The Safe Bet
Humans are so damn obsessed with the afterlife.
And golly, there are so many options to choose from - heaven and hell, of course, with all its variations, then there’s reincarnation, and lastly, but certainly not the least likely: oblivion.
Let’s stop for a minute and entertain the infamous Pascal’s Wager on this particular matter:
If we believe in an afterlife, and it really does exist, and we live our lives with the main purpose of being accepted by that desired posthumous destination, then those efforts can yield infinite gain. If it is not real, but we live our lives like we believe in it anyway, well... we don’t really lose anything (or do we?).
On the other hand, if the afterlife exists and we happen to squander our ticket (by, say, being a thoughtless hedon), then we would have infinite loss. And by that I mean, spending the rest of eternity constantly being whipped by horned demons while simultaneously being on fire definitely sounds like the worst case scenario.
Alternatively, it’s probably not very much fun to reincarnate as an earthworm.
So if you were a betting man (or woman), how would you wager?
It sounds like it makes perfect sense to work for a ticket to the pearly gates just in case. Doesn’t it? Pascal even goes as far as to say: even if you can’t believe, just act like you do. It’s still the safer bet, apparently.
The biggest pitfall of Pascal’s wager of course, is that it assumes there are only two choices. Afterlife or no afterlife. God or no God. It kind of skips the vital question of: but wait, which God? Which afterlife? Depending on which one you decide, the process of acquiring your eternal ticket can be very different. Because what if you buy the wrong ticket?
In ancient Egypt, for example, you better have a really nice tomb.
I’m being facetious. Nobody really has a definitive answer, do they? Or if they do, it’s more likely they just decided to double down on their wager. Like a gambler who went full tilt.
I do find it very interesting, though, that from essentially the beginning of time the vast majority of humans pretty much decided: “yeah, there’s gotta be something after all this, right? It can’t just be nothing... can it?”
It’s almost as if to long for the hereafter is in our genes or something. Though, to be fair, oblivion after death - after life - does sound pretty anticlimactic.