There are three basic possibilities in attempting to arrive at logical conclusions about life after death. The first is that it is a question that cannot be answered via logical means and must depend on an entirely subjective judgment. Another possibility is that there is some kind of life after death and perhaps a way to determine what this new life consists of. Of course, the last possibility is that there is absolutely nothing after death and that the sentience and consciousness we currently experience will simply cease to exist.
So which of these possibilities is true? Well, the idea that it is impossible to determine through logical means is certainly an attractive one. After all, the traditional view is that science and spirituality are somehow distinctly separated systems that cannot interact with one another. Most people have their ideas of the afterlife by personal contemplation or through the teachings of their respective religions. In both cases, a measure of faith either in one’s own subjective experiences or an established system of thought is needed. The adherents or ‘enlightened’ will seldom be able to give a rigorous and logical proof of their claims.
Yet these same religions and spiritual insights themselves may be tested in a rigorous manner. The concept of the “Hereafter” is inextricably linked to the concept of God. The problem then distills to the question of God’s existence which itself will be difficult to argue on the grounds of pure logic alone. However, the natural claim of various religions and systems of thoughts is that God has actually left many signs as well as guidance to humanity. Then, it’s possible to carefully read and fully understand the various religions and determine their logical consistency using their own yardstick. A system which is internally consistent and provide prophecies and ‘signs’ which can be verified will lend credence to its teachings and indirectly the idea of life after death.
There are several problems in such a search for truth however. The first obvious one is that there is simply too much information to assimilate and comprehend. This indirectly exacerbates the second problem which is the lack of formal logic in most human beings. Atheists have often pointed to the inherent circular logic within orthodox religions. Yet, almost every human being, atheist or otherwise, has an innate inability to reason in a truly logical way. Logical shortcuts are the norm in our brain functioning due to the associative nature of our minds. This implies that our own prejudices will usually mar whatever logical processes we make. Probability is one area where the human mind is especially weak.
Let us digress here and engage in some minor mathematical amusements. Suppose that we are playing a game and that there are three doors in front of us. Behind two of the doors, there is a goat while another door hides a car. At this point, you are asked to pick a door and so you do. The host of this quirky game then reveals one of the other doors to be one that contains a goat. Now, does it matter if you changed your option to the unopened door?
The rather surprising answer is that it does. Perhaps one has heard of this puzzle or intuit it correctly, but the fact remains that such logical difficulties are common in mundane matters. In assessing a complex question such as religion and ‘life after death’, our prejudices and logical shortcomings are even more difficult to overcome.
Nevertheless, this author’s personal experience was that he found Islam to be the true religion. Although born into a Muslim family, he had correctly pointed out as a small child that his guardians’ and clerics’ assertion that Islam was true was often based on circular logic. The usual “my religion is true because it is affirmed by a manuscript which is itself confirmed by the religion” was spotted immediately once he probed the question. However, later on, some understanding of science, a degree in Mathematics as well as some post graduate education later, he had discovered on his own certain intriguing verses in the Holy Quran which shows not only an agreeableness with science, but also in many cases predicts science. Considering that it has not been altered for over 1400 years in any form, this is in itself an astounding feat. Later, he taught himself some Arabic and saw that the construction of the Quran itself was a miracle in literary excellence. Other bodies of evidence also lend credence to his slow acceptance that Islam is the truth.
The natural inclination at this point would be to scoff or perhaps the mere mention of Islam immediately brings into mind images of “Islamic terrorists” for that is what the media has been urging us to remember. It’s also possible that the reader will come to question the logical ability of the author. Indeed, no one is infallible and certainly this author is no exception. In answering the question of life after death though, it is up to each individual to determine for himself or herself the truth in a way that is as free from bias as possible. To that end, books by such authors as Edward De Bono may be of assistance.
Finally, we have come to the last scenario which is the possibility that there is nothing after death. This idea too has its own possible arguments. After all, fear is a very powerful emotion and it is entirely possible that people will imagine all manner of concepts to lessen this fear. It seems possible or perhaps even probable to some that the concept of the afterlife is simply the whimsical fantasies of our collective fears. The problem here is that even if some of the stories or most of the accounts are made up, one cannot simply omit the possibility of life after death. This is due to the limitations of us human beings and the limits of our technology. At any given point in human history, we are extremely proud of our technological superiority and are usually supremely confident of our knowledge. Yet, science often backtracks.
For example, Archimedes, though a great thinker has made errors in his lifetime that are accepted as indisputable facts by his peers. Newton’s various laws were discovered only to be approximations when Einstein’s own famed Relativity theories discovered a deeper level to the fundamental processes of the universe. The atom itself was only discovered recently. Technological advance is an inherently iterative process and if there is a limit to refining our devices, that limit is likely still far away. Due to this reason, one cannot say for certain that a particular thing does not exist. Had we gone back several centuries in time, we would be hard pressed to explain the existence of things such as X-Ray and ultraviolet light for such refinement in technology and detection devices have not been made. Such things may well appear to be nothing short of witchcraft and magic to our ancestors.
As you can see, all three possibilities are tangled up with complications and logical conclusions about the afterlife are not an easy matter for it involves many different areas from psychology and formal logic to religion and spirituality. Debate in such matters are particularly difficult even for the most articulate amongst us and we all know how few such gifted people are in the first place. In the end, the best that one can do is to approach such a matter with the spirit of inquiry, rigor and openness that is the very best of what science has to offer. Who knows? Perhaps we shall all indeed meet again in that distant shaded meadow of everlasting peace should this question be resolved in our collective favor. Until then, peace be upon you and God bless.