Elsewhere, Zevaeros writes:

* The comfort of an afterlife

This is perhaps the most troubling thing about atheism for me - the absence of the concept of an afterlife where you have to do some accounting for the here and now - for good or ill.

It disturbs the shit out of me that people like Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney (or Emporer Bokassa, Stalin, Adolf, Oprah etc, etc, etc) can simply die and never have to face the consequences of their existence.

It gives disturbing depth to Charles Bukowski's epitaph - "Don't Try".

Don't get me wrong - Buk for all his flaws was a jewel of humanity.

Tags: accountabilty, afterlife, death, kharma, neocon, paying the piper

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Michael Edward Davis: Just think how different the world would be, and how radically everything would change, if two or three billion faithheads woke up today and realized that this is all the world there is and all the life they're ever going to get. Try stopping that!

Nice in theory. The reality is that they are all too engrossed in _(insert country here) Idol_, _Desperate Housewives_ and what the neighbours are doing.

Your optimism in human nature will not have a happy ending.
Michael Edward Davis: I am not an optimist at all. I think that this will be the century when the shit hits the wall for humanity, and life as we know it will end.

You mean you're not gonna get raptured ?
It would be interesting if at the moment of death there was a split second awareness that everything that believers imagined about an afterlife and lived their whole lives for was not going to happen and the reality of no life after death was going to happen.....NOW.

Instead, I think as our brain and body shuts down we will have those comforting NDE feelings just before we lose conciousness and enter into the eternal sleep.
Yes that says it all. It is odd that the deceased loved ones are often much younger than they were at their time of death and some are wearing flowing gowns! I don't think I would look good in one.

Our body is quite remarkable in that the last few moment before we shut off we get those hallucinations. Perhaps that would be called a "good death".
I've had lots of conversations about the "afterlife" that tend to go:

Them: "It would be nice, so I choose to believe in it, I don't want to know if I'm wrong".

Me: "So you'd rather be happy than right"?

Them: "Yes"

Me: "And you think it's a choice, you can't have both"?

This is where the conversation gets more interesting since I find this is an area people often haven't thought about much and are open to discussing.

I don't need to challenge their beliefs or attitudes just talk to them about how it's possible to be happy, moral and sane (ha!) without the baggage.

I think a lot of people just don't know there is an alternative.
Michael Edward Davis: Yes, it seems that the neurophysiology of death prepares us to die as peacefully and painlessly as possible.

Death is interesting, and never so beautifully handled as here.

But the question remains - if there is no afterlife, what is your burden of existential "goodness" ? If there is no hell, why (if you know you can get away with it) don't you rape your neighbours cute daughter / son ? Why don't you gas a minority you disagree with ? Why do you vote Republican ?

What is there that makes you human ? Absence of fear is a perplex. If you can get away with it, and you know its wrong, what stops you ?
I think it's sort of humorous that most people are so afraid that they will be "blinked out" of existence when they die. Many of them spend this entire life preparing for the next instead of living this one. I pity them really. I agree there should be more effort on justice now for those deserving it instead of using the easy out phrase: "God will judge him..." trying to make it easier to swallow that the person wasn't brought to justice now. It's interesting to me that some people realize that this is the only life we're going to get, and choose to make the most of every day. I wouldn't want to think of having an afterlife. I think it would breed contempt for those around you, and most definitely make you take them for granted. After all, your going to be spending eternity with them right? What a crock of shit. It makes me ill just thinking about it.

Knowing that this is the only life I'm going to get makes me really enjoy the time I have with the ones I hold dearest, and fosters better relationships between me, my family and my friends. It makes me realize just how short that time is, and just how precious life is and we all are.
Techninja: Knowing that this is the only life I'm going to get makes me really enjoy the time I have with the ones I hold dearest, and fosters better relationships between me, my family and my friends. It makes me realize just how short that time is, and just how precious life is and we all are.

Yes. But what stops you from being a psychopathic, violent, sexually abusing asshole ? Assuming you can get away with it ? Hence my query about kharma / afterlife.

Consequences: Buddhists pervert it - if you're crippled you deserve it. Christians pervert it, they just say "we're right".

As a being that has abandoned "god", what stops you from the above ?
Felch: As a being that has abandoned "god", what stops you from the above ?

There is a lot of evidence that a great deal of what we call our morality comes from our nature. Humans have intrinsic social rules in the same way that dogs, lions or meercats do.

Obviously within that there is also variance from person to person, dog to dog.

Some dogs are safe with kids others aren't.

I don't think a mentally healthy individual with an unremarkable history would or could coldly choose to become a "psychopathic, violent, sexually abusing asshole" if it's simply not in their nature.

We don't blame a dogs belief structure for it's disposition, we accept that it is the way it is and training can only achieve so much.

And so I think it is with us. An altruistic believer will cite God as their inspiration as will a violent bigot.
I think I'll take the same view as Dawkins and say that I don't do those things because I was taught by my parents that they are wrong. Then we get into the issue of morals, and I believe that are morals are passed down from generation to generation. I believe that our morals originated from when early man was first experiencing a population explosion, and were living in small groups or tribes. Knowing that you would most likely see the same people every day sort of made it easy to take the stance of "I don't want you causing me harm or injury, so I won't cause you harm or injury." It's boils down to "Do unto others, etc." That's just my humble opinion, until someone comes up with what I think to be a better idea of how we got our morals. If or when that time comes, I'll get on board.
Lets imagine for a second that God does not exist (easy for us atheists!) and that there is no supernatural cause for judgment in the after life.essentially lets imagine the world as it is now.Like you said earlier in such a world we would not need to fear any repercussions of our acts be it good or bad as there is not life after death.
In such a world, when people began to function in a sociopath manner ,what happens?Society corrects the behavior as such behavior is not an evolutionary stable solution.Its not a conscious correction ,but its easy to see how it happens naturally.If every one followed such a strategy(of rape and mayhem) ,it would be chaos ,and the probability that you would have children to carry your genes would be almost negligible.
hence it is in our evolutionary interest to adopt strategies that curtails the activities of those that would prefer to rape and cause mayhem.
When it comes to people like Hitler etc ,they are the anomalies who should be stopped before they get out of hand.
Thanks all for your comments. To me it still does not lighten the load of sharing a planet with Dick Cheney. As an example of walking, breathing, looking after number one evil, he is our generations superstar. You can get away with it. You can profit from misery. As a biblical antichrist, can you think of anyone better ? He is Damien from _The Omen_.

I would find it much easier to digest if Satan was preparing a special roasting pit for him.

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