Just an idea that's been bubbling around in my brain for a couple of years now - it may be helpful for those that need the crutch of religion when faced with the death, afterlife, reward/punishment/justice issue.
Suppose that 'you' (referred to by some as your soul) is nothing more than the collective processes of your nervous system i.e your brain. This idea is well established - an amputee can think as well as anyone, a brain damaged person is still alive but is likely to have diminished cognitive function - anyone who knows someone who has had a stroke understands this premise well.
Realise then that how you take in the world around you, how you perceive analyze feel and interpret, is a function provided by your consciousness - a byproduct of the biological activity of your brain. As such it necessarily follows that one cannot think past the point of brain death. There can be no personal realisation that "wow, I'm dead" as to be dead necessarily requires the non functionality of your brain.
As your consciousness is (currently) dependent on the biological life of your brain and you perceive the world from the perspective of your consciousness, it seems reasonable to assume that near brain death the consciousness - in whatever diminished form it may be - will experience an unending static immediate at the point of brain death.
I think that is an interesting thought enough, however for some a little speculation may prove even more interesting. This situation could be romanticized for those that are unable to face the idea of no afterlife.
It could be argued that in the vast majority of situations a person is aware of the fact that they are without doubt about to die. This may be only a very short amount of time, but i see no reason why an acutely blood deprived brain could not still generate some neuronal action potentials. Obviously this capacity would diminish quickly, but it seems reasonable to assume that a severed head could still fire some neurons in the brain for a short time.
I would argue that most people fear death because of the uncertainty of punishment/reward that religion has polluted the earth with. As such it is not far-fetched to assume that when someone is met with the knowledge that death is imminent, they might likely have a 'life flash before their eyes' moment in which they reflect on their lives or even try to evaluate the likelihood of receiving some form of afterlife punishment/reward.
This creates an interesting situation that appears to combine many ideas of afterlife. In such a situation there is no absolute checklist or judge that can be used - you can't roll over and tear a hole in the fabric of space to pull out your scorecard - rather the person is judging themselves based on the beliefs they themselves have had.
A reasonable person may conclude "I haven't killed, raped, tortured or robbed anyone. I tried to help people out where ever i could." In such a circumstance this person is likely to reach a state of acceptance, relief, calm or peace. Under this idea then this feeling/mind state would become their static immediate, experienced indefinitely.
Conversely, a person who is apprehensive about their past (murderer, rapist etc) might be experiencing a sense of worry, regret, dejection or fear that would than become their eternal static immediate.
Unfortunately, as you are judging yourself on values you hold, there would be situations where extremely compassionate people judge themselves as "not having done enough", perhaps leading to worry and doubt. Similarly, a person dying in an act of extreme violence might experience a joyous static immediate due to their expectation of reward due to the beliefs they hold.
At the end of the day this idea is at minimum as plausible as any religious proposition of afterlife and seems to encompass many similar ideas. It is perhaps more just as the judging is done by the self, based on values the self held - whether conscious of said values or not.
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From the officers:
The ACA Lecture Series continues Sunday, March 8th at 12:15pm at the Austin History Center, 9th and Guadalupe. The building opens at noon. Ryan Bell will talk on "My Year Without God: Now a Permanent Condition."