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Subject: Question for those who believe in an afterlife rss

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My backstory isn't important (though I'm perfectly willing to discuss it) except for this: I grew up Christian (mainline Protestant), had an adolescent crisis of faith and then returned to the church as a young adult.

One thing that I concluded was that I could not and would not believe anything that I considered to be truly counterfactual.

And, to me, conceptions of the afterlife that include the continued existence of people identities that are essentially equivalent to "our personalities" are counterfactual.

Here's why: everything that we think of as ourselves (in the "our personalities" sense) not only changes over our time on earth (such that we are very different as 2 year olds compared to 40 year olds) but also can be changed in an instant by, among other things, a stroke or a blow to the head.

So, to me, if there is such a thing as a soul, it doesn't make sense that it would include enough elements of ourselves (in the "our personalities" sense) to be recognizable as ourselves or experienced like being ourselves in any real way.

I know that many religious traditions include a belief in an afterlife that has recognizable versions of previously-living people in it.

If you come from one of those traditions, can you please explain to me why that makes sense to you -- why you don't consider it counterfactual? Can you tell me whatever detail you're willing to provide about what connection you think afterlife people bear to living people? (For instance, what "age" are afterlife people? Does it matter what age they were when they died?)

I have no desire to debate this -- I'm just curious.

I also have no desire to be disrespectful towards belief (or nonbelief) in any way, and while I understand that I can't control the terms of this discussion, I strongly prefer that all participants be respectful.

Thanks in advance to those who are willing to share their thoughts and beliefs!
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Tangentially related, this reminds me of a short story that I read back in the dark ages. (Probably in Analog or Isaac Asimov's SF magazines.)

Everyone went to the afterlife, but had to live as they did on earth. So the partiers kept partying and the ascetics lived (after)lives of self-denial.
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I subscribe to the view of Sa'adiya Haga'on.

A person has three parts: 1. the body, 2. the nefesh or life-force and 3. the neshama or soul/spirit. When we die, the body will cease to exist and the nefesh bears no individuality. So the only part of us that will endure is the neshama. Yet I know very well just how much the body is a part of making us who we are. My vision issues effect how I think and act and fundamentally who I am. So in the World to Come while my neshama will have a new body, that person will not entirely be me. The self which is entirely me will cease to exist when I die although a part of me may live on.
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Christopher Seguin
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I have never personally thought about what I will be like in the afterlife - whether I will be "me", and if so, what "age" will I be? I don't actually know the doctrine within the Baptist church with respect to that either, because I have never bothered to ask.

I know that we are created in the "Image of God". I know that God created Adam and Eve as "adults" - by that I mean "able to procreate" (He told them to be "fruitful and multiply", and you can only do that if the plumbing is working, not still developing). So, I would imagine that in the afterlife, we get bodies that are probably in the mid-adult stages of life. But again, that might not be what it is like now, and may instead be something based on when Man was first created.

We do get "new" bodies, which means things like paraplegia, strokes, amputations, etc. will be "fixed and healed", so any of those things that helped shape who we are as individuals will no longer be there.

And I certainly don't know about the personalities of each individual upon reaching Heaven. I have no basis within Scripture to form an opinion on that, so I haven't really thought about it.

Interesting question. Thanks for asking.
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Eðvarð Hilmarsson
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This is an interesting question and I feel like answering it since its part of the reason I am an agnostic (it translates to I dont know) rather then atheist (I hold that term to its original meaning).

I am not a member of the Christian faith, I was born into it, but I honestly fell out with it pretty early in my teens once I started learning history and I began to question the likelihood of my local religion (state sponsored Icelandic Protestantism) of being actually right (I spent a long time researching many religions).

While I do not belief in any organized religions, I do have a spiritual side and that I hope that whatever "spark" gives me continuity from birth to grave continues. I am not the same being as I was when I was four and I would not expect a post life version of me to the same as I am now.

People in Iceland tend to belief in ghosts and this (pun intended) gives me some faith in the possibility of an afterlife. Science and physics also gives me some how that there is more to the universe then we have figured out.

I do not buy into the idea of a single creator and especially not the idea of a single creator with an army of bureaucrats, but I honestly do not know for sure what happens after death and I feel ok about indulging in some wishful thinking in that regards.

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I don't believe in an afterlife so this question doesn't apply to me, but I appreciate the thread. It's a nice break from what we've had recently.
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Andy Szymas
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I guess I don't see an issue with your personality (which I would say is smaller than your soul) being effected by something physical. Doesn't that street go both ways?

So to say - yes, your 'soul' could be effected by a stroke or car accident. In the same way, something that should only effect your soul (loss of a loved one, etc) often has immediate negative physical effects (stress, etc).

I dunno. Just thinking out loud.

You could also view the brain as the pipe connecting your soul to your body, and if the pipe gets damaged, the soul is effected on its way into real space?
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I think there will be some pretty major differences. We believe that we were created as spirits before we were born, so that raises some interesting things to contemplate as well. Such as the possibility that I'm older than my grandparents. Or that there are hundreds of years or millennia difference in age between my wife and myself.

At any rate, back to your original question, I think that leads me to believe that who we are here on earth will be remembered, but is only a small component of who we divinely are. Can't say I agree or disagree as to whether we'll be at all recognizable as our current selves or not. I could see it going either way.
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I can't lay out facts. But I can lay out my line of reasoning for believing what I do. It comes with a lot of supposition (nature of God, etc), but that is the nature of religion. Buy the premise, buy the bit.

We are here to become. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." It's not a goal we can achieve in this lifetime, but that's the goal. To be perfect like Heavenly Father. He has perfect knowledge. He has perfect power of the forces of the universe. We are commanded to be this. So we go through the process of becoming. In fact, we've been promised that.

Romans 8 wrote:
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Part of this process is learning how and why to do those things. It's why love is the basis of everything we are commanded to do. Love God, love your neighbor as yourself. (And the unwritten commandment tied to that... love yourself.) So we are here to learn to love. We are here laying the foundation for that next life to come, the life where we become like God. So why would it be so important to learn this if it had no relevance? If this process isn't about refining our character, then why are some put in less favorable positions in life? The only real answer to the Question of Evil is that these difficulties and circumstances provide a purpose that is greater than the pain or unfairness raised by the presence of evil.

Doctrine and Covenants, Section 130 wrote:
18 Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.

19 And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.
So if we are given the chance to learn and grow here, but it isn't for any greater purpose, if we have our "selves" stripped from us when we die, isn't that the ultimate revocation of free agency?

As for the physical side of it, I don't honestly give that much thought. I figure that will all work itself out. I only hope I don't spend the rest of eternity as doughy as I've become. But then, maybe I will. That's the respect I've shown to the body I've been gifted, so that's what I'll come back with. Either way, it's far less important to me than the issue of being here to grow and learn. It's at the heart of my favorite verse in all scripture:

Ether 12:27 wrote:
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
Anyhow, like I said, there's not tons of evidence there, but I hope this line of reasoning is in line with what you were looking for.
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qzhdad wrote:
Tangentially related, this reminds me of a short story that I read back in the dark ages.

This is the afterlife thread. If you want to humblebrag about eternal life, that should probably go in its own thread.

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corross wrote:
My backstory isn't important (though I'm perfectly willing to discuss it) except for this: I grew up Christian (mainline Protestant), had an adolescent crisis of faith and then returned to the church as a young adult.

One thing that I concluded was that I could not and would not believe anything that I considered to be truly counterfactual.

And, to me, conceptions of the afterlife that include the continued existence of people identities that are essentially equivalent to "our personalities" are counterfactual.

Here's why: everything that we think of as ourselves (in the "our personalities" sense) not only changes over our time on earth (such that we are very different as 2 year olds compared to 40 year olds) but also can be changed in an instant by, among other things, a stroke or a blow to the head.

So, to me, if there is such a thing as a soul, it doesn't make sense that it would include enough elements of ourselves (in the "our personalities" sense) to be recognizable as ourselves or experienced like being ourselves in any real way.

I know that many religious traditions include a belief in an afterlife that has recognizable versions of previously-living people in it.

If you come from one of those traditions, can you please explain to me why that makes sense to you -- why you don't consider it counterfactual? Can you tell me whatever detail you're willing to provide about what connection you think afterlife people bear to living people? (For instance, what "age" are afterlife people? Does it matter what age they were when they died?)

I have no desire to debate this -- I'm just curious.

I also have no desire to be disrespectful towards belief (or nonbelief) in any way, and while I understand that I can't control the terms of this discussion, I strongly prefer that all participants be respectful.

Thanks in advance to those who are willing to share their thoughts and beliefs!
I've never heard a Christian express a belief in anatman before.

http://www.britannica.com/topic/anatta

Quote:
Anatta, ( Pali: “non-self” or “substanceless”) Sanskrit anatman , in Buddhism, the doctrine that there is in humans no permanent, underlying substance that can be called the soul. Instead, the individual is compounded of five factors (Pali khandha; Sanskrit skandha) that are constantly changing. The concept of anatta, or anatman, is a departure from the Hindu belief in atman (“the self”). The absence of a self, anicca (the impermanence of all being), and dukkha (“suffering”) are the three characteristics of all existence (ti-lakkhana). Recognition of these three doctrines—anatta, anicca, and dukkha—constitutes “right understanding.”
On the rare occasion I'll permit myself a belief in the afterlife, I would assume that one remains as one was at the point of death, and one's personality would continue to shift over time in the afterlife. I believe this is how C.S. Lewis describes things?

After all, what is a (human) being if not a process of becoming something else? (E.g., Hegel.) What would an afterlife be without that? I suppose it could be perfect bliss in an immutable moment of personality frozen in time at the point of death -- but I'm not sure that's really meaningful.
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Chad Ellis
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Your view is similar to mine, other than that I don't believe in God.

While I consider myself to be a person who has lived for around 48 years since birth, it's also clear to me that the person I am today is not in any meaningful sense the same person I was at age 8, or 18, or even 28. At 38 we're pretty similar but still quite different.

If there is an afterlife and if there is some "spirit self" of me that existed before I was born and continues after I die then I can only assume it will be quite different from Chad_48, and possibly more radically different than I am from Chad_8.

Also, welcome back.
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My understanding is that classic (orthodox) Chistian doctrine does indeed differentiate between our identity (persona) and our personality.

But I've never gotten the impression that means we will ever not know who we are. As much as our personalities do change over the course of our lives, we always have the same identity. And in all but the most extreme cases of trauma we also do always realize who we are.

We will all ultimately be held accountable for everything we feel, think, say, and do in this life. That wouldn't seem possible if we do not retain our identity after death.
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lelandpike wrote:
My understanding is that classic (orthodox) Chistian doctrine does indeed differentiate between our identity (persona) and our personality.

But I've never gotten the impression that means we will ever not know who we are. As much as our personalities do change over the course of our lives, we always have the same identity. And in all but the most extreme cases of trauma we also do always realize who we are.

We will all ultimately be held accountable for everything we feel, think, say, and do in this life. That wouldn't seem possible if we do not retain our identity after death.
Exactly. That'd be like betting on a horse race where the horse determines your outcome, not you.

"Whoa whoa whoa... why am I here in hell? I didn't do anything to deserve being punished for eternity. It was that other guy who I no longer am."
 
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My mother had a massive stroke years ago. She survived, which was in itself pretty rare, and there were no major lesions. However, when she woke back up, it was like talking to a completely different person. She could talk, and have a conversation. She remembered everyone. But yet, she didn't behave at all like she used to. 3 days later, she was unconscious again: The surgery had left her with hydrocephalus, and as time went by, the extra liquid accumulation in the brain was taking its toll.

The doctors operated on her again, putting a shunt in her skull. When she woke up from that, it was the same person she used to be: Her very different behavior the days before was all about the liquid in her brain, so it was completely reversible.

So yes, even as a devout Catholic, she now has a lot of trouble figuring out how much of her self is part of a soul, and how much is just electric impulses in her head, which could be changed by anything.
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lelandpike wrote:
in all but the most extreme cases of trauma we also do always realize who we are
No function of the brain has been found that cannot be altered or eliminated by application of trauma to the appropriate part or parts of the brain. In fact that used to be how the function of parts of the brain were determined; by correlating loss of that function to location of trauma.

And as no trauma can be applied to various parts of the brain that is not also applied in the same or worse form by death, it follows that there is no function of the brain that cannot be eliminated by death.

And as death applies to the entire brain, it follows that ALL functions are eliminated by death.
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If you recall the transfiguration up on the mountain, that Peter witnessed, he saw Jesus speaking to both Moses and Ezekiel, many centuries after their deaths (millennia in the case of Moses if I've got my timetable right).

Both of them had been in the afterlife for quite a long time and were recognizable for who they were/had been.
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mdp4828 wrote:
lelandpike wrote:
in all but the most extreme cases of trauma we also do always realize who we are
No function of the brain has been found that cannot be altered or eliminated by application of trauma to the appropriate part or parts of the brain.
...ALL functions are eliminated by death.
Your point is well made. My point was not that well made.

It would have been more accurate for me to say that in all but the most severe cases of trauma we are still able to interact with the rest of the world well enough that it is obvious we are still self aware. As far as I know even people in comas have experiences (however strange and disconnected from the world) so even they have some sort of self awareness, and therefore an identity.

Certainly death (and the complete destruction of our brain, along with the rest of our bodies) does end our ability to interact with the natural (material) realm in any way. So no evidence at all of our self awareness would be available to those who are still alive. In fact, without our brain we would of of course be completely unaware of anything in the material realm.

But the Christian view is that while our bodies are material, we are not. With neither an awareness of, nor any distraction by, the natural world we will definitely have a very different kind of self awareness, but it wil still exist.

At least that is the prevailing Christian view of human nature and the soul. Some Christians do believe that, while we will be self aware after death, we will have no recollection of our lives in this world. But I don't see how that notion can be reconciled with the belief that we will be confronted with how we've lived while in this world, and either punished or forgiven for the sins we've committed. (Which ever we choose for ourselves between now and the day we die...)
 
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AEGTodd wrote:
If you recall the transfiguration up on the mountain, that Peter witnessed, he saw Jesus speaking to both Moses and Ezekiel, many centuries after their deaths (millennia in the case of Moses if I've got my timetable right).

Both of them had been in the afterlife for quite a long time and were recognizable for who they were/had been.
Yeah, but that's just physical. You know Ezekiel was a different person because he wasn't breaking out knock-knock jokes non-stop.
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Exactly. That'd be like betting on a horse race where the horse determines your outcome, not you.
Isn't that how horse races work?
 
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AEGTodd wrote:
If you recall the transfiguration up on the mountain, that Peter witnessed, he saw Jesus speaking to both Moses and Ezekiel, many centuries after their deaths (millennia in the case of Moses if I've got my timetable right).

Both of them had been in the afterlife for quite a long time and were recognizable for who they were/had been.
Really? So how would you pick Moshe Rebeinu out of a crowd today?
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mdp4828 wrote:
lelandpike wrote:
in all but the most extreme cases of trauma we also do always realize who we are
No function of the brain has been found that cannot be altered or eliminated by application of trauma to the appropriate part or parts of the brain. In fact that used to be how the function of parts of the brain were determined; by correlating loss of that function to location of trauma.

And as no trauma can be applied to various parts of the brain that is not also applied in the same or worse form by death, it follows that there is no function of the brain that cannot be eliminated by death.

And as death applies to the entire brain, it follows that ALL functions are eliminated by death.
The point of the thread was to discuss what happens after you turn to dust, not to prove that turning into dust inhibits consciousness.

Physics has discovered all sorts of energy fields that no one thought existed a few decades ago. We are still very short in our fundamental understanding of the basic building blocks of reality. Fun stuff like particles existing in two places at once and things like quantum entanglement are opening up a lot of interesting theories as to how reality functions exactly.

I´m not saying that physics is encouraging then notion that information of the system is somehow retain after its annihilation, just that it is not proven false at this time. Science alone , has not disproven the existence of an afterlife.

If you view the "soul" as simply the information stored in the system (your brain). You are left with not knowing whats going to happen or having some kind of faith in what you think is the most probable outcome.

I do not know how probable it is that information from our system is stored or not, it is not happening in the observable reality, but I do not understand enough of potential extra dimensions or this weird capacity of information existing as "spooky action at a distance".

I would say that the science is still out on it.
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What do you mean by 'counterfactual'? What facts is it that you have that there's no after life?
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