To atheists, agnostics, skeptics, humanists, and materialists out there, what is the
allure and significance of people believing that there is an afterlife? Do you further contend that belief in an afterlife is an excuse of not living life to the fullest of human potential and is an avoidance of fully facing and embracing life?
Allure and significance?
Well, the fear of death is biological. It seems natural that the mind would believe in something to relieve such terrible anxiety. The loss of a loved one is often too much to bear, so people will believe that their loved one continues on in another place to assuage their pain. The origin of "berserker" came from warriors who were certain there was an afterlife, so they fought with terrifying fervor and a disregard of dying.
Does it avoid human potential?
Not necessarily. Even if we were to reincarnate or live forever in an afterlife, this life currently is unique each moment. Unless we are doomed to repeat this life over and over, you only live this life in this way once. You can be just as embracing about life as anyone, depending on what you believe.
Cause/effect: As I see it:
Cause: pain of the reality of life/death
Effect: belief in afterlife to assuage the pain (the practice of which may or may not prevent one (1) from aspiring to more in life, (2) from an acceptance of "the way things are", (3) from an inability to see human kind's potential, and probably a (4) (5) and (6) thrown in to boot..
The word "excuse" doesn't fit anywhere in this equation for me. No one who is not brain washed wants an excuse for not living life to the fullest of human potential. As Philospher Prince has stated, the fear of death is biological.
Belief in an afterlife, as Marx has said, is the opium of the masses and sometimes we need a little opium to get by to reach our potential. In my mind, I don't want opium to block me from understanding the power of humankind for I think if there is any directive, that is the Prime Directive.
I believe Marx said opiate of the masses and not opium. This would have taken into account laudanum which contains opium.
Rod, oops! I should have looked it up because the actual quote is really beautiful: "'Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."
Yes; and it's a fear of coming to grips with the fact that nothing actually happens to us after we die. We just die. We're animals that evolved to the point that we have overdeveloped brains. We've done so to the point that the homo sapiens is the only species of animal whose head is so damn big that we require assistance to give birth and our newborns take nearly a year walk with these heavy, big-brained heads. We're sort of an evolutionary "dead end" in a way. Religion has served its purpose and has kept our species alive long enough to develop societal concepts like morality. Now we don't need it anymore and it's holding us back from advancing.
I think that if you have had a loved one pass away you would want to believe in an afterlife in the hope that you will meet them again when your time comes. I suppose this is what makes me an Agnostic. That to me is the allure and significance. I've seen too many branches of too many religions get it wrong in usually a very human, very vindictive way to be a firm believer in any religious institution. I have come across sinners cast out even though it is said we are all sinners and God is supposed to make the final judgement.
In the past religion has been used to keep people in their place. If born a serf you live and work and pray as a serf and if you are very good you will do better than your current betters in the afterlife. That sort of tosh was medieval thinking that worked a treat if you were on top of the social and economic pyramid. Not so well if you were down below. But even down below you had to have something to work for and look forward to even if it was only dying and getting that much better afterlife.
After medieval times it was reasoned by some church people that those on the bottom of the ladder were down there because their parents had sinned greater than those of people better off therefore there was an unseen justice in the poor being poor. This type of thinking was put to an end with humanitarians such as Charles Dickens.
I fully embrace life and try to find meaning in whatever I do to make a quid and also what I do on the sidelines. I doubt that a belief in the afterlife nowadays needs to limit your horizons in this world. Mind you I do believe in evolution and have certainly ran into my fair share of religious types who are firmly of the opposite view. But I do prefer science to monkey trials.
I don't think it's at all uncommon for people to see the ulterior view to their own as being somehow a weakness on their part. A fear or whatever else. I think it's just an attempt to find some way to rationalize how others see the world when their viewpoint is so different than your own. I try to be mindful of this when considering the viewpoint of the atheist. That I have a natural tendency to see it as an inferior viewpoint in some way, requiring a breach in logic of some sort to hold. Whether it be an inherent rejection of an authority figure or one who may hold us in judgement, when that's not necessarily true.
The afterlife is definitely a means to curb the fear of death and sadness when we lose someone. But, it's also a way for us to apply a human lens to eternity. We don't know what the universe was like before we were born, so all we've ever known is this one life we're currently inside. So, it makes sense that we wouldn't be able to conceive of what comes after. We then assign it the term 'afterlife' as if more life exists and we will move on to that. Rather than more of what we didn't experience before we were born.
To some extent, I think every human knows there is no afterlife. Otherwise we wouldn't fight to survive as voraciously as we do, or cry as much when a loved one dies. So, in that regard, I don't think it's used as an excuse of a life not lived to the fullest, rather it's a way for us to avoid the harshest and most mind bending questions about our existence.
Actually we have the spiritual power to go beyond the senses. With meditation we can penetrate to the spirit world and remain conscious. You can also see others on the other side if you wish. That's how the knowledge of the afterlife has been received. Although we make light of it, it was serious business to the ancients. In some ways, more important than physical life.
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