The Atheist Afterlife: Why I’m An Idiot

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So, I don't check the email associated with this blog nearly as often as I check other emails, which means I'm about a month-and-a-half late in paying David the gratuity of posting the preface he'd taken the time to write and include back when he sent the book. Better late than never I suppose, but at least now you know where this post's title came from. Sorry David, and thanks for not being one of those people who expresses offense at such things. Sometimes TWIM's email just doesn't get checked for 6 weeks!

Anyways, without further adieu, David Staume's preface, open for comments and considerations:

It seems to me that on the question of deity or no deity, on the evidence and best reasoning, atheism is the most reasonable position. But I lean toward the position that on the question of consciousness surviving death that agnosticism is the most reasonable position. Am I subject to cognitive bias? Well I’d be foolish to say I wasn’t, but who isn’t?

It seems to me that two positions can be reached through reason. 1/ the scientific materialist position, ( I’ll get to the 2nd in a moment). Arguably the strongest position, exemplified by Richard Dawkins – a man I admire greatly. There’s probably no God, we have one life, enjoy it, try to make the world a better place than when we arrived, be thankful we’re alive at all. Fantastic, can’t really argue at all. Love the concept. BUT – there’s something that simply won’t go away. I have an innate belief that consciousness must survive death and have tried for 8 years to figure out what the hell it really is. Is it a delusion? Is it an intuition based on reality? Is it wishful thinking? Is it that I simply can’t envisage so much wasted consciousness? Is it a position that can be reached through reason?

Am I entirely sure of the answer to that question? No. But I’ve made progress. I know the pivot point of the argument: If we dream in additional dimensions of time and space to the dimensions of waking experience, an afterlife is guaranteed. What would make us believe that we dream in additional dimensions of time and space? Well, it is possible to form a pretty good picture of how experience would change if there was an additional dimension of space and an additional dimension of time. Perspective would change, directions would merge, we could see the back of something by changing focus rather than having to move behind it, time would feel more fluid, are a number of examples, and some physicists have applied thought to this area. The point is, this seems to correlate with the experience of lucid dreamers. In other words, the weird things that happen in dreams are exactly the weird things that we would expect to happen if there was an additional dimension of space and time.

Which brings me to the second position that can be reached through reason, which is essentially – for wont of a better description – the Buddhist position, which is, essentially: no god, consciousness survives death, reincarnation, karma. Incidentally, if consciousness actually does survive death, reincarnation and karma (sensible versions of each) must necessarily be true, but that’s another story.

So, I put that out there, expecting to be howled down – by the religious as well, because the afterlife this predicts requires no God and shows their concept of an afterlife to be erroneous – even if one exists. But, as I said on the blog, freethinking isn’t about being right – although we try to be. It’s about thinking with as much quality and independence as we can. And how can ideas be tested unless we’re unafraid to put them out there to be tested. If I’m wrong, no problem, at least it was original.

Hope you enjoy it.

[-David Staume, author The Atheist Afterlife]

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