Saturday, 7 April 2012


the concept of a life after death is an intriguing one. where does it stem from? much like the presence or absence of a higher being, deity, God or flying spaghetti monster; there is no real way of (dis)proving claims of an afterlife. while it may be more pertinent to address the larger scope of the question, that is the existence of a great creator - a maha, if you will, the existentialism brought forward by even asking that question far extends the scope of my simple penning here.

so, let us focus on the concept of afterlife - if we cannot answer where it comes from, and proceed to argue of its existence, we should instead focus more particularly on its intent. in most religions that support the idea of an afterlife, i would think that the intent is simple: provide an extra-terrestrial means of retribution and reward, that people may behave more amicably and adhere to the word of God in this life. but this simplistic reasoning seems flawed and counterintuitive. if the hand of divinity is such that it is concealed until a judgement day, and reckoning is not swift and furious, what human can bend to the wills of a holy being, or at least learn to, while in life? it may be true that such a thing does happen on a lesser scale, and that we are too blind to see, or it is concealed from us, but intrinsically, i would think that human nature is very fleeting and impressionable. the pavlovian model and simple conditioning are, in fact, how we function on a daily basis, and on a larger scale how we lead our lives. if God were to smite a heretic down with the rage of thunder and lightning every time someone did something 'bad', we would all see a correlation and model our behaviour to avoid punishment. just like how my father used to get his leather belt out when we did something stupid. and to further the pavlovian analogy, even the sight or sound of said belt (or in God's case, thunder) would be motivation enough to keep oneself in check.

could it be that the conditioning has, in fact, been placed, but the loss of primary stimulus (due to at some point, efficiency of the response) has caused us to regress to a point before its implementation? if the torah, bible, talmud or quran are to be believed, then possibly so. hinduism and buddhist text beg the opposite.

let's move on to a different point. why does it matter that there is a promise of just reciprocation for sin or saintliness on earth, if there pre-determination in action? this may sound familiar to some who have read my blog before (all two persons of you) and are privy to the ongoing debate on exitentialism and fatalism that i (or we, as humans) constantly engage in. can puppets in a play be accountable for their actions, and is it just that justice is meted according to how the story goes or ends? what of the puppets that play no role in the play in the first place? should the puppeteer be responsible for every outcome, be it according to script or not? and who would assign him authority to pass out judgement as he sees fit? there are all superficial questions that barely scratch the concept of a fatalistic relationship between man and maker, but already i am divided in extending judgement as to who holds the 'final accountability'. if nobody is, and our actions are products of a meshwork of intricate, individual events, that leads to further questions on the complexity of life itself, and how that would influence any kind of afterlife. but, let's not open that new bag of worms.

which leads us to another consideration: why do we really care if the intent of reward and punishment is justified, if there is no causality? in christianity, we are all born with original sin, inherited from adam and eve, and our goal in life is to redeem ourselves from the sins of our fathers. in islam, we are born pristine, but our actions on earth have little to no consequence on our placement in heaven or hell - any person's entry into heaven is by grace of God as opposed to his virtues on earth (though would / should there be a correlation between the two?). in judaism... well that's just kind of an up-for-grabs situation where olam ha-ba is ill defined, and individual interpretation plays a more significant role than in other religions. all of these scenarios suffer from 'logical' flaws: how accountable are we if our sins aren't our own? how motivated should we be if effort does not reflect in gains? how sure can we be if we... just aren't?

for lack of a better word, a conclusion is in order. surely i jest? for how can we conclude on such a broad subject after writing a mere five paragraphs worth of rabble? i will not presume to conclude on the idea of an afterlife, though, instead i would conclude on the significance of the idea. the very existence of it. i think it boils down to faith - what does religion do for you? what does God do for you? what does the belief in God do for you? all these questions share the same answer with, why should the afterlife exist for you? and if you don't believe in it? then that is something you have a choice over (apparently, unlike where you place in the afterlife). does the belief or disbelief make you a better person? how do you judge that? and who judges that? and what are the repercussions of that (dis)belief? well, it would be your eternal life in the hereafter, wouldn't it? unless there turns out to not be one, in which case it is inconsequential.

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