The human mind cannot actually deal effectively with the concept of anything going on forever, and ever, and ever and EVER, and... So I simply define "eternity," in personal terms, as that span of time between birth and death. Eternity, therefore, has a different meaning for each and every living thing. As far as I can tell, nothing caused me pain or distress of any kind before I was born. So it seems logical to assume that the same will be true after I die. Before they agglomerated to form ME, my quadrillions of atoms were engaged in some other endeavor. After I am dead, they will move on to other pursuits. My atoms, you see, are indestructible, immortal, and, essentially, eternal. For me as a sentient construct of my atoms, nothing existed before my birth and nothing will exist after I die.
It is sad, but true, that life is nothing more than the constant effort to delay death. Therefore, it seems to me that my main objective while I am alive should be to get as much out of it as possible - to be always creative and to never do anything to intentionally interfere with the ability of other people to live out whatever life they have left in as happy and creative way as possible. One thing that seems to me a complete waste of time is the preoccupation with the fear of death, which is all that religion really is, in the end.
A while back, I was lying in bed and began experiencing a persistent arrhythmia. Brief episodes of arrhythmia are not necessarily dangerous, but if they last more than a few minutes they might be a heart attack in the making. Mine eventually lasted about 90 minutes. During this time, I was very much aware of the possibility that I might die at any moment; yet, to my surprise, I was completely at peace with it. I wasn't afraid of death.
Many years ago, I took part in a Baptist Youth Group Wednesday night prayer meeting. The enlightened pastor threw out the question,"If we all believe in God (I didn't), why are we afraid of death? There were about 50 of us in the audience, and after a few moments, when nobody else ventured an answer, I blurted out from the back of the room: "Because if HURTS!" "Exactly right," said the pastor. So, for me, as for many others, it is not so much the fear of death itself that is frightening, it is the fear of the pain associated with the process of dying, something, ironically, Christianity does not address. If I had one wish in this world, it would be to eventually die, suddenly, unexpectedly, and painlessly. That, to me, would be the greatest blessing of life.
Funny you mention that. I always wanted to die like Grampa did; quietly, in his sleep. Not kicking and screaming like his passengers.
Sorry, that's my favourite death joke.
Funny that you should mention this. I just about had this 'non-experience' once. I was driving taxi, and was finishing a 12 hour graveyard shift with three passengers in the back seat. Sometime during the trip, I blackedout and awakened to screaming from the back seat. I opened my eyes and a very large and 'near' telephone pole was just about filling my front window at 25 MPH. The animal reflexes kicked in and I turned left, narrowly averting disaster. I remember this as just another experience, when awareness, physics, and wild terror are nearly at the terminal cusp point!
I do my best not to dwell on it. It will only lead me to despair. Or I remind myself that once it's over, I won't be around to worry about it.
A few times an accident happen so fast that I never noticed till I woke up in the hospital. Most of the time it has been such an interesting experience I did not want to miss anything! This might not be always true..;p(
Enjoy the time you have, and make everything you do count; be generous to your friends and kind to enemies (kill them with kindness) and leave a positive legacy. after that not much else.
I have never had a problem with it. I find it comforting that I won't have to burn in hell for eternity. Everyone assumes that everlasting life mean heaven for them. Kind of arrogant if you ask me. I know I have made enough mistakes to buy my ticket to a warmer climate and am glad it's about as real as Zeus and Ra. Why would anyone assume anything other than hell for themselves? Do you keep the sabbath holy? Have you taken the lords name in vain? Have you been with someone out of wedlock? Have you coveted? Have you committed murder in your heart? Have you lied or born false witness? Yeah, I have and even if I haven't, I deny god. That last one closes the deal for me.
There are times that I feel a bitter-sweet, melencholy sense of loss, knowing that this is it; we've got just the one shot to get it right, and no re-do's. This is life, and it's the only one you've got; live it to the fullest, now, while you have a chance.
Besides, I don't think there's sex, drugs or rock-n-roll in heaven, so they-alls missing out on all the fun!
There was a short amount of time after I left my former religion, that I too was uneasy with the fact that this was it. But as I've thought about it, I have come to peace with that fact, and actually hold an even greater appreciation for this life than I ever had before.
Eternal life discounts this life and takes life in general for granted. You were always going to live, and you always will live. The only question is where you will live. But when you loose that faith that told you that you would live forever, you are confronted by truths that may be unpleasant at first, but that can become inspiring after careful reflection. From a naturalistic viewpoint, we never had to be born at all. Reggie actually posted my favorite Dawkins quote on this subject, but I feel it is an important point to look at. Any other potential person could have been in our place. We never had to be born, yet here we are. Looking at the amazing odds against us, I feel that makes me all the more grateful for life than the idea that a deity planned me from the start and picked my every attribute. I also feel that the fact that this is the only life we get makes life mean so much more. It can make every sunrise and sunset beautiful, help you live life to the fullest, and make the most of this, our only chance at life. I feel that if you live life thinking you will get a second chance at life, or get a do-over, that you may leave things that you may have wanted to do until later since you'll have eternity, and that this will discount the value of your life experience. You may actually cause yourself undue stress as well. If you are worried about getting into Heaven and avoiding Hell, that can really weigh on a person or cause them to not enjoy life as they may have done otherwise. Meanwhile, I believe that what I die, that's it. Lights out, I cease to be. The actual fact of non-existence doesn't bother me, since it didn't seem to bother me in 1870, or 1745, or 1214, etc... My brain will shut down, I will fade into nothingness and will only live on in the memories of those I loved. Death doesn't bother me, but the actual act of dying is another story. I can hope that it isn't painful. But I can at least rest assured that any pain there is will only be temporary. I have no desire to live this life for all eternity. When it is over, I hope that I can be satisfied that I lived a long and enjoyable life and have no regrets. A single eternal life would eventually get quiet boring actually. So I can actually say that just having this one temporary and unlikely life is all the more special. As for an afterlife, there is one version that could be enjoyable. Some form of reincarnation would be neat (as a person of other animal). But only if you are either ignorant of previous lives or only aware in a daja-vu sort of way. That way it still feels like a singular, fleeting life that must be appreciated while you can. Now let me be clear that I in no way believe any form of afterlife to be valid, but that would be the only conceptual form that I find appealing.
I just contemplate what it was like before I was born and it becomes a non-issue for me - and it makes this life all that more precious, for me.
This is why it is disturbing to me to see how fellow humans might make life miserable for some/many, especially in some places in Africa and the Middle East where religion is the main ideology that promotes viewing others as not even worthy of life because of their different religious views (or lack thereof- and I believe this is the greatest cause of human atrocities - any ideology which views another group of humans as worthy of death or condemnation- in this life or an imagined life after death). If they came to the realization this life is all we have, perhaps they might treat others better - but I realize this is simplistic and idealistic.
Back to the origin issue- I also occasionally think of a conversation I might have with a god if there is one- but I agree with Dawkins- I'd likely quote Bertrand Russell: "Not enough evidence, God, not enough evidence."
It always confused me that christians seemed to fear not living forever, but were blase' about not having already lived forever.