Individuals who describe themselves as “Atheists” or “Agnostics,” are known to consistently, dispute the “Religionists” conception of, and belief in, an afterlife. Such rationally based assumptions, argue the religionists, perceive man’s relatively short span of life as limited, brief, and inconsequential. Alternatively, they maintain, the belief in life’s reprise, on Earth, or some other spatial location,[ for those who have demonstrated a moral persona, during the space of their human life] makes the knowledge of their mortality less fearful. This widely held concept is disputable, but first, a word on the religiously held, principle of [heavenly] reward as an earned entitlement [and of deserved punishment].
We have on several occasions, criticized the “rewards-punishment” dynamic in the evaluation of validly honest and sincere morality. Intrinsic morality, is, instead, the product of a firmly and empirically based, lifetime self-image. We have previously offered the following fictional anecdote in illustration of this eternal principle: Let us suppose that in a moment of errant impulse, one were to steal a friend’s purse. Following such immorally impulsive act, the party who did the stealing was thereafter tormented by her conscience, and decided, thereafter, to return the purse to its owner, accompanied by a remorseful confession and a sincere apology. The friend, being an empathic person, accepts the apology and states, “Let’s forget about it and pretend it didn’t happen”. The sentiment is certainly generous and commendable. However, the wrongdoer herself, may not be able to forget it, and pretend it didn’t happen, since she remains plagued with the thought, “what kind of a person am I, who could have stolen the purse in the first place.” She has disturbingly, cast doubt on her previous sense of positive self-image. True morality is appropriately and dynamically, founded on one’s privately held esteem and determined self-image, and not on the expectation of reward or the dread of punishment. The singular aphorism of which we approve is explanatory of such dynamic: “Virtue is its own reward.”
While the belief in an afterlife, lacks utility as an acceptable encouragement of essential morality, it admittedly, may offer needed consolation to man’s understandable fear of his mortality. Human life factually is brief, when compared to the longevity of a Galapagos Islands Turtle. But man’s magnificent gift of life, for as long as it may endure, has the potential for joy and self-fulfillment, reportedly missing in the Turtle. We have often expressed appropriate gratitude for Natural Evolution’s generous gift to b mankind of an advanced brain; one, that is potentially capable of reason, advancement, and creativity. While it is sad to observe that many human beings choose to ignore or misuse their innate potential, many in fact do, and in so doing, advance their personal understanding and self-fulfillment, during their allotment of life. The latter lead a meaningful existence, which, in fact, will continue in the celebrated thoughts and memories of admiring family and friends. It would appear to be empirically reasonable to believe that life might meaningfully be measured by its lived value and not its relative brevity. It may, accordingly, be rationally deduced, that the phenomenon of its relative brevity renders its days especially precious.
The many unique individuals who, by their past scientific and aesthetic contributions to the advancement of mankind, in life, health, or metaphysical understanding, such as scientists, authors, composers, and philosophers, will live on through their works which will endure in the minds and hearts of succeeding generations. A great book, itself, in time, may physically decay, but its contained wisdom endures. So too in the case of admirable lives, whose inspiration and value are eternally their enduring memorial. The potential for such a rational “afterlife,” is a phenomenon of contemporary existence.