Neither do I. While I’m fascinated by the history, I can’t recall those time periods because I didn’t exist as a conscious being yet. I highly suspect that when I take my last breath, I’ll return to that state. I won’t be aware of anything that happens afterward. I don’t think I’ll be ushered into a torture chamber for not believing in God. Neither do I think I’ll be partying with 72 virgins or hanging out with Jesus in a mansion in heaven.
I think these things are wishful thinking on humanities part. I think once we die, the party is over; the lights go out and the living continue to do their thing without you.
I think consciousness depends on our brain. Once our brain dies, we no longer remain conscious.
I know for some people, this might be a depressing thought. However, I find it slightly comforting to know that I won’t be alive for all of eternity. I think that living forever (especially spending forever worshiping an egotistical deity) would be super boring. Forever is a long time. I think death also gives this life more meaning. I don’t think of my life as a dress rehearsal for eternity in heaven. I think this is my one shot, and if I mess it up, then I won’t get eternity in heaven to make it up.
I think its natural to fear death a little. We’re hardwired as a species to survive. Dying isn’t something I look forward too. But reality isn’t always kind and I won’t be bullied into believing a comforting myth to make myself feel better.
If there is more to come after death, I think I’ll be pleasantly surprised…or bored to tears, if tears are possible at that point. Maybe there is a whole other reality once we leave this one. I don’t know. I’m comfortable saying “I don’t know”, because I think it’s a more honest answer than pretending to know that a magical carpenter is going to whisk me to heaven or that some God is waiting to reunite me with my deceased family. I think so far, the evidence points towards death being the end of conscious thought.
If there is some sort of being out there that we would call a ‘God’, I don’t think it would even remotely resemble anything in our primitive religious mythologies.
One of the most inspiring quotes I’ve heard on death came from the great Carl Sagan:
“I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking.
The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.”
- Carl Sagan, “In the Valley of the Shadow”, Parade, 10 March 1996
If you’re reading this, what do you think happens after you die?