Posted by: gmscan | July 22, 2010

Life After Death?

We’re going to step away from the Bible for a bit to think about salvation. After all, isn’t that what this is all about? There is a promise here that something wonderful happens after we die, and that is the purpose of a life in Christ — to obtain that salvation. Otherwise, if all of this is just about being nice to each other in this life, we could follow Miss Manners and it would serve just as well.

But is this remotely plausible? Is there any reason whatsoever to believe such a thing could happen, other than the word of some ancient guys walking around in the Middle East dust? Are we completely delusional?

That is what the atheists believe. They say that death is so final and so frightening that we are in denial. We are too cowardly to accept our fate and have come up with a mass superstition to comfort us. They think only science matters. If it isn’t measurable, it must not be real.

But this is the thinking of children – “if I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.” It’s like playing peek-a-boo with a toddler – put your hands over your eyes and the world disappears.

The best debunking of these atheistic notions that I have come across comes from Dinesh D’Souza in “Life After Death: The Evidence.” D’Souza is an amazing guy. He meets the atheists on their own turf, science, and destroys their arguments. He is frustrated that Christians so often cede the scientific case to the atheists and rely instead purely on faith and revelation. He says, “To relinquish science and reason is to concede precious cultural real estate to the atheists, and to risk losing our children to atheism and radical secularism.” He argues that in fact science. “stunningly confirms the beliefs that (Christians) held in the first place.”

He goes on to deal with the evidence from people with “near death” experiences, from biology, and psychology and many other fields of scientific inquiry. But the arguments that spoke most strongly to me were the ones based on physics, mathematics, and astronomy. Increasingly, science is accepting the existence of parallel universes and physical phenomena that we cannot detect but believe in because there can be no other explanation. These include the ideas of dark matter and dark energy and quantum mechanics, but even the now well-accepted idea of “the big bang theory” of the origin of the universe conforms to the Christian idea that there is a Creator and before creation there was no time and no space.

Not included by D’Souza, but supporting these ideas, is the recent experience we have had with the human genome project. The scientists I know who have worked in this field tell me that, far from the original premise of “unlocking the secrets” of human DNA so we could treat and prevent disease, science is discovering that the further they go, the less they understand. At every step of the way they find there is more and more complexity, even at the molecular level of human existence.

In sum, the adolescent view of the atheists is completely unpersuasive when compared to the far more mature and learned perspective of the people who realize the limits of what we can detect and measure. An after life is not just plausible but probable.

Next time: Heaven

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Responses

  1. My grandfather had an interesting saying:
    You can go five days without food, 3 days without water, but you can go only 5 minutes without hope.
    For thise who place their hope in an afterlife, I say go for it.
    But to me, it is not a question of maturity or merely believing what you can see.
    It is more a concept of gratitude.
    If this is all there is, we need to be grateful.
    If there is life after life, fantastic.
    For me, I cannot separate my desires from objective reality.
    Sure, I hope there is life after life.
    But that desire taints the objective reality. the very hope that one has for eternal life brings subjectivity into the equation.
    And, the final answer os objective, not subjective.
    Shalom,
    Don Levit

  2. My issue with this statement about religion being able to beat Atheists at their own game. Is that over time, religion has actually changes its stance on issues, going along with science whenever it was proven wrong, but trying to stifle scientific progress whenever it possibly could.
    The reasons you give for why religion is right, and Atheists are wrong, are just manipulating information in ways that it was never intended for. Actually, let me first deal with your “near death experiences” proof.

    Take a situation. We have a scam artist that is trying to scam some people into giving him several thousand dollars each. So what he does is he sends out an email that says “I think you should give me money to invest in the stock market, to prove that I am reliable, I will predict what will happen tomorrow for Apple stock.” Lets say he sends out a million emails, in one third of them he says they go up, in one third they go down, and in one third they stay the same. For the ones that are correct, he continues, repetition, over and over. Each time the people are more and more convinced that he is reliable. Until there are only a couple thousand left, and they give him their life savings, and he takes it and runs. The people who got the incorrect emails forget about what happened, it happens all the time, “Thieves and crooks” they will say, and then they will forget.

    Religion is like this, there may be isolated incidence where a “miracle” may occur, where someone had a hallucination that may become a reality. But overall, it is just one of billions, trillions, most haven’t any substance that anyone would use as proof. The results cannot be replicated in amounts that prove it is anything more than complete chance.

    On the idea of the big bang, string theory and other such theories. String Theory has ways of explaining what happens, ways that do not involve god in any way shape or form, these explanations may not have solid proof, but mathematical proof for them is always more than what religion will have as proof. As to “the less they understand”, this is not proof for the existence of an afterlife or god, this is nothing more than the admittance that there are things out there that we do not yet have the technology to explain. We do not claim to have all the answers like religion repeatedly does, and yet, we are wrong much less often, after all, it is religion that has over the last thousand years, gone from saying the world was flat, to believing in quantum mechanics and claiming that it proves their far fetched ideas.

  3. Isaac,

    Thanks for the comments. I would agree that “religion” has changed over time, and so has science. Both fields have taken many wrong turns — it is part of being human. I disagree that “religion” or at least Christianity has stifled science. Quite the opposite. It has encouraged and nurtured science. Indeed, it is generally old science that tries to stifle new science. It is often said that new scientific principles take a generation to become established because the old guys have to die off first. They can not be persuaded.

    More generally, I suggest a scientific approach to all this would be to keep an open mind about things we don’t understand. D’Souza is not trying to offer proof here. He is looking at the weight of the evidence and concludes that an after life is indeed plausible — and that our growing scientific understanding supports that.

    Greg

  4. Hmmm, well, I still would say that religion tries to stifle science. I mean, isn’t it the religious that are always complaining about evolution being taught in schools. Yes, old science does try and fight to survive, but as I know, it isn’t older scientists that keep cutting the Texas curriculum to something that the religious right will like.

    Yes, I would say that you are right, science means that if you can prove it, I would accept it. But so far, there is no proof for religion being right. Yet the religious right in America act as though they have the right to force me to obey their ideas of how the world would work. Its not as though I would act very different, I’m not gay, I’m not a girl, I wouldn’t need an abortion. But I think its wrong that the religious right think that they have the right to tell other people how to run, and ruin their lives. That is my only issue with religion, it ends up where they are trying to force their ideas on you. I am as against Muslim Sharia Law being used in the US under any circumstance, as I am against the religious right saying that gay people can’t get married, and women can’t get abortions. Even the way that they guilt trip women before an abortion is wrong. So that is why I HATE the religious right. So I’m sorry if I offend you, but religion is one thing that I get really annoyed about.

  5. Religion is man made. Spirituality is God given. I don’t need to pidgeon hole my beliefs by claiming any similarity to or differences from some other group’s beliefs, or their religion. I believe people organize their similar beliefs under the banner ‘religion’ because they have their own agenda.
    Through Prevenient Grace we are aware that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. We all have different thumbprints to tell each other apart. Seems to me we may all have different spiritual imprints so God can tell us apart. I think that’s the basis of our personal relationship with God, as Christians have. If someone else’s viewpoint is different from mine, I can argue my point or I can use that energy to try to be the person I think God wants me to be today. Frankly, I’d be surprised if anyone had exactly my same beliefs about everything everywhere.
    BTW wasn’t this thread about salvation? The deliverance from the power and penalty of sin. The Budda says we aren’t punished for our sins but by our sins. So what is a sin?
    To me a sin is if I stray from what Paul said being prayerful and thankful in all things. That’s a broad viewpoint, I may have to do that cathatsis daily.

  6. Isaac:
    Actually, religion and science can have a lot in common – the success of both hinges on wonder, the concept “I may be wrong.”

    Gary:
    I really appreciate your comments.
    I would be surprised, too, if everyone thought like me.
    Actually, our world would be in real trouble if that happened!
    In addition,, there is no way for us to know, with certainty, beliefs, such as salvation and life after death.
    For me, it is easier to deal with the confusion, than it is to kid myself that all will be well.
    As Voltaire said, “Doubt is painfuul. Certainty is absurd.”
    Shalom,
    Don Levit

  7. As a physician with a physics degree who has won math awards, I’ve NEVER considerd science an enemy of faith. For me, as a Christian, I find science thrilling, a form of revelation that reveals the stunning power and precision of a Creator. It is Christianity, actually, that led to the scientific method in the first place, paving the way to all subsequent discoveries.
    Greg, as a futurist I’ve read your work for several years now but find this material the best written and most interesting of anything you’ve previously done. You are being careful and systematic but with an open heart in the search. I look forward to more. RAS


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