3 Inconvenient Questions About Life After Death (#3 Will Really Make You Think!)
Would you like to live forever? It’s a deceptively simple question. If you are like most people, your gut reaction might have been a simple “sure, why not?” Then, as the deeper consequences of the question sink in, you might start to question your initial response.
For starters, you might start to wonder whether our mortality gives our lives meaning. Would life lose its color if we were immortal? You might even question whether living forever would be all that it is cracked up to be. Wouldn’t life lose its charm after 1,000 or 1,000,000 years?
I couldn’t agree more. But, this raises an interesting question. If most people agree that living forever isn’t desirable, why do so many of us hope and pray for life after death? What is it about the afterlife that makes us want to live forever, albeit in a different form?
The more I think about it, the more I realize that there are several inconvenient questions that related to the concept of life after death.
Would You Really Want Life After Death to Last Forever?
Can you think of anything that you would like to do forever? Eat ice-cream? Nope. Have sex? Tempting, but… uh, no. Read religious texts or ponder the mysteries of the universe? Maybe for a while, but, “FOREVER?”
Part of the problem with eternity is that it is just so darn long. As hard as I try, I honestly can’t think of some combination of activities that I would want to do forever. Now, that’s not to say that I wouldn’t like to remain conscious for a very long time. There are so many things to explore and, if heaven is a place filled with infinite possibilities, I’m sure that I could keep myself occupied for hundreds-of-thousands or years. But, forever?
Perhaps the afterlife has a way of solving this problem by resetting our memories once in a while. This is one of the things that is so appealing about concepts like reincarnation. If we periodically forget who we were and “start over,” so to speak, doesn’t this solve the problem? Possibly. Personally, I would enjoy coming back again and again, being born, growing, falling in love, searching for true happiness (and probably never finding it). Just rinse and repeat.
But, this raises a second inconvenient question about life after death. What is the point of living forever, or coming back as a new person, if we can’t remember who we were?
Would Living Forever Rob Us of Our Sense of Identity?
Think back to when you were a young child. Do you remember how you saw the world when you were 4 or 5? Can you sort through the jumble of emotions that you felt to find the seed that grew into your personality? How much have you changed since then? Are you exactly the same person? Or have your experiences molded you, blow by silent blow into the person that you are today?
Exactly how much we change over the years is a matter of debate. Most of us like to believe that, no matter how much we change “around the edges,” there is a constant voice inside of us that always stays the same.
In the span of a natural human lifetime, this is probably true. After all, our lives follow a fairly predictable course. If our personalities change at a glacial pace of 1% a decade, you will remain, let’s say, 94% “you” by the end of your life. But, as we discussed earlier, “forever” is a heck of a long time. Even if you only changed 1% every thousand years, you would be a completely different person after 100,000 years which is, of course, nothing compared to eternity.
“Ok,” you might respond. “But, even if I buy your argument, maybe the concept of time just doesn’t exist in the afterlife. Or, maybe without a body to experience the world, we don’t change at all.”
These are fair points. But, if we don’t change at all, would we really be ourselves? Isn’t a part of what we want from the afterlife the ability to grow and understand beyond what our frail human bodies and minds allow?
So, it appears that we are trapped between two less than perfect options. Either we lose our sense of individuality in the afterlife. Or, we remain fixed for eternity, like statues spinning in the void.
Would Life Without a Body Be Desirable?
Now, I’m making an assumption that we don’t have bodies in the afterlife. This may or not be the case. But, I think that we can agree that in most spiritual and religious traditions, the afterlife is depicted as a place where souls live after they leave their physical bodies behind.
If you think about it, much of what it means to be human is tied to the fact that we have bodies. From the flutter of our hearts when we meet an attractive person to the tears that come when words fail us, our bodies make the human experience possible.
It is hard to say what life without a body would be like. Perhaps, we become “pure consciousness.” Or, maybe we merge with other souls to become something greater. Regardless, there is little doubt that life without a body would be different than anything that we can imagine.
If our lives take on greater purpose after we die, what drives us to this purpose? On earth, we serve the needs of our bodies and, to a certain extent, our communities. What will push us to be greater people when we no longer have these basic needs?
You might say that “God” or “a greater power” drives us to greatness after we die. Fair enough. But, if this is the case, where does free will fit into the equation. Without bodies, would we not require an outside force to motivate us?
All of this adds up to a larger question, “Is life after death desirable?” Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer to this question. It is up to each of us to find what little truth we can in the limited time that we are given.
Perhaps the afterlife really is a place of perfection. Maybe God, or some other force, has foreseen all of these questions and smiles at such simple ponderings. But, if so, I’m sure that he appreciates the effort.
So, how about you? Would you like to live forever? Do you believe in life after death?