7.07.2003

"I want to believe." That poster was fairly emblematic of the X-Files TV Show. It's also fairly emblematic of my hope for an afterlife.

Of course, I want to believe in an afterlife. Who doesn't? It's hard to reconcile with experience and our limited ability to perceive ourselves but what would I have against an afterlife. I like being me. I'm a happy camper here and wouldn't mind continuing being one into infinity. But unless something unprecedented happens, I'm a finite being with a mind and conception of the universe destined to evaporated and be lost to the merciless march of time. That's cool. It's the way the world works and tough beans if you can't hack it.

I frequently fly into a panicked rage at the injustice of it all. But if it was good enough for countless billions before me, hell, I'll swallow it, too. Maybe one day in the future we'll be able to store our brains in a glass jar indefinitely. That's pretty cool. I can one day see a world where people are born, aged to 25 and then lobotomized into a glass jar that effectively replaces this impermanent raiment. We will someday be able to slough off this fleshy prison that dooms us to transience. It would be weird to live in a world where people only died by freak accidents. "Oh crap, I knocked Bill over last night. His jar shattered and his brain went soggy. My bad."

But not in my lifetime. To be sure, my expected 80 years will be way more than most people have had the over the previous millenia of evolution. Maybe by the time I reach 80, I might get a couple extra decades of quality living out of modern medicine. Dammit, kids are dying in gun battles the world over or passing on for lack of a bowl of rice and a glass of juice. Who am I to complain? I've had way more than my fair share already, to be frank. Impossibly, I've found someone to share my life with and, for that alone, I count myself lucky beyond measure. However, I've got myself convinced that I can accept this. It's a done deal, baby. When the time comes, I'm gone with no more permanent trace than a few words tossed to the aether. The pyramids are wearing down, the ink is fading, the chiselled inscriptions are fading to wind, sun and rain.

Enter religion. For everyone who wants to believe, there's twenty ways to "dodge the bullet". Religion has many, many roles and to reduce it to a simple afterlife scam does it a disservice. It genuinely has helped people through some rough times. It provides shelter in times of need, rules for those who haven't given them much thought and the support, love and sense of community that we all require as our daily bread. The afterlife is just one aspect of most major religions, likely due to the necessity of such a meme to thrive in the heated competition for numbers. The vast majority of people don't go overboard about it. They follow the set rules when it suits them and hope its enough to get past the bouncers. Not admirable but not despicable either.

Then there's the perverts. The people who harm others for their big shot at the afterlife. You know what? It's enough to make me glad that I believe in no afterlife.