20110517 Uploading Minds, Bin Laden, and Death

Christ is Risen!  Indeed He is Risen!

It is such a joy to be back in the OrthoAnalytika studio (which, by the way has moved again… this time into a dedicated man-cave in the attic).  Today, we are testing a new format: I have created a new podcast (OrthoAdoration) for sharing the sounds of worship and homilies here at St. Michael Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Woonsocket.  That frees me up to dedicate OrthoAnalytika to the things most of you like the most: analysis and exegesis.  So if you are interested in the weekly homily, check out OrthoAdoration; but if you like hearing analysis of current events, the paranormal, spirituality, and satire… then this is the place for you!
Local News:
Parish Growth.  I don’t know if I have shared this with you or not, but our family is participating in a great parish growth program: having more children!  Lord willing, our baby will be born sometime around August 11th.  We appreciate your prayers and encouragement.  As for the utility of this strategy when it comes to parish growth, let me just make three points (more could easily be made):
·   You have to make sure that the parish is the kind that kids want to be a part of when they grow up.  Some parishes are wonderful at driving people away.  Some of the blame certainly lays with the clergy – we don’t always do what we can.  But there are far too many parishes that are just plain unhealthy, full of schisms and all the nasty sorts of things that St. Paul tried to solve back in the old days.  I once heard of a very dear elderly parishioner stand up at a parish meeting and preface his vitriolic attacks on the board by saying “I am old school…”.  No one wants to go to that kind of school! 
·   Albert Hirschman wrote a wonderful book back in 1970 about the three strategies folks take when things aren’t going well.  He named the book after these three strategies; “Exit, Voice, and Loyalty” (he actually used “Loyalty” as a mitigating factor, but it is still accurate and useful to treat it as a strategy).  What kind of culture creates “Loyalty”?  What kind of culture leads free people to eschew “Exit” in favor of (a hopefully civil) “Voice” when they are discontent?  Surely the answer for Christians is easy: a culture that is based on love; that has parishioners who have emptied themselves in service of God and others.  A parish that is built like that will keep everyone that is committed to Orthodoxy.  Children and youth that grow up in that kind of parish will be more inclined towards perpetuating it, and while that is true of some children and youth even in troubled parishes, in the case of the godly parish: this perpetuation is a blessing rather than a curse.
·   But we have to admit that love is hard, and that not everyone is really committed to Orthodoxy.  A lot of our young adults leave the Church because of the hypocrisy of its members, but some leave because real Christianity is hard.  It goes against the culture that “nourishes” them and the pride that has been allowed to take the throne of the temple of their hearts.  I don’t care how well you explain things or how strong your parish is in Christ: some people will refuse to commit.  It is terrible when this happens, but “free will” is built into our constitution.  We should not be surprised if the people who in previous generations would have been nominal members opt out entirely.  And while it is heartbreaking (and the door is always open), our parishes may well end up being smaller but much more focused on doing the will of God.
The New Podcast:  OrthoAdoration.  The first episode includes excerpts from Great Lent and Holy Week.  The next three are the Nocturnes, Matins, and Divine Liturgy from Pascha.  The next two are for the two Sundays after Pascha (St. Thomas and the Holy Myrrhbearers).  My plan is to post excerpts of the weekly services (complete with homily) each week.  Like I said, this frees me up to dedicate this podcast to the kind of thing that you don’t find in many other places.
Teaching (and Studying) Update.  Since the last substantive podcast, I have given two series of talks in parishes up and down the eastern seaboard: one on true and false spirituality, and another on Orthodoxy, Death, and Eternal Life (I share excerpts of that talk during the last part of this show).  In the fall, I hope to teach a class here at St. Michael’s on angels.  I am sure much of that material will end up on OrthoAnalytika.  FWIW, it will be informed in some part by a series of courses I am taking on-line (with Michael Heiser at Memra) on Enoch and how the “angelic” worldview that it assumes informs much of our canonical scripture.  Fun stuff.  I am just wrapping up a graduate course on insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan at the War College, but I won’t bore you with those lectures unless you REALLY hound me on it.  Actually, it’s been a while since we talked about Islam, so I may sneak in parts of that lecture if folks are interested.  In addition to the Enoch classes with Prof. Heiser, I have some major research and writing to get done: a thesis for Balamand and a dissertation for OSU.  Pray for me!  Lastly, I just learned that I will get to teach a course on Orthodox Spirituality at our seminary in the Fall – how awesome is THAT?!
Crunchy Health News:
Obesity – hitting people where it really hurts.  Well, they’ve tried just about everything else to try to get us to lose weight, from pointing out the health risks of obesity (i.e. rationality), to paying people to lose and keep weight off.  The First Lady has even been doing her part.  But if there is one headline that is likely to resonate with our hedonistic, self-absorbed culture it is this: “Obese People Have Less Satisfying Sex Lives: Study“.  The findings aren’t all that robust, and generally confirm the obvious point that being obese lowers quality of life.  Because we are so lazy and hedonistic, the first reaction (after denial) will be to find some sort of technical work-around (the article suggests therapy/”talking about it”), but eventually some of us may be willing to do the hard work it takes to keep these sanctified temples of the Holy Spirit healthy and in good repair.
Obesity is Contagious.  When it comes to losing weight in America, there is a really problem dealing with critical mass.  Time magazine (“Why Seeing Overweight People Makes Us Eat More, Not Less“) shares some pretty interesting (and persuasive) research showing that being around overweight people leads people to eat more.  Given that 2/3 of the US population is overweight (or obese), do we really have a chance to control our appetites?  The study suggests that we do: the effect was mitigated when the subjects reminded themselves of their health goals.  This shows how important it is for everyone to be intentional about living a healthy lifestyle … and I’m not just talking about weight.  The contagion effect is more generally active, and describes the way a fallen culture spreads sin throughout human society.  So how do we respond?  By being intentional about living a spiritually and physically healthy life.  We must continually recommitting ourselves to lives of Christian virtue and surround ourselves with others who are doing the same.  In this way, the contagion effect works the way it was originally intended: for our eternal perfection.
My Own Struggle.  I gained 50 pounds within a year of becoming a priest.  There are reasons for this, but no excuse.  And there was even less excuse for keeping all that extra weight around (especially given our gorwing family!).  Well, I finally got serious enough to get intentional.  Glory to God, these efforts have born some fruit:  for the past few months I have been tracking calories (using the LiveStrong app that I mentioned a while back) and eating healthy.  I have lost about 30 pounds, and I can’t tell you how much better my body feels now that I am getting it back down to proper size.  I still have about 15 pounds to go (and have been stalled for the past couple of weeks).  The loss has been pretty steady (a pound or two a week, with the exception of the first and last weeks of the pre-Paschal fast).  Concurrent with the changes to my diet, I have been doing more regular strength and flexibility exercise (the former using another app called “100 pushups, and the latter through karate).  My Pani bought me a kind of budget membership to a local golf course, so I have been walking that (carrying my own clubs, of course) every Tuesday.  Thank you Pani!
What is the biggest health problem in America?  Obesity?  Debt?  These are huge problems (pun intended), but while we don’t have good measures for its effects, but my bet is on pornography.  Some people would not consider it a health problem – after all, it involves the satisfaction of “normal urges” and even if harm is done, it is completely private, right?  Nope – pornography destroys cultures because it poisons and numbs relationships.  And I am not just talking about marriages, or about the relationships around the prostitute who sells her dignity, but about every relationship.  It is a point of doctrine (meaning that it is an unambiguous revealed Truth) that there is no such thing as a “private sin”, but pornography’s effect is especially strong because it is a perversion of something that is especially sacred: the union of flesh between a husband and wife, a union so strong that it is the best approximation of the joining of Christians to God and one another in the Church.  Touchstone Magazine takes on this issue in their lead editorial (“Arousing Ourselves to Death“), even making it available on their website.  Here are some of the points they make:
·   Pornography has always been around (and dangerous), but technology has “weaponized” it.  What a great way to think about it – because it really is a tool of the evil army that has set itself on our destruction.
·   Pornography is addictive, and while people (mostly men) will try to satisfy their increasing need with more pornography, such a person will “never find what he is looking for.  He will never find an image naked enough to satisfy him.”  Only be directing that need into its proper direction (i.e. REAL union of flesh in the sacramental union of marriage and the Church) can such a person find peace.  The unrepentant use of pornography separates man from God and leads to his damnation, uniting him to wickedness (1 Cor. 6:16).  The Evil One knows this!
·   Repentance (and resolve) is often simply the result of temporary satiety; “Even Esau, belly full of red stew, wept for his lost birthright, but ‘found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears; (Heb. 12:17).  Without genuine repentance, the cycle of temptation will grind on.  The powers of this age will collaborate with the biological impulses to make it seem irresistible again.  The pseudo-repentance will only keep the sin in hiding.  This is devil work, and is among those things our Lord Jesus came to destroy (1 John 3:8).”
·   Churches have to get serious about helping its people.  This may involve encouraging some to give up the use of certain technology altogether (Matt. 5:29).  We must also empower women – after all, the body of the husband belongs to his wife.  But mostly, we must “counteract pornography with what the demonic powers fear most: the gospel of Jesus Christ.” 
Ours is a real faith for real people.  The advice in the Philokalia is not abstract philosophy, but practical advice on how to overcome temptation and live a godly life.  This means EVERY temptation, not just the easy ones or the ones that we have decided are worth fighting.  If pornography has found its way into your home – kick it out.  If that means getting rid of the internet – then get rid of the internet.  To paraphrase Christ; “if your internet connection causes you to sin, pluck out the cable and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that your virtual facebook profile perishes, than for your real body to be cast into hell.” (St. Matthew 5:29).
Politology (and opinion):
Which facilitates selfishness better – capitalism or socialism?   A couple of podcasts ago, I talked some about the debate about the deficit and about how we really do need to make sure that our personal and public budgets are “moral”.  This doesn’t just mean that we avoid debt (because I am convinced that most debt is either sinful itself or that it – at the very least – facilitates a great number of other sins and temptations), but that government programs (and our own spending, but here I want to focus on the government) be moral.  Thus my ambivalence about public-funded health care:  there is no guarantee that the money will not go to support unhealthy and damaging procedures and practices (and here I don’t just mean abortion).  But what about other welfare spending?  It is often assumed that anything we spend to help the poor and disadvantaged is moral – and that refusing to spend more (even when there is no money to spend!!!) is immoral.  This is the message that is advanced by Christian groups like the Sojourners, and I think that parts of it are coherent and defensible: the government is a tool that should be considered when seeking to serve the “least of these.”  But parts of it are less coherent: for example, I do not believe we should not borrow (or steal – since we did not get the permission of future generations of Americans to use THEIR money in such a way) money to do much of anything (with the possible exception of responding to temporary emergencies).  And their charge that the refusal to fund welfare programs is immoral is just plain wrong: not only are there are other Christian ways to help the poor that do not involve using the government, governmental solutions themselves carry more temptation that fallen cultures can handle (Federalist Paper #51 was right on the money: we are not governed by angels – so we must continually check and limit government).  I have talked in previous podcasts about how we have been encultured to see everything as “nails” for the governmental hammer and about how the increasing scope of governmental activity has atrophied our communities (and desire for community).  Others are fond of pointing out that some welfare programs actually disincitivize work (several people have actually told me how they avoid working until their unemployment runs out!).  Today I want to share some words of wisdom from one of my favorite talk show hosts, Dennis Prager, about another of the dangers of increasing the scope of welfare programs: it makes us more selfish (“The Welfare State and the Selfish Society”).  Here are his main points:
·   In a world where liberal ideas are considered normative, people assume that capitalism re-enforces selfishness and the welfare state’s compassion reenforces selflessness.  This is wrong: the welfare mentality is a selfish one and is very difficult to undo.
·   Contrary to expectations, people do not primarily think of the government as a way to help others, but as a source of benefits for themselves.  Over time, “their preoccupations become more and more self-centered as time goes on…” as people wonder what sort of benefits the government will give them.  The attitude towards these benefits moves from one of entitlement into rights.
·   “What entitlements do, and what the transformation of entitlements into rights does, is create a citizenry that increasingly lacks the most important character trait – gratitude.  Of all the characteristics needed for both a happy and morally decent life, none surpasses gratitude… That is why we teach our children to say ‘thank you.’  But the welfare state undoes that.  Once does not express thanks for a right.  So, instead of ‘thank you,’ the citizen of the welfare state is taught to say, ‘what more can I get?'”
·   “Capitalism and the free market produce less selfish people.  Teaching people to work hard and take care of themselves (and others) produces a less, not a more, selfish citizen.  Capitalism teaches people to work harder; the welfare state teaches people to want harder.  Which is better?”
What do you think?  It does seem to me that the government provides huge temptations to those who run it and those who benefit from its programs.  But I also think that any praise of the free-market must be met with the realization of the many temptations it brings to all parties involved, as well.  The good news is that this is yet another of those problems that we will not be wrestling with after the Great Remaking!  In the meantime, I personally believe that non-local government should be as small as possible (but I recognize that there are other Christian solutions).  If only our Christian communities were as active as Muslim ones in the Middle East: if people here saw the great benefit that comes from grass-roots charity work then they would recognize that the Church is a much better tool for fixing everything than the government’s hammer – which is really only good at pounding nails.
The Ignorance of Voters (and humans in general).  One of the recurrent themes on OrthoAnalytika is that the way our brains are wired leads us to do stupid and harmful things in this fallen world.  Johan Lehrer, an editor at Wired magazine made a similar point in his article about President Obama’s release of his long form birth certificate.  While admitting that it was a sad day for charitable public discourse, he argues that you can’t really blame this kind of idiocy on anyone in particular.  As he writes; “the human mind is simply terrible at politics.  Although we think we make political decisions based upon the fact, the reality is much more sordid.  We are affiliation machines, editing the world to confirm our partisan ideologies.”  And the research he cites suggests that it isn’t just other people that do this – it is even the highly intelligent people who do things like listen to OrthoAnalytika!  For example, a California study best educated were the most uninformed about the particulars of Proposition 13, a California law that applies a tax cap to residential and commercial property.  They believed that only applied to residential property.  Why?  It comes down to the sublte influence of pride: they needed to like Proposition 13 because it kept their taxes low, but could not like it if it was responsible for California’s huge deficit.  This despite huge efforts various groups made to point out that the proposition applied to both residences and businesses.  So why does education have such an effect?  Isn’t everyone like that?  Education does not make us more rational, it makes us better rationalizers.  We have an opinion, and all those degrees make us better at defending them (this is why Nick Taleb (“Black Swan”) thinks that the PhD doing intelligence analysis for the government is one of the most dangerous people anywhere!).
The article then goes on to explain how we subconsciously filter information so that only that stuff that supports what we believe gets through.  This is a well-established psychological phenomenon, and there are many, many studies that support it.  It was telling that Lehrer picked one that denigrated Christians and was less convincing than more recent ones: the experiment he cited found that more religious people were less likely than non-religious people to press a button that reduces the static covering a message that was attacking Christianity (in the original study this was analogous to smokers being less willing to press a button that reduced the static covering a message that affirmed a link between smoking and cancer).  This is so unconvincing – the better studies show how this takes place subconsciously.
Regardless, Lehrer’s main point is right on: we rationalize our own opinions.  The takeaway for Christians?  Do not trust your feelings, your education, or your opinions – no matter how well you can rationalize them.  And don’t trust anyone else, either (after all, their brains are doing the same thing!).  Trust the only source of ultimate Truth: God.  He gave you His Church to help counter your pride in all its forms.  If our emotions and opinions usually come before rationality, then another take away is that we have an obligation to ensure that we – and especially the children in our midst – are socialized to desire the right things; the Holy Spirit guided King Solomon correctly; “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)  [another excellent recent article on this topic comes from Mother Jones; it was excerpted in The Week].
Another Nail in the Coffin of the Secularization ThesisA major multi-national sociological study (The Cognition, Religion, and Theology Study) recently confirmed that humans are wired for religion: we naturally look to God and the supernatural.  It’s not an aberration, it is part of what makes us human: we really are homo adorans.
What iphone applications do you use and recommend?  I mentioned the Livestrong application (for keeping track of calories) and the 100 Pushups application (for strength building).  A couple other secular apps I use are the Weather Channel and the Golfshot GPS apps.  For games, I like Angry Birds, Boggle, and Yatzee.  For news, I use Drudge and Huffington Post.  But the app that I recommend the highest is the Orthodox Calendar application.  Awesome.  The bible app I use the most is the RSV.  But in using these Bible apps, am I putting a nail in the coffin of the Church?  Lisa Miller, writing for CNN, thinks so.  After all, as Biblical interpretation and study becomes easier, what is the need for people to go to church?  While megachurches respond with novelty and catchy music, we’ll continue offering what we always have.  And you just can’t get authentic worship – much less the Body and Blood of Christ – sitting around the kitchen table with friends.
So I’ve been studying up on genetics and technology and transhumanism.  It’s scary.  Here are three of my major concerns:
·   Unity in Sin.  Technology is increasingly linking us together.  Given our fallen-ness, this is becoming a sick mockery of the true path to unity: the Church.  In Christian Unity, there is no sin – so the growing links between people is safe.  But here and now?  It’s ugly – and getting worse. 
·   Artificially Generated Health and Happiness.  Technology is increasingly working towards making our bodies last longer with the goals of immortality (or at least a life that lasts as long as someone wants).  Again, death has the effect of bringing an end to the damage that life in a fallen world do to us – it is a consequence of sin that becomes a blessing to sinners.  What if death is removed (or at least life is lengthened quite a bit) without removing sin?  Efforts to remove the psychological effects of suffering (as in the removal of bad memories and the bio-chemical engineering of things like peace and calm) are similarly worrisome: suffering is a consequence of sin, but one of the things that brings about sanctification.  What if it is removed?
·   The Zombie/Undead Apocalypse.  What happens when soul-less replicants inhabit our world?  What happens when we come to rely on them?  What happens when people you love join their ranks?  I am not just talking about Blade Runner replicants (although that is coming), or about people who have uploaded their data into machines or new bodies (although the theology of the person points to just how wicked that is), but also about the intentional modification of our DNA.  We discussed this a bit when we were talking about the extra-terrestrial economy of salvation, but what is it about Christ’s humanity that makes him the source of our salvation?  Is there a point at which our modifications which would make us unable to benefit from His Incarnation?  Is that the real meaning of the mark of the beast?  What if there is something about the modification that makes the recipient completely unable to repent?  Surely trust in God is the foundation of any discussion – but we who are present at the onset of these technologies have a responsibility.
We are not ready to deal with the issues that transhumanist technology raises.  As a result, we will be reacting to those who are – and they are highly motivated.  This is a topic that I intend to spend quite a bit of time on over the next few months – and it won’t get boring.  There is a LOT to learn and cover.  Hopefully we’ll be able to bring in friends like Dr. Gayle W. to help.  This week, I want to share the someone from a field I understand: Robin Hanson is an economist who has written a few articles on artificial intelligence.  Some of his most intriguing work has to do with gaming out what technology is most likely to develop AI first and how it is likely to affect society.  Economists are pretty good at that kind of thing.  They also have big blind spots (magnified in his case by his agnosticism).  Here are the major points from his interview on Econtalk (some were summarized for him by Econtalk host, Russ Roberts):

  • A technological singularity would lead to a radical increase in economic (and population) growth rates.  So far there have been three such singularities where steady growth was interrupted/replaced:
    • A million or so years ago humans showed up and set up shop.  After that, growth was slow, doubling every 250,000 years.  Things were very stable and predictable; economic and population growth rates matched one another.   
    • 10,000 years ago, the farming revolution occurred.  After that, the growth rate picked up , doubling every 1,000 years.  Again, on the scale of the human life, things (to include a quality of life that was generally better than that of the previous epoch) were still pretty stable.  Again, economic and population growth rates matched one another.
    • 200 years ago, the industrial revolution occurred.  For the past century, the population has doubled ever 15 years.  During this time, economic growth has increasingly outpaced population growth, leading to a very large increase in quality of life, but also leading to constant change.  This leads to three academic scenarios, plus Hanson’s:
      • Optimistic: things continue to grow the way they are now, which would lead to some pretty unimaginable advances as things continue to double!
      • Pessimistic: some catastrophe occurs (such growth is not sustainable)
      • Happy medium: we avoid catastrophe and perhaps sacrifice some growth
      • Hanson’s: the singularity leads to a new epoch that really goes off the charts
  • The new growth rate – which should occur sometime within the next century – would be around a doubling every couple of weeks (based on extrapolating from previous jumps).  Instead of doubling every 15 years, productivity would double every two weeks. Wow.  That means investments double, etc. that fast.
  • Only one thing on the horizon could have that kind of effect: artificial intelligence [BTW, I think energy could do it, but he doesn’t because energy only makes up 10% of the economy].
    • 70% of the economy goes to compensation; AI would allow compensation rates to plummet. 
    • Economic growth will skyrocket.  E.g. it takes 15-20 years to create an unskilled worker; 30 years to create a PhD.  AI can do it instantaneously.  Not only is labor cheap, great ideas are, too.
    • Investment strategy: make sure you invest in scarce resources (e.g. land)
    • Such a box is likely to come about in one of three ways
      • Incremental advances.  Software and hardware will improve until eventually we get it good enough.
      • A great discovery.  We figure out how intelligence works, complete with the necessary equations (assuming such a thing even exists – it may not).
      • Porting software.  When we create new computers and we want them to run old programs, we can either do it from scratch, incorporating the advances in hardware, or we can just create an emulator that makes the new machine like the old one and use the old software on it.  This isn’t as efficient, but it is easy and effective.  We build advanced machines, then create a brain emulator to run human software.  It’s not as elegant and it lacks imagination, but it is likely to deliver AI before the others.  We would continue to tinker with the output, figuring out ways to make it more efficient using trial and error.

The podcast goes on (as do the articles), but this whole thing raises some issues for us.

  • Since the process would be controlled (at least at first), the ideal would be the creation of slave robots – entities that would do what was asked without raising a fuss (as with animal husbandry, we would pick and multiply the ones that were docile).  Is this a problem?  Is it a person, an animal, or simply a machine that acts like something more?
  • What is a copy of myself?  What have I done if I port my mind into something else?  Is it human?  Is it me?  Is this just like “losing” yourself in an artificial scene (e.g. a video game or movie or book – or better yet, a play), or does its permanence mean something?  Is making copies of yourself the moral equivalent of writing a book?  When we create such machines (with living tissue or whatever), at what point have we created a zombie – or a soulless monster that acts human?  If they have no souls of their own, is it possible for demons to come in and possess such automatons?  
  • Is this a world that will help lead to a holier society?  Will it encourage virtue?
  • So many questions.  Science fiction has been doing a good job with this for a while.  We’d better catch up.
International News
The Killing of Osama Bin Laden.
·   Why I want to talk about it.
·   The timing: it takes time to build HUMINT networks (why the big buildup recently?)
·   The operation.  And the flubbed post-operation spin.
·   The morality of it.
The Satyr’s Trident (warning: satire!)
You may have heard of the nails that were recently found; they were alleged to have been the nails used to crucify Christ.  Researchers claimed that they were nails that had been buried with the high-priest Ciaphas.  Well, evidently, that was not quite true.  From Volume 13, Issue 2 of the peer-reviewed academic journal “Nous: A Journal of the Fifth Rome”, comes this the article “The Nails of Ciaphas? Mistaking Sacramental Symbol for Substance.”  In it, Professor Netak points out that many of the same problems with the claims made about the nails that others have made (e.g. here).  However, he focuses on the size of the nails: they are not long enough to do the job.  But instead of dismissing the nails completely, he makes an interesting claim: the nails really are Christian relics.  But they are not relics from the actual crucifixion, but from a lesser sacrament that fell was popular in previous ages.  Just as Christ’s washing of His disciples feet is re-enacted on Holy Thursday in some places and times, so it was with the nails.  Doing some inventive liturgical archeology, Netak is even able to reconstruct part of the ritual.  In most places, the service – called the “Blessing of the Nails” – was celebrated after the Royal Hours on Holy Friday.  These nails were then distributed to the people to help them understand the reality of the Passion.  This is why the nails were smaller.  He concludes with an interesting observation: whereas an early practice was to use the nails to hang an icon or crucifix, in some places it went to a more ominous purpose …. and the re-enactment of the crucifixion was moved from Passion Plays during holy week to whatever Sunday annual meetings were held.
Lesson: How Should We Understand Death?
Opening Scripture:  Ecclesiastes 9: 3b-4; St. John 1:12-13; 3:16.  Truly the hearts of the children of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. But for him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion.  For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten …  But as many as received [Christ], to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (through Baptism; St. John 3:5) … for God so loved the world that He gave His only-Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him may have eternal life.
The Materialistic View. (see Life after Death:  the evidence by Dinesh D’Souza for a good review)
·   When we die, our bodies decay, as do the brains that gave rise to our notion of “self”.
o   Ecclesiastes: 3:18-20.   I said in my heart, “Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals.” For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust.
·   At best we live on through the good (and evil) we have done.
o   Ecclesiastes: 2:15b-19.  “ This also is vanity.”  For there is no more remembrance of the wise than of the fool forever, since all that now is will be forgotten in the days to come.  And how does a wise man die?  As the fool! Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind.  Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will rule over all my labor in which I toiled and in which I have shown myself wise under the sun. This also is vanity.
·   Remember that Ecclesiastes describes a worldview “under the sun”; as Christians, we live a life in the “Sun of Righteousness”(Malachi 4:2; Psalm 84:11; Luke 1:78; John 1:4; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46; Nativity Tropar).
The Spiritual View (summarized well in Life after Death:  the evidence by Dinesh D’Souza).
·   Ancient Greek.  The body decays and dies (then decays some more), but the soul is immortal.
·   Eastern Religions.  The soul goes on to the state that is most appropriate to its development.
·   Modern New Age Science.  The body dies, but the soul transcends the physical and temporal.
·   Supported by scientific and popular observations and ideas such as the conservation of energy and information, Quantum spirituality, the remembrance of “past lives,” the body as a “soul receptor,” and Near Death Experiences
·   Also supported by the decline in traditional scientific and Christian skepticism, training, and authority
·   Note:  many people mix these ideas. Christians tend to do this using religious words (dvoyeveriye).
The Orthodox Truth.
·   1 Corinthians 15 summarizes the Orthodox understanding of “what comes next” (op.cit. Anaphora. of St. Basil). 
·   There is some truth in both the materialist and spiritual views. 
·   There is no person apart from the body; there is no person apart from the soul.
·   We are composite.  Nor is there a “person” apart from others.  Christ is the “new Adam”.
·   There is no lasting life separate from the Source of Life (God).
·   All things decay apart from Him.  This is one of the great powers of being in “The Church”.  Life in the Church (i.e. as part of the “new Adam”) is full and eternal.
So what happens when we die?  It seems that when we “die”, the souls of the righteous are brought into the “Bosom of Abraham”; the souls of the wicked rest (alone) in Hades.  The “repose” that most of us will enjoin (and the activity that the saints will enjoy) is sustained by the grace of God (as are those in Hades – how else could they survive?).  In the Great Remaking, all souls will be rejoined to their perfected bodies and given new life in a new paradise that is spiritually filled with the “fire” God’s energies.  This will be the source of unending joy for the saints and a source of great (and cleansing?) discomfort for the wicked.