Is it possible for an atheist to believe in an after-life?

I know this is a dumb question but its bugging me. As an atheist from the age of 9 I was always a little envious of religious people as they had the hope (no matter how illogical) of an after-life. All I had to look forward to as an atheist was being worm food. Last week-end after quite a few rum and cokes I came up with an idea how an atheist could legitimately have the hope of an afterlife. It is based on the theory of the Big Bang. This theory explains how the universe was created but cannot explain how the original expansion of the universe occurred from nothing. I had the idea that it did not  occur from nothing but in fact occurred from the expansion of a previously contracted universe. The theory is that the universe expands out from its state of maximum contraction until it reaches its maximum expansion and then contracts back. This process is infinite as energy cannot be created or destroyed but merely changed from one form to another. If this process is indeed infinite then at some point I will exist again (and again) in another universe under slightly differing circumstances each time.

I created a webpage which explains the idea better and would appreciate it if people could take a look and criticize the logic. The page is

Please just take a minute to look and let me know if it makes sense or if I have totally lost the plot.



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Alcohol is dogs piss.

[You have] an unshakeable belief that alcohol users should be flogged in accordance with sharia law.

Your future life is pushing up daisies.

I explained, using your words.

BTFW, my ashes will feed sea creatures.

Sounds a lot like the multi-verse theory.  I saw a documentary about it.  I wont go in to to much detail cause i don't really like typing.  It's where you exist in an infinite number of universe's, slightly different in each one.  You may be a junkie in one and CEO of bank of america in the other.  Dead in one, live and well in the other.  Either way, if one of you dies, that one is dead.

In an infinite universe I would say that very little, if anything is impossible.

Athiesm and belief in an afterlife are pretty contradictory concepts however.

That said one book that helped me move away from theism in my late teens/early twenties was "The Death  of Forever" by Darryl Reanney (Death of Forever). It describes the physical explanations for need to believe in a god and exposes them as just that.

Towards the end it gets very metaphysical and explains human consciousness joining with a universal consciousness after death. Its been 20 years since I read this so I am sorry if I haven't given that a fair synopsis.

That belief I think is very attractive and for a while is served as a mid point for me, a theological crutch to lean on.

Of course since I have no proof of anything that happens after death I simply give the honest answer. We don't know, and aren't likely to ever know. Anything else is pure speculation, and shouldn't be relied on to change how you live your life while you have it.

I hope that helps.


What you are talking about is the cyclic theory,or cyclic model, which dates back to Einstein.  

You'd have to, however, believe in spirits in order for you to believe that you will exist again, and that has nothing to do with the big bang or the cyclic model.

I disagree. If the cycle is infinite the exact circumstances that occurred that led to your current existence will occur again. That is the nature of infinity. Its an atheists afterlife without belief in spirits or the supernatural.

So how do you define "existing"? 

You are right now made up of totally different atoms than the ones you were born with, so you aren't the same person you were then... and you will be made up of different atoms by the time you die. 

When you die, what you are made up of will turn into other things, soil, gasses, food for other organisms, etc.  What you are made up of will continue to exist, and had existed before you were born.  Within you right now are molecules that likely were in dinosaurs or in a human that existed at the time of the Roman Empire. 

I think (and correct me if I am wrong) by existing you mean sentience, which I don't believe will exist in a form that is "you" after death. 

As far as an "afterlife", I tried to find a quote from Lincoln that I know I read at one point in time, but I am not going to pore through all of my Lincoln books and can't find it on the internet quickly, so will just paraphrase what I remember... he basically said that his belief in the afterlife was that the way you live after death is in the memory of others.  If you live a life that is remembered by people long after your death, then you have a long afterlife, if you  did nothing of import or were not remembered for long after your death, then it is a short afterlife... it isn't a consciousness in you, but the memory of others that keeps you "alive" in that way...which is why my grandparents are still "alive", because not only are they remembered by those of us that knew them, but my sister, cousins and I all have talked about them a lot to our own children, who never met them.  Also the reason that Lincoln himself has an "afterlife", because there are STILL books being written about him almost 150 years after he died.

I'll have to find that quote. Cause that's basically my view of immortality--why do you think I'm a scientist?

I know it will drive me nuts, it has been many years since I remember seeing it... but something along the lines of "immortality comes from living a life worth remembering" or something like that...

I read years ago that some aborigine tribes believe:

1) only the present exists,

2) the past and future are the "dream time", and

3) people live until no living person remembers them.

Personally, for my part, I see no reason to believe in any kind of afterlife. At base, the idea of an afterlife comes from the ancient idea of dualism, e.g., mind-matter dichotomy. People used to believe, and some still do, that mind is separate from body, and that it survives the death of the body. Modern brain science, however, shows that mind is nothing more than the effect of the electrochemical activities of the physical brain. The fact that drugs that work on the brain affect the mind, such as psychedelic drugs, or the fact that when the brain is damaged the mental functions are in some ways and to different extents altered, show that mind is not separate from brain, but is a manifestation of it. If the mind did not arise through the electrochemical interactions of the synapses of the brain then no drug or damage could, even in theory, affect the mind. When the brain dies the mind ceases to exist, and this strongly indicates that there is nothing of us that makes us us left after the brain dies. Our bodies, including all organs, undergo the process of decomposition, until finally, nothing is left but the atoms that once formed our bodies, and they are recycled back into nature, some of our atoms perhaps becoming part of a flower, a cloud, a star, the water the next generation will be drinking, etc.

Whats wrong with worm food??? When we die our energy passes to fungus, worms, plants, and then to animals in turn. Its called the cycle of life! What can be more noble than sharing yourself with the world around you?? Unless your religion requires you to be embalmed so your body doesn't degrade naturally and pollutes the water table with hazardous chemicals..............I'm just sayin! No disrespect intended.

The problem with any afterlife is simple: what is maintaining your consciousness?

Now, granted that I am no neuro-scientist, but from where I sit, here's how it is: our consciousness amounts to the operating system run by our brains.  It is fostered in infancy and develops through youth, adolescence and adulthood, based on the subtle difference each person's individual neural hardware exhibits.  This is why some people are average Joes and some are Picassos or Einsteins or Beethovens.  So the brain is the hardware which the consciousness software runs on.

Question: what happens when the hardware suffers a fatal failure?  What happens to the software?  The same thing that happened to that Word document you didn't save before the power outage shut down your machine.  Sure, these days, Word backs your work up automatically to the hard drive ... but WHERE is your brain's hard drive?  THERE ISN'T ONE.  The brain is all you've got ... and once it is deprived of oxygenated blood for even a short march of time, the brain's functionality is lost, and with it, consciousness.

There is No Known Mechanism for the maintenance of consciousness without a nervous system and brain to support it ... NONE.  Brain fails, we die, consciousness gone, That's IT.


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