Living for the Afterlife

I liked this (slightly edited) question posed by DanCorb at Reddit:

People often ask, “If there is no afterlife, what is the purpose of this life?” — But wouldn’t it make more sense to ask, “If there is an afterlife, what is the purpose of this life?”


  • http://learninfreedom.org/ tokenadult

    I’ve lived in two different cultures, so I’ll answer from the point of view of each.

    A typical Christian answer would be that the afterlife begins with a conclusion of this world that includes God revealing who his followers were and bringing them into eternal bliss. The reason to live according to God’s way in this life is NOT (in the Biblical view) to earn that bliss, which is a free gift, but to celebrate the sure promise of that gift and to honor God.

    A typical Chinese Buddhist view would be to think that the afterlife is a subsequent earthly existence much like this life, but better the next time around for people who were good in this life, and worse the next time around for people who were bad in this life. (You can see the influence of Hindu thought there.) A historically Chinese folk religion view would be that there is a single afterlife in a spirit world different from but comparable to the current material world, and that one is good and religious in this life to send ahead resources to one’s departed family members who are already in the afterlife.

    Yes, in general whatever view a religion has of an afterlife, the view of the afterlife is linked to some plan of action for life in this world. I think one of the most important aspects of public atheist statements about atheism and its consequences for life in this world is to answer the question various believers will have along the lines of “What’s the point of living if soon enough we will die and vanish?”

  • http://blog.chungyc.org/ Yoo

    The question skips over “What is the purpose of an afterlife?” :/

  • ubi dubius

    The purpose of my life is to help make better lives for the people I love, mostly for Ubi Dubium and the Ubi Dubikids and then moving in ever greater circles through my other relatives and close friends to all humans. I’m not sure I’ll ever reach that far, but who knows?

  • http://www.travisjmorgan.com/blog Travis Morgan

    The question assumes there is a purpose to begin with.

  • http://mylifeintheblender.wordpress.com Laurie

    According to a mainstream Christian worldview, the purpose of this life is to test us to see who is worthy enough to make it to the good afterlife and who gets to be roasted in eternal hellfire. It’s all just a big test.

    Another purpose in this life is to worship God so we can go do the same thing in the afterlife.

  • Jesse

    Travis got it right.

  • weaves

    I want to know why so many Christians are reluctant to “meet their maker” and take all kinds of medication etc. to hold it off for as long as possible.
    Isn’t it their “time”?

    Me thinks that they doubt themselves

  • http://www.nonlinearthinking.wordpress.com Reuben

    That makes more sense…though I’d think the rephrasing of the question would still fail to penetrate a devoutly religious mind.

    Incidentally, I’ve added you to my blog roll.

  • http://deeplyblasphemous.blogspot.com Chris Bradley

    It’s one of my more vexing discussions to have with religious folks. That somehow the existence of a god would obviate the question of the meaning of life. They’re “living for god” or whatever – but what does their god want from their life? Why did their god see fit to create life in this fashion? Saying that they’re living their life for their god begs the question of what their god gets out of the arrangement.

    I mean, there’s a lot there to beg! Such as . . . why would a being that is above us, intellectually, as we are above earthworms seem to love us so much? It makes no sense. To an omniscient god, we’re not terribly sentient and certainly not interesting. Are we pets, beloved in the same way that people like fish in their tanks? Are we experiments? Art? They live for their god but other than following a bunch of rules – the better ones which we all follow regardless of religion – what does it mean?

    I’ve never got a good answer. Oh, well.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    We are free to create a purpose for our own lives. That is true whether a person is religious or not. How you choose to factor in the idea of an afterlife is similarly up to you. Personally I find the idea of an afterlife unnecessary, unnatural and unsettling so I’ve chosen to dispense with the idea altogether.

  • http://www.atheistrev.com vjack

    That’s easy. The purpose of this life is simply to earn enough magic Jesus points to do well in the next life and rub in the face of everyone else.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    The purpose of this life (if there is an afterlife of heaven or hell) is two-fold.

    1. To grovel and worship the supreme “decider” in hopes of being selected to receive the “gift” of being brought into His presence and spend eternity in utopian bliss. All those not selected spend eternity in agony separated from His presence.

    2. To likewise grovel and worship on a lesser scale our earthly masters (employers and political figures) to stabilize and perpetuate the existing power system.

  • http://blackskeptic.wordpress.com blackskeptic

    To save as many souls as possible for the afterlife.

  • http://virtualityforreal.blogspot.com Allytude

    .. and what happens AFTER the afterlife?

  • Pingback: links for 2009-01-07 | Yostivanich.com

  • Caroline

    To address the question of why the faithful in the afterlife still take medications and treat illnesses, if they expect to see a pleasant afterlife: There are many people who live in the hope of God, they believe in God, but also acknowledge that they do not actually KNOW if there is a God, and that’s why they call it FAITH in God, not necessarily factual concrete KNOWLEDGE of God. If you think about it, we ALL are agnostic, to a certain degree, because none of us truly KNOWS. If you think you know, then you’re just being cocky.

    Is it possible that the afterlife exists for those who are faithful, but not for those who aren’t? What control do we have over all this?

  • Caroline

    To address the question of why people who have faith in the afterlife still take medications and treat illnesses, if they expect to see a pleasant afterlife: There are many people who live in the hope of God, they believe in God, but also acknowledge that they do not actually KNOW if there is a God, and that’s why they call it FAITH in God, not necessarily factual concrete KNOWLEDGE of God. If you think about it, we ALL are agnostic, to a certain degree, because none of us truly KNOWS. If you think you know, then you’re just being cocky, on either side of this argument.

    Is it possible that the afterlife exists for those who are faithful, but not for those who aren’t? What control do we have over all this?

  • Caroline

    To address the issue of why a God would have created us, and how he looks at us, like fish in a tank or something…

    Just suppose you are God. There you are. Conscious, thinking, sitting in the void before creation, or the big bang, or whatever you want to call it. Pretty soon, you’ll start to get very bored. So you decide to create something, to shake things up a bit. But you don’t want a still picture, or a boring puppet that did everything you bid it do. Like Gepetto, you want a real live Pinochio boy. One who will look back at you, have his own thoughts, and hopefully, choose to love you and make you smile.

    It’s possible God didn’t even really intend to create mankind specifically, but he said, let there be light, let there be gravity, let there be electromagnetism, and lets see what happens. Man is part of it, ants another, aliens possibly another…who knows? Live fully in the mystery.


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