85-Year-Old Atheist Sponsors Billboard Reading ‘Enjoy Life Now: There Is No Afterlife’

Wayne Hensler, an atheist in his mid-80s, has decided to leave a “legacy for [his] grandchildren” by putting up a billboard showcasing his thoughts on the afterlife in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin. It reads “Enjoy Life Now: There Is No Afterlife”:

The billboard will be up for a month. But I suspect it’ll only take critics a few days before they complain about the message (“Enjoy life now? NEVER!”)

It’s not the first time Hensler has paid for this particular billboard message. When he did it in 2010, the sign was vandalized two weeks later.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Art_Vandelay

    “How dare you reject the completely illogical, not at all empirical premise behind our death cult!”

  • _7654_

    I want that on T-Shirt :-)

    • Rain

      On a hat or a tie would be great too.

  • Rationalist1

    Although I agree with the message totally in public signs I’d rather see a sign that said there’s no evidence of an afterlife. It’s the faithists that proclaim with certainty that there’s a heaven (and hell). We atheists need to say the obvious, that there’s no evidence of an afterlife.

    The original “There’s probably no God. So stop worrying and enjoy your life” was about perfect for me. (I’d change it to “There’s no evidence for a God. So stop …”) After that bus sign went up in Britain, a group of clerics wanted to take the sign to the advertising board to get them to prove that there’s probably no God. I chuckled about it for weeks.

  • Guest

    I thought the picture I took last weekend would only show up in Freethought Today. Oops :-)

  • A3Kr0n

    I’m glad I went back and got my camera last Sunday when I noticed this sign. I see they have the picture on their website today too.

  • David_Evans

    In his 80′s, you say. Just wait until he’s 97. You can bet he won’t be so sure then.

    • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

      My dad will be 97 in February. He’s still a stalwart atheist. I don’t think age has anything to do with whether one believes in an afterlife or not.

      • Rationalist1

        Good for him. I hope to reason I’m that way if I reach that age.

      • rhodent

        I could be wrong, but I suspect David is engaging in a little bit of snark here. While it’s not surprising for an eightysomething to live another decade, you wouldn’t expect someone in their eighties to take it as a given that they’re going to be around that long.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      Predicting other people’s future thoughts is a great way to make a fool of yourself. My mom is almost 94, and she recently told me that she doesn’t believe in an afterlife. She has no fear of death. She accepts it with the same patience and humor that she has with all her painful and debilitating illnesses. She is a lesson in life for me.

      • RedGreenInBlue

        Have to admit that I assumed David Evans was parodying the Christian sport of goalpost-moving. His comments elsewhere on Patheos certainly don’t suggest he is religious! :)

    • Mr. Two

      Who downvoted this? He’s joking, people! Is it that subtle? Normally you’d hear people say this of someone in their 20s. Mr. Evans is just emphasizing that being advanced in age to the point where you are quite aware of your own mortality does not mean you’re going to start believing in gods and an afterlife.

      Hilarious post, David!

  • joey_in_NC

    Is there some type of mutual exclusion between believing in an afterlife and enjoying life? I believe in an afterlife, and I’m enjoying life. Oops.

    • joey_in_NC

      Though, I will concede this. If ‘enjoying life’ includes looking at pornography all day long, then I admit that I’m not ‘enjoying life’ as much as I could.

      • Dave

        27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’[a] 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
        You ain’t goin to heaven Joey.

      • canaduck

        Ho oh, I get it, you’re not watching porn and poppin’ pills and listening to that devil music and whatever else you imagine atheists must be wasting their time doing, right? Come on.

        (And fwiw, there are plenty of non-religious people who avoid porn–not because ew, sex is evil and naked people make baby Jesus cry–but because it is a deeply exploitative industry. )

        • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, TOWAN

          and just to chime in with the other “extreme:” some of us don’t want porn for political and economic reasons. what is mostly out there isn’t healthy for the players, or consumers. we’re still sex-positive, just not pro-child pr0n from some warehouse in asia.

          some pr0n is bad. i know this, but jeebus has nothing to do with why i know that fact to be true.

        • joey_in_NC

          My point is this. What exactly are afterlife-believers missing out such that they supposedly are not “enjoying life”?

          • To answer your question…

            Believing in an afterlife does not inherently prevent you from enjoying life, that said, the vast majority of religion manifests as a set of rules and regulations that must be followed to enter heaven. Some of these are good, and follow principles of universal human good: don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie, etc.

            The point at which the quality of life of the religious begins to be effected are at the arbitrary rules which must be followed because god said so or you go to hell and burn forever and ever amen. The moment you begin to limit your potential experiences and enjoyment in such a way for naught but the promise of eternal salvation in a heaven for which you have no evidence but “faith” is the moment you have sacrificed your enjoyment of life now.

            See below a brief list of rules from a mix of religions which arbitrarily (or for reasons which were once important for survival and were attributed to being holy, and which are now arbitrary with the advancement of technology) require you to sacrifice your potential experiences and enjoyment of life:

            don’t eat bacon, don’t eat shell fish, don’t have sex except under these specific per-approved circumstances, don’t say things considered “blasphemous”, don’t disagree with church leaders, don’t be homosexual, don’t associate with homosexuals, don’t be left handed, don’t associate with left handed people, don’t wear polyester, don’t trust people who believe differently than you, don’t work on specific days, only worship these icons in this way, always go to church/temple/mosque, don’t read these books, do read those books, don’t purchase items from these stores, always purchase items from those stores when possible…

      • Sweetredtele

        Considering the success of the pron industry compared to the small percentage of atheists, I would hazard a guess that Christians make up the majority of prono-lookers.

      • Obazervazi

        Correct; a few hours a week is more than enough. 24/7 porn would be boring.

    • baal

      It’s the otherway around. Once you release life is short and you only get one shot at it, you seem to care a lot more about those days. Consider that you’ll die in 24 hours, what would you feel like you wanted to do tonight? 2days? 2 weeks? 2 years? 2 billion years?

      Life is short, live happy for tomorrow you may die.

      • joey_in_NC

        Life is short, live happy for tomorrow you may die.

        I agree. Again, what makes you think an afterlife-believer won’t choose to “live happy”.

    • Spooky Tran

      We’re all just going to have to accept that this is a seven word-slogan with no room for nuance. If you’re having a wonderful life with faith then that’s great. This message obviously isn’t for you.

      But maybe it’ll have impact on people who won’t eat certain foods. Or refuse to use technologies invented after 1800. Or ban music. Or lash themselves. Or refuse to read Harry Potter. Or, you know, spend their lives praying, attending services and studying holy books when they could be doing something else. All as part of an adherence to what most of us here call nonsense.

      For the record, I feel joey’s post is unjustly voted down. I am voting it up in protest.

  • Paula M Marshall

    I’m not afraid of being dead. I’m afraid of dying itself. It depends on how I get there!

    • TCC

      “It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” – Woody Allen

  • Rob McClain

    I love this guy. May he live forever and the last voice he hears be mine.

  • TopHatProfessor1014

    Living life to the fullest and being kind for others just for the sake of it with no threat of punishment or reward? Blasphemy!

  • Chas Swedberg

    How close is it to the giant cross they have in Janesville?

  • KEHalfaker

    Hollaaaaaaa FFRF!

  • advancedatheist

    I spent the week end at the resort of another man in his 80′s who has a practical plan for dealing with this death nuisance: Casino operator and professional gambler Don Laughlin, who has signed up for cryopreservation when modern medicine applies its arbitrary criteria of death to him. He offered his facilities for a conference where I heard a major cryobiologist give a confidential report about breakthroughs in brain cryopreservation which promise to become “game changers” in cryonics in a few years.

    Dr. Aubrey de Grey also spoke at this event, where he pointed out the irrationality of supporting research into cryopreserving every human organ except the brain. Why does trying to cryopreserve the brain with the goal of reviving it later have some woo-woo taboo about it that, say, similar efforts applied to the liver or the kidney lack?

    In other words, some guys in their 80′s have thought more scientifically about survival options than the allegedly “rational” people who go around calling themselves “atheists” these days. If you consider yourself an “atheist,” yet you believe that something spooky happens at death which resists technological interventions, then you haven’t liberated yourself from religious thinking as much as you believe.

    • midnight rambler

      Why does trying to cryopreserve the brain with the goal of reviving it
      later have some woo-woo taboo about it that, say, similar efforts
      applied to the liver or the kidney lack?

      Huh? All we ever hear about regarding cryopreservation is about the brain; and it’s in large part because it’s only about the brain that most people recognize it as silly. Because unlike the liver etc., the cells must not only be alive in the metabolic sense, but in the same state as they were before, in order to have not suffered severe cognitive damage.

  • ConureDelSol

    I feel like changing it from “There is no afterlife” to “In case there’s no afterlife” would work better in terms of being inspirational. Showing a tiny bit of openness to an idea (no matter how stupid) would make it seem less antagonizing to at least some of the religious demographic.

  • Spooky Tran

    I don’t think we should be using slogans like this. It feeds the lie that atheists are atheists because we want to sin, and that an atheist life is equivalent to hedonism.

    • midnight rambler

      “Enjoy yourself” = sin? In practice, probably yes, but if they admit that, it’s another strike against religion.

  • Jamie Paul Bennett

    is that why christians have NO problem taking a life how can you feel guilty if your sending someone to heaven early.


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