AFP’s New Humanist Thinking Magazine


What’s Outside the Door?

By Weed Boctor


            Is life after death possible? Will God judge us and our lives and put us in heaven or hell? Or, will we be reincarnated? How can one know what’s real on the other side?

            We are in a room with no windows and only one one-way door. We can’t see outside the room, and the people who go out the door never return.

            Many thinkers have offered theories about what’s outside the door. Some speculate that outside the room is non-existence. In other words, this life is as good as it gets. I believe this theory.

            Others are optimistic, saying the door leads to God, but that He is beyond human knowledge.

            Others offer more determinate theories such as the Christians. They say an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving God is outside (and inside) the door. He created the world and His actions are documented in the Bible.

            When a person exits the room, God determines whether the person deserves to go to heaven or hell, depending on the person’s actions.

            Others offer many other views such as the theory that people who leave the room return as different persons, or even as animals or insects.

            When the available empirical evidence is insufficient to decide between different theories – philosophers call such situations “under-determination.”

            The only way to confirm or refute these theories is by additional empirical evidence. In other words, the only way to know which theory is correct is to go out the door.

            Some will object to this method, and we can consider their possible objections.

            Objection #1: “I want to know whether God exists from inside the room. I want to know now if what the Bible says is true so that I could worship God in order to go to heaven.”

            Reply: We all want things we can’t have. If the cost of knowledge is too high, we can decide not to know – we can choose ignorance. Each person, in his or her time, will go out the door and find out for him or herself.

            As to the question of worshipping God, I cannot in good conscience advise it. According to the Bible, God created the Great Flood in the time of Noah, murdering innocent babies. Therefore, if God exists, I would not worship him.

            Objection #2: “We should believe in God, not by reason or evidence, but through a leap of faith.”

            Reply: People who seriously believe in God can go to the edge of the roof of the Physical Sciences Building and take a leap of faith, asking God to forgive them on the way down. If God exists, He would send them directly to heaven. (Note: Some Catholics believe that suicide invariably leads to hell.)

            Objection #3: “After bodily death, one no longer has senses and thus cannot acquire empirical evidence.”

            Reply: The way to test that claim is to go out the door. If we exist after bodily death and can acquire knowledge, then we can know what is outside the door. But, if we do not exist after bodily death, or if we do not have any senses, then we cannot know.

            Some theories can be tested in only one direction. Some can be known only if they are true, some can be known only if they are false. Consider the question of whether we would survive after the rulers start a nuclear war using all their bombs. This question can be empirically known only if it is true.

            Objection #4: “We do not need God to explain anything. For example, the Big Bangers have explained the origin of the universe; evolutionists have explained the development of humans, etc. In philosophical jargon, rejecting God reduces our ontological commitments.

            “According to Occam’s Razor, we should not multiply entities beyond necessity. Hence we do not have to go out the door to reject God.”

            Reply: Contrast Occam’s Razor with what I will call Boctor’s Shovel, according to which, we should multiply entities beyond necessity as much as possible. Regardless of their merits, both of these principles are not criteria of truth. And we want to know what is true, not what is simpler or what makes fewer ontological claims.

            Objection #5: “The concept of an all-powerful, all-knowing being is logically impossible.”

            Reply: I agree with the argument that combining these concepts is illogical. However, if we found an all-powerful, all-knowing being that logic denies – to be consistent, we would have to revise the laws of logic.

            After all, we use the laws of logic because they work – in other words, because they are consistent with the empirical evidence.

            Objection #6: “We can know what is behind the door from reports of people with near-death experiences – those who were, so to speak, half out the door. Some of them say they were in a corridor, at the end of which was a pleasant peaceful bright light who is God.”

            Reply: One answer is that these people were never out of the door; hence, they have no empirical evidence of what is behind the door. Another answer is that these secondhand reports cannot possibly provide us firsthand knowledge. As Heraclitus said, “The eyes are surer witnesses than the ears.”


Copyright 1997 Weed Boctor  All rights reserved.


This article was published in the CSLA University Times in 1997.


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