A reader named Elizabeth Kurata left a comment with these questions last week:
”I don't think I've read anything about this subject on your blog - your own spiritual beliefs, about what happens after death, in your opinion, or at the moment of death.
“Do you believe in heaven & hell? Do you believe they are places? Do you believe in a Soul? What about Consciousness? What do you think happens after death?”
Well, Elizabeth, I am pretty sure you've found a topic I have not, in 15 years at this blog, written about. One reason, the biggest reason is that I don't think there is anything at all more private and personal in life.
Also, it is undoubtedly too difficult a subject to carry on in this arm's-length kind of written forum where direct response to one another is difficult.
Also, in the realm of spirituality and religion, people believe what they believe and often hold so fiercely to those beliefs that there is nowhere to go with a discussion.
People are free to believe whatever they want and we in the United States should know that better than some other places. It is a large part of how we became a country.
Me? I am nominally Jewish but don't do anything about it except light yartzeit and Hannukah candles. I've always suspected that I just like candles.
But what is important about yartzeit is all that day, every time I see the flame, I think about that loved one, keeping them alive in my heart year after year after year, never letting go. I think it is a beautiful ritual for anyone, Jewish or not.
Mostly, in regard to the questions inherent in religion, spirituality, souls, the great hereafter, and all that goes with it – I am agnostic. I have no beliefs in those areas. Does individual consciousness survive death? I suspect not but who am I to say.
Although I generally have no religious beliefs, I do believe that the ancient sacred texts of religions are mostly good blueprints for how to live a good life. And the language of some can be breathtakingly beautiful – the King James Bible and The Book of Common Prayer are two that are worth reading again and again even if you are atheist, agnostic or of another religion. Plus you might learn something about living.
What I do believe is that most of us, most of the time, with or without belief in a higher power, live by our better instincts that are innate. Except on days when I don't believe that.
I have no idea what happens after death. Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised. But what I do know is what astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson tells us in a statement that makes me weep with awe and joy: “We are all stardust.”
Take a listen to him: