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← Effect of the concept of hell on children

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by Jonathan Dore

Once we're alive we find it hard to imagine not being alive, so religions invent ideas based around the notion that you will somehow continue to be fully conscious even after death. This is laughable. All that happens once you're dead is that you'll return to the state of not being alive, just as you were before your birth. Mark Twain put it well: "I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it."

Obsessing us with thoughts of an "afterlife" is also a mechanism that religious authorities have always used to stop us focusing on what's actually happening in this life, the only one we'll ever have. And simply to be alive provides as great a source of wonder as anyone could wish for. As Richard Dawkins wrote at the beginning of "Unweaving the Rainbow":

We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.

Mon, 23 Jul 2012 17:48:11 UTC | #949907