For Immediate Release: July 9, 2015
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director - 207-358-9785

Heaven Is Not for Real: The Afterlife Myth Dismantled in Free Inquiry

While belief in the afterlife is celebrated in the popular culture with a deluge of best-selling near-death testimonials, the secular humanist magazine Free Inquiry takes a critical look at beliefs in life after death, exploring the belief’s possible explanation in terms of evolutionary “memes” and why the very idea of Heaven ought to be problematic even to religious believers.

Before his death in May of this year, philosopher Michael L. Martin, along with Keith Augustine, edited a collection of essays on the subject of life after death for the book The Myth of an Afterlife, that, according to Free Inquiry editor Tom Flynn, “marshals overwhelming evidence against the idea that human consciousness can survive physical death.” Two of those essays have been adapted for Free Inquiry.

First, professor of psychology Steve Stewart-Williams examines the evolutionary bases for belief in an afterlife. Such beliefs are not the product of the natural selection of biological genes, he posits, but of ideas or memes. Considering all the usual reasons cited for belief in an afterlife, Stewart-Williams looks more broadly at how the idea of a life after death perpetuates and adapts within the minds of humans and from person to person—in the same way a joke, a bit of music, or an urban legend “replicates” among human brains.

In his own essay, Michael L. Martin takes the Christian myth of Heaven at face value and reveals its myriad inconsistencies and logical problems. From the contradictory requirements for admission to Heaven, to the problem of free will for its disembodied residents, to the confusion over Heaven’s actual location, Martin shows plainly that the idea of Heaven is simply irreconcilable, even (and especially) for true religious believers.

Plus, special to Free Inquiry: Bangladeshi-American writer Rafida Bonya Ahmed, who was nearly killed in the Islamist attack that claimed the life of her husband Avijit Roy, delivers in these pages an unforgettable message of defiance to their attackers. “I cannot even despise you…. You are not worth my hate,” she tells them. “Human civilization will shiver when it discards you in the trash pile of history, when it sees your barbaric insanity.”

Also in the August/September 2015 issue: Ryan Shaffer provides crucial background on the crisis in Bangladesh that led to the recent spate of murders; Leah Mickens exposes the contradictory attitudes of the Church toward those who are transgender and its acceptance of castrati; Ronald A. Lindsay makes a case that humanists are not just “good without God,” but better; Tom Flynn wonders why fewer secular humanists deny the possibility of altruism these days; and much more.

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Free Inquiry is a bimonthly magazine, published by the Center for Inquiry, in association with the Council for Secular Humanism, featuring thoughtful and provocative commentary from such leading political and social commentators as Arthur Caplan, Greta Christina, Nat Hentoff, and Russell Blackford. Launched in 1980, Free Inquiry has a paid circulation of approximately 34,000 worldwide.