When it comes to believing in (for want of a better word) an afterlife, the bottom line is of course faith. Everything else — religion, religious statues and ceremonies, rites and ritual, doctrine and dogma, even churches themselves, and cathedrals and temples, and even the Bible — all of which, albeit historically interesting, spiritually helpful and socially enjoyable, are peripheral.
You can strip away all the paraphernalia and live on a deserted island and still have faith. That is, if you have faith to begin with. Faith, in my experience, is not easy to come by, it’s an elusive notion that you cannot see or touch, unlike a statue of Christ, for example, which you can touch and feel a kinship there, or the Bible which you can read and derive an understanding. So although the visible, tangible trappings may be peripheral, they are helpful.
But you don’t get any help from faith. Again, in my experience. Faith stays hidden and silent. I have to go after it, seek it out, track it down. There are people who don’t have to work hard to find faith, don’t have to work at it at all. Faith comes to them. Bingo! there it is, firmly planted in their brain, no sweat. Lucky them. Not in my case. Why is that? How come faith comes so easily to some people, many people I guess, but remains stubbornly resistant to my entreaties?
And why do I keep trying? you may ask or not ask depending on whether you’ve read this far. Because without faith, life is an empty vessel in a tedious, terminal void where the only goal is unconsciousness and non-existence. Whoopee!