Saturday, May 20, 2006

Religion: What can we know about the afterlife?

What can we say about the afterlife based on reason?

The materialist says there is no afterlife. The physical existence is it. Once we die, there is nothing left

The eastern religionist says there is reincarnation. There is the bodily existence and the soul persists and goes into the next body in the next incarnation. There is no or very little "transfer of data" from the previous existence to the next one.

Some Greeks (I think) believe in the immortality of the soul? In that view there is the transient body and the immortal soul. The body dies but the soul goes on. In this mind set, two very radically different perspectives can emerge: asceticism where there is restraint from the bodily pleasures because the body is viewed as evil and corrupting of the soul or hedonism where pleasure is paramount because if there is a radical separation of body and soul, why not "live it up?"

Finally, there is the view of the Abrahamic monotheists (Jews, Christians and Islam) who generally believe in a bodily resurrection. In this case this current body is renewed after death and the soul persists in both.

Did I miss any other perspectives on the afterlife?

Question: can we, apart from religious revelation, draw any tentative conclusions about the afterlife?

I posed this question to my philosopher friend.

This was the response:
Other than Kant's arguement that the concept of Justice requires an afterlife, I can't think of any good non-theological arguements for an afterlife. I believe in it soley on the grounds of special revelation (i.e. Jesus' promises).

There are some good, rational arguments for immaterial souls. I do believe in the soul on both rational and revelatory grounds but on the rational side there is no good reason to think that the soul will survive the death of the body. I guess the stongest thing you can say (without the help of special revelation) is that it is logically possible that the soul could survive the death of the body.


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