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The debate about whether or not there could be an afterlife or some kind of reincarnation has been present for centuries, unfortunately there will probably only ever be circumstantial evidence to support either side of the argument; however people will always have their theories.
Personally I do not believe in life after death, I believe that we only get one chance, and one life, I believe that we should make the most of what we have been blessed with. And the mere proposition of ghosts and spirits roaming the earth undiscovered makes me laugh. Man has discovered how to clone animals, man has set foot on the moon, man has even gained the knowledge of how to prolong human life, and yet after all these years the ghost busters have still not claimed the reward for concrete evidence of paranormal activity. It is not that I dislike those who go in search of an afterlife; it is just that I think they are wasting their time.
The earliest recorded evidence of ghost hunting was during 1909, but there are also indications that it was pursued during the mid 1800's, and of course even before then many people had claimed to have experienced ghost encounters. The actual origin, or who concocted the conception of ghosts is unknown. It could have been a little fat boy, sitting in his living room in America, trying to think of another great prank which would cause deception and lies, or it could have been a renowned scientist who found actual overwhelming evidence of paranormal activity but died before he had the sense to write it down. No one will even know, and that is what makes the spiritual afterlife such a great mystery.
There is also the idea that stems from religion about life after death, although this is certainly a much more sustainable, and believable argument, it still has its faults, for one, as with all others life after death theories there is a complete lack of evidence. But religion has become such an important part of society that we are brought up to accept that there are god/gods, and not to question it. Atheists and non believers probably have more sense then theists, but they are not blessed with the comfort that knowing your loved ones are up there, smiling down on us and guiding us through life brings.
I cannot speak for people of other religions, but it is a basic principle of the Christian church that we should live our lives in order to be accepted into the kingdom of god. The bible clearly states that it should be harder for a rich man to gain entry to the heavens than a poor man, which symbolizes that god would want us to live a simplistic and plain life, in anticipation for the luxuries to come. However, with no way of determining if these promises are fallacies or truth; is It really worth risking the life in which we own for certain, for something that has not even been confirmed? Although many others would disagree with me, I cannot say I believe it is.
After questioning friends and family asking whether or not they believed in life after death, and if so why? Only 12% claimed to believe in spirits and ghosts, but almost 80% held strong beliefs about the religious afterlife. When asked why the most common answer was: "Because we need to believe that our beloved late friends and family are still around." This, among other similar answers led me to believe that maybe it is more morality than faith, more hope than evidence that brought people to say that they believed in the afterlife. Perhaps it is because we need to clutch on to the memories to keep sane we fool ourselves into a world of deceitful and hurtful lies.
By imagining in out minds that people we love will never leave us then we do not have to let go, we can keep them close to us long after they have passed away. We can easily hold them near to our hearts in times of trying, and we need never believe that we are alone in this world. Comparable to a second god, but with more humanly advice to give these people can become. For others it may be the exact opposite, a way to let go. Knowing that they are somewhere better now could help people cope with loss and grieve, rather than having to face up to the harsh truth that they are simply dead, gone, done, over with. As long as these beliefs do not become extremes then they are probably what keep this world from becoming bitter with hatred and despair.
There is a thin line between an innocent belief, and a murderous, callus one. So many people have died in this world as a direct result of terrorism. These are religious extremists, people who will do whatever it takes to destroy the western world, people who will take young minds and form robotized killers. They are willing to give up everything for their faith, and because they think that at the end, when their lives are finished there will be a leader waiting for them, congratulating them on their work to mould the world into a place of worship and fear, they are able to take pride in it. People though out the world watched, mesmerized as the twin towers collapsed on that sad day. The people who did this were sick and twisted, because they lost sight of the beauty of THIS world, they refused to admit that even though an afterlife may exist, there was still plenty of value in the one they were so determined to destroy. They lost sight of life, and that is something I believe we should not do for the cause of any life after death. I may be a Christian, but I am not naïve. There is no doubt that faith, and the afterlife beliefs associated with it cause more problems than they solve. The world would be a much safer place if nobody believed in anything, but than again, maybe it would not be human.
I think the most dramatic loss I have ever suffered was when a very close friend of mine was killed in a hit and run. There were around ten of us there but she had been my best friend for years, and through all the shouting and screaming I was there, kneeling beside her. I looked in her eyes and I watched her slip beyond reach, I watched her take her last breaths. She died in my arms. I think the only comfort I got during the months that followed was that god had been merciful enough to let me tell her how much she meant to me before she died. I started getting flashbacks, and after the initial grieving period was over all I could think about was how cruel life had been to take her from us so soon. I took comfort in the memories. I moved on with my life a long time ago, but even now, when im tired I'll look around and she'll be there. It will just be out of the corner of my eye, I won't even be certain I saw it. Other days I'll notice the aroma that always used to cling to her body. Whether this is her way of showing me that's she's ok up there, or the brains way of helping me to deal with the past I will never know. But I think everybody has these kinds of experiences. And I still stick strong to the belief that there is only one life.
When it comes to it - we will all find out one day whether there is an afterlife or not. There is no way to avoid it. We wont be able to share out experiences, and so five generations down the line there will still be people wandering the same things we are now, but that's what makes the life we were given for certain so interesting, the unknown.
This life is here to be lived, we have to make the most of every second, cherish every memory. So for now, concentrate on birdsong, the wonders of the ocean, the feeling of love, because someday it will be time for all of us to leave this world and the people we love - whatever comes next.