How the Religious Concepts of the Afterlife Devalue Human Life

By: Shahin Soltanian

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The concept of a life after death exists as part of the belief systems of most religions.  All three Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam make claims of the existence of a life after death either living in eternal bliss or eternal damnation.  According to Christian and Islamic religious traditions, after a person’s death, they or their soul (or both) is admitted to or forced into some sort of everlasting heaven or hell.  Following death, everyone is to be judged by God based on what they did and what beliefs they held while living in this world.  According to some Christian traditions, an extra caveat is placed for entry into heaven that a person must also undergo ritual purification (baptism) once in their lifetime.  Predating Christianity and Islam, Judaism seems to have several different views about life after death.  Some Jewish religious traditions include the concept of everlasting bliss for the good and eternal damnation for the wicked whereas others believe in the life in the Garden of Eden for the Good and either the admission of the wicked into the same garden after purification or complete annihilation from existence.

   Similarly, the Zoroastrian concept of afterlife, which heavily influenced the later three Abrahamic religious eschatology, presages a time where every person who ever lived is divided into various different groups based on their lifetime of deeds and conduct.  Everyone is then judged in the same way resulting in the good entering eternal bliss unharmed while the wicked suffer for a period of time before being purified and admitted to the same eternal life of bliss.

   The belief system of both Buddhist religious traditions and the traditions of the pantheon of Hindu religions revolve around reincarnation of the soul into different bodies based on a person’s conduct during their lifetime.  In Buddhism, a person’s spiritual efforts during their lifetime can lead them to eventually escape the cycle of birth and rebirth and achieve a higher form of enlightenment, known as nirvana.  In the state of nirvana a person after their death exists as an immaterial being or mind.  The highest achievement according to Buddhism is achieving nirvana.  Hindu religious traditions also talk about reincarnation either into animal form or castes (hierarchical division of people that decide their social status and occupation).  The final destination of a person who lives a pious life according to the teachings of the Hindu scriptures is the absorption (moksha) after death of the soul (atman) into the Brahman (infinite soul or God), either as being one with Brahman or as a separate entity.

   Taoist religious traditions teach that a person should strive to adhere to a moral life by adhering to the teaching of Tao in order to achieve immortality after death.  According to Tao religious teachings the guiding force of the universe is through an energy known as Ch’i or Qi.  The aim of individuals who wish to achieve immortality is to live in harmony with Ch’i in order for their souls to achieve union with the universe after death.  According to Taoist religious belief, one only achieves true awareness or awakening after death.

   What is common among all the various different concepts of afterlife in the above-mentioned religions is the idea that a person should strive to achieve felicity after death.  Life in this world is regarded as being less valuable than the one that is supposed to come after death.  Life after death is presented as being better and more pleasurable in one form or another as long as a person keeps to the teaching of a particular religious belief.  The ultimate goal, according to these religions, is what a person receives or avoids after death.  A person’s suffering in this world is only a path to or for the purpose of achieving happiness in the afterlife.  Pleasures and enjoyments in this world are restricted because according to such religious teachings they are either vices that lead to suffering after death or incomparable to the joy to come in the afterlife.

   Religious teachings all have some form of obligations and restrictions regarding a person’s personal behaviour as well as their interaction with others.  On an individual level, such obligations and restrictions could include anything from coordinating a person’s daily activities (such as ritual prayers) to what is permitted to eat, what kind of sexual activities a person can engage in, what a person is allowed to listen to or what kind of desires a person is allowed to have.  On a societal level, it could include how the concept of justice is defined, what encompasses a person’s rights and obligations and how disputes are to be decided.  The sacred teachings of a particular religion form the basis on which its obligations and restrictions are decided.

   The Abrahamic religions, as well as Buddihsm, the Hindu pantheon and Taoism, all claim to have access to their sacred teachings through some sort of mystical or divine understanding of reality unique only to certain individuals.  Such a circumstance leaves the adherents of such religions at the mercy of their prophets and spiritual leaders and their judgment of what is good, appropriate and just and what is bad, inappropriate and against justice.  In practice, whether openly admitted or being pragmatic, most religious individuals and scholars of a particular religion adapt to newly found and discovered understandings of the world by adjusting their thinking and practices.  But one thing that has remained constant throughout the history of the aforementioned religions has been the idea that divine or spiritual enlightenment has concluded that death is certain and that the life of this world is not as important or worth as much as the life which is supposed to come after death.

   The notions that claim the life of this world is not worth as much as the one to come after death, that suffering in this world is not something to complain about as long as it leads to a better afterlife and that restrictions in life (when not justified through rational and scientific means) are meant to bring about some sort of heavenly existence, is the very ideas that undervalue human life.

   Before proceeding further into the topic of how such ideas devalue human life, it is important to identify what is not being argued for in this essay.  Not every person who adheres to the above-mentioned religions devalues human life.  Individuals have different levels of faith and interpretation regarding their religions and some practitioners of a religious faith might put the life of this world ahead of the promise of an afterlife.  The argument is not that the mere fact that a person does not adhere to a religion means that they give value to every human life or that they value human life more than a religious person.  In history, there are many secular individuals who caused death on a mass scale.

   An argument is not being made against the possibility of some sort of life or existence after physical or bodily death.  It may well be rationally or scientifically found that there is the possibility of some kind of existence in some form or another after death or the possibility of being able to achieve such an existence through technological advancement.

   Furthermore, a separate essay is needed to discuss the lack of evidence for claims that the threat of eternal damnation or bliss can cause people to adhere to laws and regulations that protect people’s rights on a personal and societal level.  What would be noted here is that whether or not such a threat can curtail a person’s actions and conduct does not lead to the conclusion that what is prescribed by religion also rationally delineates what is or is not good, just or proper.  In other words, just because a person might be afraid of going to hell if they eat a certain forbidden food does not mean that from a rational or scientific perspective that food should be avoided.

   What is being argued against is the notion that a person can achieve eternal bliss (whether in the form of heaven, nirvana or moksha) or damnation (whether in the form of hell, reincarnation or annihilation) through unjustified claims and ideas of what is just, good or proper by individuals who either lived in an era with much less understanding of the physical world or claim to have mystical access to some sort of knowledge not accessible to everyone else.  Also, what is being refuted is the concept that the main purpose of the life of this world is to strive, through obligations and restrictions that are not rationally and scientifically justified, for a better life that is meant to come after death.

   In extreme cases, a person who wholeheartedly believes that their worldly life and that of others is not as valuable as the life to come after death might decide that it is justifiable to give up their own life and those of others to achieve a blissful hereafter.  In even more extreme cases, such a person might take practical measures according to their belief.  It is not difficult to see why anyone seeking some kind of power would see a benefit in such ideas in order to utilize people to give up their life and take the life of others.  Without the ideas that undervalue life in this world and places more value on life that is meant to come after death it would be less likely to convince someone to give up their life or take the life of another and therefore less likely for people to be used as instruments for achieving power.  On a less extreme case, a person might assume they are justified in their discrimination of a people who do not adhere to the same religion as them because their life in the hereafter does not have the same worth as theirs.

   The idea that suffering, poverty and other forms of misery is either needed for some kind of divine trial or some form of purification convinces individuals to not seek out justice and fairness with regards to their state of life.  In more severe cases, an individual might be convinced that their status in society is due to their gender or because of sins they had committed in a previous life.  Those with certain advantages in life due to wealthier or more privileged backgrounds could be made out to have the life they have because of their piety in a previous life.

   On an individual level, a person who adheres to restrictions and obligations that are not justified rationally and scientifically devalues the life they are living by placing on themselves unnecessary burdens and suffering and reducing enjoyments and pleasures.  Such a person could without rational and scientific justification restrict, according to their particular religious belief, the activities of family members under their care, thereby reducing the quality of life of their respective family members and hence devaluing the life of their family members along with their own.

   It should be noted that there might exist numerous texts in scriptures and spiritual teaching of religions that either directly or through some form of interpretation talk about the importance of human life.  However, the same religious text that talks about the importance of human life also requires its adherents to strive for the worthier afterlife.  The very idea that this worldly life is not as valuable and important as the one to come after death undermines and devalues human life in the here and now by proclaiming it as not being as important.

   It could be argued that the concept of striving for an afterlife worthier than the life of this world has impacted humanity in a negative way.  Throughout history such ideas have managed to convince individuals in a more disadvantaged life to accept their state of living while justifying the life of more advantaged individuals.  Religious ideas of a worthier afterlife and the way to achieve it have stunted human development in the field of ethics and justice by imposing on people preferences that are not justified rationally and scientifically.  Such preferences, usually in the form of obligations and restrictions, have lowered the quality of life for many individuals throughout history and in some circumstances leading to complete destruction and distinguishing of life.

   On the other hand, a person who does not believe that the aim of their current life is to strive for the afterlife would view life from a different perspective.  If a person believes that they only have one life or that at the very least if there is an afterlife of some sort (even if better than this life) it is no more important than their current one, or that obligations or restrictions not proven rationally and scientifically are not needed to achieve it, then they can be free to make the most of the life they have.  They would be less likely to accept injustice or suffering in their current life or accept an unfair status quo.  Such a person could potentially choose to act and conduct themselves based on what can be rationally and scientifically proven to be good, proper and just for the sake of providing a good life for themselves and others in this world.  They would no longer oblige or restrict themselves based on arbitrary views and opinions.

   Rather if the person who is not striving for the afterlife does choose to oblige or restrict themselves, it would be based on what is rationally and scientifically demonstrated to be beneficial, such as modifying eating habits that lead to a healthier life.  Living according to such a view of life would lead to differentiating between what is personal preference versus what is fair, good and proper.  Individuals are free to live according to their own preferences rather than the preferences that are justified on the basis of divine or mystical commandments.

Addendum

It is prudent to talk about a point of contention which usually divides the opinions of the religious conservatives and the more liberal leaning views (religious or none religious).  The aforementioned point is the argument regarding a woman’s right to abortion.  An argument might be made that valuing life should mean a woman should not have an abortion once pregnant.

   It is beyond the scope of this essay to discuss such a topic in depth.  Hence, discussion notes will be mentioned.  Several issues need to be addressed in order to evaluate whether or not a woman’s right to abortion devalues human life.  First, valuing human life also means valuing a person’s right to their body and what they want to do or not do with it which in the case of the right to abortion means the woman’s right to her body.  A woman’s body cannot forcibly be used for something or in a way for which she does not give consent.  Second, a fertilized egg is not automatically alive after conception.  Therefore, it has to be seen at what point it can be determined that a fertilized egg becomes a living human being.  Third, the quality of life of a fertilized egg if left to develop into a living human being has to be considered.  The important point to consider is that if legislation is going to be imposed on every person then the discussion regarding abortion should be conducted and a conclusion reached through rational and scientific means and not based on religious views of a group of people about when a fertilized egg is considered a human being.

Kashfence Philosophy Annual Celebrations

By: Shahin Soltanian

Kashfence Philosophy Annual Celebrations

Human societies have many events of significance that are either celebrated or commemorated as a yearly anniversary.  Such events might have religious, national or ethnic significance or a combination of one or more things.

National celebrations and commemorations could be the day a nation declared its independence from another nation.  It could be the anniversary of the day when a system of government was changed.  A national day of celebration could also include such things as  signing of a peace treaty between two groups of people that coexist within a state or celebrate the birth of a monarch.

Religious celebrations and commemorations can include the birth or demise of an important figure in that religion.  It could also include a significant event in the mythology or history of a religion.  Some religious anniversaries might include rituals or acts that were intended in the opinion of the founder or founders to teach self-discipline, improve society, improve oneself or seek some kind of attachment or closeness to God.

Ethnic holidays have usually concentrated on times of the year that were important to that ethnic group such as for example, celebration of the coming of the Spring season for harvesting crops.

What many of these celebrations and commemorations have in common is that it is usually a communal or familial event.  People get together either with their community or with their family for the purpose of celebrating or commemorating an event.  Common understanding and agreement about a particular day or time and the rituals and customs surrounding it serves the purpose of bonding and social cohesion between people.

Having a specific day to celebrate and commemorate organises people’s lives so that they can pre-plan their lives around it.

Due to the secular nature of the Kashfence philosophical doctrine, two days of celebration have been established to celebrate and commemorate what can be universally accepted as being fundamental to happiness and a moral life.

One is on 1st of May known as Good Deeds Day.  On Good Deeds Day a person intends and strives to do a good deed.  There is no specific custom of what kind of good deeds can be done to celebrate this day.  It is up to the person to choose what they are capable of and they feel strongly about.  Hence, each person might do a different kind of good deed.

The second day of celebration in Kashfence Philosophy is on the 1st of November known as the Family and Friends Day.  Family and Friends Day is a commemorative event intended to be a day you spend with your family and/or friends.  Gifts can be exchanged on Family and Friends Day or a person might just choose to spend quality time with their family and friends.

The reason it is called Family and Friends day is because there could be individuals who do not have a family or their family might be too far away.  Still they can celebrate the joy of spending time with a loved one or loved ones who might be just their friends.

The two commemorative days were specifically chosen because they did not have any seasonal significance.

Quotes

It is the attribute of the ignorant to accept only that which conforms to their limited understanding. Human beings have the ability to reason. Hence, we need to acquire and accept facts beyond that which is enclosed in our current way of thinking.
Dr Shahin Soltanian
Kashfence Philosophy

The remedy for ignorance is knowledge. But there is no cure for someone who chooses to remain ignorant.
Dr Shahin Soltanian
Kashfence Philosophy

Cherished Moments
When the heart cannot hear,
what good are the ears?
When the heart cannot see,
what good are the eyes?
When the heart cannot speak,
what good is the tongue?
When the heart cannot touch,
what good are the limbs?
When the heart cannot feel,
what good is the memory?
By: Zahra Soltanian

Why fight with bodies when you can fight with hearts and minds? When you fight bodies there is injury and death but fighting with the hearts and minds sometimes produces life. While a defeated body dies, a heart and mind that is defeated with reason and evidence becomes alive.
Dr Shahin Soltanian
Kashfence Philosophy


The Nightingale and the Jungle Fire

The following tale has in some way been mentioned in different world mythologies. The following novel version takes into consideration the main moral of the story.

Due to a lightning incident parts of a jungle had caught fire. In the midst of all the animals a single nightingale was attempting to put out the fire. It would take a drop of water with its beak, take it towards the fire and drop it at the corner. It would only drop the water at the corner of the fire that had engulfed part of the jungle because it was too hot for the nightingale to fly over it. It repeatedly did this until the other animals with a condescending tone said to the nightingale, “What use is it? You are too small and the water you carry too little to make any difference. You can never put out the fire at this rate.”

The nightingale turned to them and said, “You are absolutely correct. However, this is to the best of my ability. I am making the utmost effort according to what I am capable so that I don’t feel like I have done nothing. Maybe if everyone else also did what they are capable of or made any effort then we could all put out this fire.”

The moral of the story is that everyone is responsible for their own actions and whether they will choose to do nothing or be an active part of making a change for the better. Things might not change with the action of one person but maybe that one person can be an example to inspire others to also make an effort.

Kashfence Philosophy


Fable of the Farmer, his Father and their Donkey

There is an ancient fable that attempts to explain what would be the result of basing your life on other people’s opinions.  The story is not necessarily intended for the purpose of discouraging a person from listening to and accepting beneficial advice and constructive criticism.  Rather, it can be used to represent the idea that if someone changes the way they are doing something only for the reason of pleasing others, especially with so many different opinions, it will end with undesirable consequences.  There will always be someone who disagrees or will pick on something to criticize.  It could also be used to explain the consequences of criticizing others without a good reason other than one’s personal arbitrary opinions.  The story is narrated in many different cultures in slightly different variations.  The following is one version:

There was farmer that didn’t have much wealth but his farm and one donkey.  His old father lived with him and his family.  Every once in a while the farmer and his father would take their crops to town to sell in the farmer’s market.  The market was about half a day’s journey.  So the farmer stacked up his donkey and with his father went towards the farmer’s market.  Both he and his father were walking beside the donkey when they were passing a village.  The people of that village started talking and said, “Look at those two!  They are both walking when they have a donkey to carry them.  Why doesn’t one of them just ride on the donkey?  They must not be very intelligent.”

The farmer and his father felt ashamed that their intelligence was questioned.  The farmer told his old father to sit on the donkey instead of walking so that he can bare the long journey.  He walked beside the donkey during their journey towards the farmer’s market.  On the way to the market, they were passing a village.  The villagers started talking about them saying, “Look at that father!  How can he sit on the donkey while his son looks tired while walking?  What kind of a father is he?!”

So the father and the son felt ashamed and decided to switch places.  The son started riding the donkey whereas the father walked alongside.  While passing another village, the residents of that village started talking saying, “Look at that boy!  He is riding on the donkey with no care in the world when his old father who has worked all his life to bring him up has to walk.  What kind of a son is he?”

So the father and the son felt ashamed again and decided it was better if they both rode the donkey and in this way no one can criticize them.  When they were passing the next town on their way to the market the residents of that town started talking and saying, “Look at those cruel people!  They are both riding that donkey with their crop on its back.  Don’t they care at all about its welfare?”

Fed up with all the criticism they decided to carry the donkey instead.  They used a stick and tied the donkey with all their crops and started carrying the donkey and the crop when they passed another town.  The people of that town started mocking them saying, “Look at those idiots!  They are carrying the donkey instead of the donkey carrying them.  How stupid can you get?!” They were halfway through a bridge and upset about what had occurred until that time.  Trying to put the donkey down so that the mocking stops the donkey and the crops slipped from their hands and fell of the bridge and the donkey died.  They were left without a crop and with no donkey.  On that day they realized that changing the way a person does things just for the purpose of pleasing everyone else will not have a good outcome.

Kashfence Philosophy

About Us

This website is intended to inform anyone interested in the Kashfence Philosophy and provide information and contact needed by the world Kashfenci community for propagating the Kashfenci thought.

The site is run by the Kashfence Trust, registered as a charity in New Zealand.  Kashfence Trust also operates Kashfence Trust Publications.

Shahin Soltanian
Dr. Shahin Soltanian

Founder of Kashfence Philosophy Dr. Shahin Soltanian has a PhD from the University of Auckland in philosophy.  He has studied and researched the philosophy, theology, history and legal frameworks of many religious teachings and traditions.  He spent a good portion of his life researching foundations of religious thoughts, reasoning provided by polemics of various different religions for their tenets of faith and the principles and legal frameworks of various religious laws.  His main goal for his research was always to find out the truth.  Dr. Soltanian founded and named the Kashfence Philosophy for those who believe in God but do not see the necessity of adopting a religion.  Kashfence Philosophy provides the framework and organization for living one’s life without religion or divine commandments.


Zahra Soltanian
Zahra Soltanian

Zahra Soltanian is a trustee of the Kashfence Trust. She manages the organization and operation of the trust’s activities and its financial aspects. She is interested in women’s rights, freedoms and health. She can also communicate in four languages.


Ali Soltanian Fard Jahromi
Ali Soltanian Fard Jahromi

Ali Soltanian Fard Jahromi is the web administrator for the Kashfence Philosophy site. He is responsible for the this site’s smooth running, SEO and social media and web activities. His other activities include animation, film production, game development and 3D art.

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Kashfence Philosophy Annual Celebrations

By: Dr Shahin Soltanian

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Start Your Kids on Good Eating Habits

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Read online (link 1): Medium

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Weight Maintenance

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Healthy Cooking Recipes with Red Meat

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DOCTRINE

Kashfence Philosophy is the doctrine developed by Dr. Shahin Soltanian that maintains rational and scientific reasoning is the basis for a happy and moral life.  The word Kashfence is comprised of the word ‘Kashf’, meaning to discover in some languages, with the suffix ‘ence’ which denotes a quality, an action or result.  Together ‘kashf’ and ‘ence’ create the original word Kashfence intended to capture the essence of discovering through rational and scientific reasoning and analysis.  The essence of Kashfence Philosophy is for every person to discover through rational and scientific reasoning.

Kashfence Philosophy is not a religion but a philosophical basis and doctrine for living.  According to the Kashfence Philosophical thought a person is capable of discovering through rational and scientific reasoning not only information about the world but also moral principles.  Like the scientific domain the ability to discover moral principles and laws that govern society become better evolved and more advanced through peaceful dialogue that takes place between people as long as the underlying principle is rational and scientific reasoning.

According to Kashfence Philosophy there exists an unlimited God that created the entire world of being.  However, God has not ‘revealed’ anything to human beings.  Those who asserted to have the word of God or revelation from God have failed to rationally prove their claim.  The ability to reason is the best tool God has given every person to discover not only scientific principles but also all other principles including any basis for moral and legal opinions.  However, many personalities of different religions have made significant contribution to the moral and social fabric of human society.  However, they do not have divine authority to establish laws or rules for people’s lives.  The merits of each of their claims should be independently analyzed through rational and scientific methods to see if they should be adopted or rejected.

A person that lives according to the Kashfenci Philosophical thought is known as a Kashfenci or a follower of the Kashfence Philosophy. Kashfence Philosophy is based on the following five principles:

1 – Rational and Scientific reasoning

2 – There is one unlimited God

3 – Justice

4 – Family

5 – Healthy Mind and Body

Rational and Scientific reasoning

Knowledge can be attained through rational and scientific reasoning only.  Every person of sound mind has the ability to think and reason for themselves as individuals and as a group assisting each other.  Reasoning, as long as it is on the basis of rational and scientific analysis is what leads to discovery of truth and reality.  Kashfence philosophy puts the most emphasis on this principle and all other principles are subject to proof and evidence through rational and scientific reasoning.

God

In accordance with Kashfence philosophy God is not limited in any shape or form, is the existential cause of everything and the laws that govern their interaction but does not have an existential cause itself (has always existed) and cannot be divided in any way.  No person or limited being can claim to be god or divine.

Justice

There exists a sense of justice within people.  Rational and scientific reasoning, not claims of divine laws, should be used to clarify what is just and fair.

Family

Whatever form a family takes it is beneficial to be caring to one’s family and socialise with them and protect them.

Healthy Mind and Body

To enjoy life and help others enjoy life, a healthy mind and body is essential.  Hence, in order to achieve the aforementioned goal every individual should endeavour to the best of their ability to have a healthy mind and body and help others to do the same.

The Kashfence Philosophical doctrine has two days of celebration during the year.  One is on 1st of May known as Good Deeds Day on which a Kashfenci does a good deed usually for someone else.  The second is on 1st of November known as Family and Friends Day intended to be a day you spend with your family and/or friends. The Kashfenci community have communal gathering in what is known as the Discovery Centres.  At such centres people engage in discussions, listen to lectures and have the opportunity to socialize.

Kashfence Philosophy

Kashfence Philosophy is the doctrine that maintains rational and scientific reasoning is the basis for a happy and moral life.  The word Kashfence is comprised of the word ‘Kashf’, meaning to discover in some languages, with the suffix ‘ence’ which denotes a quality, an action or result.  Together ‘kashf’ and ‘ence’ create the original word Kashfence intended to capture the essence of discovering through rational and scientific reasoning and analysis.  The essence of Kashfence Philosophy is for every person to discover through rational and scientific reasoning.

Kashfence Philosophy is not a religion but a philosophical basis and doctrine for living.  According to the Kashfence Philosophical thought a person is capable of discovering through rational and scientific reasoning not only information about the world but also moral principles.  Like the scientific domain the ability to discover moral principles and laws that govern society become better evolved and more advanced through peaceful dialogue that takes place between people as long as the underlying principle is rational and scientific reasoning.

According to Kashfence Philosophy there exists an unlimited God that created the entire world of being.  However, God has not ‘revealed’ anything to human beings.  The ability to reason is the best tool God has given every person to discover not only scientific principles but also all other principles including any basis for moral and legal opinions.

Explore the site for more information about Kashfence Philosophy.