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What If We Proved Life After Death? | Unveiled

VOICE OVER: Noah Baum WRITTEN BY: Dylan Musselman
What if the afterlife was scientific fact? Join us... and find out!

Many people believe in the afterlife. It could be heaven and hell, reincarnation... or a sci-fi style future world when we all exist on computer drives! But what if there was no need to just believe in it? What if we PROVED THE AFTERLIFE? In this video, Unveiled imagines an alternate world where EVERYTHING changes... but for better, or worse?
Transcript

What If We Proved Life After Death?


Humans are naturally afraid of the unknown. Often, when we think of the dark depths of the ocean or the deep vastness of space, we feel an indescribable sense of unease. A fear of concepts that lie beyond. But nothing is shrouded in quite as much mystery, morbid intrigue or existential terror as what happens after we die.

But this is Unveiled and today we’re answering the extraordinary question: What if we proved life after death?

If there’s one question in the history of the world that humanity most wants an answer to, it’s this one; what happens after we die? The problem of death is one that humans have contemplated for thousands of years… and we’ve never really got close to solving it. Modern science continually enables us to delay death just a little while longer, and average life expectancy has increased. But the ultimate end still inevitably comes one way or another. And… then what?

Most religions offer ideas about what comes after this life, including heaven and hell, reincarnation, or some other type of spirit world. Meanwhile, there are increasing numbers of science and future tech initiatives aiming to build an afterlife before we get there - including various plans to upload human consciousness onto digital drives, where it exists for all time. That’s the hope, anyway.

No matter what Faith you do or don’t subscribe to, though, no matter which speculative technology you most believe will actually be invented, it’s clear that the thought of death affects us in profound ways. That, throughout our lives, we’re guided by how and why and where it might end. Terror Management Theory posits that so much of what we do in life amounts to us trying to manage our subconscious concerns about dying. The general idea says that the main reason we build (or don’t build) relationships with other people, for example, or the reason why we follow religions, seek fame, or assume any number of cultural identities, is because we’re trying to make ourselves feel better about our own impermanence. We’re trying to build something that’s bigger than our own mortal selves… because actually everyone (whether they realise it or not) is worried about the fact that they won’t be here forever.

Immediately, with today’s question, all of this subconscious anxiety disappears were we to prove an afterlife. Now, this life wouldn’t be all there is, so there’d be much less pressure to try and preserve it. Or to create something that lasts longer than we can. Any irrefutable evidence that life after death exists would, then, have a massive effect on people’s personalities. On their morals. On the human character, as a whole. But for better… or worse?

One perhaps surprising improvement could be less prejudice. Concerningly, research shows that by simply reminding an individual of their own mortality, you can cause them to become more biased, prejudiced, and even aggressive - as part of a kind of in-built, misguided defence mechanism that humans have. One experiment in America, for example, showed that even judges can be swayed in this way… with it being found that when reminded of their mortality before sentencing, they’re more likely to give harsher punishments. We can say that even the justice system itself, then, is shaped by the spectre of death. And we can see how the thought of death can provoke from within us a deep-rooted kickback, which could then lead to social problems ranging from unfairness to intolerance to perhaps even violence. But, if we knew that death wasn’t the end, then none of those things need happen.

There are other ways that our subconscious fear of death shapes how we feel and behave, too. Accounts of near-death experiences have increasingly interested scientists and psychologists in recent years. Reports often include an aspect of life flashing before eyes, a phenomenon also known as a life review, where people claim to not only witness their past actions, but also to see how those actions affected others. If this particular part of an NDE is something we all will ultimately experience, then we’re all set to spend our final moments self-evaluating. Coming to terms with everything we did (or didn’t) do. And, given that so many who come back from an NDE pledge to lead a better life from that point forward, it seems we more often than not judge ourselves as having behaved poorly. The prospect of death prompts us to doubt what we’ve done in our lives.

It’s possible, then, that proving an afterlife would lift a number of subconscious issues from our minds… alleviating pressure and ridding us of mental ties we might not even realise we have. Because this life would no longer be everything, our terror management impulses couldn’t run amok anymore, perhaps resulting in a fairer and more generous human race. But, also, because we’d know there was a second chance waiting for us, we might be able to cut ourselves some slack, and avoid deep-rooted feelings that we were living our lives incorrectly. Perhaps everyone would be imbued as standard with the do-good mentality of a near-death-experiencer, and we wouldn’t have to see the error of our ways in order to change. Or… perhaps that’s just wishful thinking.

One counterargument says that the promise of a life after this one would mean that people would actually value this one far less. And that’s not a good thing. Suddenly, the consequences of anything you do on Earth matter very little, because really this existence is just a steppingstone into the future. At its best, this interpretation leads to reckless abandon. People doing what they want, when they want, because who cares? You’re guaranteed a “try again” after all of this is over, anyway. At its worst, though, it leads to selfishness and cruelty. With every cruel act now diluted by the human psyche, because everyone is scarily safe in the knowledge that nothing matters in this life so long as there’s another one on its way.

Naturally, so much of this hypothetical rests on what form our confirmed afterlife would take. Is it heaven and hell, is it reincarnation, do we all become ghosts, or is it nothing like what we expected? Is there a God waiting for us when we arrive, or isn’t there? And if there is, what type of God? Meanwhile, there are any number of scientific theories which could serve to shape our understanding, too. The US computer scientist, Bryon Ehlmann, for example, theorizes that the afterlife is merely our last moments before death played on repeat, a dream-like state he calls Natural Eternal Consciousness… so is that all we’d have proven?

Needless to say, the particulars of life after death would completely reshape society on Earth. Religions could quickly disappear, with only those which most closely predicted the real-world afterlife retaining any followers. Science would head in all new directions too, as the revelation would go against many (and most) mainstream scientific theories. Physicists, in particular, would have a hard time trying to explain it in logical terms.

If there’s a good place and a bad place, a heaven and hell, then one offshoot could be an afterlife industry… built on products and schemes to get people where they most wanted to be. We’d see companies monetising the path to the hereafter… because some people would try to buy their way in. Products on shelves to better your chances of heaven. Supposed experts styling themselves as trusted gatekeepers between the here and there, guaranteeing you safe passage or your money back. In this incredible scenario, Earth could unfortunately descend like this… into a corrupt, insincere and fraudulent realm where everyone’s striving to boost their afterlife potential. A chaotic midway point on the road to a higher plane.

Or, if we assume that the better sides of humanity take hold, then a proven afterlife could prompt us all to help others. It could inspire equality, with everyone focused on the shared goal of enjoying this life and preparing for the next one. What do you think would most likely happen? Ruthless one-upmanship or altruistic harmony?

According to the psychologist Steven Reiss, writing in 2016, one main reason why many religions offer an afterlife in the first place is to help us to find tranquillity in this life. For terror management theorists, it’s more simply about us staving off death anxiety until the moment comes. But would life after death really make the here-and-now more tranquil? Would you worry less, or just worry differently? Because the questions wouldn’t stop there… For one, if there’s a life after this one, then what comes after that? And would the afterlife also be proof of immortality? Proof that whatever we did, on Earth or beyond, we’d know about it forever?

Do these ideas dampen our fears, or intensify them? It’s an existential headache from here on out. Because that’s what would happen if we proved life after death.
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