Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Letter: Is there life before death? (2002)

Letter to the Editors from the February 2002 issue of the Socialist Standard

Is there life before death?

Dear Editors,

I read “A Socialist reads the Koran” in the December issue and I endorse all you have to say on the matter of religion. I do, however, think that the adamant assertion that there is, and can be, no form of afterlife is open to question. Socialists may of course be absolutely right in saying this, but the fact is we really don’t know!

I am inclined to think that the religious hardline adopted by the Socialist Party regarding membership is not in their best interests, and that membership numbers would increase if this was not so. If an applicant for membership can satisfy on his, or her, understanding of socialism, does not adhere to any particular religious dogma, but, at the same time, has a personal faith in a God and an afterlife, then it seems to me to be short-sighted not to admit the candidate.
George Pearson, 
London SW20

We don’t recall saying that there can be no afterlife, only that those who make this claim have not produced any credible evidence to back it up. A Nobel Prize for biology awaits the scientist who does, but so far none has; in fact, in the light of repeated past failures very few think that it is a line of research worth continuing to pursue. So, for the time being, we can only conclude that when we die, we die and that’s that; our brains cease to function and so our minds disappear while our bodies decompose and are recycled in nature to push up daisies; apart from that all that remains is a memory of us in the minds of those who knew us. We suspect that most people accept this even if many are not prepared to admit this openly as it is not very comforting, but it is an added reason to concentrate on making the only life that we definitely know we’ve got as good as possible (by providing a socialist framework for it).

An applicant who said “I don’t really know” would not be treated the same as one who asserted that “there is an afterlife”. The former, though perhaps overcautious, has not crossed the line between a scientific materialist approach and an irrational belief, as the latter has.

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