The Only Reason People Believe In An Afterlife

Agree or disagree?

the only reason people believe in an afterlife is because they are too narcissistic to imagine a world without them the watchmen


  • GDad

    Disagree on the word “ONLY”.

    • ExpatPaul

      As do I. I doubt that narcissim is the only reason, but would be entirely unsurprised to find that it’s a factor.

  • Elemenope

    I also disagree on “only”, and I’m not on board with “narcissistic” really, either. I think the fear (or even the psychological incomprehensibility) of oblivion is a more common motivator to imagine existence after death.

    • Kodie

      I also think people hope there’s a reward because life is a struggle, or when they have to make hard choices, when they deprive themselves for the sake of others (which is often the right thing to do), and for when other people die, to someday see them again. On the other hand, some people hope there’s an afterlife for those around them who do wrong but never seem to get punished for it, and to get over laws that don’t favor their morals. They like corporal punishment as fit to send a person straight to hell for their crimes instead of being alive, even if they are in prison for a very long time.

      • Elemenope

        Mm, yes. A desire for justice is a powerful one in humans (being social creatures, it’s an instinct), and so failures of justice, replete as they are in life, are hard to stomach.

  • 1984

    Non-existence is scary, the eternal darkness, so this religious lie is easy to sell.
    I don’t have anything against people who wish to live longer, even forever.

    • Igor

      I’d agree with Mark Twain: “I was perfectly content with non-existence for the 15 billion years before I was born; I’m sure I’ll be all right with it after I’m dead.”

      • Sarah Trachtenberg

        Mark Twain is awesome:)
        I think people who want to live forever hadn’t thought it through. It sounds really awful to me. I’d rather die tomorrow (as in permanently) than live forever! Who’s with me on this?

        • Elemenope

          Nah, I’m definitely in the “live forever if possible” camp, with some well-worn caveats along the lines of if at some point I decide, independently of biological imperatives, that I no longer wish to exist, that at only that time I would die. Ceasing to exist before you wish to cease to exist seems to me to have no intrinsic value.

          • Nox
            • Elemenope


          • busterggi

            I agree completely.

            Just think how much Lovecraft could have written in the last 70+ years, it’d take me years to catch up.

            And then there’s Poe & so many others.

            Not to mention the 60 + seasons of Gilligan’s Island Afterlife.

        • Kodie

          On the basis that I won’t know that I’m dead, I’m sure I wouldn’t mind it. I don’t know if I want to live forever if I could, but I just know that I won’t be able to miss anything if I don’t.

        • Noelle

          If I could be sound of body and mind and live forever, then I’d like to stick around.

    • Mike Lewinski

      “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work… I want to achieve it through not dying.”
      – Woody Allen

      I agree that the thought of our own personal non-existence and the process of suffering/dying that goes along with it is scary. It’s tragedy when it happens to our friends and family too.

      But there’s a beauty to the evolutionary understanding that makes it for me. We couldn’t be here any other way. Death is the greatest invention of the universe in this perspective–the very invention of invention.

      Entropy sets the whole show in motion and death is entailed by it. Life creates illusions of negentropy, and we achieve a kind of immortality through reproduction (at least until extinction perhaps, which is likewise good and necessary for our existence).

      If we could cease physical death, we’d have to also cease birth. It wouldn’t be needed any more and would only serve to make scarce resources infinitely scarcer.

      Pain is likewise invaluable for preventing premature death. The fear that warns of pain is equally invaluable.

      So fear, pain, death, extinction and entropy are all good. We couldn’t exist without them.

      Parts of this are borrowed from Michael Dowd’s writing.

      • carlos sutter

        Excellent points. Thanks.

  • James F. McGrath

    Historically in the Jewish tradition belief in an afterlife was an expression of belief in divine justice in response to the problem of evil. If God is just, then it cannot be the case (this view said and says) that it is possible to simply get away with evil and slaughtering the righteous.

    I actually talk about this in my book (just released as an e-book) The Burial of Jesus, in which I suggest that the contemporary Christian focus on the afterlife actually often plays the opposite role to what it was meant to, and so ought to be rethought. In the present day, however much a caricature, your image does indeed ring true to a significant extent.

  • Nelly

    I really wanted reincarnation to be real…………….I clung to the hope for a very long time. It’s not because I’m narcissistic, it was because I was hoping for a do over and perhaps be a better human the next time around

    ah well, giving up that hope helped me start being a better human in the here and now

  • Anonymous

    Disagree. The existence in an afterlife would already remove you from the world as you or anyone knows it, unless your definition of an afterlife involves haunting the living. I optimistically believe in an afterlife in another world altogether, in which there will be better odds to enjoy a life without the interference of politicians and religious zealots. :p

  • Noelle

    Add me to the disagree pile.

  • Caleb

    Eh, not so much. It seems to me that it’s more of a combination of the psychological difficulty in conceiving of a universe without one’s own perception (what other point of view can one really know?), as well as the existential discomfort with trying to imagine cessation of being. Empty oblivion is an intimidating thing to stare into.

    • Igor

      But why, Caleb? I refer again to Mark Twain, and also reference those who have been “put under” by anesthesia. It is the cessation of being. Yes, you come back after anesthesia, but the experience is the same. And after death, since you no longer exist, how can you care? I can’t find anything to fear.
      Of course, the religious tales of the afterlife cetainly inspire fear (and hope). But they are unprovable and fanciful fables, and since they are manmade and varied, I cannot put much stock in them.
      The cessation of being makes so much more sense.

  • Arni Zachariassen

    Disagree. I think most people who believe in an afterlife don’t believe in it because they’re afraid to die, but because they’re afraid of their friends dying.

    • Nox

      I think there is probably something to that. Actual statistics may be hard to come by, but there is a obvious seductiveness to the idea that one’s loved ones are not really decaying in the ground but have evacuated their bodies to go party with Jesus. It adds elements of justice and reward often missing in our interactions with the real world.

    • carlos sutter

      We are social creatures, and creatures of habit, we fear being alone, and/or separated from those we grew accustomed to love and received love from. Death is the final crossover of that separation which causes anxiety naturally. It seems natural therefore to have created in our minds a continuance of this togetherness, for our comfort and the comfort of those dying, that would ease this inevitable hurtful separation, a place where we would reunite again, together…forever… Awww, that’s nice. :-) Reality indeed can be harsh but also awesome if you care to understand it and enjoy it as a one chance opportunity to live it to the fullest, for the betterment of the planet as a whole, for those coming behind you. So, get busy living, or fixing, or making up your life NOW. Love here now, cause there is no other place to do this after you die. John Wayne comes to mind when he said something like this (presumably, but even if he didn’t actually say it, it’s still a great quote): Life is hard. If you’re stupid, it’s harder. Justice is nice, but the pursuit of it can be a double edge sword. It would make sense that people suffering from injustices would create also an afterlife where Justice would be finally served since it wasn’t accomplished here on Earth. But again, it’s just wishful thinking.

      • carlos sutter

        Arnie, and Nox, re-reading my comment I thought it may be construed as being directed to any of you; it isn’t. I agree with both of you; I was expanding on both of your comments.

  • Nathan

    There is only life. That is my final answer.

  • Robert Wallace

    I think Narcissism is being mistaken for solipsism ,Other than that, I’m OK with it.

  • Kaa

    I disagree. I believe the entire idea of an afterlife came because people’s lives were miserable for one reason or another–slavery, servitude, illness, whatever–and someone thought of a beautiful fairy tale that all their suffering in THIS world was just a prelude to an eternity of bliss in what came after.

    There’s a great deal of power in being able to tell people what they supposedly have to do to win the grand prize. Convenient how it always seems to correspond with “make the church richer” and “keep yourselves in poverty.”

  • ExpatPaul

    and someone thought of a beautiful fairy tale that all their suffering in THIS world was just a prelude to an eternity of bliss in what came after.

    I think there is a lot of truth in this and, for me, this is one of the major problems with religion. People become so concerned about how to get the best of the next life, they stop trying to improve things in the the life we’re actually living.

    • Custador

      I actually tried to see if I could add a “like” button to comments, just so I could click it on that comment.

    • Noelle

      Now that I agree with.

    • Kodie

      Sometimes they can’t. Life is hard.

    • Kodie

      I had posted a comment here that appeared for a while and then magically disappeared. What is wrong with this site?

    • carlos sutter

      Exactly!!! And for people that think they are not doing any harm by just believing in things which there is no evidence for whatsoever, this is exactly one major harm to themselves and those around them.

      I think Religion is the answer for people who don’t WANT to “handle the truth” (because ALL adults CAN handle the truth, and in fact, it’s best when we do so).

    • Jabster

      Well it sounds good but I’m just not sure it’s particularly true. Now I’ve certainly met people who don’t do things because they believe god will intervene if that’s what he wants but I can’t say I’ve ever met someone who doesn’t want to improve this life because of an afterlife.

      I’ve sure there are some around but it seems somewhat unfair to tarnish religion with this especially when there’s ample scope to tarnish it in other areas.

  • Paul Southworth

    I think narcissism is a very strong word. I can imagine an inability to imagine a world without you as being a reason to cling to belief in an afterlife, but I think that doesn’t necessarily imply narcissism. It implies more an inability to separate oneself from one’s own brain. You’ve spent your entire life seeing the world through your own thoughts and senses – it makes it difficult to see it another way. This doesn’t mean you love yourself or even consider yourself important.