fluff. No reason you couldn't include an after life, before life or whatever in this category. Being an atheist doesn't confer you with a rational mind.

    As for afterlifey stuff, have a search for pantheism on this forum. Used to be a subject of heated debate back in the day.


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 13,993 ✭✭✭✭ recedite


    The simulation/hologram theory of life seems to be gaining more followers every year. Elon Musk last year.
    Maybe its because people are becoming more familiar and comfortable with the idea of advanced computer programs and virtual realities.

    Does this qualify as "an afterlife"? I wouldn't know.


  • Registered Users Posts: 29,155 ✭✭✭✭ NIMAN


    denartha wrote: »
    In my heart of hearts though, I know thats it. You suffer and toil and expire and thats it.

    Thing is, you don't know. You can't.

    You and others have no proof that there's nothing afterwards. Only a belief.


  • Registered Users Posts: 26,971 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato


    There is no evidence whatsoever that consciousness can exist in any form following brain death.

    So no. There is no rational reason for an atheist, or anyone else for that matter, to believe in such a thing. But some will.

    If you're looking for a get-out clause OP, I think you're SOL :)


  • Registered Users Posts: 26,971 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato


    NIMAN wrote: »
    Thing is, you don't know. You can't.

    You and others have no proof that there's nothing afterwards. Only a belief.

    Hang on a sec.

    Absence of belief is not a belief in absence.

    It is up to those who believe in god(s) and/or an afterlife to substantiate those claims.

    What is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. The default hypothesis is that any unsubstantiated claim is false until proven otherwise.


  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 42,373 Mod ✭✭✭✭ magicbastarder


    i'm not sure if you missed the point - to me, the statement he quoted was less than a hair's breadth away from the justification i've heard from religious people for their belief.
    and there's a massive gap between knowing and not believing.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 23,313 ✭✭✭✭ King Mob


    NIMAN wrote: »
    Thing is, you don't know. You can't.

    You and others have no proof that there's nothing afterwards. Only a belief.

    You can't know that your computer's soul doesn't float off to some kind of silicon heaven every time you turn it off.

    Does that mean it's a rational and logical assumption to entertain that silicon heaven might exist?

    What leads people to believe that an afterlife exists in the first place?


  • Registered Users Posts: 18,558 ✭✭✭✭ Akrasia


    An afterlife is generally just wishful thinking, but there are plausible theoretical frameworks that involve consciousness surviving beyond the normal human timescale.

    The many worlds hypothesis for example involves an expanding probability curve instead of a collapsing one. It's possible that every time we survived a close encounter with death, that both scenarios happened, we live in some universes, and die in others, but our consciousness survives in the scenarios where we cheated death.

    Death is nothing to us (see my sig) so if there are infinite universes where we are non existent, none of those matter to us. Only the other infinite set of universes where we survive matter.

    Every human can simultaneously be miscarried at conception and live forever due to miraculous feats of luck and technology, and every possibility in between. All without any God or religion. Just a different set of mathematical equations.


  • Registered Users Posts: 15,832 ✭✭✭✭ Pherekydes


    King Mob wrote: »
    What leads people to believe that an afterlife exists in the first place?

    People can't bear the thought of simply ceasing to exist.


  • Registered Users Posts: 18,558 ✭✭✭✭ Akrasia


    But most likely we're just meat puppets who get one chance to perform before the eternal curtain falls


  • Registered Users Posts: 26,971 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato


    Pherekydes wrote: »
    People can't bear the thought of simply ceasing to exist.

    Religious people can't bear the thought of simply ceasing to exist.


  • Registered Users Posts: 7,748 ✭✭✭ Calibos


    Religious people can't bear the thought of simply ceasing to exist.

    I think for most its that they can't grasp the concept of ceasing to exist. ie. they think of ceasing to exist as disembodied floating in a black featureless void for eternity and being conscious of it the whole time when instead they need to think of it as feeling like how they felt for the 14 billion years before they were concieved... ie. .......


  • Registered Users Posts: 15,832 ✭✭✭✭ Pherekydes


    Religious people can't bear the thought of simply ceasing to exist.

    Religious people are people!


  • Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 42,373 Mod ✭✭✭✭ magicbastarder


    Calibos wrote: »
    I think for most its that they can't grasp the concept of ceasing to exist. ie. they think of ceasing to exist as disembodied floating in a black featureless void for eternity and being conscious of it the whole time when instead they need to think of it as feeling like how they felt for the 14 billion years before they were concieved... ie. .......
    but there's an energy to him. what happens that energy? energy cannot be created or destroyed, merely converted to a cosmic consciousness that spies on you as you masturbate.


  • Registered Users Posts: 29,155 ✭✭✭✭ NIMAN


    King Mob wrote: »
    You can't know that your computer's soul doesn't float off to some kind of silicon heaven every time you turn it off.


    What leads people to believe that an afterlife exists in the first place?

    True.

    I think peoples belief would come from a mixture of teaching, how they are raised, blind faith, events in their lives that they perhaps think showed there might be something else, that their dying parent or sibling told them that they'd watch over them, inability to accept that all life came from nothing (which is pretty hard to grasp tbh), maybe thinking we as humans aren't so clever and there might be different levels of consciousness we simply will never understand?

    Who knows?

    But as someone who would consider themselves agnostic, I would never say that there is definitely no afterlife, because I simply don't know that. I don't think there is, but that doesn't prove there isn't.


  • Registered Users Posts: 9,275 ✭✭✭ nozzferrahhtoo


    NIMAN wrote: »
    But as someone who would consider themselves agnostic, I would never say that there is definitely no afterlife, because I simply don't know that. I don't think there is, but that doesn't prove there isn't.

    But as I said in an earlier post that is not the only way to frame a response to the question. Just because we can not "definitely" say there is or is not an after life......... that in no way precludes us for saying that AT THIS TIME..... "definitely" 100% of the data set points to there not being one and 0% of the data set suggests there is.

    There are few areas of human discourse where people actually work in "definite". Move to theism or similar claims however and suddenly all bets are off in that regard.

    The best one can do in this world is go with the wealth of the evidence on any claim. And that is not always easy because sometimes there is evidence pulling both ways. It seems to me we do not often have the luxury of cases where 100% of the evidence points one way, and 0% the other.

    You give people that luxury however and they appear to become MORE confused about which way to go, not less. People who, in other contexts, seem to have no qualms about expressing certainty when in fact the direction of the data set is anything but.


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  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 15,353 Mod ✭✭✭✭ smacl


    NIMAN wrote: »
    But as someone who would consider themselves agnostic, I would never say that there is definitely no afterlife, because I simply don't know that. I don't think there is, but that doesn't prove there isn't.

    But by that logic;

    - There are a massive number (say N) of potential truths that you could imagine but neither prove nor disprove that directly contradict one another (e.g. heaven versus reincarnation, Jesus or Thor, etc...). Of these contradictory imaginary possibilities, either one could be true, or none could be true.

    - Given none of these things has any supporting evidence, they have the same probability of being true. Thus the probability P of any one (e.g. Heaven) being true is 1/N.

    - As N tends towards infinity, P tends towards 0. So while any mythology you might choose, be it God or the Jedi, could be true the probability of it being true is infinitesimal until such time as some evidence has been found to support it, and can be safely dismissed until that time.


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 24,255 Mod ✭✭✭✭ robindch


    Personally I think a belief in the afterlife can be maintained, given that we're not entirely sure where sentience comes from.
    There's no evidence to suggest that conscience requires anything more than a brain supplied with blood and the oxygen and nutrients it carries. There's also a lot of suggest that this is all it needs. So, the brain dies? The evidence is that "you" die too and that's it.

    If you wanted to, you could assert that conscience can exist without a brain and there are people out there working to this end. Given the lack of control, I'm not sure that's a good place to be going though. Whatever floats your boat.

    But the idea of staying alive after you've died? The idea's been around for a long time and it's not going away any time soon.


  • Registered Users Posts: 18,558 ✭✭✭✭ Akrasia


    Eventually there ill be a way to simulate the human brain and consciousness will emerge from this in some form. When consciousness exists in a software environment it will be possible to save a snapshot of that consciousness and replicate it.

    What would it mean to be a self aware consciousness that can be paused, replicated, augmented... .... That'll be mad.

    Still not an afterlife tho


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 15,353 Mod ✭✭✭✭ smacl


    Akrasia wrote: »
    Still not an afterlife tho

    What about restoring the sacred backup onto a new PC with more RAM and a beefier CPU? That should do it.

    As for simulating the human brain to form consciousness, I don't think it will happen that way. Robust tests for consciousness are notoriously difficult to perform however as this article shows. To my mind, we're more likely to generate a different type of consciousness through technologies such as cellular automata and self-learning AI. We assume people are conscious, and certain higher mammals, but how about a colony of ants?


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 13,993 ✭✭✭✭ recedite


    Akrasia wrote: »
    What would it mean to be a self aware consciousness that can be paused, replicated, augmented... .... That'll be mad.
    That would be an AI.
    Most likely it will look at us and conclude (logically enough) that we should be culled for the benefit of the planet and the greater ecosystem.


  • Registered Users Posts: 5,931 ✭✭✭ hinault


    denartha wrote: »
    Some concepts of the after life don't make any sense though. If christians genuinely believed they would see their loved ones in heaven when they die, people would be offing themselves left right and centre.

    Suicide would entail spending eternity in Hell.

    Every human being is born with a soul.
    No soul can be killed or destroyed, instead every soul exists forever.

    Where in eternity each soul dwells is up to each individual.

    If a person leads a life which conforms to Jesus Christ and His Church teaching, that persons soul has a pretty good chance of spending eternity in Heaven.

    If a person leads a life which does not conform to Jesus Christ and His Church teaching, that persons soul will spend some time in Purgatory (but will go to Heaven afterward), or spend eternity in Hell.

    C S Lewis said "the gates of Hell are locked from the inside" : in order words people send themselves to Hell.


  • Registered Users Posts: 26,971 ✭✭✭✭ Hotblack Desiato


    hinault wrote: »
    Suicide would entail spending eternity in Hell.

    Every human being is born with a soul.
    No soul can be killed or destroyed, instead every soul exists forever.

    Where in eternity each soul dwells is up to each individual.

    If a person leads a life which conforms to Jesus Christ and His Church teaching, that persons soul has a pretty good chance of spending eternity in Heaven.

    If a person leads a life which does not conform to Jesus Christ and His Church teaching, that persons soul will spend some time in Purgatory (but will go to Heaven afterward), or spend eternity in Hell.

    C S Lewis said "the gates of Hell are locked from the inside" : in order words people send themselves to Hell.

    Twaddle.


  • Registered Users Posts: 9,275 ✭✭✭ nozzferrahhtoo


    hinault wrote: »
    Suicide would entail spending eternity in Hell. Every human being is born with a soul. No soul can be killed or destroyed, instead every soul exists forever. Where in eternity each soul dwells is up to each individual. If a person leads a life which conforms to Jesus Christ and His Church teaching, that persons soul has a pretty good chance of spending eternity in Heaven. If a person leads a life which does not conform to Jesus Christ and His Church teaching, that persons soul will spend some time in Purgatory (but will go to Heaven afterward), or spend eternity in Hell. C S Lewis said "the gates of Hell are locked from the inside" : in order words people send themselves to Hell.

    I do not suppose you intend to substantiate any of that narrative in any way do you?


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 15,353 Mod ✭✭✭✭ smacl


    Abandon hope all ye who enter here. They really ought to put that over the door at IKEA.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 23,313 ✭✭✭✭ King Mob


    hinault wrote: »
    Suicide would entail spending eternity in Hell.

    Every human being is born with a soul.
    No soul can be killed or destroyed, instead every soul exists forever.

    Where in eternity each soul dwells is up to each individual.

    If a person leads a life which conforms to Jesus Christ and His Church teaching, that persons soul has a pretty good chance of spending eternity in Heaven.

    If a person leads a life which does not conform to Jesus Christ and His Church teaching, that persons soul will spend some time in Purgatory (but will go to Heaven afterward), or spend eternity in Hell.

    C S Lewis said "the gates of Hell are locked from the inside" : in order words people send themselves to Hell.

    Oh and then there's the assertions like that that illustrate that if any afterlife does exist. it is disgustingly evil and unfair.


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