An atheist reflects upon death
I don’t know why, but I feel in the mood to reflect about my feelings about death. I am an atheist. I do not believe in the afterlife, neither its alleged rewards nor its alleged punishments. I think that once I die that is it; I am gone, never to feel anything, ever. And that saddens me.
Many other atheists say that death doesn’t scare them. I believe that they are being truthful, although I must say that I do not see how that is possible. Life ends at some point for all of us; that is a fact. We disappear into nothingness; that is a fact too. We don’t feel anything once we’re gone, however I don’t find that fact comforting at all. I enjoy life too much not to be saddened by the prospect that at some point it will be over. There are countless things I will not get to enjoy; my grandkids kids; hanging out with friends and family; a good meal; a good sporting event; driving with the top down, a good book, The Matrix remake, etc.
One of the hardest religious arguments to counter, is the argument that religion gives people hope about death. People are promised eternal bliss, regardless if that bliss sounds more like punishment to our ears (I mean hanging out in Heaven praising God forever, or whatever is supposed to be going on up there doesn’t sound like the best way to spend eternity to me). I understand the emotional appeal that this idea has for people, especially when contrasted with the stark reality of dying and becoming nothing. Now don’t be too picky with my words please, I understand that I am made of star stuff and when I die I will go back to being star stuff. My atoms will survive, but my consciousness will not, and to be very frank I don’t care much about what happens to my atoms once my consciousness is gone. It is this loss of awareness that I refer to as becoming nothing; it is this loss of consciousness that I feel sad about loosing.
I don’t welcome the idea of death; if I could expand my life span I would. I accept death’s unavoidable reality, but not without a feeling of dread. Death is not a nice thing and I can’t be impartial and emotionally ok with that. So no my atheism does not provide hope in the sense that religion does; I try not to argue against that way of thinking too much. But then again I didn’t become an atheist in my quest for hope, but in my quest for the truth. I understand that reality doesn’t have to bend to my desires; the universe works the way the universe works, and I’m glad to be here to try and partake into this giant enterprise, even if for a tiny short period of time.
To be clear I don’t fear death because of “the other side”, I dread the ending of my time on Earth; I dread the end of the pleasures life has to offer. Everything I feel is tied with my earthly life, not the “afterlife”; the afterlife is meaningless to me, I’ll be dead and gone, nothing could touch me at that point. It is because I don’t think there is anything else besides this life on Earth that I value this life I’ve been lucky to receive, and it is precisely why I hold the outmost respect for other’s peoples lives and their right to live it fully to whatever extend they please, so long as that doesn’t interfere with other people’s right to life their lives. And this is where the basis of a secular morality comes from. Not from fear of punishment but out of respect for the, dare I say, holiness of earthly life.