Sagan, on Death.

Via on Mar 18, 2012

Be Grateful every Day.

This is why believing in an afterlife or reincarnation might be counter-productive. Got just one life? Let’s play ping pong: 
More Carl Sagan.

About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | facebook.com/elephantjournal | twitter.com/elephantjournal | facebook.com/waylonhlewis | twitter.com/waylonlewis | Google+ For more: publisherelephantjournalcom

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16 Responses to “Sagan, on Death.”

  1. karlsaliter says:

    AWESOME. I'm in the middle of "The End of Faith" by Sam HArris. Have you read it? It is brilliant, and unapologetic in its piercing view of all religions. (VERY un-pc, too. If that's the right phrase.) But Carl just put it all into one quick quote. Nice. Distillations rock.

    • Julian Walker yogijulian says:

      yes harris' first book is bracing, honest and well-argued. i like all his books, but find his public speaking and debating much stronger. inspired, eloquent and completely lucid.

      karl (and waylon too) you might also check out ernest becker's classic pulitzer prize winner "the denial of death." it is a work of genius.

      • karlsaliter says:

        Thanks, Julian, I will!

      • suri says:

        checking it out too. thanks for the recommendation .

          • suri says:

            Ahh death , such a fascinating subject i am more with the 'the end is the end' camp than with the 'we just dont know' camp for several reasons:
            First because of what science's recent findings show on how the mind works
            Second , because to be honest god has never spoken to me in my entire life nor have any of my dead relatives including my mother
            Third, because the emergence of 'god' can be tracked back in the history of religion suggesting that like other supernatural agents it is a concept we created and the same goes for the concept of soul.
            Fourth , i have blacked out several times , and been totally sedated several times and there really is nothing there no dreams , no sensation , nothing ….i personally think death is very similar …a total and absolute absence of consciousness & sensation.

            Have you read Michael Shermer's The Believing Brain ? Well its a very good book that explains the "mechanism" by which our brain creates belief . In chapter seven "belief in the afterlife" he defines soul as:

            "the unique pattern of information [memories , personality , personhood...] that represents the essence of a person. By this definition, unless there is some medium to retain the pattern of our personal information after we die, our soul dies with us. Our bodies are made of proteins, coded by our DNA, so with the disintegration of DNA our protein patterns are lost forever. Our memories and personality are stored in the patterns of neurons firing in our brains, so when those neurons die it spells the death of our memories and personality " "Likewise, the neural pattern of information that is our memories and personality — our “self” — is sensed as a soul. In this sense, the soul is an illusion."

  2. guest says:

    big big crush on Carl Sagan. re-reading The Demon Haunted World right now. Thank you :)

  3. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    exactly. thanks way!

  4. Alisha says:

    I understand and like the concept of this cartoon. However, I don't think believing in an existence beyond the human body has to make one deny the beauty and magnificent opportunity of the present human life. Nor does it mean we need to believe anything specific about the existence "beyond". I personally think there is beauty and appreciation in believing in a spiritual realm/ life/ existence, all religion aside. I in no way require people to believe this way or in any one way, but I would challenge everyone to genuinely give it a try. Recognizing a higher being that exists in every person and all living things brings some pretty amazing perspective to the sanctity of life.

    • Julian Walker yogijulian says:

      what about this though: life is already sacred without making something up about other realms and us not being mortal like all other living organisms?

      do we not then have to locate the sacred here and now rather than in an imaginary other world?

      do we not then have to embrace our mortality as itself being sacred without pretending we live for ever?

      • lovepaintingrainbows says:

        It is true, life is sacred without association to other realms. Part of the word "sacred" is defined as "entitled to veneration by association with divinity or divine things". If we then are locating the sacred here and now, we are then locating the divine as well. Is this the definition of "sacred" that you would use? If so, then we are saying that divinity runs through us all. If that is the case, would that part of us carry on forever? I'm not saying I know how it does, but is there not chance of such a thing? Can divinity end?

        I have been sitting here trying to see the world and humans through a mind that does not believe in eternal existence. It is a wonderful challenge, and I thank you for the opportunity to do so. However, I just keep coming back to a feeling of connectedness that reaches beyond this human existence. Not that I let it take away from my present life, but I feel like it deepens my life and how I see all life. It could be because of the culture I have grown up in that makes it more natural to think this way, I'm not sure. I will not say that the world and life can not be sacred without believing in eternal existence because I don't know (even after trying it). Maybe I will try harder.

        But, I am at peace with everything and am happy with the Love that I have found in this way of believing and living. Thank you for your reply in such a peaceful and thoughtful way.

        • Julian Walker yogijulian says:

          i am locating "the sacred" in reality rather than fantasy.

          divinity, eternity, ethereal realms, non-physical existence etc – these are all make believe and as such render the word "sacred" insubstantial.

          love, art, reason, creativity, beauty etc are all available in reality and therefore make the word "sacred" substantial.

          making a metaphorical construct something literal and then arguing by reverse engineering for it as a basis for any word is fallacious and essentially meaningless – but i grant you it is VERY common and popular and found reassuring by many people! :)

  5. Joshua Plant JoshMPlant says:

    Wonderful! Such a great quote, and a very apropos articulation of it, too.

  6. [...] That’s one of many mistakes in Haidt’s cavalier use of the term. Another is the time frame. Karmic law can play out over a long period of time. And I mean long. Not long as in a drawn-out court case or a bureaucratic snafu, but long as in lifetimes; karma can’t be adequately understood without reference to its close cousin, reincarnation. [...]

  7. [...] include religions, philosophy, spiritualism, atheism, scientism, etc.) refer in some way to the afterlife, either to what awaits us or to what does not. The more traditional systems focus either on the [...]

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