An Afterlife: Heaven, Hell, The Spirit World, Or None of These?

An Afterlife: Heaven, Hell, The Spirit World, Or None of These?

Of all the Big Questions, one of the biggest of all is of course, is there any sort of life after death? Is there perhaps a heaven or a hell? Or perhaps a life after death is as having an existence solely as some sort of spirit or ghost. The afterlife is akin to exobiology (otherwise known as astrobiology) in one sense – both are ‘sciences’ in search of their subjects!

Actually, quite apart from the fact that all major religions preach the existence of an afterlife, there are quite a few ‘religions’ where the death of an individual is actually celebrated (in song and dance, etc.) because they firmly believe that that person has now gone from ‘rags to riches’, the ‘riches’ part being the afterlife where all is peaches and cream and you get three square meals a day (including seconds!).

Now either there is some sort of on-going perception of the Universe after you are deemed medically dead (an afterlife), or there is not.

If there is not, then death is akin to the existence you had prior to your conception! You have no recall or perception of the Universe prior to your conception – it was peaceful; a stress-free, tax-free, memory-free, perception-free existence – if you could call it an ‘existence’. Translated, without an afterlife, post-death is akin to pre-life. It is a blissful state of nothingness.

Of course if there is no afterlife, if you only get one short bite of the cherry, or grab at the merry-go-round rings, because for 99.999999999+% of the Universe’s existence (assuming the Universe has as well a finite lifespan), you were a non-event. [Of course for most people, the great unwashed, even while alive you’re pretty much a non-event in the grand cosmic scheme of things!]

Even if you have an afterlife, and assuming there’s no such animal as reincarnation, 13.7 billion years of history have passed you by. You were a universal non-event from the Big Bang (and before, if there was a before the Big Bang event) through the date of your conception. That’s still a long time to be of no consequence to the cosmos!

Questions, questions, lots and lots of questions arise. Is it logical to have a finite beginning but an infinitely long (afterlife) ending? And what happens to you if there is an afterlife but the Universe hits a Big Crunch? If there’s a Big Crunch – the reverse of the Big Bang, then even your afterlife presumably is kaput!

If, on the other hand the Universe expands forever and forever (infinitely), and ‘dies’ an eventual Heat Death, albeit still existing as cold (as near to absolute zero as you can get) dark (no energy, no light) elementary particles, atoms, molecules, and larger bodies such as white dwarfs, neutron stars, etc., then your infinite afterlife is going to be a rather dull one – eternity spent contemplating for all practical purposes an ever expanding Universe tending towards a state of pure vacuum!

Then too is the theory that the relatively newly discovered ‘dark energy’ content of the cosmos increases in strength over time, ultimately not only accelerating the expansion rate of the Universe, but ultimately tearing apart clusters of galaxies, galaxies, stars and solar systems, molecules, atoms, right down to the most fundamental of particles – it’s termed ‘The Big Rip’. Presumably, the realm of the afterlife is still a part of the Universe, so if there is a Big Rip, well the afterlife you gets ripped apart as well!

Perhaps it’s better to go out with a Big Crunch bang than with an eternal cold dark whimper or being ripped apart! Or, perhaps there is another dimension or plane or parallel/alternative universe/existence where you will spend an eternal afterlife (complete with harp and wings and halo) where there is no Big Crunch or Heat Death or Big Rip – but I wouldn’t bet on it!

I should stress that it’s the fate of the Universe that’s important here vis-à-vis ‘living’ an afterlife. The demise of Planet Earth is of no consequence. If an afterlife is somehow on a different plane or in a different dimension, then what happens to Earth – existing in yet another plane or dimension – is of no matter. I assume however that the Universe, containing all that there is, contains your afterlife plane or dimension and therefore its fate is your fate. So when the entire cosmos goes kaput (in either direction – Heat Death or Big Crunch), then it’s curtains for you too!

Another point, if people really believed in an afterlife – in a life after death paradise – then they wouldn’t go to such lengths, expend so much time, effort and expenses to avoid or delay their own death, would they?. If you’re aged, suffering the disabilities of same, in pain, say due to cancer, why not give in immediately and go to paradise? No, people tend to fight the prospect of death with all the resources they can muster, even though it’s ultimately a hopeless battle. They might state they believe in an afterlife, but they fight tooth and nail to avoid it!

Should one be afraid of death? Only if one firmly believes that there is a nasty afterlife (Hell?) to which they are likely bound for. But, there’s no evidence anywhere, at anytime, that such a ‘Hell’ exists; has existed or even can exist. The proof of that afterlife pudding lies with those claiming that there is such a thing.

Somewhat akin to the Christian concepts of Heaven and Hell afterlives, is the concept of the ‘spirit world’ or moving on to a ‘higher plane of existence’ after your physical death. I’m actually not really sure what a ‘higher plane of existence’ actually means in any sort of physical sense. Presumably it has to be physical since there are those who claim that when you die, some part of you, when it departs the physical body and heads for the ‘spirit world’ or a ‘higher plane of existence’, actually has weight or mass, and thus your afterlife essence is a physical thing and thus must reside in a physical medium. Methinks that such phrases as ‘spirit world’ or ‘higher plane of existence’ sound a lot like parapsychology, paranormal or psychic mumbo jumbo.

However, let’s assume the ‘spirit world’ or ‘higher plane of existence’ is a physical place, for sake of argument. The only thing that makes any sense is to employ these six or seven hidden dimensions that string theorists postulate (string theory only works in ten or eleven dimensions, four of which we are intimately familiar with – front/back; left/right; up/down; and time). But, the consensus is, that these dimensions, if they exist at all, are ultramicroscopic, curled up in a volume less than typical atomic sizes. So, maybe you spend your post-death eternity in a space that occupies less volume than that of an electron! This kind of recalls the worlds within worlds within worlds within worlds philosophy (it’s hardly science, albeit a frequent topic for sci-fi authors), akin to the series of Russian dolls all nested inside one another and each getting progressively smaller and smaller as you go along. Regardless, such an afterlife doesn’t sound very appealing, but what do I know!

Actually there’s a reason rooted in physics that suggests that you can’t have an eternal afterlife – unless you’ve had an eternal pre-life. If you just have an afterlife, then something has been created from nothing since 100% of your mortal remains, remains stuck in our physical world, and yet presumably your afterlife existence must somehow be connected with some matter/energy that had bugger-all to do with your physical life. Of course if you had a pre-life, then that matter/energy went into short-term storage, awaiting your return to Never-Never Land, the spirit world, whatever you wish to call it, after some short metamorphous into a flesh-and-blood existence. The fly in the ointment is, I don’t recall any eternal pre-life, do you?

If by chance some part of the matter/energy that made up your flesh-and-blood-ness travels with you to, and become you, in the afterlife, then, when that amount or bit of matter/energy is multiplied by all humans who have ever lived, live now, and will live, and presumably ditto all animals too, that’s going to add up to quite a net loss of matter/energy to Planet Earth. I’m unaware of any net loss of matter/energy from our abode that would suggest transference from same, to Never-Never Land (or whatever, wherever).

There’s one other option. If our Universe is a simulated Universe; if you are just part of a virtual reality, say a character in an extremely realistic video game, then it’s possible that that simulation contains an afterlife software program, perhaps called ‘heaven’, perhaps ‘hell’, perhaps ‘spirit world’. Being nothing but a simulated being, software computer code, might be the price you pay to get a software computer coded afterlife!

Science librarian; retired.

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