Human beings are, we are taught, the only animal species that knows it is going to die. We live in fear of death most of our lives. This fear is rich territory for religion to take over by providing people comfort and eliciting their allegiance to their creeds and financial support oftheir institutions.
As Paul Pearsall suggests, if we want to understand a person, know what ultimately makes them tick and motivates them, we need to understand what their understanding is of what happens to them when they die.
My answer is “nothing”. We go back to where we came from, nothingness. I see no evidence that there is any human consciousness after physical death. If there were human consciousness after death, I can’t imagine in my wildest dreams how that could be or what it would look like.
What we have is now, is this life, and the memories we will leave behind for a short time in the consciousnesses of those who survive us.
Part of growing old gracefully is the acceptance of this nothingness and the giving up of childish fantasies. Childish fantasies may give comfort and hope and calm our fears. This is perfectly OK, if people need this, but it is childish and not the sign of a mature soul.
We are all a part of the universe of the interdependent web of life and the manifestation of energy that we call me is released back into the power grid and gets used for some other purpose that we have no idea of. As my teachers told me in seminary when I was an adolescent, “David, it is a mystery.” It is a mystery, indeed, and one to which we must eventually submit ourselves.
We can go out terrified, kicking and screaming, believing in fantasies, or accepting gratefully the lives we have had, and the re-integration back into the cosmic mystery.
The Universalists believe that we are not bodies but we are Love and as the Beatles sang, "Love is all there is."
I'd love to hear and sing this song about love in church. It's my kind of church music.