As a Satanist, I don’t believe in a Heaven or Hell. I don’t really believe in an afterlife, period. As far as I’m concerned, this is the only life I get. I don’t get a chance to do things differently in a different reincarnation. I will not be forgiven by a stern but caring deity on a serene white cloud. Hell, I won’t even get to scare the shit out of my descendants as a ghost, despite how often I joke about it. When I die, that’s it. Done-zo. No more S. Kay Smith, at least not as an individual, sentient being. I won’t have anybody waiting for me on the other side, nor will I be there to wait on others, because there is no other side.
This is a concept a lot of people have trouble wrapping their minds around, including myself, when I first started on my highway to Hell. Death can be scary, and the concept of an afterlife can be a comfort for those who don’t have the courage to face it. I’m not here to take away anyone’s comfort, but to share my own in the face of death.
There are a few different theories that I know of concerning what happens to us after we die. Not just our bodies; it is scientific fact that, if left to their own devices, our bodies will decompose and become one again with nature; what happens to our minds, our personalities – that little spark that makes us us – is not scientific fact. It is impossible to be scientifically certain, because it is impossible to verify. The best we have are theories and religion.
Probably the most common I’ve heard is what I call the fade-to-black theory. (It’s also one of the more common literary descriptions of a character death.) When a person dies, everything stops working. It starts with organ failure and motor skills, then hearing and vision fail (thus the name fade-to-black). The last, of course, is the mind. Thoughts slow down until they cease entirely. Then that’s it. The person dying usually doesn’t realize it’s happening. It’s often been described as simply going to sleep.
I call the second theory dispersed consciousness. This one focuses on what happens to our physical bodies after we die. As the body decomposes, it becomes food for things like bacteria, plants, animals, and fungi. Those on the dispersed consciousness team believe that pieces of the consciousness, that “spark,” come away from the body every time another organism feeds on us. By the time the body has fully decomposed, the consciousness has been dispersed throughout the ecosystem, and become one with nature just as the body has.
But my personal favorite is the memory theory. This one is based off the brain activity that goes on during death. I believe that that brain activity is a person reliving their past memories. My afterlife is literally the one I’m living right now. Whether or not it’s a good one depends entirely on my attitude and my choices. If I make more good memories than bad ones, my “afterlife” will be predominately good rather than bad.
So when a Satanist tells you that we try to live our lives to the fullest, this is what we mean. The only forgiveness we need is the forgiveness of those we’ve wronged. The only chance we’ll have to make the kind of impact we want in the world, or do the things we want to do, is right now. So let’s all make good memories together, shall we?
*Title is a lyric from Avenged Sevenfold’s song Afterlife