The Afterlife As a Dream

I was raised with the mainstream christian belief that there is an afterlife and it consists of heaven and hell. You go to heaven if you are a good, faithful christian, to hell if you are bad.

Hell is usually envisioned as a fiery place, where souls burn for all of eternity.

Heaven is described as a place where the streets are paved with gold. That doesn't really sound all that appealing to me. It sounds like Trump's ridiculous gold-plated penthouse in New York: cold and ostentatious. My heaven would be a place of physical comfort but also beautiful scenery, endless miles of trail, waterfalls, placid beaches, but also changeable weather. Basically it would be like natural earth but without the illness and back pain.

Over time my ideas about the possibility of an afterlife have changed. For the most part, a rational world view seems inconsistent with religion, and an afterlife requires a religious universe1. But as I have written elsewhere, this is superficial. Religion does not withstand shallow scrutiny but atheism does not survive deep scrutiny2. Shallow scrutiny is insufficient to evaluate religion or the existence of God. This is why many eminent scientists decline atheism, even if they aren't specific about belief in the supernatural. It's also why speculative ideas like the universe as a simulation, the multiverse, and panspermia are popular with atheists. It's like the really atheists create their own religions, hidden behind a facade of rationality.

Over the years I've encountered other non-christian descriptions of the afterlife. I guess in my core I expect an afterlife of some type, but I increasingly think it will be like an endless dream, and I'm not sure that's entirely good. As I've grown older, dreams have become more frequent and more vivid. On the one hand I see and experience more in my dreams, and the experiences are usually more realistic. Yet still the dreams contain disconnected fragments of conversation and illogical events. There are landscapes with flowing rivers and mountains, but also unlikely natural disasters and cities with dehumanizing architecture. Happiness exists but so does boredom and fear, sometimes with no clear connection to events. The dreams, though vivid, seem unlike real life somehow.

I'm unsure if this change in my dreams is a result of aging or if it tracks to my heavy use of melatonin in recent years. I've stopped using it but the vivid dreams characteristic of melatonin continue. I think I might have somehow altered my brain and sleep permanently. At the time I started taking it I was desperate for normal sleep, but taking a drug (even if it is called a supplement), does not seem to me to be good answer.

If my brain is altered, are my dreams giving me a preview of the afterlife? Why do I think that might be the case? I don't know, but it's a strong intuition. My thinking has possibly been influenced by the singularity-centric vision of a computer simulation afterlife in Neal Stephenson's book Fall, or Dodge in Hell. The simulacrum personalities in that fake afterlife lived in a dreamlike state (in my opinion). Only it wasn't entirely a good dream, as the title indicates. I've written a lot on the topics of dreams but I don't publish most of it, because the content is too personal and in some cases embarrassing. Maybe no one will ever read those documents. Maybe there is no afterlife. Maybe the afterlife is an endless dream.

Footnotes and Further Commentary
1 Unless the Singularity people are correct and we all upload our minds into computers prior to biological death. They are crazy though. No such thing will be possible anytime soon, if ever.
2 I'm amazed to meet atheists who boast that they knew there was no god at age 11 or 12. Who the hell gets anything correct at age 11? I'd be embarrassed to make such a declaration. Obviously an 11 year old is in no position to understand the nature and origin of the universe, or the origin of life.


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