Life and an After-Life: Living For More Than After Death

I just finished reading a very thoughtful post by Elisa from Culture War Reporters. I started to write a comment, but it was too verbose for me to post on the site. Instead, I’m writing a brief response here.

First, I want to say I found Elisa’s post both incredibly thoughtful and thought-provoking. I enjoyed reading it. I don’t mean to try to turn the focus to atheism, but our own backgrounds inevitably shape our thoughts about things, and I want to share my thoughts.

I wasn’t raised as an atheist – instead I was vaguely Christian. I figured out what I believed (or rather didn’t believe) when I was 12 or so. The thought I had while reading Elisa’s post is that there is a lesson here, perhaps, that can be learned from atheists. Many atheists (or perhaps more appropriately, humanists) focus on life and being a good person. Not holy, obviously. A lack of belief in any sort of afterlife certainly tends to instill an appreciation for the life you are living.

We get a lot of comments along the lines of, “If you don’t believe in God, what’s there to live for?” There are many variants of this question, and I’ve always found it odd. If you don’t believe in an afterlife or a soul or a god, there’s that much more to live for. With only one chance, ever, to live your life, many of us develop a greater appreciation of that chance. Of course there are more nihilistic individuals for which this isn’t true, but I would guess that most humanists aren’t nihilists as well.

What especially struck me about Elisa’s post is that this is the first time I’ve read such a considerate post from a theist on the subject. A good quote:

“I’m arguing against the notion that the only reason to live is for what we believe we get after death — this is, I think, imbued in the current culture; in the unthinking things we say about other doctrines and the assumptions we make about our own. And I think that it is ultimately destructive.” (emphasis mine)

There are so many more reasons to live, and the majority of them have nothing to do with supernatural beings or religions. I found Elisa’s perspective to be humble and fair-minded, but also humbling.* I hope you appreciate it as much as I did.

*Also, very well articulated.

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4 thoughts on “Life and an After-Life: Living For More Than After Death

  1. Grundy says:

    Day-to-day, the most hard core believers are living for the same reasons we atheists are. It’s just when they pause to reflect they come up with the reason of the afterlife. I wonder if suicide rates are lower for church goers? Hmm…I doubt it, but now I’m interested. Nice post.

  2. Reason Being says:

    Good post Amanda. I agree with you Elisa’s quote is spot on. There is so much to live for…every day. I honestly think that people who live for the afterlife run the risk of missing so much in this life. There is so much beauty, joy, and magnificence in our universe that would be “against” some religions to “enjoy”. It is a shame that one could miss out on a great friendship–because the person was gay, or not enjoy the magnificence that is evolution, etc. Life is too short to miss out on things because one is worried about what may happen to them after they die. Perhaps, as atheist I am just used to taking this idea for granted. Your post is going to cause me to think about all the things I would “miss out on” if I were still a practicing Catholic…

  3. Donald Miller says:

    A read over the replies at freestylechristianity’s blog, and I decided to stop by your site, because of your thoughtful comment. I think there are, e-hem, a lot of people looking to drum up a readership who don’t even bother reading the posts, and that they just go to site after site, clicking the like button for all it’s worth.

    You’d think that a religious person would have a higher moral standard than that; but alas, I don’t think so, having been spammed more than once by them.

    Anyway, after reading your post, I’m convinced you’re the type of person I would like to have in some of the online activities I have set up. I hope that you consider stopping by and seeing if there is something you’d be interested in.

    I certainly agree with Elisa in that spending this life attempting to buy your way into the next one is an assumption worth questioning. Besides that, I’m wary of people who require a reward for doing the right thing.

  4. NuclearGrrl says:

    “If you don’t believe in God, what’s there to live for?”

    The question always seems so outrageous when I hear it.

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