Blog Post 2 on “The Myth of an Afterlife”
Some Thoughts On Keith Augustine’s Introduction to “The Myth of an Afterlife”
Today I wanted to think a little about the difference between the kinds of lenses theological hypotheses provide in comparison with secular lenses in science and even literature. In his introduction to the book, Augustine points out that regarding the secular framework for viewing death:
“Because we are built from the same flesh and blood and DNA that forms nonhuman animals, and share their evolutionary origins, their mortality implies our mortality.”
– Martin, Michael; Augustine, Keith. The Myth of an Afterlife . Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Theistic explanations of reality are indifferent to the reality they are trying to color. In response to horrific animal and human suffering, the theist responds “God promises justice in the next life, not this one.” This means through the theist lens the world looks exactly as it would if there was no omnipotent, omnibenevolent God. Similarly, in response to empirical scientific experiments that show the ineffectiveness of prayer, the theist responds “God always answers prayer, just sometimes the answer is no.” Again, the theistic explanatory framework sees a world that would look exactly the same way if there was no God. And with “miraculous healing,” while it may be unlikely that you would undergo a medically highly unlikely recovery of health, given a planet of billions it is to be expected some would unusually recover health: for the same reason that while it is ridiculously unlikely you would win the lottery, it is not unlikely at all that someone will win – and someone usually does. Similarly, Carrier responds to the theist fine tuning argument of the cosmos that actually the universe is optimally configured to generate black holes and be hostile to life, which is exactly what you would predict if there was no God.
Far from being a rigorous scientific level colored lens for viewing reality, the theistic colored lens certainly is not, and is not even at the level of a literary colored lens. If I told a student who has never encountered Shakespeare that Romeo and Juliet is a tragic love story, they can use that lens to generally predict what they will find in the text and actively confirm by reading. Making and confirming predictions is a good meaning making strategy. The religious lens makes predictions only because it is so broad and vague that it is unfalsifiable.
And really, as Heidegger points out, the issue of mind is not so much the question of consciousness as the question of awareness, because one can be unconscious and yet very aware and absorbed in an unfolding dream. The key seems to be that conscious and unconscious awareness is grounded in the way the mind creates the experience of the stretching out of time as a foundation for allowing experience, since by contrast under general anesthetic the patient goes to sleep and wakes up an hour later in what feels like an instant. When we chemically interrupt the mind creating time as a scaffold for experience we really experience the nothingness that will be death, specifically when even the nothing is not experienced.