Samuel Scheffler says that he's "firmly convinced" that there is no afterlife. Assuming that he is using these terms in their conventional senses, he is speaking redundantly. To be convinced, according to the Oxford American Dictionary and Language Guide (1999), is to be "firmly persuaded." So Scheffler is firmly firmly persuaded. Not persuaded. Not firmly persuaded. Firmly firmly persuaded.
Why the linguistic overkill? Why would a careful writer like Scheffler (I admire his work in moral philosophy) say something so obviously redundant? To understand the answer, you must understand academia. Most professors are atheists, either in the broad sense of not believing in God or in the narrow sense of believing that there is no god, and most of them think that theism is not merely false but stupid. Believing in God or an afterlife is for yahoos, hicks, rednecks, hayseeds, rubes, hillbillies, and crackers. Anyone with any intelligence or learning knows that religious belief is mere wish fulfillment.
Scheffler is assuring his readers at the New York Times (and throughout academia) that he's not one of those dolts. In case his readers don't understand that "convinced" means "firmly persuaded," he says it twice. He wants as much distance as possible between himself and ordinary Americans. He wants there to be no misunderstanding about where he stands. He wants to be sure that no fellow academic ever accuses him of giving aid and comfort to the theistic enemy. It is not enough to be an atheist. One must be a vehement, adamant, militant atheist. It is not enough to believe something. One must believe it forcefully, firmly, and without reservation.
As for the substance of what Scheffler says, how can he be so sure that there is no God or afterlife? Has he been to the other side? Has he talked to people who have died, to see what, if anything, happened to them? Shouldn't a philosopher, of all people, be modest or humble in what he or she believes? Socrates disclaimed knowledge, except knowledge of his own ignorance. Hume said that a wise man proportions his belief to the evidence. Isn't Scheffler going far beyond the evidence in asserting, so baldly and boldly, that there is nothing beyond the grave? Perhaps he should read H. H. Price's "The Problem of Life After Death" (1968), which concludes by saying, "Do not be too sure that you will not continue to exist as a person after your physical organism has died" (italics in original).
One more thing. I like the self-centered argument for the conclusion that other people matter. The irony of such an argument is apparently lost on Scheffler, my respect for whom is significantly lessened by this badly conceived and poorly reasoned column.