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Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

Old 08-10-13, 06:08 AM
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Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

This has been on my mind lately. My Father has a incurable cancer. The Doctors have given him six months to two years depending how the new Chemo works. It's not looking good and the way he's talking about his pain it might be less than six months.

I'm an atheist so knowing once my Dad passes on there will be nothingness for him. No more watching new movies, eating a meal etc. It's starting to drive me crazy. On the other hand he won't have to be in anymore pain.

I can see now why religious people believe in an afterlife. It's like a placebo to mask the fear of what will really happen when that unfortunate time comes in our life.

To the believers on this board; Does it ever cross your mind that when you die there's a chance that there is no Afterlife? Even if you're a deeply religious person the possibility have to come to your mind at least once in your life?
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Old 08-10-13, 07:25 AM
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Re: Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

I grew up believing in heaven and hell. The notion that your entire life's worth will be weighed and judged and that you'll have to live with the outcome for *eternity* with no chance to improve your lot is stressful! Then there's the prospect that, even if things go your way and you wind up in heaven, you'll have to watch your family go through all sorts of hell and not be able to do a darned thing... Let's face it, if the dead could have an effect on the living we'd have more than silly ghost-stories to share! Eternity in heaven would by blemished by impotence!

Later I became agnostic and had to accept the possibility of oblivion, or at least some form of afterlife so alien to our current existence that the dead won't give a damn about the living. I actually find this comforting. I'm not certain oblivion is the only outcome because I have no evidence one way or another. However, the notion that, when you're dead you simply won't be *able* to regret anything... It's freeing and awesome. If you don't believe in an afterlife then what's important is your contribution to the world. Your children. They'll live on. Your father might not get a harp and halo, but his influence on the world will continue through you. Death changes from a final judgement to a completion of life and the laying down of burdens. I don't welcome death or yearn for it to take me early, but neither do I fear it because I believe I simply won't be capable of suffering or regret. It sure beats the prospect of burning for eternity because, contrary to what I thought, Judaism is the one true religion and I've enjoyed a heckuva lot of bacon! On the downside, goodbye really is goodbye.

This is how I feel now. My parents are healthy. I'm healthy. I have no idea how I'll feel when that changes. Losing your grandparents isn't nearly the same as losing your parents, or so I would expect. My best wishes are with you and your father.


P.S. After my Aunt died from cancer I collected pledges, shaved my head for Cancer research, and donated my hair to a charity that makes wigs for kids. I approached the idea feeling it was somewhat silly but it actually made me feel a lot better. Aunt != father, but it's worth considering.

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Old 08-10-13, 08:32 AM
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Re: Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

Afterlife? Good luck with ALL that. To any sane, rational, educated person the idea is preposterous at best.


Saying that, now expect a 20 page thread of sane, rational, educated forum members writing long winded responses in regards to their spirituality and beliefs that indeed there is an afterlife, etc...
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Old 08-10-13, 08:34 AM
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Re: Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

I can't definitively say that there is or is not an afterlife because I don't know.

But I'm not counting on it. "Heaven" and other forms of the afterlife are just concepts that people invented to assuage the fear of death.

I expect death to be non-existence: No thought, no memory, no awareness, no consciousness. No different than the state I was in before I was born. Life is not fair, and I have no illusions about a fair afterlife, either. Brain shuts down, and that's that. Pull the plug, the screen goes blank.

Now, I wouldn't object to some kind of paradise after death life Summerland or Fólkvangr (the Christian idea of Heaven doesn't really sound like a lot of fun, an eternity of shining God's ass), but nothing convinces me that it will be any kind of reality.
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Old 08-10-13, 10:22 AM
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Re: Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

Originally Posted by mhg83 View Post
To the believers on this board; Does it ever cross your mind that when you die there's a chance that there is no Afterlife? Even if you're a deeply religious person the possibility have to come to your mind at least once in your life?
Yes. I do not mind the thought. "Nothingness" or "returning to the universe as energy" or whatever one wants to call it does not sound like a bad thing to me. It can be scary to anyone at times, but it sure doesn't seem like something to really fear. No more movies, no more favorite meals, etc. But no more pain, no more disappointment, no more fucking traffic. It isn't easy to ascribe a "feeling" to nothingness, but I personally find the idea to be serene.

There seems to be nothing so sacred to us as our self identity. And hell, it is a hard thing to truly picture not having. But if there is nothing, I think that sounds perfectly fine.

edit: Oh wait, I believe in heaven because I needed an answer for lightning, thunder, and I need comfort at the thought of death. Go with that.
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Old 08-10-13, 10:31 AM
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Re: Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

Originally Posted by Josh-da-man View Post
I expect death to be non-existence: No thought, no memory, no awareness, no consciousness. No different than the state I was in before I was born.
I know this is nitpicky, and I'm not trying to start a debate, I'm just interested in this. I don't have a dog in this fight...this just came to mind. So obviously there is no "proof" or even reason to believe what I'm asking, it is just a question that arose in my mind. How do you know you had no thought, memory, awareness or consciousness before you were born? I know a typical Christian answer would be because you were created at that time by God and didn't exist prior to that. But just because I awake with no memory, awareness, etc. of a dream I was having does not mean that I did not have a dream nor that my brain was completely engaged in it.

I get that it sounds like I am parsing words because what the hell does it matter if that is true if you aren't aware of it now. I'm not trying to parse words, but rather was just hit with the idea of dreams after a shitty night's sleep.
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Old 08-10-13, 10:57 AM
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Re: Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

Originally Posted by mhg83 View Post
This has been on my mind lately. My Father has a incurable cancer. The Doctors have given him six months to two years depending how the new Chemo works. It's not looking good and the way he's talking about his pain it might be less than six months.

I'm an atheist so knowing once my Dad passes on there will be nothingness for him. No more watching new movies, eating a meal etc. It's starting to drive me crazy. On the other hand he won't have to be in anymore pain.

I can see now why religious people believe in an afterlife. It's like a placebo to mask the fear of what will really happen when that unfortunate time comes in our life.

To the believers on this board; Does it ever cross your mind that when you die there's a chance that there is no Afterlife? Even if you're a deeply religious person the possibility have to come to your mind at least once in your life?

Sorry to hear about your dad. My father passed away a little over a month ago. I'm an Atheist and I don't believe he went to heaven or hell. What I do know is that he is now in an urn, because we had him cremated. He's basically pulverized sand in a box.

I agree with your notion about religious folks. People are afraid of death and need the concept of heaven to mask their fear of death. Once you're dead then that's it. My dad was sick for about a year, so we knew it would come, but it still caught us off guard. What helped immensely is that we all made peace with him during that year and at the hospital before he passed. No one here is left with a guilty conscience, so as shitty as his death was for leaving the family, we've moved forward with clear minds. We did our part and we said our goodbyes. No hate, no excuses (he wasn't the greatest dad - he had many, many faults), but it wasn't really about us, it was about him and what he was going through. There was no way that he would leave us and his surviving family with any sort of grudge against him.
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Old 08-10-13, 11:08 AM
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Re: Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

Originally Posted by kvrdave View Post
Yes. I do not mind the thought. "Nothingness" or "returning to the universe as energy" or whatever one wants to call it does not sound like a bad thing to me.
Me neither. I mean we've already been there (before conception). Think about your first memories...is the nothingness before that unpleasant?

I do find it interesting that in modern Christianity, hell as "fire and brimstone" has been replaced with "nothingness" (to be kinder and gentler I suppose). Not much incentive for an atheist to convert, since they are getting what they expected either way.
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Old 08-10-13, 11:09 AM
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Re: Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

I'm open to both ideas (afterlife and nothingness). How will you really know until it happens to you?
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Old 08-10-13, 11:28 AM
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Re: Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

Originally Posted by kvrdave View Post
I know this is nitpicky, and I'm not trying to start a debate, I'm just interested in this. I don't have a dog in this fight...this just came to mind. So obviously there is no "proof" or even reason to believe what I'm asking, it is just a question that arose in my mind. How do you know you had no thought, memory, awareness or consciousness before you were born? I know a typical Christian answer would be because you were created at that time by God and didn't exist prior to that. But just because I awake with no memory, awareness, etc. of a dream I was having does not mean that I did not have a dream nor that my brain was completely engaged in it.

I get that it sounds like I am parsing words because what the hell does it matter if that is true if you aren't aware of it now. I'm not trying to parse words, but rather was just hit with the idea of dreams after a shitty night's sleep.
Remember what the year 1812 was like? Death will be just like it.
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Old 08-10-13, 12:21 PM
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Re: Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

Ah yes, 1812. The Year of Nothingness.
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Old 08-10-13, 12:35 PM
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Re: Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

Arbor Day 1812: The Long Dark Tisha B'Av of the Soul
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Old 08-10-13, 12:35 PM
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Re: Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

This is my basic stance: if there's no God, then none of us will ever experience consequences for our wrongs. But if God does exist, there's a very real penalty awaiting those who reject Him. That's not a risk I think anyone should take.
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Old 08-10-13, 12:44 PM
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Re: Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

Originally Posted by moviefan2k4 View Post
This is my basic stance: if there's no God, then none of us will ever experience consequences for our wrongs. But if God does exist, there's a very real penalty awaiting those who reject Him. That's not a risk I think anyone should take.
I live a good life and treat people well, I just don't share your beliefs about this so called God, because he certainly sounds like an asshole.
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Old 08-10-13, 12:51 PM
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Re: Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

Originally Posted by moviefan2k4 View Post
This is my basic stance: if there's no God, then none of us will ever experience consequences for our wrongs. But if God does exist, there's a very real penalty awaiting those who reject Him. That's not a risk I think anyone should take.
".... I'm not entirely sure if I should fear God or if I trust entirely that God is there at all, but ....I got a little fear in me just in case...." Dave Matthews


Interesting. I believe in God, but don't believe he/she/it would punish those for simply not believing in him.

I don't really look at from a negative (despite being raised Catholic - the "guilt religion"). I believe God sees the "good" in people.
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Old 08-10-13, 01:01 PM
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Re: Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

Originally Posted by rw2516 View Post
Remember what the year 1812 was like? Death will be just like it.
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Old 08-10-13, 01:12 PM
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Re: Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

Originally Posted by moviefan2k4 View Post
This is my basic stance: if there's no God, then none of us will ever experience consequences for our wrongs. But if God does exist, there's a very real penalty awaiting those who reject Him. That's not a risk I think anyone should take.
The dreaded Pascal's Wager. Sooner or later it always comes up.

I prefer Smith's Wager:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism...se_Against_God

As one final argument or satire on an argument, you may have heard of Pascal's wager at some point. Blaise Pascal was the famous French mathematician, philosopher, and theologian. He came up with this argument which consequently became quite famous, which went something as follows. Reason can't prove or disprove the existence of God. Weigh the odds. If the atheist is correct, we're going to die, nothing will happen, and nothing is lost. But if the Christian is correct, the nonbelievers are going to Hell for eternity. So it seems like the practical odds would lie with Christianity. We would wager on Christianity because the practical odds are so important. If you wager on Christianity and there is no god, you don't lose anything.

The first obvious problem with this is it completely shoves aside the whole issue of intellectual integrity, as if you can just do a complete turn-about in your beliefs willy-nilly without suffering any psychological damage, which simply isn't possible. It would require such a gross miscarriage of intellectual integrity to do this kind of thing that it's inconceivable that someone with Pascal's kind of mind would even offer it.

But I want to offer you a kind of counter-wager, called the "Smith's wager." Here are the premises of my wager:

1. The existence of a god, if we are to believe in it, can only be established through reason.
2. Applying the canons of correct reasoning to theistic belief, we must reach the conclusion that theism is unfounded and must be rejected by rational people.

Now comes the question, "But what if reason is wrong in this case?", which it sometimes is. We are fallible human beings. What if it turns out that there is a Christian god and He's up there and He's going to punish us for eternity for disbelieving in Him. Here's where my wager comes in. Let's suppose you're an atheist. What are the possibilities? The first possibility is there is no god, you're right. In that case, you'll die, that'll be it, you've lost nothing, and you've lived a happy life with the correct position. Secondly, a god may exist but he may not be concerned with human affairs. He may be the god of traditional Deism. He may have started the universe going and left it to its traditional devices, in which case you will simply die, that is all there is to it, again, and you've lost nothing.

Let's suppose that God exists and He is concerned with human affairs -- He's a personal god -- but that He is a just god. He's concerned with justice. If you have a just god, he could not possibly punish an honest error of belief where there is no moral turpitude or no wrongdoing involved. If this god is a creator god and He gave us reason as the basic means of understanding our world, then He would take pride in the conscientious and scrupulous use of reason on the part of His creatures, even if they committed errors from time to time, in the same way a benevolent father would take pride in the accomplishments of his son, even if the son committed errors from time to time. Therefore, if there exists a just god, we have absolutely nothing to fear from such a god. Such a god could not conceivably punish us for an honest error of belief.

Now we came to the last possibility. Suppose there exists an unjust god, specifically the god of Christianity, who doesn't give a damn about justice and who will burn us in Hell, regardless of whether we made honest mistakes or not. Such a god is necessarily unjust, for there is no more heinous injustice we could conceive of, than to punish a person for an honest error of belief, when he has tried to the best of his ability to ascertain the truth. The Christian thinks he's in a better position in case this kind of god exists. I wish to point out that he's not in any better position than we are because you have an unjust god. The earmark of injustice is unprincipled behavior, behavior that's not predictable. If there's an unjust god and He really gets all this glee out of burning sinners and disbelievers, then what could give him more glee than to tell Christians they would be saved, only to turn around and burn them anyway, for the Hell of it, just because he enjoys it? If you've got an unjust god, what worst injustice could there be than that? It's not that far-fetched. If a god is willing to punish you simply for an honest error of belief, you can't believe He's going to keep his word when He tells you He won't punish you if you don't believe in Him because He's got to have a sadistic streak to begin with. Certainly He would get quite a bit of glee out of this behavior. Even if there exists this unjust god, then admittedly we live in a nightmarish universe, but we're in no worse position than the Christian is.

Again, if you're going to make the wager, you might as well wager on what your reason tells you, that atheism is correct, and go that route because you won't be able to do anything about an unjust god anyway, even if you accept Christianity. My wager says that you should in all cases wager on reason and accept the logical consequence, which in this case is atheism. If there's no god, you're correct; if there's an indifferent god, you won't suffer; if there's a just god, you have nothing to fear from the honest use of your reason; and if there's an unjust god, you have much to fear but so does the Christian.
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Old 08-10-13, 01:35 PM
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Re: Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

Originally Posted by movielib View Post
The dreaded Pascal's Wager. Sooner or later it always comes up.

I prefer Smith's Wager:

[...]
2. Applying the canons of correct reasoning to theistic belief, we must reach the conclusion that theism is unfounded and must be rejected by rational people
Wow, it only took him until # 2 to reach that unassailable conclusion.

If you made a list of the great thinkers and scientific minds in the history of western civilization, and then threw out all the ones whose reason made them categorically reject theism, you would have a pretty small list.
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Old 08-10-13, 01:40 PM
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Re: Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

Originally Posted by Groucho View Post
Me neither. I mean we've already been there (before conception). Think about your first memories...is the nothingness before that unpleasant?

I do find it interesting that in modern Christianity, hell as "fire and brimstone" has been replaced with "nothingness" (to be kinder and gentler I suppose). Not much incentive for an atheist to convert, since they are getting what they expected either way.
I find it more interesting that "fire and brimstone" came about in the Middle Ages. I think they had to "one up" hell to be worse than their current living conditions.
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Old 08-10-13, 01:43 PM
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Re: Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

Originally Posted by Ky-Fi View Post
Wow, it only took him until # 2 to reach that unassailable conclusion.

If you made a list of the great thinkers and scientific minds in the history of western civilization, and then threw out all the ones whose reason made them categorically reject theism, you would have a pretty small list.
Well, it comes with a whole book. You might want to see the context.

Smith has spent more than 200 pages before this showing all the arguments for the existence of god fail. He has explained the burden of proof and thinks that if the existence of something is not proved, it is rational to not believe in it. Just like with magic elves or unicorns. I agree. I'm sure you don't. That is why he uses that in his wager.

But anyway, even if you throw out the part about reason leading to atheism the wager is not changed.

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Old 08-10-13, 01:43 PM
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Re: Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

I consider myself an atheist (and probably a poor one at that). I certainly don't believe in the Christian god (or, in fact any established god I am aware of) BUT I guess I am not 100% convinced there is nothing to the "after life". You see, ghost type horror movies scare the shit out of me and I have had more than one "experience" I can't explain. There obviously is some sort of belief in the afterlife way back in my lizard brain. If one believes in ghosts (which I can with 99% certainty that I don't) then one can't be an atheist, right? Does that make me only 99% atheist?
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Old 08-10-13, 02:47 PM
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Re: Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

The existence of the "supernatural" doesn't by default prove the existence of a Supreme Divine Creator.

It doesn't hurt, either.
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Old 08-10-13, 02:51 PM
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Re: Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

Originally Posted by DeputyDave View Post
I consider myself an atheist (and probably a poor one at that). I certainly don't believe in the Christian god (or, in fact any established god I am aware of) BUT I guess I am not 100% convinced there is nothing to the "after life". You see, ghost type horror movies scare the shit out of me and I have had more than one "experience" I can't explain. There obviously is some sort of belief in the afterlife way back in my lizard brain. If one believes in ghosts (which I can with 99% certainty that I don't) then one can't be an atheist, right? Does that make me only 99% atheist?
All that's necessary to be an atheist is that you not believe in god(s). It's not necessary to know there's no god or even to have a positive belief that there is no god (this all gets into the confusion about agnosticism being some "middle ground"; but atheism has to do with belief and agnosticism has to do with knowledge; agnosticism is not mutually exclusive with atheism or theism).

If you can say "I do not believe in god" you are an atheist, regardless of whether you say "I'm not sure."

An atheist could believe in ghosts or an afterlife (both of which could conceivably exist without a god) but I'm sure there are few atheists that do.
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Old 08-10-13, 02:51 PM
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Re: Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

Originally Posted by Hokeyboy View Post
The existence of the "supernatural" doesn't by default prove the existence of a Supreme Divine Creator.

It doesn't hurt, either.
True but I think being an atheist and believing in ghosts are mutually exclusive.
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Old 08-10-13, 02:53 PM
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Re: Death and Nothingness VS Death and the Afterlife

Originally Posted by movielib View Post
All that's necessary to be an atheist is that you not believe in god(s). It's not necessary to know there's no god or even to have a positive belief that there is no god (this all gets into the confusion about agnosticism being some "middle ground"; but atheism has to do with belief and agnosticism has to do with knowledge; agnosticism is not mutually exclusive with atheism or theism).

If you can say "I do not believe in god" you are an atheist, regardless of whether you say "I'm not sure."

An atheist could believe in ghosts or an afterlife (both of which could conceivably exist without a god) but I'm sure there are few atheists that do.
Hmmm... OK. And now your sig comes into play yet again.
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