Afterlife II

IMAG9068 (2) Last weekend I discussed the possibility of an afterlife and offered to share eight wild and crazy notions about it. My ideas look nothing like the religious heaven, do not include god, and are not exclusive to one group of people. Remember, this is not science yet, but it is science fiction! (And who doesn’t like that?) For those who enjoy pondering possibilities, I have included links for further investigation. In this post I’m imagining possibilities, not touting spiritual truths. I gave a crafty name to each one of my “theories,” but it was just for ease of reference. At the very least, I hope you’ll have fun stretching your imagination and inspiring yourself to think beyond what we know. With no further ado, here are my eight atheistic afterlife scenarios:

Dream within a Dream: Much like we awaken from our night dreams into our “real life” maybe death is an awakening into our “real life.” It’s possible that what we believe to be reality is merely an incredibly complex “dream” of our own incredibly complex beings.  If this theory pans out, it might mean that some of the people in our dream will be waiting for us in real life, and some of the people here might be figments of our imagination. (This viewpoint is explored in Buddhism, as well as in one of my favorite trilogies, The Matrix.)

Worlds within Worlds: Just like there is an entire world existing and living at a microscopic level, it’s conceivable that we are living and breathing at a cosmically “microscopic level.” As millions of generations evolve from micro into the macro while conserving their atoms, cells, energy, the basic building blocks of life, maybe we too will evolve into super life forms at the macro level. While we would have no distinct memories of our individual lives at the lower level, our genes would harbor memories and experiences, each lower life enhancing the essence of who we will become in eternity. Check out this amazing article that suggests our genes do in fact harbor basic memories, making them akin in some distant way, to a “biological soul.”

A Mere Game: As some of us immerse ourselves for hours in digital worlds that involve complex storylines, trauma, and even death, maybe this world is an elaborate game designed by us (as eternal beings) to pass the time. It’s possible that we “spawn” into different time periods or places, play for what seems like forever, until we “die.”  Then we go back to the “real world” for as long as we like, until we are ready to play again. We could go back to any point in time, be any character, and our avatars would be none the wiser.

Biologically Part of a Greater Whole: Just as matter and energy are never destroyed, we all form part of everything that is. Just like the cells that make us up are born and die while the whole continues to live, I believe it’s possible that we can be born and die, while the greater “whole” continues on. The smaller elements that make us who we are have some primitive form of needs, wants, and survival instincts, working together to keep the larger body alive. And clearly the larger body has a more defined concept of self, needs, wants, desires, survival instincts. So it is conceivable that the state of consciousness, after our body dies here, will be exponentially greater.

Multidimensional Universe: This is the very abstract idea that several universes exist, and we are actually alive on more than one of them. I imagine this could mean that eternity would involve living the same life many times, perhaps with slight variances in each universe.  It could also mean that what I consider myself to be is a projection or a creation of my own from a more complex universe (for entertainment perhaps, or education) and I could live simultaneously on each level (allowing for about eight hours of downtime every day in each level of existence, perhaps?) This hypothesis could explain prophecies and premonitions (the feeling that you “know” something is about to happen)

Parallel Lives: This is another complex concept that suggests there are several dimensions of existence running simultaneously and parallel to one another. In science, this theory is interwoven with the multiverse concept. As an afterlife concept, I think parallel lives would be close to the theory of quantum mechanics, where there are multiple possibilities occurring simultaneously. At times, they might synchronize, like two turntables. Then you might experience a strange sensation, like déjà vu, where an event you are currently experiencing feels like a memory.

Characters in a Book: Like protagonists that live in the pages of a story, we feel like we have a history and a future that extends beyond what the actual story entails. But the characters in a book simply appear when their first page is written, and the rest is assumed. What’s more, the author could start and stop the story many times, go back and change things even, and the characters would be none the wiser. It’s possible that we are the authors of our own stories. Our real selves reside safely outside, in an eternal universe, and we write new universes on pieces of cosmic paper.

Cyclical Universe:  Beginning with a big bang, and ever extending outward until it collapses upon itself and starts over with another big bang, the universe repeats its existence infinitely. In each of these cycles, billions upon billions of years long, we exist in every form we’ve ever been, from energy, to single-celled organisms, and (since this is a repeating cycle) eventually to the individuals we are today. Nothing changes in the cycle, since it runs in complete clockwork precision, infinitely. This could explain how you long to be with someone that hasn’t come into your life yet, or why we sense we will see our loved ones again. Remember, this current life is just one of the many we would experience biologically, and each cycle would be separated by so many billions of years as to almost feel infinite.                                                     

And there you have them, my eight thoughts on the possibility of an afterlife, each rooted in science, nature and the universe, not god. If anyone has a hypothesis of their own, whether plausible or just for fun, I’d love to read it in the comments below! And just so you know, next week I’ll be back on Earth, pondering more realistic matters…….

Like Santa Claus.

23 thoughts on “Afterlife II

  1. Some of these I personally have linked together in my wonder and beliefs. I like the passing down the cell memory part. I have actually seen part of that in action. A few years back I met some distant relatives I’d never met before and I saw copies of myself all around the room. Same mannerisms and same expressions and gestures. I also see my adopted daughter behaving the same as her birth mother whom she has never met.
    The other is the 2nd law of thermodynamics where our energy changes form, but our essence lives in in the life forms we adapt to. And thirdly, the collective theory you presented. That also makes physical sense to me. There seems to be the same amount of creative energy in the world all the time. Now there are more people than ever, but the same number of genius in all the different fields like art, literature, science, and so forth. The collective whole is not brighter than it used to be. We’ve now spread that creativity between 9 billion people. Just a thought there, but as we have more knowledge available than ever before, we are definitely not smarter. My wife and I speak of these things frequently, but there is only one way to know for sure. I’m not wanting for that yet! Fun topic. I think it was Nan referred me to your blog. This is my first visit. Thank you

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    1. Thank you so much for visiting and for those wonderful additional thoughts! I hadn’t heard about the “number of geniuses” concept. I’ll be interested in looking that up! It is strange how some people are just born with these incredible abilities. It gives rise to the evidence, as you mentioned, of the collective whole. I think it’s great that you and your wife can enjoy philosophical conversations, and I completely agree that I’m not in a rush to find out either! Haha. Thanks so much for the comment, and hope to hear from you again soon!

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      1. BTW, the Christian version of heaven scares the hell out of me. I don’t sing in choirs, and I’ve been to family reunions before. After about an hour I’ve had enough and start to look around. There is about two or three people I’d hope to connect with as we move to the next phase. That would do me fine.

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  2. I just love these eight suggestions/theories of afterlife. Like you I don’t believe in (a) God, but that doesn’t mean I am not spiritual. Over the years I explored the same questions/thoughts and although it is still fun to explore, I also agreed with myself that some answer I will never find, until I actual die. I even think because my lesson in this life is to be patient (learn how to be more patient) and I just have to live my life to the fullest, and then die, before the answers are revealed to me.
    I also think, to even get some answers, we have to fulfill some tasks in our current life…even if we don’t know which tasks they are.
    Anyway…my grandfather, very spiritual not religious, told me I have an old soul and somehow that is comforting…because to me it means I am almost ‘done’.
    Not sure if if my rambling on makes any sense. Again, love your post.

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  3. It makes absolute sense. The fact that we have a concept of an “old soul” provides philosophical evidence of the possibility of life before and after this one. When I was a very little girl, not much older than a toddler, I used to tell my mom, “When I go back to the real me,” or, “When I go back to that place I was before….” and she never knew if I had some kind of sense of life before I came into this life, or maybe they were remote memories of being in the womb. Who knows? I certainly find it scientifically plausible that life is a continuous thing, and not a short-term flash of existence. And like everyone has mentioned, we really don’t know. But that just adds an incredible value to the short time we’re here together in our current arrangement. I find it essential to extend love and not discrimination to those around us. That’s why I have become more vocal about standing up for the members of my human family that have been hurt by organized religion. I believe we can love one other and think about all the possibilities, but it is not necessary to impose our beliefs on others. I know you and I feel the same way about that! Thanks for playing the role you do in moving our world into an age of acceptance and love.


  4. I think that these ideas suffer from similar drawbacks to religious ones in that they don’t have much in the way of testable observations to back them up. At that point, it really is anyone’s guess as to which idea might be more valid. Without testing, nobody can definitively say for sure.

    Admittedly I am taking a very cynical route here. Leaving Christianity has made me quite aware of the danger of arbitrarily elevating one view over another. I’m quite reluctant to explore ideas like these without having surer footing to rely upon. Right now, I have to wonder if any of these ideas has more desirable consequences than a naturalistic oblivion after death. With oblivion, there’s no need to worry about the infinite or the eternal. Nobody will have to suffer any of the injustices of existence.

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    1. I am completely open to your cynical route! 😉 I envy the future humans who will get to live on a planet where skeptics and realists are at least equal in number to those who believe in religion and myth. Only then might we begin to grow into our own potential as an intelligent species. I also think there’s a huge difference between pondering the possibilities and imposing one’s beliefs on the masses. The biggest problem I have with religion is not that people choose to believe it. It’s that there is somehow a perception that they are allowed to encourage, and in many cases enforce others to believe or adopt their opinions, or at least stay quiet if they do not. Feeling pressured to “defend” nonbelief is where this classically plays out. We live in a society that views belief in the supernatural and in myth as the norm, and adherence to facts and reality as somehow skewed, suspicious, and at worst literally evil. As more voices like yours begin to be heard, we will move closer to a day when people can be free to believe, or not believe, as they choose. So thank you!

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  5. Ooh! How about single non-linear reincarnation? There are not multiple souls, there is only one, and it will eventually be all the conscious beings in turn. But it’s not bounded by time, so it can jump around, and be someone in the past, then someone in the future. So be careful who you mistreat, because you either have been or will be them someday.

    Karmic retribution, again a non-linear reincarnation: In your next life you have to come back as the creature or person that you caused the most suffering to in this life. Again, be careful!

    Or, bits of a universal consciousness: Just as water droplets leave the ocean, exist on their own for awhile, then rejoin the ocean again, one large consciousness splits off tiny bits that live in brains, and will eventually rejoin and no longer have individual identities, but be part of a larger whole.

    Very silly, and all completely untestable, but no more so than the notions that religious people expect us to believe.

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    1. I like all three of these ideas. 🙂 I’ll add them to my list of possibilities and celebrate that we’ll never know, probably not even after death. Like an amazing painting, it is the mystery that adds beauty to life. There are things like irony, poetic justice, circles that we move in for years, and sometimes break free from. Many of us believe there is some lesson to be learned here in this life, but is there really? Is it all a figment of our complex imaginations? Or does everything that happens to us in this life have a greater purpose? I can only wonder! I’m just glad that each of us is free to wonder and imagine. We need to move towards a world where indoctrination doesn’t exists and everyone has a right to their own dreams and ideas. The world will only become so much more beautiful. Thank you so much for this comment. I especially like the comparison to drops in an ocean. I believe that is thoroughly true, at least at the biological level!

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  6. Interesting, interesting indeed. I believe we are here to experience. But I do like the first theory. I love the movie matrix, I even named my son Neo, hahahaah, I guess that tells a lot about my way of thinking. Phenomenal blog by the way.

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  7. Afterlife. What is it like after death? It is exciting and perfectly natural to dream of what might be. Fiction can be fun. For there to be an “afterlife” there must be resurrection. In order for there to be a resurrection, human beings have to be a different kind of creature than all other kinds of creatures on earth. We accept the finality of death for all other creatures, so I believe it is delusional to believe that humans are any different.


      1. danica, Question: What about resurrection, and how long does a cadaver have to wait? Resurrection doesn’t happen until Judgment Day, so it is a bit of a stretch to believe that the body parts and memory can be reassembled after millennia. My viewpoint, such a belief is delusional. The part about animals: Do you believe that the pets and the pet owners get together in heaven? Spirituality, yes. There is spirit in everything. Spirituality is our connection to our planet and all of life and to our own inner selves (there might be more than one in there).


      2. My personal views are rooted in scientific pantheism/humanism/and atheism. My blog is aimed at debunking the beliefs in organized religion, such as Christianity. I was just sharing that most Christians and many spiritual people believe in an afterlife both for humans and animals, There are animals in the Biblical heaven. It’s not my personal belief though. 😉 I agree that there is something like a spiritual connection between the planet and all life. I believe it is rooted in the universe and in science. You might want to check out some of my other blog posts. This one was very hypothetical in nature and not very representative of most of my material. Thanks for reading and commenting! I hope to hear from you in the future!

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  8. danisa, Basically I’m here for some of the same reasons, and mainly to get rid of God. I feel the delusion of two lives rather than just one, is the basic weak point. A common sense approach, so to speak. I suppose you are familiar with Harris, Hitchens, and Hawkins; oh, and Dr. Peter Sapolsky. I like your writing style…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, they are some of the best. I totally relate to Harris’s thought process. I read some of your stuff too! 🙂 I encourage you to keep writing. We need the voice of reason to speak loudly and proudly. Again, thanks for visiting and hope you continue to stop by. We get into some very lively debates here in the comments, now and then. 😉


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