Sunday, May 16, 2010

What do atheists think of death?

For me [an atheist], the fear of death is far and away the most immediate and challenging aspect of my atheism. Death affects me in a profound way, because I know — it's not a matter of belief at this point, for me — that this life is all we get. As much as I would like to believe platitudes like "He's in a better place now" and "I know he's smiling down on us," I see them for what they are, and what they represent: attempts to avoid facing the reality of death. So if you truly believe that "Facing [death] is our life's task," may I suggest you try atheism? Religion is how people AVOID facing it. It's the common thread in all religions, from the most ancient to the most modern: "When we die, it's not really the end. So don't worry so much." But for most religions it doesn't stop there. Most of them teach that life after death will not only exist, but it'll be way more awesome than stupid ol' life with all its trials and tribulations. A choir of angels! Forty virgins! Nirvana! All your old friends, your family, even Mittens and Fido will be there to give you a big hug and welcome you to eternity!

Eternity. Living forever. Whatever philosophical contortions you want to twist yourself through, if you believe in eternity, you are not facing death. Atheists face death. We have to come to grips with the finality of our end without the aid of any comforting fairy tales. It's not easy, but neither is life. Atheists and theists can agree on that, at least. We just don't think death is going to be any different.

No comments: