This was one of the key questions in my mind while I was writing The Hereafter, as in the story an afterlife is guaranteed, people know what will happen after their death and I was curious to know what difference that would make to life.
Different religions have their different ideas of what happens after death and the code by which the followers lead their lives is determined by this belief. Many religions guarantee an afterlife to its followers so long as they abide by the code set out by the religion, but this requires faith. In my novel, faith is not required as it is technology making the guarantees. So what difference would guaranteed life after death make to the way we live our lives?
In The Hereafter I explore the idea that societies on earth would start to realise the Utopia that it has been searching for, that the pressure of life would relax as no one would be in quite the hurry that they are now. Faith would become unnecessary as a different certainty would replace it so religion would start to lose its grip on hearts and minds and the differences between the cultures of the earth would reduce to nothing. In my book, the problems of a guaranteed afterlife are found in the human relationship with Nature rather than within the human mind.
This differs to the conclusions reached in Caprica, the prequel TV series to Battle Star Galactica, which has the idea of a guaranteed digital heaven within the story. Their idea of how this would effect living society differs from mine. In Caprica, there was the concern that society would fall apart, that life would become debauched and depraved due to a sense of life being less real, temporary, so that people would experiment more and take less care.
As far as life and death mythology goes, Caprica reaches the same decision that I do in The Hereafter – that death is not in our hands. My conclusion is reached because death is a natural part of the balance of Nature and we will never be separate from Her. Caprica's conclusion is that life is just too important and if that importance is taken away, the human spirit will revert to its primal urges and life will lose all meaning.