Life After Death: A Fatal Delusion?

We can find life's meaning in the here and now, without a fantasy of the afterlife

Is life after death a pious hope? a realistic expectation? a divine promise? a fatal delusion? a method of behavior control? Is there any way we can know?

Throughout Western history, the church has used the promise of life after death to avoid facing the fact that the world is neither just nor fair. Living in the expectation that God will bring justice and fairness in the afterlife, gross sins such as slavery, serfdom, and the burning of heretics at the stake have been tolerated and even encouraged by the Christian church.

The time has come for Christians to say that there is no record-keeping deity above the sky who, like Santa Claus, is "making a list and checking it twice."

This same church also used the fear of hell to motivate good behavior, while the hope of heaven comforted those who suffered this world's sometimes outrageous misfortunes.

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For some people, if there is no place where the egregious evils found in this life can be dealt with fairly, then life is meaningless. That conclusion suggests God is either malevolent or impotent. Others counter that point by insisting that whatever meaning there is to life must be found in the here and now. This argument, however, offers little more than a stoical acceptance of fate.

I would like to offer a middle path. I believe we must begin our inquiry into these questions in the here and now, without appeals either to Scripture or to external powers that people have created for their own comfort.

I think the time has come for Christians to say that there is no record-keeping deity above the sky who, like Santa Claus, is "making a list and checking it twice" so that this divine king can give the appropriate reward or punishment to his subjects at the final judgment. It should be noted that if the motivation for our goodness is to escape punishment or to win a reward, then it is nothing more than a self-centered survival tactic. This version of the afterlife must, I believe, be rejected--the sooner the better.

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