An Atheist’s Afterlife is to Help People in This World

What’s important about the afterlife is what happens to others in this one once you pass away.

It’s that simple. There aren’t fiery dungeons, pearly gates or dozens of virgins. There’s only the world which continues on without us. Religion is right (for the wrong reasons) that we should make it the best afterlife we can but it’s so wrong about how. We’re able to make it a better afterlife by being smart with what we leave others. So yeah, donate your organs to those who need them, donate your body to science and donate in your will to the best charities. Atheists have these first two options covered but supporting the best charities is something that needs more attention and is what this post is about.

Which charities are best? Not churches, that’s for sure. There are many charities that claim to do good, but fail to do so efficiently. So how can we know which will do the most good? The answer is GiveWell’s recommended charities because they serve the global poor, focus on evidence based interventions and have their every nook and cranny explored through intense annual reviews. To identify the very best, GiveWell goes way past the ratio of administration to program costs—that just shows which charities are really bad. They actually look at how effective a charity’s programs are. Based on randomized control trials they recommend the mass distribution of anti malarial bed nets, direct cash transfers and large scale school based deworming as the interventions for which you’ll get the most bang for your buck.

This use of evidence and research is really rare in the charity world. Which is sad because it means that most charities are like medieval doctors prescribing leeches to treat blood, bile and phlegm rather than using evidence to find what works. You see, the problem isn’t just faith based religion- it’s faith based anything. And giving to charities that don’t have strong evidence for impact is an act of faith. We need more donors who don’t give on faith, more who make their choice based on evidence and less who throw money at the latest gimmick, emotional appeals or flavour of the day. That’s why we need more smart skeptics.

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But returning to the afterlife. The greatest power religion has comes from its powerful claims about what happens when you die. Whether it’s reincarnation as a worm or combustion in hell these powerful claims prey on our fears of the worst punishment imaginable and hopes for the greatest reward conceivable. They cause many to be religious.

To fight against this, the ultimate carrot/stick combination, we have to take back control of what happens after our death. By clearly leaving gifts in this life we signal what matters about the afterlife is what happens to people in this one when your number is up. Leaving a gift in your will to a top charity promotes the idea that opinions are to be based on evidence, that morals come from reasons not gods and that the afterlife is the legacy your life leaves. Clear messages like this one help promote what atheism is about and help loads of people. So if you know someone who might be interested you should point them this way.

To make it as easy as possible for you, we at Charity Science have made a simple form that takes as little as 5 minutes to complete. After that you come out with a ready made will. And don’t worry if you’re not sure what to put in it; it’s easy to change and you can always come back to it later. So give it a shot here. The default option should be to set it up just in case something terrible does happen, that way you’re always ready to make it a better afterlife.

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