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What happens after a human being dies?

To me, this is one of the easiest questions about life and death to answer. Not only is the answer painfully obvious but all of us, nonbelievers and believers, are able to imagine afterlife right here and right now. To do this all we have to do is 'remember' life before birth. Where were we then? What were we doing? What were we? We were nowhere and we were doing nothing. For an unimaginably long period of time, all the time that precedes our birth, we simply didn't exist in any shape or form, and following our death we will again become nonexistent for all the time that has yet to pass, forever. Our bones is all that will remain, and in time the bones themselves will perish forever.
'Ashes to ashes, dust to dust'

Realizing this and thinking about it just for a moment quickly brings about a feeling of indescribable sadness, imagining that we will never again see our loved ones, and makes the reason for the desire for more life, the afterlife, quite obvious. Hence, God.

What are your thoughts on this? How do you cope with the realization that this life is all there is, and all that there will ever be, forever and ever?

SXXX9 4 Sep 10

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54 comments

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7

It’s nothing really to be sad about because once you die and everyone that knew you dies there will no longer be anyone whose alive to care whether or not you’re dead or alive. Just live your life to the fullest to the best of your ability.

6

I didn't exist as myself before I was conceived and born. I won't exist as myself after I'm dead and cremated. Before I was born, I only existed in the abstract, like in the imaginations and hopes of my parents. After I'm dead, I'll only exist in the abstract, like in the memories of my loved ones and anyone else I may have affected by my living.

So, the hope is that while I'm enjoying my life, I'll leave the world and the people in it somehow better in exchange for taking up space on this beautiful planet.

I need no belief in gods to live a good life, and to realize that what I do with my limited time, in this form I call me, does matter to those around me. Help when I can to be a positive participant in this colony of humans, plants, animals.

My reward is happiness with a life well spent, which is what I feel is what is meant by "heaven" in contrast to the penalty of feeling I wasted my life creating pain for others, which would put me into a "hell" of self guilt and being hated by others. Those are natural consequences for the way we live our lives, in my opinion.

5

I actually find it quite comforting that this is all there is. One day I'll just blink out.

It is definetly comforting but also quite saddening. It is bittersweet.

5

What? You mean ... I'm going to die? Oh, crap. And I had such great plans.

What were your great plans?

@JimiYugo -- One was to be around when the Galactic Federation was formed. Another was to be among the first settlers to land on Proxima Centauri b, then a bit later to land on Gliese 581g. I suspect I may have to forego those if dead I shall be.

@evidentialist Those were rather modest plans. I'm disappointed that my death will prevent me from seeing how the history of our universe, and all the other possible universes and whatever else lies beyond, will turn out.

@JimiYugo -- It's a result of my upbringing. Moderation in all things, ya know.

@evidentialist Good quality.

4

This is my only issue with claiming atheism, and it's why I am an agnostic. Such positivity in the unknown is so arrogant. With something like this, you can have some evidence to support your belief, but it's not closer to definitively proving your point. Accusing agnostics of taking the easy way out or being wishy washy for not claiming a side is also small minded, but I digress.

Saying that we didn't exist before birth and have no memory of it is like saying a computer has no memory of it's previous life where it worked for 90 years and then had it's entire hard drive wiped clean through a reformat and shows no signs of ever working before then. We don't have the knowledge or the perception to know about those mechanisms as it pertains to our own consciousness and existence. If it was a system of reincarnation, and I'm not saying that it is, then wouldn't the best system be one where you don't have any memory? There are more issues with that, but that's a much longer conversation we can get in to. We can have whatever beliefs we want about this, but the fact is that we just don't know for sure. If there is more to after "death", and if the system works as it should, then we will probably never know the answer. There is so much we don't know and throwing out terms like forever is another example of us not even being able to really comprehend what that could mean. We think the space in our own universe goes on forever, but it's just belief.

Theoretically and/or technically, you don't have to "have a body" to exist. You can just be a consciousness with a very persistent illusion of having a solid body and solid things around you. This is not to say "feeling" something of an action towards you such as someone punching you in the face or you stubbing your toe is "proof" of having a solid state. Whatever is "programmed" is "real" and if you are programmed to feel pain when a certain something happens then it's still part of the system. I'm not a computer programmer or an expert in that field (I took a couple of college classes), but there are conditions in which programs must obey commands. Just like when you program a computer, the code has conditions such as "if a then b" etc (if someone knows about programming then please either expand or correct me). So it might be like, "If punched in the face, then feel pain" etc. A computer or program doesn't really have a way of proving if it's real or not. To them it probably seems real. They are carrying out their function. The command is carried out and they can't prove that Jim from MIT programmed that code in them, no more than we can prove or disprove that there is a God that did the same to us. Do we know if the programs in our computers think they have solid states or just consciousnesses?

This is why I love shows like Westworld (tv show about reality and consciousness in humans and robots). Here's a quote from the show: "If you can't tell, does it matter?", on whether or not we're real.

Everything mentioned on this topic so far is just philosophy, and we really know a tiny tiny amount of what is probably known as our "reality".

You could be right, but you could also be extremely wrong too.

I also think it's extremely important to be able to differentiate between religion and these thoughts of an "afterlife". They aren't mutually exclusive. It just seems that way because of so much indoctrination over centuries. If you believe there could possibly be something after this it doesn't mean you are religious. It might mean you're agnostic or of some other state of mind.

Do you feel the same about the tooth fairy? Or are you certain the tooth fairy doesn't exist? The burden of proof is on the person proposing the God hypothesis, I reject it and remain unmoved, atheist, without god. Agnostic is atheist.

@Netochka Do you have all the answers to our existence and universe?

There not being a "tooth fairy" can be explained by parents putting money under a kids pillow and lying to them about it. Please prove or disprove the existence of a God.

Is there a study you can direct me to in a science journal on whether God exists or not?

@Piece2YourPuzzle just as people introduce the tooth fairy hypothesis, they introduce the god hypothesis and what you said about the tooth fairy can be said about the god hypothesis. Burden of proof is on those presenting the God hypothesis, if they don't succeed, I don't need to show how their make believe zeus doesn't exist.

@Netochka No, the tooth fairy and Santa Clause and Bigfoot hypothesis is not the same as the God hypothesis. When your teeth fell out as a kid did they magically disappear without an explanation or did your parents take them and leave you money? That you only found out later on means little. The fact is still that it was your parents. There was an actual "Santa Clause" that lived in Turkey too. People took that and created a myth out of it. There was an actual "Bigfoot" too and it was scientifically documented. It is called "Gigantopithecus". I'm also not saying that there is a Bigfoot NOW, but there was. These things are within our realm though and can be researched. The Loch Ness Monster might be a little trickier because most of our oceans have gone unexplored. A God outside of our realm of existence cannot be researched, and even if it could there can still be no definitive answer to whether it is God in the traditional sense or just a more powerful being than us. There are too many variables and definitions that need to be defined first, and it's impossible to do so. Quantum physics is showing us more and more that our senses are easily "tricked". I said nothing about who had the burden of proof. Simply that neither side can prove or disprove the existence of God.

If you can answer the questions then go ahead. I welcome any proof or evidence.

What is wrong with saying you don't know?

I have heard scientists say things like "I don't know" or it's "not probable" or "it might be probable", but I have never heard a scientist assert with certainty for something they had no good proof or evidence. If there is no proof for or against then it sounds like Agnosticism to me. So until there is proof or evidence either way (which I don't think will happen) then we should all be Agnostic in theory.

4

The no afterlife thing was the last belief I wrestled with on my path to atheism. It was hard to let go of because I really want to see my family members and my dogs again. My dad passed almost 3 years ago and it saddens me that I will never see him again. My mom is getting on in years and I am an only child so I know losing her will be very painful. I try not to dwell on it and stay in the now as much as possible. I get joy from teaching and doing creative things. I try to savor that joy as much as I can.

4

I can't understand the fact that people have a hard time believing that life ends at death. Nobody has memories of before they were born, but when you tell them you don't believe in an afterlife, they'll say things like "then where do we go?". What do they mean by that? We'll be dead, not on vacation. I think if you have a hard time understanding death, you just aren't trying very hard.

4

What happens after death? I disagree with with your answer being an obvious truth. I believe you are right and I see no reason to believe otherwise, but still the correct answer is "I don't know". A fact is something that is objective, something that can be verified. The answer to this can't be verified, so we shouldn't call it a fact until we actually can.
Having a strong foundation for your believes means often not accepting what seems obvious at first. I think quantum mechanics should have taught us that lesson. I'm not into pseudo-scientific woo but I'm also not a fan of making claims that can't be justified except by saying "it's obvious". That's what religious people do and we should strive to be better than them.

Dietl Level 7 Sep 10, 2018

You are right, I shouldn't have used the word 'fact'. I always choose my words carefully and would have corrected the text had I proofread it a couple more times.

UPDATE: I've made changes to the following text:

'Realizing this and thinking about it just for a moment quickly brings about a feeling of indescribable sadness, imagining that we will never again see our loved ones, and makes the reason for the desire for more life, the afterlife, quite obvious. Hence, God.

What are your thoughts on this? How do you cope with the realization that this life is all there is, and all that there will ever be, for all eternity and beyond?'

@JimiYugo
Kudos for making those changes.
I try to make the best of my one chance of life and try to have a positive impact no matter how small, even if in the end it means nothing. I stare into the abyss and let the darkness consume me. I look directly into the infinite void and throw my litte rock at it with a smile and the knowledge that for a time the nothingness will not be complete.

@Dietl Thank you.
We, of course, have no choice in the matter. We can do nothing but accept our fate.

3

I have never understood what is so hard about accepting that our time on this earth is limited, like every other living creature, and when it is over, it’s over. Human narcissism seems to know no bounds. The idea that as humans we are so incredibly important that we should exist in some form forever. Even though we reproduce at an alarming rate, use and destroy natural resources at unsustainable rates, cause extinctions of other creatures by our greed among other wonders. If we make such a mess of our planet (millions of tons of trash floating around the oceans, millions of tons of pollution in our air), imagine a place where all the human population lives forever! No thanks!

Does the sadness I feel for the loss of my loved ones equate to narcissism?

@JimiYugo grieving has nothing to do with the idea that somehow because we are humans we deserve to live forever. We all miss those who die, be it your family member, friend or pet. But coming up with the idea that they are all floating around out there someplace waiting for us is at best a coping mechanism, but more like a fantasy to allow people to not accept the finality of death. Enjoy the memories you have of your loved ones, time spent with them, and do it often.

@Barnie2years Where do I say that 'because we are humans we deserve to live forever'?

@JimiYugo, quoting you: Realizing this and thinking about it just for a moment quickly brings about a feeling of indescribable sadness, imagining that we will never again see our loved ones, and makes the reason for the desire for more life, the afterlife, quite obvious. Hence, God.
If we think that we are so special that our lifespan needs to be extended forever into another realm, that is the wish to live forever. Whether you believe it or not was not my point. It is however one of the reasons people hold onto their religious beliefs.

@Barnie2years Feeling sadness caused by having to part with loved ones, and wishing we could have more time to be with each other, does not make me a greedy narcissist who thinks that I deserve to live forever, that I am so special my existence needs to extend beyond the life that I am living. I'm just intensely sad, for very brief moments of time, that all this incredible love will one day forever be gone. Am I demanding I be given eternal life? No, nowhere did I write that. Do I believe that I deserve immortality because death saddens me? No. Am I struggling with my mortality? No. All this other stuff that you are talking about has nothing to do with the point I'm making, it being melancholy that is caused by thoughts of the eternal void.

By the way, you may think of the human race as this powerful destructive entity, polluting, killing and destroying (and we certainly are, there is no denying that) but the only harm we are really causing is to ourselves. Beyond our own planet we don't stand a chance. As far as the universe is concerned our efforts are about as significant as those of an ant trying to pollute the universe. As bad as we are (and we are) we might as well be ants, the immensity of the universe (and possibly universes and multiverses) is beyond our comprehension. We are more insignificant than we can imagine, and so is our millions of tons of pollution, even if it existed forever. The universe would hardly notice any of it.

3

Knowing that this is all there is makes it that much more precious.

Also, the realization that my own being is the result of a pulling together and organization of a collection of atoms guided by a genetic program, and the knowledge that these atoms come from rocks and water and trees and butterflies and before that they were forged inside stars and after I'm dead they will be parts of ants and worms and bacteria and butterflies again makes me understand that they are not really mine but are only on loan to me. I'm ok with that.

Me too, we are the fabric of space and time just as much as anything and everything else, but how do you feel about never seeing your loved ones ever again? Aside from being okay with that (you have no choice I'm the matter) how does it make you feel?

@JimiYugo
I will miss any of my people who die before me, but after I'm dead I won't think about it at all. I won't think about anything. Period.

@Flyingsaucesir Obviously I am asking how you feel about it now, not after you die lolo

@JimiYugo
Yeah I will miss them. ?

@Flyingsaucesir And that makes you sad, yes? As opposed to happy or indifferent.

@JimiYugo
Yes but I try not to dwell on it.

@Flyingsaucesir Me too, I don't want to feel sad.

3

I've pondered the question but I don't dwell on it. Clearly, if there is any kind of afterlife, it's nothing anyone can speak of with any certainty...except, of course, for the fully indoctrinated be they theist or atheist.

I've lived a full life, as have my family members who have passed away. We've lived, loved, laughed and cried together and those final tears were in fond remembrance of those we will see no longer...at least not in this life, if that makes you feel better.

Speaking for myself (though many might agree) I've lived a few thousand heavens and hells, mostly of my own design. At 60 years "young", I strive for many more experiences but I don't fear death. It's rather reassuring to know there will be an end to the rat race, the ever increasing aches and pains, the knowledge there was so much I once could do I'll never do again.

Still, if the pie in the sky promises of religion brings you comfort, no one is keeping you from it. Pick a faith, any faith. Just please don't try to force its beliefs, rituals, dogmas,...on anyone else.

If you do here you certainly won't last long!

3

I think of it like this, if a four-dimensional sphere entered our three dimensional space it would appear to be a tiny marble that came out of nowhere expanding until it reached its largest size then receding again into nothingness. Yet it always exists in 4 dimensions but only perceived by us while in our three dimensions. Life maybe like this linked to a higher dimension so when our three-dimensional body fails are 4th dimensional consciousness takes over. Thus an afterlife. This is unlikely but not out of the realm of possibility. I can deal with unlikely. It is remote but I enjoy every day I get here and maybe there is more. If not, no harm, no foul. I am not building a religion on this idea.

3

Actually it brings me great comfort knowing that I will be non existent when I die. I won’t know I existed in the first place . No memories , no recollection , just absolute nothingness. I’m overjoyed seeing my friends and loved ones here now among the living . That’s enough for me .

The eternal void that awaits us brings me tremendous comfort too, but don't you feel sad now knowing that you'll never see your loved ones ever again. Do you feel happy knowing that? You can't say that you feel neither, unless you're apathetic.

2

We are million year old carbon & will become a different sort of energy as energy cannot be destroyed. It can only change into another form.

2

We are all made of star dust. And so one day we shall return.

2

That is also easy to answer...I cope by enjoying life as much as I can and trying to be mindful of it. Carpe Diem.

2

After I die, my spirit will fly amongst the stars, carried by the solar winds of the star that I am closest to, as the theme song from Star Trek plays....all the while, sipping tea. I will explore strange new worlds, and seek out new life and civilizations. I will boldly go where no one has gone before.

2

Well, having just lost my 46 yo hubby suddenly, it's very sad. I almost wish I believed he was here in spirit, I know he is not.
His ashes are in a box in my closet right now cause it's too hard to deal with at this point in time. Hasn't been very long.
We had a turbulent relationship and we're separated more than together the last 6 months of his life. But were together for almost 20 years. It's such a crazy story, even hard for me to believe.

Those who die are with you in in spirit. They are in your memories and the memories of your children, family and friends. I have had an ex wife recently die. We were divorced and had a very up and down marriage for over twenty years. But for all the bad times, we had some good times. I have been going through some old photo albums, and remembering some of those good times brings a smile to my face. That is how she lives on. When I am gone, my son will look through these albums and remember good times we had as a family and maybe talk about them to his boys. In this way we live on long after our physical selves are turned to dust. Life never goes backward, but our memories can.

2

I think the sense of self as a body is an illusion. When we die we lose nothing. You can’t lose what you never had. The entire physical realm of our perception is an illusion, but beneath the constantly changing material world there is a higher reality. In that reality time does not exist and there are no “things”.

In Homer Hickam’s true book, “The Rocket Boys”, he tells of asking his small town preacher what happens when we die. The answer amazed and delighted me. “Can you handle the truth? As long as anyone is alive we are all alive.”

2

It doesn't bother me one bit.
It doesn't make me sad, mad, or any other damned thing.
I have no issue with nothingness. I'm also perfectly fine with this life
being the only one I get. I fail to see why this should cause people so
much angst. I really don't get it at all. Just be glad you're here while you're
here, and don't worry about what you have no control over.
Too many humans make things far more complicated than they need to be.
Such an unbelievable waste of time.

I agree, and too often do they read something into something that isn't there.
I feel sad and depressed when I think about the death of my family, but only for a moment, I don't dwell on it. I do not worry about it and it doesn't make me angry. Sad is the correct description of the way the end makes me feel, most humans feel the same way when things draw to a close, things they like and love. It doesn't make me feel happy to think I'll never see my family again, and it certainly doesn't make me feel nothing at all.

2

I'm fine with it. We all get our alloted time, and then ... "poof" !

2

My late wife died in our home last Sept.13th,after a battle with aggressive lung cancer,as the burial was almost $4K,my stepson and I donated her body to science and the cremated remains sent back,ashes we scattered in much of the backyard. She just got gradually weaker at home after Radiation and then Chemotherapy,after her last fall and hospitization,the Doctors said "We cannot help you anymore"(go home and die).So Sept 13,2017 she just closed her eyes and slipped away...... We were never religious but the Hospice care people did provide a Minister for comfort.....

Mike, I'm sorry for your loss. I've lost a wife and I'm a former hospice worker, too, so I know the drill. Hope you enjoy your interactions here.

2

It's simple, even if we don't fully understand it. I suppose our conscious ceases to exist, but we will always exist in one form or another. We are part of the universe. I'd be interested to see how my atoms continue on without me. Idle wishes...

I think you'd be entirely disappointed by how your atoms continue on without you. It would surely be quite uneventful.

1

I use the “where were you before you were born” question also. However I believe that I was an involved part of the universe in unsentient form. Scientifically we know that energy cannot be destroyed, only changed from one form to another. When “I” die, the essence,spirit, soul, energy (whatever you choose to call it) will leave this body and return to the beauty of the universe to be used for whatever the universe needs at the moment of my “death”. I will have had a short time of existence as human, but I believe there are multiple billions of energy existences. I sometimes think it would be nice to move on to be a bit of energy enervating a new born star, joining the energy of a nova or comet. I believe that my “energy” will continue on in a form that I won’t “know” as I currently know I am human. But that is ok as the universe is incredible and “I” will always be some part of it. I don’t need the absurd religious belief of a heavenly abode where I will dwell forever worshiping the monstrosity that passes as the god of humans. The power of the universe is enough.

1

As the famous philosopher Bertrand Russell testified at the Senate McCarthy hearings witchhunt when asked what he thought would happen to him when he died, "I think that when I die, I shall rot".

'I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive. I am not young and I love life. But I should scorn to shiver with terror at the thought of annihilation. Happiness is nonetheless true happiness because it must come to an end, nor do thought and love lose their value because they are not everlasting. Many a man has borne himself proudly on the scaffold; surely the same pride should teach us to think truly about man's place in the world. Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cosy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigour, and the great spaces have a splendour of their own.'

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