Is there life after death? Don’t expect a chat show to tell you the answer

(Catholic Herald UK) I’m glad that Crisis Magazine has reproduced an article Stratford Caldecott first wrote on his blog, Beauty in Education. It is entitled “Search for the Secret of Life and Death” and ties in, from a Catholic perspective, with a programme broadcast on BBC One on Sunday in The Big Questions series. This time the subject was “Is there life after death?” Nicky Campbell, the presenter, had got together a large group of special interest groups, mainly atheists but also including the main faiths: Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist.

Inevitably, in a programme of this type, however open-mindedly and tolerantly approached, you end up with a muddle of different voices and views. The only conclusion, in answer to this big question, would be: “Some people are persuaded there is, while others are equally persuaded that the question is inherently absurd.” Professor Chris French of Goldsmiths College was one of the naysayers. He couldn’t answer the question of how self-consciousness in humans, as opposed to animals, had arisen but it was on a spectrum and had obviously “evolved”. (I knew that word would pop up at some stage.)

Fr Andrew Pinsent, the Christian representative, got very little air-time. This wasn’t deliberate – there were just too many people to accommodate in the debate. He did manage to suggest that humans are different in kind from animals, not just in degree, and quoted CS Lewis: “In this life we write the title page of what we will be in eternity” – but I am not sure anyone was listening to him.

A senior Buddhist nun of the 14th Dalai Lama, who spoke with a very English accent, talked about the Buddhist idea of reincarnation. She was backed up by a Past Life Regression Therapist who said she herself had been a shaman in a previous life. She in turn was gently deflated by the editor of The Skeptic magazine, Deborah Hyde, who had once trained as a hypnotherapist and who averred that people could come up with amazing stories of their past incarnations – generally the Hollywood version rather than a historical one. [more]

Catholic Herald UK