About the beliefs of those who believe in no after life


Do people who believe in only a finite existence and that there is no type of 'after life' ; do they think this is an absolute certainty ? If one is extremely certain about this being a 'finite existence' yet there are no convincing arguments for this then it can not be an absolute certainty. ( Note: 'believing' in something implies some doubt is possible in that 'something' being true and yet the person ,however is maintaining the belief.) In other words do those who think life is 'finite' believe this is a certainty even though there are no clear arguments that can demonstrate this??


This question appears to be asking about believing in the absolute certainty of something; and in this case specifically about those who believe in a finite existence; and he's asking whether absolute certainty is somehow question-begging; or in his own words 'inconsistent' when using the word 'belief' at the same time.

After all many academics question the assumed certainty of belief that theists use; so why not question the certainty for those who believe in a finite life?


Posted 2015-08-16T01:19:11.940

Reputation: 319

Question was closed 2015-12-23T18:45:03.180

How is this an inconsistency? – Cicero – 2015-08-16T01:27:56.503

Also, there are a great diversity of philosophical opinions within the atheist community. Atheism, being defined by the American Atheists as "a lack of belief in gods," is compatible with a belief of the immortality of the soul or of reincarnation or of any other philosophical position relating to your question. – Cicero – 2015-08-16T01:33:34.480

1Your question is vague; what do you mean by an 'existence' of their 'mind' and personality and their 'self' after the physical death of their bodies. I presume that you mean by 'mind' and personality and 'self' some conception of the soul, though this is not necessarily the case. – Cicero – 2015-08-16T01:41:29.543

5I'm a little bit lost as to how this is a good fit for our site. I'm also lost as to where the inconsistency would be... I take it most (if not all) atheists believe when you're dead, you're completely gone. – virmaior – 2015-08-16T01:48:22.267

1@virmaior while I agree with the spirit of your statement, I think you and OP could also be conflating atheism with naturalism, materialism, empiricism, skepticism, or some combination of these philosophies. The definition of Atheism (affirmed by the tag description) as a "lack of belief of deities" allows for all sorts of spiritual beliefs. – Cicero – 2015-08-16T01:57:46.163

@Cicero ahh your second comment make senses. it seems like it would be helpful if the OP clarified the basis of this question. – virmaior – 2015-08-16T02:05:57.087

@virmaior Exactly what I was thinking. – Cicero – 2015-08-16T02:08:06.053

For example: The definition of feminism doesn't exclude the belief in souls. So just like how feminists can believe in the existences of souls, so can atheists. I agree with Cicero. The definition of atheism doesn't directly mention souls. – James – 2015-08-16T09:00:21.210

1There's absolutely no requirement that atheists be relativists ... Moreover, there's also multiple types of relativists who are non-relativists are about certain domains and relativists about others (e.g., non-relativists about physics but relativists about morality). – virmaior – 2015-08-16T13:31:27.677

It's not at all clear what you're asking in this question... – virmaior – 2015-08-16T14:16:33.777

1If you are not talking about atheists, why are they in the title of the question? It is difficult to impossible to communicate with someone who says one thing, very explicitly, then when challanged or answered says, "Oh, you aren't 'listening'! Don't you understand I do not literally mean what I am saying? I mean something else, now just listen..." It's ridiculous. Do not ask people to read between your lines. Own what you say, and mean it. – selfConceivedAsEvil – 2015-08-16T14:40:11.860

1If I follow the OPs question he is asking about the absolute certainty of belief; and in this case specifically of athiests; and he's asking whether absolute certainty is somehow paradoxical or illegitimate; or in his own words 'inconsistent'. – Mozibur Ullah – 2015-08-16T15:44:22.890

@virmaior; I didn't imply atheist to be relativist ; I'm saying as relativism seems to be a dominant philosophy in todays society then if one subscribes to this one can not use the term 'absolute certainty'.. – 201044 – 2015-08-16T15:51:31.040

@MoziburUllah do you want to try editing the question and seeing if the OP goes for that. I'm not really following his comments well enough to see the thread you're seeing and how it works out to a question we could answer here. The 1 answer that exists doesn't seem to be answering that question. (I won't be awake to reopen it until several hours from now ... ) – virmaior – 2015-08-16T16:02:37.370

1@virmaior: ok, I don't want to disturb his text; so I'll just add a note to it expanding what I said above. – Mozibur Ullah – 2015-08-16T16:04:31.770

1Sure you can question the beliefs of atheists, or maybe it would be better to politely inquire about their beliefs, but why would anyone believe anything with absolute certainty? And why would you claim that atheists believe things that have nothing to do with atheism, and then accuse them of being inconsistent? – gnasher729 – 2015-08-16T16:29:26.210

No I'M saying, not accusing , that belief in something as an absolute certainty is in fact inconsistent. – 201044 – 2015-08-16T16:52:18.397

1Then the question is still really about the nature of "absolute certainty", and could be applied to any sort of philosophy. I have never seen atheism touted as something whereby truth claims are in a special category ("absolute certainty") distinct from the truth claims made in any and all other philosophy. So why is this question still about athiesm if that is completely tangential to the real issue? – selfConceivedAsEvil – 2015-08-16T18:13:41.803

2In their defense, 201044, your title is "about the beliefs of atheists; is there an inconsistency" You have to admit that, when half of the title is about athiesm, it is only natural to assume you just might be talking about atheists. I would recommend editing the question's title. The purpose of the title is to communicate the essence of the question. Given that those who read the title are getting the wrong essence, it's probably worth rewording. – Cort Ammon – 2015-08-17T02:08:02.927

I took out the word atheist from the question as user Dave suggested. – 201044 – 2015-08-18T14:58:09.947

Which flavor(s) of certainty are you indicating with "absolutely certain" in the second question.? There's a difference between "certainty as free from doubt or reservation" and "certainty as taking the belief as indisputable" (i.e. not subject to revision). c.f. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/certainty/#KinCer

– Dave – 2015-08-19T15:44:01.323

I think absolute certainty as something that is indisputable is inherently problematic with regard to belief. – 201044 – 2015-08-29T05:16:09.013

I don't think any type of theist or deist can talk about any type of absolute certainty or even act like they are absolutely certain.I think any type of religious belief is knowing even if one might have a little doubt one can override any personal doubt with knowledge of how one's belief system is affecting one's life and any other evidence one has one personally considers reasonable. But any talk of absolute certainty shouldn't apply to religion either. – 201044 – 2015-08-29T05:28:32.137

I guess what's confusing is the conflation of "people who do not believe in an afterlife" with "relativists". I'm not seeing the connection. You could have absolutists who have as one of their absolute premises that there is no afterlife; you could have relativists who don't have a "absolute certainty" that there is no afterlife but given the evidence available to them estimate the probability of that to be so low as to not warrant any thought or attention, similar to the amount of thought they give to the existence of unicorns or teapots circling Saturn. Neither results in a contradiction. – Dan Bron – 2015-08-29T15:46:23.307

But many people consider questions about whether there is an after life as important and not some fanciful delusion. – 201044 – 2015-09-01T23:31:33.313

There is supposedly no evidence of an after-life ,according to various writers , but there is no convincing proof that an after-life is unreal either. At least no proof accessible to 'average' people. I don't even think someone has proven no after-life using some type of advanced logic or science. Yet the question of whether there is an after-life or not is very important to many people. I don't think they'll just take some academics 'word' for this , that their beliefs are fanciful delusions.. – 201044 – 2015-10-25T03:47:36.557

I ask again ( I think I asked this before) ; how can I ask this question so it is acceptable and doesn't offend anybody's sensibilities?? – 201044 – 2015-12-08T07:32:09.050

1I'm closing this -- I tried to reformulate the headline as a question and kind of got stuck trying to rewrite your first sentence. It seems to basically resolve to "What are the major arguments in favor of materialism?" --But at this point it might be best just to ask that as a new question – Joseph Weissman – 2015-12-23T18:46:00.977

Actually a similar question to what I'm asking is is 'What are the major arguments in favor of there being no type of 'after life'. – 201044 – 2016-01-01T17:56:57.393



Atheism is a belief that there are no deities (from the Greek ἄθεος, or "without gods"). It has nothing to do with their "existence," "minds," "personalities," or "selves."

There are also degrees of atheism. There is the hardest of atheism, which believes there are no gods, and there are softer atheisms, which are not certain there is a god. (The latter used to be known as agnosticism, but has been rebranded as a soft variant of atheism recently. Linguistics does things like that)

To the best of my understanding, the belief that atheists disbelieve in other things, such as "existence" is a side effect of theists trying to make sense of an atheists's point of view, and something getting lost in translation. Trying to manage such a wording is an intellectual challenge, as is trying to handle any wording between two opposing points of view.

Cort Ammon

Posted 2015-08-16T01:19:11.940

Reputation: 16 681

1up arrow. there is a difference, at least semantically, between atheism and materialism. i think a hard-core materialist would say there is nothing left of your "mind" or "self" well after you die and your brain is totally non-functioning. it's not the same question as whether there is a reality of God or not. (speaking as a theist, the questions are not totally independent, and Cort is right that theists coupling "existence" of us with existence of God are trying to make sense of an atheist's POV which we might not understand sufficiently.) – robert bristow-johnson – 2015-08-17T01:59:43.740


There are, of course, many different kinds of atheists.

The question you raise about existence, self, mind, and so on can be more generally asked as "Do atheists believe in the actual existence of abstract objects?" The answer to this is that it is not necessarily a theist vs. atheist issue but what are one's beliefs about metaphysics.

Your next question I take to mean "If atheists are relativists, isn't it contradictory to say that an atheist is absolutely certain about something?" There are two problems with this that I see. First, there are objectivist atheists (Ayn Rand comes to mind). Second, the notion of "relativism" normally is only concerned with non-material things like morality. Most atheists that I've read have no problem being absolutely certain about, for example, the physical properties of an object.

James Kingsbery

Posted 2015-08-16T01:19:11.940

Reputation: 5 868


The change makes this a much more answerable question.

I don't think there is any direct inconsistency here, but the stated motives given usually bring one in. The holders of such opinions, if they reference something like Occam's razor or basic parsimony, which appeals to an aesthetic or other internal faith would not be on shaky ground.

But they almost always bring in science, and at that point they are pretending. Science works largely from measurable aspects of experience and predictive theories that either admit falsifiability, or fit into compelling structures that explain other testable results.

We can have none of these necessary components in any theory about what comes after death.

Science may be very important in the absence of another sort of religion, but science itself cannot establish the falsehood or even estimate the likelihood of utterly untestable statements. One might feel like one decides to reject the untestable as an aspect of being scientific, but one only needs to exclude such things from one's science, and not from one's life. (I do not choose my lovers, or my dogs, based on objective tests. If you do, I would claim you are somewhat lacking in humanity.)

In deciding that scientific methods simply are the most important tools we have and that they should apply even to questions where they lack power according to their own standards, one is adopting this specific scientific perspective as a religion, and is making the decision against the afterlife on a basis only as strong as those who accept its existence.


Posted 2015-08-16T01:19:11.940


One thing that may be testable is how any self-sustaining dynamic system of 'energetic' self-changing 'behavioral programs that 'comprise the 'mind' can be 'contained' by the purely physical structures of cells and tissue in the brain? – 201044 – 2015-09-14T05:24:27.933

How would that have any bearing on any theory of the afterlife ever offered or considered by anyone? – None – 2015-09-14T21:40:08.040

You mentioned,' we can have none of these necessary components in any theory about what comes after death..'. so no one has any 'viable' theory about the afterlife. Any attempted theory would have to involve new ideas or new combinations of ideas. So of course what I mentioned doesn't have any bearing on any theory of the afterlife ever offered that might involve 'real' scientific principles because there are no such reputable theories considered by anyone.. – 201044 – 2015-09-20T15:34:20.720

@201044 But you are talking about stuff that goes on during life, and claiming it has some bearing upon theories of the afterlife. So, while this is definitely something testable, it is so irrelevant as to be offensively dismissive of the question. If you just presume physicalism, that is not an argument, it is a presumtion. – None – 2015-09-21T14:18:02.257

You asked on Sept. 14 at 21:40 , 'how would that have any bearing on any theory of the afterlife ..offered ..by anyone?' My comment on Sept. 20 at 15:34 was just an attempt to answer that question. Or was it a rhetorical statement? If a response is offensively irrelevant why respond to it. ( I disagree entirely with 'physicalism'.) – 201044 – 2015-09-25T14:01:47.330

Has any reputable 'theorist' or philosopher come up with a 'non-religious' and partly scientific set of ideas or explanations of why or why not we may keep existing in 'some' form that we would recognize now as 'consciousness' even if 'disembodied' somehow? – 201044 – 2015-09-29T21:33:48.503

Is there any convincing argument against any type of 'after-life' that is understandable to non-philosophers? – 201044 – 2015-10-22T04:00:50.937

If there are no convincing arguments that there is no after-life (that is accessible to 'non-philosophers') then why should average unphilosophically trained people believe various academics who claim belief in an after-life is illogical or irrational or absurd? – 201044 – 2015-10-25T03:37:47.000


I do not speak for all persons who believe in the finitude of life and the difference intensity of their beliefs.

From an epistemic point of view this belief is a hypothesis, which has not been refuted until now. Several arguments exist which support this hypothesis.

Of course the opposite belief, believing in an afterlife, is a hypothesis too. Also that hypothesis has not been refuted. And theists support the hypothesis by a different set of arguments.

Hence it is up to each individual to assess the strenght of both sets of arguments and to make his personal decision.

Jo Wehler

Posted 2015-08-16T01:19:11.940

Reputation: 17 204


I think you have this upside down. No evidence is needed that there is no "afterlife". The possibility that there could be anything after death is an outrageous statement that would need either very, very strong evidence, or a few million supporters, preferably heavily armed (the second is how this myth survived for so long).

If I take your argument correctly, then you think yourself that it is possible that the Flying Spaghetti Monster exists, since nobody has every seen any evidence against it.


Posted 2015-08-16T01:19:11.940

Reputation: 3 297

Why is the possibility there could be any type of existence after the physical death of the body and brain an absolute impossibility? Is the mind -brain entirely dependent on it's physical structures? There are what you might call 'programs' in the brain of patterns of neuron signalling behaviour that have invariant qualities. Like the analogy of the brain as hardware and the 'mind' like software. If the 'mind' was a self-organizing 'cooperative' of 'mental programs like an operating system of 'software' managing the hardware in the brain and the body then could this 'mind' somehow survive? – 201044 – 2015-12-20T19:54:26.400

The possibility of anything after death is an outrageous statement only if it is obvious no such thing could occur. The evidence of this being obvious would have to be plain for everybody to see. – 201044 – 2015-12-20T19:57:13.987

If when someone dies and their brain 'dies' their 'mind' and personality stop ; if this is true and is a natural process there must be facts and information that describes the processes involved with the brain and mind and personality stopping absolutely forever . There must be evidence for this process of personality extinction. I also think a Flying Lasagna monster sounds funnier.. – 201044 – 2015-12-20T23:15:06.060

There is no evidence for one all-in-one cure for most cancers yet many people are searching for 'it' even though there is no evidence for or against it. I assume the silly term 'flying spaghetti monster' is a reference to Russel's teapot. – 201044 – 2016-01-01T18:14:07.763


Just to play sophist. First, by the standards of science, there can be no "absolute certainty" about any claim, since this would require exhausting all the possibilities, presumably infinite in number.

But by the standards of experience, probabilistic evidence, and induction, a peculiar problem arises for the nonbeliever, the champion of such standards.

The hypothesis of an afterlife per se is not the same as the claim of a resurrection. So it is hard to know how we might have any confirming evidence one way or the other. Certainly, we cannot have revenants appear to tell us there is no afterlife. So the nonbeliever's hypothesis is not, on its own terms, even falsifiable. At the same time, the nonbeliever dismisses out of hand the popular accounts of an afterlife or resurrection. So the believer is given no way to demonstrate her case. This seems a rather peremptory, unilateral approach to evidence.

As to experience itself. We assume that finitude means the end of consciousness. Yet obviously our experience offers no such post-post-posteriori evidence. Even by introspection, we cannot think back to "before" we were conscious, nor experience or fully imagine "unconsciousness." Worse, in those cases where we say we do experience "unconsciousness" in sleep, for example, we do invariably resurrect ourselves. Our actual experience of "unconsciousness" seems to confirm that it, not consciousness, is finite.

So while the whole matter appears an antinomic deadlock, one could argue that the nonbeliever falls, by her very own standards, into an awkward circularity, in which it is either not possible to claim evidence of "unconsciousness"... or death must be defined as something other than absence of consciousness, perhaps absence of communication. There is no afterlife...as long as the phone doesn't ring, and if it rings, don't answer.

Aside from playing sophist, I do believe it is something like this that the questioner is getting at.

Nelson Alexander

Posted 2015-08-16T01:19:11.940

Reputation: 11 748

According to some we as behavioural automatons do not exist now. We exist as a sequence of physical phenomena occurring in some deterministic order but we are not existing processes in the sense some of our essential processes are 'working together' to reconfigure ourselves 'away' from increased entropy states. In other words there are no essential processes 'within' oneself that work together to keep all the 'existence' properties organized and not dissolving into greater disorder. So we do not exist now nor do we exist after death so in some ways we don't change regardless of death. – 201044 – 2016-01-04T03:49:29.930