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September 21, 2010

Why Are Religious Claims a Target for the Extraordinary Claims Campaign?
Some comments on Supernatural Claims, Evidence, and the Burden of Proof

The Claims:

Humans are, in essence, immortal souls or spirits that temporarily inhabit physical bodies. The afterlife is what happens to the soul when it is separated from the body (i.e., when the body ceases to function after death).  Christianity and Islam teach that the soul will end up either in paradise or in eternal torment. In contrast, Buddhism and Hinduism teach that a person is reincarnated, acquiring a new body whose status, importance, and comfort depend on the righteousness of prior lives.

The Evidence:

There is no credible evidence of a mind existing without a physical brain. Although some people (mediums) have claimed to observe the actions of ghosts or to be able to communicate with those who have “crossed over” to the spirit world, none of these claims have ever been empirically validated. There are also accounts of “near-death experiences”, after which people report having seen bright lights and tunnels, and visions of departed loved ones.  Again, there is no evidence that the visions induced by near-death experiences are any different from those that occur during other brain states, such as while dreaming or under the influence of drugs.

The world around us is often very unfair – for instance, bad people benefit from their evil deeds, while good people get sick and die. Having an existence beyond our current lives and physical bodies, whether re-incarnation or eternal paradise/damnation, satisfies our sense of justice. However, beyond the appeal of wishful thinking, the only support for this proposition comes from various sacred texts.


Absent any evidence that consciousness can exist outside the physical realm, it is reasonable to conclude that the afterlife is a human construct, invented to alleviate fear of death and to help explain the paradox of God‘s purported benevolence and omnipotence given the existence of “evil” in the world.


Wikipedia Page on Afterlife

Beliefs About the Afterlife

Wikipedia Page on Theodicy

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Eric permalink
    March 21, 2015 1:25 PM

    The studies of Duncan MacDougall which resulted in the concept “21 grams” tried to measure the weight of a human soul. MacDougall failed in his studies but the popular idea persists. Mortality scares people….adopting a belief in the afterlife probably helps people cope with that fear.

  2. July 7, 2011 5:51 PM

    before we were born, before we were even a sperm, what were we? we were presumably the same as dead, what’s the difference? and yet RIGHT now here we are… alive and reading words on a computer screen. we are walking proof of life after death if you ask me! that’s just my opinion though.

    or how about this, lets go ALL the way back to the big bang (assuming it actually started that way). there was no ‘life’ anywhere apparently, so you can conclude it was all ‘dead’ — yet here we are right now, along with birds, flowers, dolphins, and goliath bird eating spiders! so i think the word ‘death’ is inaccurate and implies an end, when if you ask me its all just a bunch of cycles and periods but life none the less! it bugs me when science thinks just because it cant measure cells that must mean there is no life… however, at the big bang the universe was all light, yet now we have life. so you can conclude that light = alive, if you give it enough time to evolve or whatever

    fun stuff to think about for sure though

  3. greame permalink
    December 12, 2010 9:26 PM

    In the words of a thirtieth century prophet (IMO), Bender Bending Rodregues,

    “Afterlife? Pfft. If I’d thought I had to go through a whole ‘nother life, I’d kill myself right now”


  1. Resurrection « Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence
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