The Cosmist ‘Third Way’: An Afterlife For Atheists

Giulio Prisco at Turing Church explains how Cosmist beliefs can provide solace for nonbelievers confronted by the gaping void of permanent annihilation:

I cope with the grief from the death of loved ones by contemplating the Cosmist possibility, described by many thinkers including Nikolai Fedorov, Hans Moravec and Frank Tipler, that future generations (or alien civilizations, or whatever) may develop technologies to resurrect the dead. A related idea is that our reality may be a “simulation” computed by entities in a higher-level reality, who may choose to copy those who die in our reality to another reality. Contemplating these possibilities is my way to cope with grief, I hope you will find your own way.

Cosmism is one of those “third ways” that are often passionately rejected by those who believe in the old ways, but in my opinion it is a Hegelian synthesis of what is good in the old ways: it is firmly based on science, and at the same time it offers all the important mental devices of religion, including hope in resurrection. Hoping in an afterlife has survival value for both individuals and societies, because it gives people the strength to continue to live instead of withdrawing (or worse) in despair.

54 Comments on "The Cosmist ‘Third Way’: An Afterlife For Atheists"

  1. Matt Staggs | Sep 6, 2012 at 11:08 am |

    Is “One day we’ll be resurrected by the benevolent space brothers or future guys in mylar jumpsuits” any different or more plausible from current competing religious belief systems on the metaphysical market?

    • MadHierophant | Sep 6, 2012 at 11:47 am |

      Nope. I always laugh when people point to The Singularity as something to hold out hope for, when there’s no guarantee that we wouldn’t be as short-sighted, petty or brutal as we are now if it happens. If immortality ever becomes real in any form, you just know some asshole is going to set up a series of pay-walls for the best features.

      • Matt Staggs | Sep 6, 2012 at 11:57 am |

        I’ve thought about that before. They’ll up-sell afterlife options to grieving families, just like the funeral industry already does. You’ll have guys like Rupert Murdoch walking around in diamond-plated mecha-avatars and guys like you and me being disembodied wage-slave ghosts powering smart phones and Coke machines. 

        • MadHierophant | Sep 6, 2012 at 12:21 pm |

          Or we’d be digital sex slaves, with our physical characteristics and brainwave patterns uploaded and holo-projected over some fuck-bot. I bet there’d even be a review site for all of them.

          “Don’t download her, she gives terrible blowjobs. Nothing but teeth and she won’t consent to being patched with Fellatio v3.4”

          • Matt Staggs | Sep 6, 2012 at 12:34 pm |

            Wait until Steve Jobs returns…

            Edit: It also occurred to me that no one ever stops to think that people like Hitler, Idi Amin and Pol Pot will be coming back too.

          • MadHierophant | Sep 6, 2012 at 12:59 pm |

            Maybe that’s what Hell would be, you’d have to be an NPC in The Sims: Holocaust or  to make a living. But I wouldn’t worry so much about megalomaniacal dictators coming back because they’d probably be considered quaint and kept in some kind of iZoo or something. 

          • you ever watch the movie Gamer?  where people can play as user controlled sims for cash,, hits the nail on the head

    • mannyfurious | Sep 6, 2012 at 1:16 pm |

      No. And this is why I argue that science can become a religion in and of itself. It’s not that the scientific method is flawed. It obviously isn’t. The very fact that we are communicating over computers this very moment is proof that science knows its shit. However, the religious aspects come when people insist that science can deliver us from suffering. It can’t. It won’t. 

      The church of science has been promising deliverance since at least the industrial revolution. Machines were going to make our lives easier and more fulfilled. Then it was telephones and radios and televisions. Then it was computers, nuclear energy and the space race. When science put man on the moon, many people thought it was the dawn of a new age of reason and compassion. Then it was the internet and the digital age. Putting 20 hours of songs on a device smaller than my wallet was going to change the world for the better. I mean, this is just a brief, spurious series of examples. Every year it’s seemingly something new that science is going to do for us to fix everything, ignoring the fact that science has done just as much to make things worse (pollution, climate change, environmental destruction, nuclear bombs, war machines, overpopulation, etc.) as it has actually improved things. And yet, there continues to be, and probably always will be a sizable portion of the population that believes that science will one day make nature and The Universe a “fair” and “just” place to live. 

      • Matt Staggs | Sep 6, 2012 at 1:24 pm |

        Very well put. Do we really need another “-ism” at this point? 

        • Monkey See Monkey Do | Sep 6, 2012 at 2:22 pm |


        • mannyfurious | Sep 6, 2012 at 4:13 pm |

          Hell, I don’t know. I would say probably not. “-ism”s are just concepts that we can wrap our egos around and feel special about. And they’re obviously harmful in that they reduce complicated, fluid, human thought into what ultimately become archetypal sets of ideas (which is why we can’t have a Republican who’s “pro-choice” or a Democrat who’s against being “pro-choice”). At the same time, I don’t think humans will ever stop coming up with different -isms.

        • mannyfurious | Sep 6, 2012 at 4:13 pm |

          Hell, I don’t know. I would say probably not. “-ism”s are just concepts that we can wrap our egos around and feel special about. And they’re obviously harmful in that they reduce complicated, fluid, human thought into what ultimately become archetypal sets of ideas (which is why we can’t have a Republican who’s “pro-choice” or a Democrat who’s against being “pro-choice”). At the same time, I don’t think humans will ever stop coming up with different -isms.

          • Monkey See Monkey Do | Sep 6, 2012 at 6:39 pm |

            Anarcho-syndicalism addresses those issues, the complexity of human beings is the reason why flexibility and adaptability are primary concerns for that particular “ism”. I dont belong to any ism myself but i’ve found that this one provides the most interesting thought experiment.

      • Monkey See Monkey Do | Sep 6, 2012 at 2:30 pm |

        One very achievable scientific accomplishment would be the elimination of physical pain. Science wont bring utopia but it can improve things a whole lot. You make good points though, especially in regards to the ‘benefit of technology’ and how it relies primarily on how we choose to use it and what we choose to create.

        • mannyfurious | Sep 6, 2012 at 3:46 pm |

          And how is the elimination of physical pain a good thing, per se? What I don’t understand about science is that we want to use it to make us live longer, but we all hate life. Or, at least, we all hate life as a human being–although, all the things we life about life are also things we life because we’re human, and yet we are continually trying to become less and less human. Physical pain is a part of life and it’s there for a reason. And, as the old cliche goes: without pain, there is no pleasure. Physical or otherwise.

          • Monkey See Monkey Do | Sep 6, 2012 at 6:26 pm |

            Well I’m not talking about the type of physical pain that allows the human to function properly in the world. I’m talking about alleviating pain of people who suffer from chronic illnesses or have serious physical trauma and then using medication or other technology to eliminate the pain only when it occurs.

            Its not really reasonable to profess some faith that without physical pain there cant be physical pleasure.
            Just like 200 years ago it wouldn’t really have made any sense to go around saying the average life-span of under 40 shouldn’t be increased because its there for a ‘reason’.
            Being human is what we make of it, you cant keep searching around for the authentic ‘natural’ in us because it doesn’t exist, we will constantly be evolving, adapting, changing. The human experiment of 200,000 years ago bears little resemblence to us today and I bet a human 200,000 in the future wouldn’t even be comprehensible.

          • Monkey See Monkey Do | Sep 6, 2012 at 6:56 pm |

            You may be right that without pain there isn’t pleasure but why not explore that through science? see if it can add some knowledge to the popular mystical view of dualism.
            ‘If everything has an opposite, then the opposite of there being an opposite to everything, is that there is not an opposite to everything.’

          • mannyfurious | Sep 7, 2012 at 12:41 pm |

            I think I get what you’re saying. And I suppose I would even agree with it to some extant. However, I think we still have to keep in mind that there comes a point where we get diminishing returns on life. Sure it seems silly to believe we shouldn’t try increase the longevity of life since at certain points in time, man hasn’t lived much beyond the age of 40. At the same time, our bodies do start to fall apart around that time. And while life expectancy for our society reaches into the 70s, how many of those older folks actually live a fulfilling life? How many continue to live simply because they don’t want to die, not necessarily because they enjoy living?

            This is a muddled post, I know, and I’m sorry. But the point is, prolonging life isn’t automatically a good thing, in my opinion. In fact, I hope I have enough balls that when life stops being enjoyable because of long-age, I can turn the gun on myself and just end the whole thing.

  2. Or, alternatively: you can accept death for what it is, and then make the best of the life you have?

    • Matt Staggs | Sep 6, 2012 at 11:58 am |

      Well, that and nobody knows for sure what the heck happens when people die. 

      • DeepCough | Sep 6, 2012 at 12:35 pm |

        We atheists call that “decomposition.”

        • Matt Staggs | Sep 6, 2012 at 1:23 pm |

          Tee hee. You know what I mean. Hey, have you gotten my email?

          • DeepCough | Sep 6, 2012 at 3:10 pm |

            Not sure, I have the tendency to forget passwords, that’s why I don’t have a WordPress account. Look for my new e-mail in the future.

    • Mike Heffernan | Sep 7, 2012 at 7:27 am |

      Just tough luck if you are born in a disease ridden rathole like Liberia and only last four years?

    • Establishedposter | Sep 18, 2012 at 10:51 pm |

      I choose to spend it sitting behind a computer posting on DisInfo.  I don’t want to waste a second of this one life, only the best for me.

  3. Ricky Jazzercise | Sep 6, 2012 at 12:20 pm |

    The insane lengths that people go to avoid contemplating the near death experience are beyond mind blowing. Yeah, sure, that’s what happens when you’re super close to death, and even legally braindead in some situations, but then when you actually die, who knows. Sure, or maybe, just maybe, that’s what fucking happens when you die. I know it’s crazy to posit that at least 50/50 probability. “Crazy” because the implication is that we don’t know what the fuck we’re talking about. The most hilarious thing is that when people get to this state, are they begging to go back to their lives? Nope, in most cases, they’re begging to not have to go back. Think about that one materialists. It’s hard to get angry though, you’re average person goes through life never reading or hearing anything about the near death experience period. I have a degree in psychology and sat through a decade of church services as a kid. Never came up once.

  4. Matt Staggs | Sep 6, 2012 at 3:01 pm |

    Yeah, had a lot of potential, but I didn’t think it followed through as well as it could have. 

  5. MadHierophant | Sep 6, 2012 at 4:38 pm |

    Not yet, it’s one of those movies I’m on the fence about watching because, well, a better version is available. In this case, The Running Man. Maybe I’ll watch it just for the idea, I’ve watched shittier things for less. 

    • Jin The Ninja | Sep 6, 2012 at 11:27 pm |

      i’m pretty much on the fence about watching h-wood movies made post 2000. lol. but haven’t seen that movie, have a slight curiosity but then again i value my time/brain cells…

      • MadHierophant | Sep 6, 2012 at 11:31 pm |

        Curious about The Running Man? Battle Royale with Arnie and pro wrestlers with ridiculous weapons. Worth it for the 80’s cheese factor alone. Can’t comment on Gamer though…

        • Jin The Ninja | Sep 7, 2012 at 2:28 am |

          oh i like ‘running man’. maria conchita alonso and arnie take on reality tv psychos?! hell yeah! but gamer, i don’t know. doesn’t seem worth the expenditure of time/brain resources…

          • I’m not gonna lie, it has a hollywood effect to it…  There are definitely some over abused cliches… but there is a good premise behind it.  As someone stated, it could’ve have followed through a little bit better in the end, but not everything is perfect.  I would give it a go, you could probably rent it for a couple of bucks now.

          • ..and seriously, wtf with this commenting format..

          • Jin The Ninja | Sep 7, 2012 at 11:18 am |

            the only thing that interests me is the premise. but i hate ‘adding to the known canon’ of hallowed sci- glossy commercialised dreck that subverts the subversion of the genre… best i can do is maybe stream it online.

      • Matt Staggs | Sep 7, 2012 at 10:22 am |

        Oh, I don’t know about that. There are plenty of good Hollywood movies out there. It’s like television: turning one’s nose up to the medium simply because there’s a lot of dreck out there is a mistake. Sure, there might be 100,000 Jersey Shore clones, but sifting through and finding gold (IMHO) like Breaking Bad or Louis is worth it.

        • Jin The Ninja | Sep 7, 2012 at 10:39 am |

          i’ll say this about my viewing habits: i watched “witchboard’ with tawny kitaen for the first time last night.

    • Jin The Ninja | Sep 6, 2012 at 11:27 pm |

      i’m pretty much on the fence about watching h-wood movies made post 2000. lol. but haven’t seen that movie, have a slight curiosity but then again i value my time/brain cells…

  6. Haystack | Sep 6, 2012 at 9:23 pm |

    From a materialist perspective, an afterlife is highly improbable…but so is the fact of us being here at all. In my mind, that kind of leaves the matter an open question. 

    • From a determinist perspective, the chance of us being here is 100%.

      • Haystack | Sep 7, 2012 at 8:23 am |

        Determinism ultimately presupposes a universe operating according to physical laws. How *that* got there is what I really find strange. 

        In any event, once you get into a discussion of the anthropic principle and infinite universes (whether parallel or a single, oscillating universe), that seems to lead you to a statement like “if it had to happen once, it must happen again.” Hence, afterlife, of a sort.

  7. Yet another good reason not to believe in atheism. 

    • Well if you ask any atheist, its apparently impossible to “believe” in atheism, so they are safe from critique…

      • Bah, “atheism” is just a made-up word that people define more or less however they want to, just like “theism” and “agnosticism.”

        • I once heard a definition of theism that de facto defined polytheism as a portion of atheism. Silly definitions.

        • I once heard a definition of theism that de facto defined polytheism as a portion of atheism. Silly definitions.

          •   “I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.

                Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I
            tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”

                “But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.

                “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

                “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

                “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master      that’s all.”

                Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty
            Dumpty began again. “They’ve a temper, some of them—particularly verbs,
            they’re the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not
            verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!”

      • since there is no proof one way or the other
        as to the existence of gods
        you have to believe in atheism
        given the high level of noise created by evangelical atheists
        and their strong-arm proselytizing techniques
        and their Pope Dawakins I
        they strike me as a belief system
        which will persecute non-believers

        • On a spectrum of closed mindedness alone, fundamental christianity and strict evidentialist atheism are on the same side of the middle, with atheism being further down, and only a few steps away from philosophical idealism.

  8. I do not have to cope with death and loss because mankind has never been able to strictly define and thus make distinct the states known as ‘life’ and ‘death.’ Having studied a great deal of particle physics and biological chemistry, I have become unsure whence stem experiences like consciousnes and pain. I cannot draw a line or weave a web that neatly entangles these concepts for my mind to grasp.

    What I can grasp, however, is that there is nothing in what is commonly called ‘life’ that is not present in various forms in the things we call ‘non-life.’ Growth, reproduction, consumption, complexity – all are present throughout the “non-living” universe, and we have not become such experts on consciousness yet that we can disprove that it is also there in ‘non’life.’ On the contrary, we are discovering evidence that things we once considered simple-minded or inanimate are complex and reactive on scales and in ways we had not comprehended before. I have seen articles on dragonflies being scared to death of fish, and of plants emitting chemicals associated with pain response and moving, as little as some of them may, to avoid it. I am even curious about the idea of the faculty for sensation being derived on the sub-molecular scale, in atoms themselves, and their constituents; in bosons and fermions, possibly.

    And none of that stuff is lost when someone dies. The parts that made them up, whereby their sensations were input, their memories stored, their appearance shaped – those pieces are all still there. In the air, in the ground, in ther clothes. To me, it is no different than when a person sheds some skin. Those are pieces of them, that they once called a part of their “self,” but they are no longer. And when a person “dies,” it is the same to me. They are simply continuing, as energy and matter do, to unfold into entropy, taking various interresting shapes and meeting various other configurations of matter and energy along the way, myself among them. It even makes me smile to think of their pieces and parts continuing their journey, some of them surely intertwining with my own, as we may have shared meals and breathed together in the same room, thereby exchanging particles on many occassions.

  9. Dan Massey | Sep 6, 2012 at 11:59 pm |

    I take a similar view of the potential for an afterlife or personal immortality as Giulio, except that I look at the problem with a different perspective. I believe our current understanding of these matters is made difficult by the isolation of our planet from the vibrant and vital activities of a populated universe. We are NOT ALONE. But pretty much everybody decided to LEAVE US ALONE.

    The universe is filled with every possible life form hosting every viable configuration of personality, spirit, mind, and biohost. There is a government that deals with maintaining the universal services needed by the population–vitological inspiration, soul recording, transavatar production, planetary outreach, education of the resurrected, project organization, etc. We are the beneficiaries of these services, particularly those essential to our successful personality transfer into a transavatar.

    So I assume that, upon awakening as a transavatar after the passing of my biohost, I will retain the knowledge, attitudes, techniques, etc. that served my personality well while biohosted. The vitological mind of my transavatar, however, is incapable of modeling random aspects of my biohost behavior that were injurious to myself or others or otherwise devoid of spiritual value. So when we meet as transavatars we will already be nicer people than we were as biohosts, having lost the motives for wasteful and ineffective activity.

    In my universe pretty much everybody who is capable of self-conscious moral judgment and tries to be a “better person” grows a personality within a husk that provides the interface to a harsh and literal “real world.” The passing of the biohost enables the personality and the memory of its experiences of value to be freed from the husk of worldly accommodation and be ready for transavatar implantation. From this point onwards everyone who wishes to live will live and, in time, everyone who wishes to be immortal will be immortalized, though we have no idea what cosmic service are involved in this process.

    Of course this leaves unanswered the question of what all this birthing and rebirthing and endless training and teaching and traveling forever across the universe is all about. But getting into that would make this post even longer. In this post I have offered a view of how an afterlife works for everybody–not because they believe in Christ or whoever–but because they are dedicated to acting in Love under the guidance of Truth to do Good to others, bringing greater Beauty into the world. And anyone who does this is well worth bringing onto the cosmic team.

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  11. Ted Heistman | Sep 7, 2012 at 7:50 am |

    I started thinking heaven may not be really what people think back when I was still a Christian. The idea I had was that consciousness is dual in nature. If you think about self awareness its “awareness of awareness” so it must be dual. Part of it is limited to our own viewpoint and part of it is Universal. So I began to suspect that what mystics do is come to identify more and more with the Universal aspect of consciousness so that when they die they don’t care as much, because that part lives on.

    I was a little bummed out by that realization in a way. But I figure thats what all mature people in all the World religions actually believe.

    Further study into Zen and Yoga has only confirmed this. Thats what “the ego” is all about. That’s the part of you that is going to die that you need to get over. The Fairy tales are all about the ego living forever.

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