Thursday, March 21, 2024

How Do We Know There Is An Afterlife?

One alternative to the Christian view of death is the atheistic in or materialistic view of death. According to this view, just as the information on a computer ceases to exist when the computer is destroyed (provided the information hasn’t been backed up anywhere else), the information in our brains that makes us “us” ceases to exist when our brain dies. Since humans lack the ability to back up their mental experiences, it follows that once the body dies, or even if just a vital part of the brain dies, the person as a whole forever ceases to exist (v).
But there are several aspects of the human experience that contradict this materialistic view of man and its subsequent denial of the afterlife.

First, if humans have free will and can choose to be moral or immoral, then a person’s actions can’t merely be the result of chemical reactions in his brain. If they were, then no one could freely choose a course of action any more than a rock at the mercy of gravity and friction can choose which way to roll down a hill. Just as we don’t hold landslides or tigers morally responsible for the harm they cause, equally, physical humans would also lack moral responsibility. But humans are morally responsible for their actions (or, we rightly say that human acts can be good or evil), which means human actions are not purely the result of physical processes.

However, a critic could say that moral reasoning and other distinctly human behaviors like rational thought emerge from the right mixture of physical molecules, just as the Mona Lisa emerges from the right mixture of paint colors. Tigers and lightning don’t have this mixture but humans do, which is why humans have distinct features like consciousness, the capacity for abstract thought, and moral awareness. An immaterial “soul” then becomes unnecessary to explain these uniquely human behaviors.

The problem with this argument is that uniquely human behaviors aren’t only unexplained from a materialist perspective, they are inexplicable from that viewpoint, as no physical explanation can ever account for these behaviors. Consider, for example, the difference between an image and a concept. A dog may see a cat, but he never sees the concept “cat” and so he doesn’t understand it. Likewise, primates may see an object as a useful tool, but they can’t apprehend the concept “tool” and so they don’t produce tools for others to use. Tools only exist as these creatures come across them and not as ideas in the mind that can be fashioned out of what exists (vi).

Humans, on the other hand, can both know abstract concepts and communicate them to others through language. This is important because abstract concepts only exist in an immaterial way. They are real, but they cannot be discovered through sensory or other material means. Humans must, therefore, possess an immaterial way of coming to know these real entities—what we call an immaterial soul. Because the soul is immaterial it has no parts, and if death involves the reduction of a thing to its component parts, then this means that the soul cannot die and so survives the death of the body.

Even atheistic philosophers understand the problem inherent in a physical brain thinking about things that lie beyond the brain’s immediate interactions. For example, if our brains were just lumps of matter, then how could anything about frozen Antarctica be inside my brain cells, which have never been there? When my brain is thinking “about” Antarctica, you can examine it with all kinds of instruments, but nothing from the frozen continent will be visible. The atheistic philosopher Alex Rosenberg wrote:

Consciousness is just another physical process. So, it has as much trouble producing aboutness as any other physical process . . . it’s got to be an illusion, since nothing physical can be about anything . . . the clumps of matter that constitute your conscious thoughts can’t be about stuff either.

As a result, Rosenberg rejects the idea that our “selves” really exist and argues that our consciousness, or internal mental life, is just an illusion. But if our self really is “real,” then we have good evidence that our mind is not the same thing as our physical brain. We can know that an immaterial principle of being, or the soul, organizes our physical body and gives rise to our rational abilities (vii).

Finally, we have evidence that death is not the end of our existence, because someone has come back from the dead to testify that this isn’t the case—Jesus Christ. As St. Paul wrote, “If the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins . . . But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:16, 17, 20).


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The Apostle, St. John tells us exactly how to recognize the spirit of truth from the spirit of falsehood. He says "as for them, they are of the world - and the world listens to them because they speak the language of the world. But we are children of God and those who know God: LISTEN TO US. Those who are not of God REFUSE TO LISTEN TO US. That is how we can tell the spirit of truth from the spirit of falsehood." ~1 John 4:6 [The "us" to whom St. John refers are the Apostles, and their successors the Bishops.]

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Prayer to avoid the Sin of PRIDE:
“Oh My Jesus help me to avoid the sin of pride when I speak in Your Name. Forgive me if I ever belittle anyone in Your holy Name. Help me to listen Jesus when Your Voice is spoken and fill me with Your Holy Spirit so that I can discern the truth of Your Word when You call out to mankind. Amen.”

A prayer of St. Teresa of Avila:
O my God! Source of all mercy! I acknowledge Your sovereign power. While recalling the wasted years that are past, I believe that You, Lord, can in an instant turn this loss to gain. Miserable as I am, yet I firmly believe that You can do all things. Please restore to me the time lost, giving me Your grace, both now and in the future, that I may appear before You in "wedding garments." Amen.

“My children, let your speech be chosen with great care—it must be a light in the world. Know and believe that all you say has repercussions in time and eternity. Therefore, choose your words with wisdom and prudence, choosing to remain silent rather than fill the air with useless chatter or worse, gossip or virulent speech. Let your speech be a perfect mirror of your peaceful heart, a heart firmly grounded in the love of God and in complete trust in His goodness. Silence is often the more virtuous path. Bridle your tongue and you will be working for peace in the world.”

In the Name of Jesus I renounce as lies all thoughts that enter my mind from the evil one who accuses. By the authority of Jesus, I command them to leave me. I consecrate my mind to God for transformation into His Thoughts for my protection, salvation and His glory.



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Just a Note:

Through the grace of God and many prayers, I survived a double surgery (with cancer) in the fall of 2008. Since then has becoming increasingly important to me to enhance my prayer life. I have taken on the task of praying for strangers and those with little hope and much adversity. To that end, I've also begun (July '09), to make rosaries and related items to put prayer into the hands of as many as I can that will PRAY for others.

The world is at the precipice ... we need to TAKE ACTION ... NOW. Time for fence sitting is quickly coming to an end. We all need to do what ever we can in the way of PRAYER & PENANCE to beg God's Grace upon humanity that we may shake away this sinfulness and pride to get back on the road that leads to heaven and our Glorious Triune God!

After you have made a decision that is pleasing to God, the devil may try to make you have second thoughts. Intensify your prayer time, meditation, and good deeds. For if satan's temptations merely cause you to increase your efforts to grow in holiness, he'll have an incentive to leave you alone.
~St. Ignatius of Loyola