National Catholic Register

Commentary

Our Immediate Immortality: Death and Taxes

BY Frank Cronin

July 15-28, 2012 Issue | Posted 7/6/12 at 2:06 PM

 

Death and taxes. Two of life’s certainties. Both are inevitable, but they’re not the same. After all, death is death. But taxes are just taxes. And you’d take taxes over death every time, wouldn’t you?
So, it behooves you to think deeply about death. When you die, one of two possibilities occurs: Either you die and are completely obliterated, without even knowing you no longer exist. Or, when you die, you enter another form of life, no less real than this one.
If death is death, you are destroyed forever, never again to be you. Never again to think or to feel. Never again to live, to laugh or to love. When you die, you leave behind life, your life. And, in an instant, you fall into oblivion. Unless there is something after death, everything ends for you.
But if there is something beyond death, then there must be another aspect of life, another dimension of your being you may have overlooked or misunderstood. For if there is something beyond death, you must exist in not just a physical way, but in a way not limited by time and space. And that means you are immortal.
But is immortality actually possible? Well, at first blush, human immortality seems kind of “out there.” But it isn’t, for some simple, commonsense reasons. For once we look at the evidence, believing in death as the ultimate end of life will look more “out there” than immortality does right now.
So, let’s start with human beings. We have no doubt we exist. Our senses and our minds tell us we are here, alive at this moment. Also, we know the vast preponderance of what we experience and know is accurate and real. We know with virtual certainty that logic, reason and mathematics are reliable ways of knowing the truth. And we can discover, through observation and experimentation, how the material universe works, too. And, through this process, we can formulate principles and apply this knowledge to the physical world with similar certainty.
So, we know we exist. We know we are alive and have a personality, a mind, a moral character, an array of emotions and sensitivities. And yet, we also know our bodies die and decay, ultimately vanishing to become part of the physical universe.
So, our mind, our reason, our science tell us we are more than mere biochemical machines. But our senses and our experience tell us our bodies die certainly and inevitably. Well, which answer is right? Are we just tangible biological machines? Or are we both tangible and intangible, body and mind? It seems as if it’s a dead heat.
Well, it may seem that way, but it’s not, for the question of death rests on what human nature is. If we are just biochemical machines, when we die, we die, forever obliterated. If we are just biological machines, many other aspects of human experience are lost and obliterated too by the relentless reality of a wholly material human nature.
If we are just biological, then whatever we experience and know as human beings is simply a byproduct of biochemical activity, a biological illusion generated by our nervous system, a mental mirage that arises only from our brain’s activity without cause or consciousness. If we are just biology, we are not a cause. We are merely an effect.
And this biological view leaves us, all of us, with no real existence, no real consciousness, no real free will whatsoever. It makes every single experience and dimension of our being and behavior nothing more than a series of biological events. It leaves us entirely at the mercy of random or routine neural activity.
Every moment we are alive every one of us is merely an image, a mirage, an illusion. Our minds, our science, our consciousness are just illusory effects generated by individual neurons firing in different sequences and patterns in our brain. That’s it. And, if everything we experience is just biology, then everything we experience becomes a mystery, a mirage — or it becomes madness.
But if our mental activity, our consciousness, is an integrated product of our biology and our mind, of the tangible and the intangible, of the body and the soul, then all we experience, know and live becomes real and true. We know what we experience as human beings is what it is. Our being and our experience are not neural illusions. They are real.
Now, when we think, we know our logic and reason are real and true, just as our mathematical proofs are real. And our senses and our science, our observations and our experiments, when understood by appropriately applying our reason, reveal to us real knowledge and truth about the physical universe and affirm our intangible dimension as well.
For if our reasoning and science are real and true, then so is the reality and truth of the intangible plane of our universe, of all human consciousness, of each and every individual, intangible, immortal soul. 
For if we are merely biological, then all we are, experience or hope to be is actually just raw biology. And if we are only biological, then our humanness, our consciousness, our existence is really nothing, nothing more than neural activity — for, in the end and even now, we are nothing. It’s just that simple, that inevitable, that certain. If we are dead at death, we are nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Get it?
For if we are obliterated at death because we are just a body, then this obliterates us in the present tense, too. For the only way to make our consciousness real and true is to face the reality of the intangible aspects of human consciousness as well as the tangible ones.
It means the immaterial is just as real as the material. It means the human brain and the individual human soul are both real realities. It means the immaterial human soul is immortal, just as the material human body is mortal.
And the individual, immortal soul is a certainty that is absolute. A certainty we can live with. A certainty we can live by. A certainty we should live by, each and every day of our lives, our immediate, immortal lives.
 

Frank Cronin writes from
eastern Connecticut.