For a good afterlife, you need sexual experiences with a variety of partners. Seriously.

For a good afterlife, you need a wide variety of sexual experiences. Seriously.

Posted Feb 20, 2009

A number of so-called experts, best-selling authors, and speakers charging an insane amount of money for seminars are talking about what happens when we die. Maybe you heard some of these ideas.

There is a bright white light at the end of a tunnel that embraces you in a warm, loving cocoon. The best massage you ever had with the one exception that the light refuses to let you put your clothes back on, pay, and go home.

Then there's Karma. Your actions in this life predetermine what happens in the next life. So be generous, honest, and compassionate. Charles Manson's best hope is to return as a dung beetle [insert cackling laugh and slow wringing of hands]. I imagine Martin Luther King returning as a starburst of sapphire blue petals, a Chrysthanemum growing at the ground zero site in NYC. Keep in mind that this circle of rebirth is never-ending; so pause and wonder what you did in your last life to deserve this one. (and listen to Karma Police by Radiohead).

But forget everything you've heard. I am going to give you the truth about the afterlife. Pay attention because there are things you can do now to make the next life more comfortable and it has little to do with being a good, moral person.

After dying, you will end up outdoors, at a dining room table. Seated is every single one of your ancestors (back to the primordial ooze). They haven't eaten since the last person joined them and as you might suspect, they are ravenous and irritable. Forget the pleasantries, they beg you to get them food. Everyone notices your bewildered look. To help, somebody points to a few large trees with fruit hanging from upper level branches. There is no way for you or anyone else to reach them. After your growing frustration becomes apparent, another family member explains the situation. It ends up that you didn't arrive alone. On the ground is a satchel. Depending on what sort of sexual escapades you had during your brief time on earth, inside the satchel is a collection of penises, vaginas, or both. This is the kicker. The amount of genitalia in your satchel relates to how many people you slept with in your lifetime. Your job is to reach into that satchel and sling those penises and vaginas at the fruit in the tree. Whatever you knock down is what your family gets to eat. If you decided to be celibate, expect an angry mob. If you were, shall we say, generous with your body, your dead ancestors are going to feast like royalty and love you even more in the process.

If you think I'm making this up, you overestimate my imagination. This is straight from Mayan lore. The elders transcribed information straight from the Gods, wrote it down, and so it is written in their ancient texts.

All three of these accounts of the afterlife sound good. I certainly could use that white soothing light after decades of dealing with the stress and hassles of balancing work and family. Life is hard, I want the light. As for Karma, what a great motivation to be an outstanding citizen! And who wouldn't be pissed if serial killers and rapists get the same benefits as the rest of us in the next world. As for the Mayans, this is a fantasy come true. Perhaps you can convince your romantic partner that it's absolutely essential that you sleep with more people because you care.  It would be incredibly selfish to be monogamous and let your great-great-grandparents go hungry. 

But why should you believe in any particular notion of what happens after dying? If you haven't seen it, and the storytellers haven't seen it, then we don't know if it's true. If you scoff at these Mayan ideas then the next logical question is why you are skeptical of this interpretation of the afterlife and not your own pet beliefs?

Speaking for myself, I usually ask a lot of questions. Not because I think anyone's ideas of the afterlife are wrong but because I am truly interested in why people believe the things they do. How do people choose between competing ideas of what happens when our life ends? Unfortunately, people rarely like skeptics when it comes to matters of faith. In fact, this is such a hot-button issue that I was hesitant to even write this column.

What exactly does "faith" mean? Isn't it unusual to believe in something that there's no proof of? How is this a virtue? What is the distinction between acceptable and unacceptable faith? Loved ones who die are watching over us. You can talk to the dead and they can talk back, in what I presume are really stimulating conversations. Extraterrestrials have been visiting our planet for years, with a weird interest in probing anuses and planting mind tracking devices without any discernible trace. (is it a coincidence that most victims are tired truck drivers on desolate roads in the middle of the night?) I could go on but I don't want to come across as controversial. I am seriously interested in beliefs, values, and sources of meaning.

Beliefs that we accept without a single shred of evidence of truth must offer something. Soothing feelings. Purpose. Focusing on, and being part of something, that is bigger than us. Strong social relationships by binding together with others with similar beliefs and values. There is always a motive behind our movements. It would be great to bring these motives under the microscope to better understand why we do the things we do. Such insight can help us find a greater number of opportunities to satisfy our needs.

Perhaps everything I am writing about is irrelevant if people do no harm to other people. Perhaps there is an opportunity cost. When we spend our time and energy believing in something, there is something else we don't devote ourselves to. Who knows what opportunities are missed.

Perhaps the most egregious error is to never ask any questions and never put any thought into what happens when our life ends. I know of no poll that has been conducted on the topic but I suspect that a greater number of people spend more time in a given year thinking about whether to upgrade to a high-definition plasma TV or a better car than asking questions about their faith. Why these beliefs and not others? Why should I believe one expert and not another?

It's complicated. No one really knows and why should we trust any other flesh-and-blood human being who says they know the answers to life, death, and everything in between? Is is wrong to be skeptical? For me, it's more inconsiderate to be disinterested enough to withhold questions. Question yourself. Question authority. Question everything.