Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Do You Really Believe in an Afterlife?

Make your choice.
Taken from Common Sense Atheism, which took from 4chan via reddit:
Imagine you have a blue pill and a red pill, and you must swallow one of them right now and not the other.

If you take the red pill, you will die immediately. If there is an afterlife, all your sins will be pardoned and you will spend eternity there. If there isn’t an afterlife, you will just be dead.

If you take the blue pill, you will live a long, happy, and fulfilling life on Earth. You won’t die early of illness or injury. You will be an asset to society. But if there is an afterlife, you will not partake in it when you die. When you die you will cease to exist, even if there is an afterlife for everyone else.

Which pill will you choose?
My thoughts on the scenario. Although the red pill option doesn't indicate that the afterlife is heaven, this seems to be a correct assumption. I don't see having sins pardoned as a very great benefit, but eternal life might be nice.

The blue pill option is also very nice. I'm a bit surprised that the scenario does not include an afterlife of "hell." The blue pill so far clearly seems like the better option.

The red pill option asks one to gamble something we know--the here and now--in exchange for something we don't--the afterlife. I cannot see a good reason for making this gamble. On the other hand, the blue pill option asks one to gamble something we don't know--eternal afterlife--in exchange for something we do--the here and now. It seems much easier to risk a potential afterlife than to risk an actual life, and so again the blue pill seems like the more reasonable path.

With the red pill, if there is no afterlife, we've been utter fools to give away our lives. With the blue pill, if there is an afterlife, we've not been foolish yet will have lost a lot. If the red pill is wrong, and there's no afterlife, then there's no benefit whatsoever to swallowing the red pill. If the blue pill is wrong, one still gets to live a human life, which makes swallowing the blue pill still beneficial.

I don't really understand the frame of mind that would think the red pill option was superior. Perhaps someone will explain to me.


  1. Haven't read the linked article, but it seems to lay out the options in the way of many sermons I have heard. The sermons in essence preach, "Take the red pill -- it's real!" Is that a harsher version of Pascal's Wager then, except that you have a lot to lose if you are wrong and choose eternal afterlife?

  2. > I don't really understand the frame of mind that would think the red pill option was superior.

    If you substitute money for life and afterlife, it’s easy to understand. This life is a dollar. The afterlife is a billion dollars. Living a long and happy life is a hundred dollars.

  3. atimetorend--I'm surprised that sermons would lay out the options as in the red pill-blue pill scenario.

    G*3--I worked through the money substitution, and it still doesn't shed any light for me on the red pill scenario. It seems almost like pure risk.

    I suppose a decision turns on how much one values one's actual life and how much one values the "afterlife." Maybe one sees eternal life as so desirable against a real, mortal life that it seems worth the risk.


Feel free to comment if you have something substantial and substantiated to say.