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Beyond the boundary: What comes after the afterlife?

Beyond the boundary: What comes after the afterlife?

Theos Head of Political Engagement, Paul Bickley, participates in a panel discussion on death and the afterlife at How The Light Gets In Festival. 27/08/2023

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Less than a third of those in the UK believe in an afterlife. And of those rather more believe in heaven than hell. In a scientific, secular age stories of the afterlife strike many as empty, anachronistic wish fulfilment. But is it a mistake to think that life is prosaic, earthly and simply over when we die? There is, after all, no scientific explanation of consciousness, nor any notion of how material matter could create experience and thought. We don’t have an account of how consciousness comes into being and, while some propose that AI might at some point acquire consciousness, there are many philosophers and scientists who argue that no combination of physical machinery will ever be capable of creating thought, consciousness and life.

Have we denied the mystery of life and death because such talk has been tarred by association with specific and implausible religious beliefs? Should we re–engage with the profound strangeness of death and accept that it is beyond our understanding? Or is the mundane and harsh reality that we are a chance combination of organic material that has a limited lifespan and once over is never to return?

In affiliation with Theos.

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Video footage and image by The Institute of Art and Ideas 

Paul Bickley

Paul Bickley

Paul is Head of Political Engagement at Theos. His background is in Parliament and public affairs, and he holds an MLitt from the University of St Andrews’ School of Divinity.

Watch, listen to or read more from Paul Bickley

Posted 27 August 2023


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