Any one of these three alternatives* could be the case, or a further alternative could be the case, but they cannot all be the way things are. That would require a universe with no structural consistency; it would be a chaos, not a cosmos. Nor could a person’s belief make any one of these eventualities true. Still, people often seem to think so. That is, some people believe that what happens to you at death depends on what you believe. Your beliefs determine your destiny. But to think that a person’s personal belief about the afterlife could make that belief true, as I have heard some students suggest, has nothing to recommend it at all. When does what one believes about the physical world make any difference at all to what that world actually is? We can’t make our dreams come true just by dreaming them. Nor can we make our beliefs come true just by believing them.
- You believe that there is a resurrection of the body, and after death either a blissful life in heaven with God and his people or an unhappy continued personal existence apart from God in hell.
- Your neighbor believes that conscious life just ends at death.
- Down the street is a New Ager who believes he will be reincarnated.
— James Sire, from Why Good Arguments Often Fail, p. 110