It’s a passionate conversation and everyone thinks they know how it ends. The atheist says this is all there is and when you die, you’re dead. Christians say that after you die you will go to Heaven or Hell. Mormons believe that after death, if you’ve been good, you get your own planet. Muslims believe that after death, the men, at least, get 70 virgins. Hindus and Buddhists believe that after death you reincarnate and come back as a higher form of life… Every spiritual practice in the world has some sort of tenet around what happens after you die.
Fundamentalists in every group are so sure that their view is right that they’re willing to destroy their lives and the lives around them to prove their point. In our Christian culture, for example, there aren’t many who haven’t been threatened with some sort of afterlife catastrophe, such as hellfire and damnation and great pain and suffering.
For many of us, though, we’re not thinking in terms of life after death. We’re still trying to figure out life after birth; if we could just get that handled, that life after death thing would take care of itself.
“Reality,” however, doesn’t support any of us. No matter what happens after we die, all we know is now. Whether or not we’ve been here before, all we know is now. Whether or not there’s a Heaven or Hell, all we know is now. The Universe is very stubborn when it comes to life and death. Whatever lies beyond is not allowed here. It’s all about now.
From an evolutionary standpoint, though, this is important. Evolution is about growing and evolving. Evolution takes what is, tweaks it, makes it better, and then passes that on to the next generation. This generation is the foundation for the next generation, which will be the foundation for the generation after that. We are all participating in the growth and evolution of our planet.
Those who believe in some sort of after-death utopia fail to live this life. They put their lives on hold, waiting, hoping for something better. When something goes wrong, they “suffer through it,” knowing that they’re waiting for their reward in the sky.
That is not how evolution works. The reason the Universe only gives us now is because the Universe exists only in this moment. It is expanding, but only into the next moment.
That we only have now may be our contribution to evolution. It’s our evolutionary responsibility to consciously make the world around us better. It’s our evolutionary responsibility to consciously live life, improve it, and pass on a better place to the next generation.
God, a loving God, would expect nothing less. Love would never punish anyone for wanting to make life better for those with whom it interacts. In fact, that’s what love would do. Love would look for all the ways to make life better. Love is compassion and exists to support life.
The evolutionary question is this: “Is the world around us better because we’re here?” If the Universe itself agrees, then we’ve fulfilled our purpose. If the Universe around us says “No,” then we still have time to participate. All we have is now.
Speculation on life and death is sometimes frightening, sometimes fanciful, and sometimes fun, but it’s always speculation. Our evolutionary purpose isn’t to worry about life after death, it’s to figure out life after birth.