This started as a reply to a post in a facebook community I belong to. The person asked this same question. However I wrote this long response and before posting it as a comment I realized that it would be wasted on that community because of how quickly those posts come and go. Plus it seems like people in general have little patience for reading long comments. Myself included a lot of times. It’s a bit strange, but when you format it like a blog post or article, it somehow changes a person’s level of patience. So instead I’ve decided to post it here, where I can own it and refer to it later if necessary.
With that said, here we go.
What happens after we die?
All I know is what has been observed. We stop being conscious and our bodies stop functioning. Slowly they begin to breakdown.
Whether our conscious mind and memories go somewhere else, I doubt it for a few reasons.
First: When we get knocked out our consciousness does not appear anywhere else. We simply blackout. So consciousness seems to rely on the physical body.
Second: We have no record of being conscious before we were born and had a body. To the best of our knowledge we simply weren’t around. Furthermore our consciousness, memories, and personalities had to develop and grow after being born. And they change over time.
So who we are is based on our life and body experiences and our genetic predispositions that are inherited from our parents.
Third: There really isn’t a rational reason why we should continue on after death. Sure, people don’t want to die and hope to see loved ones again, but this seems to be nothing more than an extension of our will to live. A survival mechanism in all species. But in a species as intelligent and imaginative as we are, it manifests itself as an afterlife desire. Likely an evolutionary trait developed to help the mind deal with the crisis of eventual death.
So much of who we are is based on our physical bodies, starting with our physical sex which determines a lot about our temperament, desires and motivations. Add in things like skin color and how that has shaped how we see ourselves in our society. As well as our height, body build, attractiveness, sense of taste and smell. For example, my friends love sushi but I hate it. I wish I could love it, they seem to, but my tastebuds disagree. This helps shape who I am and where I go in life. I’m not hanging out in a lot of sushi restaurants for example. I’ve missed out on certain experiences where co-workers have gone out to lunch at those restaurants but I’ve held back to eat something else. So I’ve missed out on certain experiences like that and felt bad about it. This in part shapes who I am. Even if it’s something I don’t like about myself.
If there is an afterlife me, will it love sushi? Is there sushi in the afterlife? Where does this afterlife even take place? We don’t have any evidence that any of this even exists.
Just because we want an afterlife, doesn’t mean there is one. Nor does it make a lot of sense to first die only to then continue living. If endless life were the goal, why even have death to begin with?
It seems to me that our prime directive as an animal species is to survive long enough to successfully procreate. Any life we live after that is a bonus. Beyond that we aren’t necessary. In fact in some ways we are a burden on nature after that. Consuming resources without any apparent function and nothing new to contribute to the gene pool. So eventually our body wears out and we die. Harsh as it may be, our existence seems to be for the here and now only. There doesn’t seem to be a rational reason why we should have a second life, other than we want it. And yet if you ask a lot of people if they would want to live to a thousand years old, they would tell you no. So it’s a bit of a contradiction.