What Do You Believe In?

The belief in life after death varies among individuals, and several factors influence this perspective, such as religion and one's way of life. Gordon Mathews suggests that many people today no longer feel the necessity of an afterlife due to the significant improvements in the quality of life brought about by technology. As a result, these advancements provide people with a sense of fulfillment in the present.

Is there life after death?

Nick: I remember, I think it's like a q&a TV program here in Australia discussing what’s God. And there were Christians and atheists.

And then there was this guy with tattoos all over his neck and face, and he offered probably one of the best answers, like, ‘I just understand God as the universe — its energy and we're all connected and perhaps after we die, we might become part of this growing universe.’ And he said it in such a way that wasn't aggressive or was open to possibility, interpretation, while everyone else was quite assertive in their beliefs.

So yeah, it's interesting how some people, I guess, break these molds and contemplate and have this individual idea of what it could be. And I started to begin to think, maybe it is what you just believe at the time of death, which I know you touched on.

If you believe you'll go to heaven, maybe you will go to heaven. If you believe, ‘Oh, I've done some horrible things, I guess I'm gonna go to hell.’ You might end up there. Or if you think you've just become part of the universe that happens, or if you think that's it lights out, there's nothing after this, that may happen.

Gordon: Absolutely, Nick. And that is an interesting new variation of belief that, hey, maybe you go wherever you think you're gonna go. Now, Japanese have long felt this probably more than Americans or Chinese, because in China, it's been atheism that is true for everyone.

In the US has been the Christian God that may or may not be true. In Japan, ancestor, veneration has always been more individual. And so you go with your own father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, husband, wife, child, you go with them. And so what always has been individuated in that sense.

But nonetheless, there's a larger issue here that I touch upon in the closing pages of the book that I think is really interesting. Looking at the evolution of human beings as a whole, we've gone from collective belief and religion. And I think it's fair to say that 500 years ago, almost everybody believed in a life after death on the basis of the religion they were in to a world where most people now in the developed world don't particularly believe.

Now, this gets confusing, because obviously, America does have a lot of people who believe in the Christian God, but even so, the number of believers has been shrinking very drastically, as of late. Increasingly, people don't think there is anything. And why is that? Well, we've moved from belief to non-belief, largely because human life is pretty good.

One American woman said something really wise to me. She said, ‘Look, I'm now in my 70s. And I don't feel a need for life after death, because my life has been pretty good.’

And she's right, she suffered some emotional pain. But I mean, after all, compared to 500 years ago, you get a toothache now, you go to the dentist; you have surgery, and you're properly anesthetized; physically, life is awfully comfortable.

Now, the Buddhists are right, suffering remains in an emotional sense. But physically, it's comfortable. And her point of view is I've had a good life, so when I'm dying, I'm not going to say please give me more, I'm going to say thank you. That's a pretty wise way to look at it.