Posted On 30 Aug 2009
Are you curious about immortality?
Observing a funeral always reminds me of the appalling ignorance concerning the distinction between immortal life [immortality] and eternal life. Fortunately, ignorance is curable.
Since the prefix “im” negates what follows it, our topic is the opposite of mortal life. It is life after death, or, if you prefer, life after life. Therefore, it is not available now, during life. It presupposes duration or continuance; in other words, it merely involves a longer time. It’s the claim that there is a greater quantity to life than is initially apparent.
By way of contrast, eternal life is available now. Eternal life is timelessness. It has nothing to do with time; eternity is the opposite of temporality. It’s qualitatively different.
This distinction yields four possibilities. Neither is available to humans. Both are available. One is available, but the other isn’t.
Which of the four positions should we provisionally adopt?
Well, that depends upon the evidence. Only now that the four possibilities are clearly distinguished does it make sense to inquire about which is best supported by evidence. (I intend to talk about the evidence in my next post. I shall commit myself to one of the four possibilities.)
It’s important, though, to distinguish what a claim is from the evidence regarding it. For example, it’s senseless to argue for or against the existence of God without first becoming clear about the subject of the dispute, about what God is. Otherwise, it’s impossible to determine which evidence is relevant. Similarly, it’s senseless to try to think about immortality without clearly distinguishing it from eternal life. Sadly and unnecessarily, that’s a distinction that is commonly overlooked.
Since these are important matters, it’s wise to insist on clarity. Step one is becoming clear about what immortality is. Step two is gathering and evaluating the relevant evidence.