Given a materialist view on things (the mind cannot exist separate from the body), it seems on the surface that an afterlife is possible. However, the SEP entry on afterlife seems to provide some pretty good objections to this idea. How can any of these problems be surmounted for a theist? One of the objections is this: if God created multiple beings the same as the one on Earth, how would our consciousness be preserved? This question is not asking if mind-body dualism is right or wrong, rather I'm asking whether afterlife is possible given materialism.

Edit: When I say "materialist", I mean the idea that our bodies go to heaven with our minds, not just our minds "by themselves". And this question is mostly aimed from a Christian perspective.

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    From a Christian perspective the idea that our bodies go to heaven along with our minds sounds very odd, while there are some disagreements on afterlife there is pretty much a consensus that the body is destroyed (which is rather obviously the case upon cremation) and only the soul lives on. And theists are very rarely, if ever, materialists, so I do not see why they should care. If one really wants it one can postulate a material soul made of "subtle matter" like Stoics or recently Pullman did.
    – Conifold
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 20:14
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    If I had to I'd take Baker's "first-person perspective" identity but declare that it is a haecceity a la Duns Scotus, which eliminates SEP objections. Alternatively, I'd ditch the qualms about having multiple body instantiations of the same "person", if teleportation can do it why not God. But again, materialist afterlife is an idiosyncratic position of interest only to few. As SEP says "proponents of an afterlife, it seems, would be better served if they were able to espouse some variety of mind-body dualism", or plain idealism, for that matter.
    – Conifold
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 21:02
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    "But individual natures in Ockham's view can indeed be primarily diverse, and this surely amounts to a form of haecceitism — nothing other than an individual nature's own self-identity explains its distinction from all other such natures... [this amounts] to accepting a form of haecceitism that, like Adams's, does not involve ontological commitment to the existence of real haecceities". Materialists certainly wouldn't want "real", i.e. immaterial, haecceities. Ockham's nominalistic twist gives them exactly what they need.
    – Conifold
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 21:59
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    There are problems with everything, and objections even to the most "obvious" things like the laws of logic. But body gets destroyed and disembodied soul goes somewhere (perhaps to be reembodied later) seems simple enough compared to contortions needed on a purely materialistic view.
    – Conifold
    Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 20:34
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    Substance dualism says that mind and body are separate entities, possibility of disembodiment then more or less follows. On property dualism disembodiment is problematic but "transferability" isn't (indeed we can transfer patterns from say acoustic to optical waves, but not "disembody" them). Chalmers is a prominent modern proponent.
    – Conifold
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 5:05

2 Answers 2


The typical objection to a material afterlife is that "flesh is corruptible." In other words, the material body can get sick or damaged. Since even elementary particles are predicted to decay, it's difficult to picture a workable material afterlife.

Nevertheless, there are some (reasonably orthodox) interpretations of the Christian scriptures as predicting a bodily resurrection at the end of time, rather than an immediate spiritual translation to heaven. The expectation in that case is that the bodies will be remade or transformed into a new form of matter that will not age or decay. That's arguably compatible with even a physical reductionist view of the mind/soul, but it would require that heaven and its denizens be formed of some completely different kind of matter currently unknown to us.

Interestingly enough, many of the Gospel references to the "Kingdom of Heaven" can be read as primarily describing an earthly state of existing in relationship with God, and not as referring to an afterlife at all.

  • Couldn't God, if he is all-powerful, simply stop humans from getting sick or damaged? And also stop elementary particles from decaying?
    – APCoding
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 21:11
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    It's a little unorthodox, but I don't see any immediate objections to it. However, any conception of the afterlife that is primarily an extension of material life as we know it runs into the issue that it's hard to imagine it extended into eternity without eventually seeming hellish. Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 21:17
  • OK, thanks. Thanks for the answer! One last question: do any of the SEP objections apply to the solution you proposed?
    – APCoding
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 21:23

The answer to your main question is, yes, a materialistic afterlife is possible.
Most objections to this answer can be resolved by noting that God has a very simple solution to the, "a copy is not the same as the original," problem. All He has to do is return a person's time to just before dying, and change the "path" so the person does not die. This would be one way of "resurrecting" a person with "no complications." However, a non-materialistic afterlife, would not only be more desirable, but more probable. As I understand it, we would become a form of "sentient energy," wherein our consciousness/identity would reside. We would then be part of, and of the same nature as God, and would "reside" in Him - for ever!

Also, it seems that there will be both groups. Those that are resurrected, and those that are "left" as "sentient energy."

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