Wishful Dreaming About Life After Death
I remember losing an important business receipt years ago. I spent an entire night tossing and turning about where I would find the receipt. Several times throughout the night I actually dreamed I found it, only to wake up and realize it was just a wishful dream — in reality I was no closer to finding the receipt than I was before the dream. Thankfully I did find the receipt the next day in my office wastebasket and was thrilled that I could have a good night sleep again.
Sometimes it seems people exercise a similar kind of wishful dreaming about our personal salvation. In particular, I want to respond to a comment made by John Botscharow after Brian’s post on who will go to heaven. John wrote, “There is a… solution to this conundrum: each religion has its own heaven and its own hell. You go to the heaven or hell, as appropriate, for your particular religion, and that includes atheists.”
How is this line of reasoning any different than my wishful dream? We do not have the liberty to decide what happens after we die, but we do have a responsibility to ourselves to make sure that what we believe lines up with the evidence we have been given. As far as I am aware, the evidence only points in a few possible directions:
1. Materialism – there is no god, and there is nothing beyond this life.
2. Revelation – God has revealed Himself through one of the world religions, and He will one day judge the world according to that revelation.
3. Reincarnation – We will come back as another human, or perhaps as an animal.
The evidence to commend option 3 seems to be that some eastern thinkers arrived at this position after having an enlightenment experience. Option 1 has many intelligent defenders who would point to scientific data (or perhaps the lack of credible data for anything else). On the whole, I find option 2 most compelling because there are good reasons for believing that God has given us Revelation (or I would not be a Christian). But I can at least understand all three positions; I can dialog with them since we are on the common ground that we must base our views on some kind of the evidence.
John’s ‘solution’, by contrast, appears to be nothing more than pop-speculation. My question to John is, what evidence can you possibly provide for this strange belief? No major world religion teaches anything like this; no one claims the scientific data points in this direction. So far as I can tell, the only thing you have to support your position is the fact that you like it, which is nothing more than wishful dreaming.