Monopoly on the Afterlife – The Island
“A short sleep passed, we awake eternally
And death will be no more;
Death, you will die.
– – John Given
A cynic may say that death shouldn’t worry you because you’ll never get the devastating news; you will not be among those who will read your obituary. However, dying “for good” is frightening and inconceivable, no matter how disaffectedly we ponder the “suffering” of life – we want to join the carnival again. Maybe that’s why Donne’s Death, don’t be proud, with its belligerent rebuttal of the power of death has so much appeal whether you believe in a soul or not. It more or less tells you that when you cross the bridge, you will find yourself among others in a tangible form. And, each religion tells us what this form will look like.
The afterlife begins where breathing stops. Religions take over where doctors have done all they can to make you breathe and fail. While family members, neighbours, loved ones and funeral directors are busy with the formalities concerning your body as they say, the ethereal part of you or the “soul”, interpreted in all subtlety, is taken care of. by religion, which has the monopoly of the hereafter. Your faith matters little on things on the mundane side of the border, but it makes all the difference on the other side.
As we can all see, the material body is constantly changing every second from birth to death, so you can almost call it a process instead of a “thing”. Although they talk about “keeping the body and the soul together”, if you want to stay intact, all you are doing is focusing on keeping the body and not the soul. It doesn’t matter whether you believe, doubt or ignore the soul, the transcendent part within you.
It is impossible to know what part of the body this “migrating self” resides in you or how it is connected to the body and you cannot do anything to ensure its continuity except take care of the body. If you focus on the soul and forget the body, well, that’s probably the end. It is natural that you speak of the death of the “body” whenever you think of death; the soul is meant to continue. Not the other way around, however. That is, you never speak of the death of the soul and the “continuation” of the body, unless you speak figuratively to mean some kind of “spiritual” death, or depravity. , which is completely describable in terms of thoughts and morals, all overseen by the brain. No need to bring a soul into the formula. In other words, unlike “brain death”, you cannot talk about “soul death” in a pragmatic or understandable way, unless you enter the realm of the supernatural.
Religions tell us what will “happen” to us when we die, but each of them has its final word on its nature, which happens to be different from all the others. The only agreement is that there is some other “life” after death. And, every religion claims their version is inconvertible although none of them has a way to prove its truth. Exhale your last breath and then, bang, you’ll know.
However, it stands to reason that if a discipline can answer problems beyond the scope of science, it must be superior to science. And, obviously, such a grand system must be able to explain not only what science cannot explain, but also what science has already explained, in a more elegant and simpler way. However, we have not heard of such a higher order system provided by any faith. We have yet to hear of a system of knowledge that explains, say, surface tension, gravity, motion of the planets, and so on. in a more lucid way than science does. Instead, religions assert that this superior method is faith. We are supposed to believe what is contained in the scriptures concerning the world to come. However, the fact that they have different readings of “the afterlife” puts us on a somewhat unfamiliar plane of understanding and verification.
First, and obviously, in this belief-based system of gaining insight, we come to a completely new method that is different from science or reason. In science as well as in all day-to-day affairs, it is considered judicious to choose between different statements that claim to be true on any given matter, be it the afterlife or anything else. From what we know, in science they use observation and empirical testing. In ordinary life, we examine and use reason to check whether claims correspond to facts. If a statement is not supported by facts, it is considered unsupportable. If none of the statements given match the underlying conditions, we must withhold judgment until we find enough facts. However, this common method of verification is deemed unsound and futile in religious claims to the “afterlife”. On the contrary, it is sensible and legitimate, we are told, to believe the claims. The fact is that, as we repeatedly say, they are as numerous as the religions themselves. And, our selection is invariably that of our parents.
This is ridiculous given the sublimity attached to religion and its supposed superiority over science. “Religion”, in the singular, has meaning for you with regard to your religion, not others. Surely you rarely speak of the “higher state” of religion over all religions in general, without a shrug of feigned magnanimity. Referring to religion in the abstract is no different from using terms like nation without a specific context. People may feel generous and non-judgmental when they use the word ‘nation’ in a discussion, but it’s still ‘our nation’ when you leave your philosopher seat.
In the absence of any objective criteria offered by an ‘Agent’ above all religions, or a ‘Religion of all religions’, if you will, we must give equal credit to all religions and their statements about the hereafter. However, the acceptance of one necessarily denies the possibility of accepting all the others. For example, if one religion says you will be trapped in an endless cycle of death and rebirth while another says you have hell or heaven for good, accepting one will automatically override the other option. . So if you have a few religions in your country – forget about the hundreds of them available, if only you’re curious – you’ll find yourself in an unenviable position when it comes to what to accept from ‘life after’ . That is, if you don’t want to be desperately insular.
However, do not panic, they say. Simply believe what your parents’ religion prescribes about the “next birth.” Yet how can you say that religion A is not acceptable just because B was the only one you knew as a child? Now we’re in for a pretty soup, aren’t we? It seems that we should revere “believe” – no matter what we believe in. This tends to undermine the seriousness we attach to religion, because here the content turns out to be an inconsequential thing. Only belief counts?