A blogger who does not believe in any sort of afterlife recently lost a much-loved but elderly dog. I thought about this quite a bit today, because some of my comments were among those deleted because he found their expression of belief in an afterlife painful.
My personal belief is that conservation of energy works. We may change form at death, including the possibility of going into a state of no physical form, but there is a form of energy in us, that IS us, that will survive the death of the physical form. I believe there is a good chance that the energy may incarnate itself again (and again and again) if it chooses to do so.
The question may be, why do I believe this? On the one hand, I may choose to believe this way because it's easier. If I believe I have a chance of seeing/feeling those I love again, that may make losing their current physical forms easier. Maybe it's the lazy woman's way to put off dealing with some of the grief that might come knowing that those who are gone are simply, irretrievably, gone. Add to that my own not-so-far-off-as-it-used-to-be mortality. Maybe I can't/don't want to face the idea that this is a one-shot deal. I think this may be a very real part of it, because I certainly don't see myself as being spectacularly successful yet in this life. If I believe I'll have addition opportunities for "getting" what I'm not understanding yet in this life, it takes some of the pressure off to achieve, achieve, achieve. I also grieve less for people like my mother, who died unhappy, thinking she'll be back and hopefully in a position where she can achieve some happiness and maybe some other things she would've liked to do or have (we're talking personality or soul development here, not financial).
Mostly, though, I don't think the evidence supports the one-shot deal theory. We describe our friends as being more than just their physical attributes, often in ways that indicate we feel our friends transcend their physical forms. We feel an anima, a spark of life in them. If/when the physical attributes stop, why would we assume that more than those physical attributes stop? Why would the spark die just because the body does? During life, at least part of that anima needs to be with the body at all times to keep it going, but often part of it seems to wander, whether in dreams or daydreams, out-of-body experiences, or deep sleep or meditation. Why wouldn't all of the anima be able to leave when the body no longer needs it? Dead bodies seem heavier than live ones. Perhaps part of the anima also acts as buoyant force to keep the body able to move on its own.
Another branch of my theory is that we all are interconnected on some level. I believe that many of us live and die mostly unconscious of the level of connection, but that education and experience can help us achieve awareness of the connection, or at least awareness of the possibility of connecton, even if we can't quite feel it. Again, because I feel this connection exists, in some ways we cannot die in the finito sense because the whole would be less than whole with bits and pieces of it continually dying and leaving holes in the whole. This gets me to where I have to stop believing in time as absolute. I believe that we here blogging or reading blogs have chosen to act as if we believe in time and that time runs only in one direction (international date line and speed of light travel notwithstanding). In reality, I think, there is no time. I'm always an infant, a teenager, a young adult, a middle-aged adult, whatever age I get to on this round of the mortal coil. I can't really grasp that logically and describe it because I think our language is inadequate to the task. We're too time-tied, or at least I am in language.
As usual, I don't know how to wrap up my thoughts into a tidy package for a conclusion. I guess, I can just say it's better for my already questionable sanity to believe we go on after death than to believe death is the ultimate end. I think the latter would be a hard way to live.