Having dinner with friends the other evening, one mentioned that people are generally willing to talk about anything except death. I see three reasons why people don’t want to think about death – and what comes after: because the topic is scary; depressing (“heavy”); or beyond sure knowledge. There is a fourth; we’re immature and don’t appreciate that we, us – Me, myself, personally – will die. But we’re looking here at deliberate excuses, and here is my considered response to the three.

1. Everyone dies; therefore you will die. Being afraid won’t make you immortal.
2. Everyone dies; therefore you will die. Being hedonistic won’t make you immortal.
3. Everyone dies; therefore you will die. Being agnostic won’t make you immortal. Who says life after death is beyond sure knowledge, and why are you sure they are right?

Whatever the excuse, ignorance never made a person immortal. The topic of death is scary and saddening. Being taken outside your comfort zone is scary. Being separated from the people you love is saddening. And what happens after death can’t be determined with scientific certainty but that doesn’t mean we can’t know them. There are objects that science can’t measure. [1] Death is one of them.

Nonetheless, we have minds; we should use them. There are several possibilities for what happens after death.

1. Nothing. We die and it’s all over.
2. We reincarnate. You only live once? Speak for yourself.
3. We go to heaven or hell.

Those are the only three options [2]. Being a pessimist and desiring the surest knowledge of the truth, my approach is to discover how to avoid the worst possibility, which is option (b) of possibility 3: Hell. That done, the greatest terror is over; and by comparison, none of the others hold any fear. Being reincarnated as a cockroach or phytoplankton doesn’t seem so bad anymore. Of course, the idea of annihilation in itself isn’t a sufficient reason to break out the champagne but compared to the possibility that there could be suffering after death, it’s at least worth dinner and a movie.

The next question clearly is, which of the three is the reality? That’s your decision, but either I’ve put an article on the blog about it or it’s in my book on epistemology. And now, back to you.


[1] There’s an article on scientific proof on the blog.) We can’t scientifically prove emotions or historical events or the supernatural, although we can use evidence gathered through science to support a thesis. (That’s why James Randi’s $1 million prize will remain with him: true scientific proof means that there is no other explanation of an event. If there can be any other possible reason for an event then, even if that reason cannot be tested, a theory cannot be scientifically proven.)

[2] Another possibility, generated by Gnostics several thousand years ago, is that we evolve into angelic beings or ascended masters or vibrate on a higher plane of existence. This can be included under possibility 2.

copyright 2008 Troy Grisgonelle