An Afterlife for Atheists

"That you are here—that life exists, and identity; That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse"[1]

One in 7 Billion

What do you do?

It seems like a pretty straightforward question doesn't it? Of course our first response is almost always to tell someone who asks this question what our job is. After all, this is how we make money and keep ourselves fed and clothed and in a home. But aren't we more than that? Don't we do more than just a nine to five job?

The real question we should ask ourselves is what do we do for the world.

You see, every person lives. We're all born and exist. But out of a current 7 billion people on this planet, the idea that any one individual could make any sort of impact is almost unbelievable. The thing is though... we do. We as individuals make our own impact on the world around us, at least we can if we choose to.

Heaven and Hell are Real

Heaven and hell are not real physical places, but they are very real human ideas. They are ideas that express a state of being that each of us can experience. We use the expressions, "that was hell" or "this is heaven" to express our emotional states and those of others. When someone tells us they've been through hell, we understand that to mean that they have suffered or are still suffering. When we say we're in heaven or something is heavenly, we are expressing tremendous joy. As such, these ideas hold some real substance for us as human beings.

But we make these ideas true in this life by our own actions. We create heaven and hell for ourselves and for those around us. We impact others by our actions and those actions can cause sorrow or joy, happiness or despair, love and hatred. What is more important to remember is that the effects of our actions reverberate throughout history. History is merely the scar that we've left upon the earth.

That scar can be something remembered fondly like the long scar down my chest from open heart surgery. Yes, I remember the pain of it and I remember the fear going into it, but when I see that scar what I am reminded of most is that I'm alive. More importantly, I'm alive because of another group of human beings. I owe them my life and each time I see that scar I remember the surgeons and nurses who gave all they could to keep one little boy alive. Even if some of those people are now deceased, they live on in my memories and likely in the memories of many others who also owe their lives to them. In a world of 7 billion people they managed to have an impact.

Some scars though, only remind us of pain. The scars left by men like Hitler and Stalin only serve to remind us of just how hard this life can be. Those men had an impact too. They also live on in our memories in what we call infamy. They are the examples we look to and say that we must not act that way. Their very names are like curses on our tongues.

What Will You Be Remembered For?

The atheist afterlife is not a place. It isn't somewhere we go when we die. It is rather what we leave behind. It is the scar we carve into humanity by our very presence here on earth. It is the legacy we build by our actions while we are here. It is how we are remembered and what we are remembered for.

Now some may say, "Why should I care? I'll be gone and I won't know either way." Of course, that is true. You will be gone and what you've done here won't win you a reward or punishment after you're dead. But there is a reason to care. You see, I have always been told that you can't take anything with you when you die, but this isn't actually true. The truth is that you can take two things with you when you die and they're two things no one can take from you. They are your dignity and your integrity and they are built entirely on your actions in this life. They can't be bought or sold, they must be earned.

In the end we all wish we could live a bit longer. No matter how many years we get, it never really seems to be enough. We're all going to die though, whether we want to or not. Once that happens the only part of us that will remain is the scar we've left behind. If this is all we have, should we not then strive to leave a scar that others will look on fondly? Should we not leave a legacy that speaks of our greatest moments and our work to better humanity?

So of course the question remains.... What do you do? Not for money, but for humanity.



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