FROM ROBERT LAWRENCE KUHN, HOST AND CREATOR OF CLOSER TO TRUTH: When my second son was five years old, we held a garage sale. In a halting, squeaky voice, Adam begged me not to sell his beloved tricycle.
“But you’ve grown too big for it,” I said, appealing to logic.
“But I’ll grow up, get old, and die,” he responded cheerily, “and when I’m little again, I’ll have my bike.”
My worldly wisdom collapsed. How did he know about death? We hadn’t discussed death in his presence; no relative had died. Perhaps television, friends? Somehow, death had entered his world. But why was he so sure he’d be back? That was more puzzling. I could detect no antecedent. Perhaps the permanent cessation of life seemed so inconceivable, so discordant with childhood sentience, that coming back just seemed self-evident.
I’d like to live forever ... wouldn’t everyone? I really mean it. Could we survive bodily death? Could our personal awareness transcend physical decay?
It seems absurd. It seems obvious.
Whether there is, or is not, life after death is the most singularly personal question we can ask, and the only two possible answers are in radical conflict. Everything we know about third-person science argues that life after death is impossible, absurd. Should we not follow the evidence of our senses? Yet, everything we feel about first-person consciousness argues that life after death is self-evident, obvious. Should a being who perceives eternity and desires it deeply be denied it?
No mere intellectual inquiry, this. The answer affects us. All of us. Forever. (Although what we conclude, either way, has no relationship to what is real.)
I fear "no life after death," but there is one thing I fear even more: fooling myself into believing that there is life after death when there is not. I struggle to differentiate what I know from what I believe and both from what I hope. Hope can fog belief, and both can distort knowledge.
I step back. How can the question of life after death be assessed?
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SHOOT: Short answer is 'No'. That's why we have sex, so that life can continue after we're dead. So there is life after death, just not for those who are dead.