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It makes me nuts to hear this....


Senior Registered
Hi, everybody,

Here is something I encounter over and over again in casual conversations with folks whenever the subject of death and what it is comes up. Many people honestly believe that whatever a person believed in regarding the afterlife, will create what happens to them after they die. One guy told me he believes (there's that word again) that if a person is a Jewish person he goes to Jewish heaven, and if a person is a Hindu he goes to Hindu heaven and if a person is an atheist his soul goes to nothingness.

I posit to these people that it makes no sense that an atheist's life force or soul would vanish after death, and that just because a person believes a thing, that does not mean that it makes it true in our daily lives. What makes all logic fall out the window when it comes to the afterlife? I use the example of a tornado approaching one's home. One can believe with all one's heart that that huge funnel of low air pressure will not approach their house, but that belief in and of itself is not going to change the course of that tornado!! We are dealing in both cases with natural phenomena.

My discussion of life after death being a natural phenomenon seems to have no effect. The persons who believe that belief creates your afterlife will not entertain an alternate viewpoint. What can I say that might open their eyes a little? :(


Former Moderator
Wow, if whatever we believe in comes true, I need to get alot more bold and creative in what I believe. ;)

I could be possible that people who take this stance don't really know what to believe in. They may be uncomfortable discussing the topic, and are afraid of offending anyone else's beliefs. So, they take the high road and say everyone's right. If they are not open to exploring alternative beliefs, I don't know if there is anything you can say that's going to change that. It's probably best not to push the issue.

There is an old say - "only when the student is ready can the teacher appear." Someday, their heart will be open, but only in its own time.


Director Emerita
Staff member
Super Moderator
HI Treehugger,

Long time no see! :)

One of the things I do is ask questions. Continue to ask questions based on their responses. This of course will take some critical thinking on your part. Just stay neutral; keep the questions Zen.

By that I mean..."How so?".... "Based on what?".... "Could you give me a reference?" Even ask ...."What are belief's based on?" Not their belief's - but others. ;) Let them express their belief's and yet let them - end up questioning their own.

You might want to do some research yourself - compare and contrast religions ....find the common thread between them. Then present your findings...as a question. People are afraid of change, hate to be wrong, and hold on to...what they were told as children. The most compassionate thing you could do is help them find....another POV. Not that they have to accept it. Just - open the door a wee bit. : angel

Opportunities....possibilities...and varying POV's help people better embrace alternatives than confrontational or argumentative stances.

Best of luck!


Senior Registered
I've done a lot of reading about the paranormal, including studies on those with near-death experiences (NDE's). There are descriptions of NDE's from people from every culture, all around the world, and they all follow a basic pattern. One of the only things they really differ in, is in cases where the dying person is greeted by an entity of light -- this is ususally where their cultural upbringing gets expressed. If the person is Buddhist, they meet the Buddha or a Buddhist god; if they are Christian, they meet Jesus; if they are agnostic they meet a vastly loving, intelligent being of light, etc. ... but there are many, many cases of agnostics going through the same experience that many Christians and people of other religions describe and coming back knowing there is life after death.


Hi Treehugger,

I understand your point about the hurricane. Recently, I was taking a questionnaire that asked what the difference was in belief and truth. I basically said, truth is what actually is. Belief is merely what you think or percieve to be real, whether or not it is real. And belief does not change truth. I gave some example I can't recall. I agree that believing something is real, doesn't, in general cause it to be real. If I believe you don't exist, it doesn't mean that you don't. You won't dissapear from existance.

Some people believe that thought can affect outcome to some degree. I believe it's possible for desire & will to affect outcomes to a minimal degree through some sort of telepathy, telekenesis, or other psychic ability (depending on the situation a diff. skill might be needed), but I think we are limited in what we can affect. If this is possible at all- & I'm open to the possibility, but not convinced of it- then I don't think everything can be affected. You can't will the past to be diff., only the future, & even then you're limited in what you can change & to what degree it can be changed. They did an experiment on this once & it seemed what people desired affected the outcome of things, pushing them beyond chance results towards whichever outcome the person desired. However, I don't think we could affect all things- I don't think we have the power to stop storms or regrow limbs just by willing it. I am talking about will & desire affecting some things on a very small level, but usually, not enough to get you what you want. So in general, I agree with you. Belief is not truth.

However, I think the afterlife could be different. You say this is illogical, but perhaps you aren't thinking of it in the same way as these other people. I want to be clear that I'm not trying to argue this point with anyone. I don't know what happens when we die, but I think about it alot. I have no desire to change your belief system. I'm simply sharing an alternate belief. It seems to me that you haven't asked your friends how they can believe this is true- or if you did, they apparently didn't give you an answer that made any sense to you- so I thought I would share with you, how I believe this could be a possibility.

I personally do not believe that the afterlife is necessarily so malleable. I think it is possible that there is only one thing that happens to you when you die- or perhaps a couple diff. possibilities- and that's it. I believe it is possible we all die, & cease to exist & that no desire will make it untrue. I believe it's possible that my family is right & there is a hell & a heaven and you go to one or the other, & no amount of wishing will change it. I believe there may be reincarnation, which we might or might not have a choice in, etc. I could go on. Point is, I don't think wishing it to be diff. will necessarily make it so. So I can definitely see how you could be totally right on this one. BUT I do think there is a way in which it could be true.

We live in a physical world now. At night, I dream. I "walk" in a world that is made by something physical (my brain), but it isn't a physical world. Thought & belief are reality in dreams. When people have out of body experiences, some float around on a physical sort of plane, but some claim to go to the "astral" realm, which is like a dream realm, where they can build thoughtforms. They create. Also, whether on the physical or astral, when having an OBE, some claim that your emotions draw to you the type of entity that corresponds to it- negative feelings draw out the astral nasties & positive feelings draw to you, positive entities. They also say you can float around or you can will yourself somewhere else. Teleporting, basically. Our minds make worlds, even if they aren't physical worlds. Some people believe that during OBE's your spirit actually leaves your body, also. If that is true, they are creating things outside themselves. If not, they are still creating within themselves. Someone could argue that when you die, and no longer have flesh (well, some think we get new flesh, but that's another story) that we can create worlds with our minds.

Some people believe the physical world is all an illusion. At least some Buddhists believe this world is an illusion (do they all? I'm unsure). I don't think it is any more far fetched to say, if one could create a fake world this real through belief, that you could create an afterlife through belief. I don't think this world is an illusion at all and cannot swallow that idea in the slightest, but that's just me.

As for athiests not existing, I don't know if their soul would really dissapear, even if we could create what we believed for the most part. But maybe they would shut down conscious thought and feeling as though in a deep, deep sleep or deep, deep coma?

I don't think we can make real beings by thought. To me, a thoughtform is not the same as a real soul. So I don't think anyone could create a god through belief. However, it is my personal belief that God is a spiritual being who can take whatever form God pleases. To me, spirit can present itself however it likes- especially the spirit of God. If God wanted, I think God could look like anything. If you believe in God, why is it so far fetched to believe God could show Itself to the deceased in whatever way they are most comfortable with? As Jody pointed out, during NDE's- if they are real spiritual experiences and not just hallucinations (I don't know what I believe about that)- people tend to see whatever being they believe they will see.

I like the idea of Heaven that was layed out in "Whatever Dreams May Come". You should watch it. It does play somewhat on the theme that what you believe creates what you get, yet it doesn't deny the reality of other things. It doesn't mean what you don't believe in doesn't exist....it's more of....creating new things....what you desire....where you want Heaven to be. And there is also the idea that belief and emotion can hold you prisoner, presented in the movie's idea of hell.


I wanted to add: If you talk to your friends about their beliefs, please ask them for me- as I am curious- what do they think happens to people who have no idea what they believe? If a person is agnostic (unsure if they believe in a god or an afterlife or not), or if a person is a theist or deist (believes in a god of some sort and an afterlife), but doesn't believe in a specific god or afterlife, etc. where would they go?

Anyway, I also wanted to say everyone who has posted thus far, has had good points, imho. Deborah had some great points on how to handle a discussion about this matter, if you really want to. There is nothing wrong with dicussing your diff. beliefs, disagreeing, asking questions, even having a friendly debate IF they are comfortable with it (some people can handle such things, and others would be offended, angry, etc.). I talk to my friends about these things sometimes. Some people aren't comfortable questioning their beliefs or having their beliefs questioned, while others love such discussions, so you'll prob. want to try to figure out how your friend feels about such topics. I understand the desire to discuss these things with your friends, and the desire to question things, but I am wondering why it is (seemingly) so important to you to convince your friends that they are wrong. You can certainly share your point of view, ask questions, etc.- you might even change someone's mind, but I wouldn't expect to convert everyone. If it was that simple, we'd all believe the exact same things about the afterlife. If you haven't asked them why they think the afterlife is diff. than life now (why belief doesn't have such an affect here and will, allegedly, when we die affect everything), then I'd give it a go. I think you'd be better prepared to argue your point, if you understood their beliefs better. I agree with you that the afterlife will be a natural phenomenon, just as life here is natural, but to me a dream is natural phenomenon, but diff. rules apply inside my head than they do out here. Of course, I will conceed that a dream is not as "real" or "solid" as this world. But I still think different worlds and diff. forms (spirit as opposed to flesh) may play by diff. natural rules.


Senior Registered
Thanks to everyone who posted a response!

Cloacina, I am not expressing beliefs to people. To me, a scientist, beliefs (call them expectations if you will) are not worth a whole lot when investigating something. Scientists must be very careful lest their expectations color the result of an experiment or investigation. What I am hoping people will do is to not base their understanding of an afterlife merely on beliefs.


Moderator Emeritus
Many people find the whole topic of reincarnation either bewildering or frightening, if they think about it at all. Generally in our culture the whole subject is very misunderstood or simply avoided. That's life.

Usually if I bring it up at all with people in conversation I will tread very carefully and quickly abandon the topic if it is upsetting or threatening to people. After all, I have nothing to prove to anyone on this topic. I have lived with this knowledge as long as I can remember and it's not a matter of 'belief' to me, any more than being able to see and hear is. I know what I know and that's my business. Lucky me.

If people want to talk about it, I'm more than happy to oblige, but I don't care (in the nicest possible way) what other people's beliefs about these things might be. Live and let live, that's my motto.

Looking Backwards

Senior Registered
tanguerra said:
Many people find the whole topic of reincarnation either bewildering or frightening, if they think about it at all. Generally in our culture the whole subject is very misunderstood or simply avoided. That's life.
I've had friends say that reincarnation is about "punishment", and therefore not possible as God is all-loving and forgiving. While I'm with them that God is all-loving and forgiving, I'm not with them that reincarnation is about punishment. To me it was always about just wanting to be here again.

I think religion as a general topic is to be avoided, though. I discuss it with some people, but even then try not to discuss mine too much unless I have absolute trust that the person won't tell me I need to be "saved" or won't think I'm nuts. It surprised me growing up because my family is so spiritual and so tolerant of other ideas - I had no idea that people would be offended if I expressed my beliefs. To me, spiritual discussions are about speculation and all sorts of possibilities - to others, they're about being right versus being wrong. I think that's a real shame. :(


moderator emeritus
Treehugger said:
Hi, everybody,
Many people honestly believe that whatever a person believed in regarding the afterlife, will create what happens to them after they die. One guy told me he believes (there's that word again) that if a person is a Jewish person he goes to Jewish heaven, and if a person is a Hindu he goes to Hindu heaven and if a person is an atheist his soul goes to nothingness.
According to one version of that theory that I've heard, there is a transitional mode of existence (called by some the "Astral Plane") where thought readily takes form. This idea was used in the movie What Dreams May Come. If that were the case then it would be entirely possible, and quite logically consistent for the soul of a Hindu believer to find itself in some Hindu version of heaven for a while at least, until the soul discovered, or was helped to discover that this particular "heaven" is self-created, and not, in any sense, the real, or "ultimate" heaven.

If that were to be the case then near death experiences or other glimpses of the afterlife might see only as far as that transitional stage, and not catch sight of what comes after the soul outgrows its need for some familiar comforting environment.

Even the atheist might initially know nothing, but eventually "wake up" in some acceptable transitional stage perhaps from some childhood memory of what "heaven" was supposed to be.

The mistake, I believe, is to assume that anything seen or experienced in this malleable transitional state is anything like "real" or representative of any ultimate afterlife condition. We may very well mold our afterlife experience to be comforting until we can comes to terms with what possibilities are offered by the real afterlife.

In other words, if I had a dream that I was on a desert island, and you had a dream that you were in a big city, what point would there be in arguing whether dreams "really" take place on a desert island or in a big city? Dreams happen wherever they want, and the initial, transitional state afterlife experience might happen any way you expect it to. No version of that experience would be any more "real" or authentic than any other version, any more than a dream on a desert island is more authentic than a dream in a big city.

I believe that theory is entirely possible, so it seems pretty reasonable to accept the possibility that for a while we will end up where we expect to end up.


fiziwig, I also thought about the astral, and you are right, I suppose when people see various things after death, it might just be a temp. state we create in the astral where me might find ourselves when we get our first glimpse of an afterlife, before we go on to a real destination. But I wonder if the actual destination might be somewhat malleable, or at least, varied.

My cousin thinks Heaven is a city. I don't know if she thinks there is anything up there besides a city with big buildings and paved roads. I love beautiful architecture, and cities can be fun for awhile. But I also love the natural world, and I prefer to live away from cities. My cousin hates the city if she's stuck there for long. I know it would be diff. in Heaven- no smog for instance- but it's not just that we hate things about earthly cities....it's that we love things about the world outside the cities.

You ever see that old show, "Green Acres"? The husband was all about "farm livin'" and the wife wanted to be in busy New York city. I guess what I'm saying is, if the afterlife is in a city, wouldn't nature lovers be....in a place that didn't seem like Heaven to them? But if there weren't any cities, would the people who love cities be sad they weren't included in the plan? To me, it makes sense that Heaven would be vast and varied. But also, as for God, I think spirit can look like whatever spirit wants to, and I think God could even choose to appear diff. to diff. people at once, but I don't know. It seems most people having NDE's experience most things similarly except for how they see God or what holy people or beings they see. But I still think what they are seeing might be a temp. state, anyway. My family's belief is that you go to a resting place when you die, and go to a final destination when the world ends. My personal belief is....well, I have no idea.

Maybe the rest of Heaven is a certain way, but couldn't it be a huge place that looked diff. in diff. areas? Might there not even be diff. areas that looked how you expected, if it is a place you'd want to spend time?

I guess what I wonder is, if Heaven is only one way, will it be what everyone would consider a Heaven to be? Some people's ideas of Heaven, sound less than heavenly to me. And mine prob. seem the same to them. That is why I think maybe there are diff. sections and we can travel between them. What do you all think?