From a religious or spiritual perspective, the answer seems obvious.
From a scientific perspective, the answer also seems obvious.
However, those answers just happen to directly contradict each other.
So, which answer do I believe?
Obviously, as a Christian, I believe that there is life after death. That does not mean, however, that I do not occasionally have my doubts. Is my belief in life after death simply wishful thinking? Am I so enamoured with the idea of my loved ones watching over me that I have convinced my brain that they are still present in my life despite the fact that they are dead? Because, let me tell you, I have felt their presence before. The more skeptical among you will dismiss these feelings as hallucinations or wishful thinking, and indeed, you may be entirely right.
But, if I am honest with myself, I am not willing to concede that point.
Sure, I play lip service to skepticism and doubt, but at the end of the day, I believe entirely in the existence of an afterlife, and in the existence of God.
Do I know exactly what that afterlife entails, and who God is? To suggest that I know would be the height of arrogance. I believe in heaven and in hell … but do I really know?
No, I do not.
Perhaps the afterlife is not an afterlife at all, but a rebirth, similar to the Hinduism concept of reincarnation.
Though, I do not particularly like that idea, since it seems unlikely that I would ever be able to encounter my loved ones from this life again, the possibilities of rebirth are simply too endless. And even if I were to meet my loved ones again, I wouldn’t know or remember who they are, which (in my mind) makes our meeting entirely pointless. And could I ever really be me, with different DNA, different life experiences, and different memories?
No, making reincarnation somewhat moot.
Perhaps the dead simply linger in our world as ghosts and shadows, occasionally awake enough to influence the physical world around them, existing only to frighten the humans around them? Or perhaps heaven and hell really do exist, and God really does want us to exist with him in eternity.
Or perhaps death really is the final frontier, and afterwards, there is nothing. No experiences, no knowledge, no existence.
It seems to me that we cannot find out which option is really true until we pass that final frontier ourselves, at which point there is clearly no turning back.
Death is such an odd thing. A fact of life, and yet a fact we spend so much time trying to forget or ignore or mythologize. We fear it, some of us embrace it, and still others spend all of their days attempting to avoid it.
But endings cannot be avoided, they simply arrive, whether we resist them or not.
However, I know which concept that I believe and trust is true.
So, what are your thoughts on death? Feel free to be as rambling and uncertain in the comments as I am in my blog post :P
This post was inspired by a debate that will occur tonight between four academics: Dr. Sean Carroll, Dr. Steve Novella (of Skeptics Guide to the Universe fame <3), Dr. Raymond Moody, and Dr. Eben Alexander. If this is a topic that you are curious about, then I encourage you to listen in on the debate, which will be streamed live at 6:45 pm.