I don't really think about this issue before sleep. :) I' heard before (even in the earlier posts here) about people doing that, but it's not my thing.
I don't worry and I'm not afraid about death per se, because I am aware that I am not going to experience death, I am more worried that someday I will not be here anymore.
Renouncing all you've ever thought, done or planned, all you've ever fabricated or constructed, all those relationships you have invested in, all those feelings you've ever felt... The hopes and expectations, the memories and all that ever filled your inner life is about to stop. That's the tough one to swallow.
My feeling is if you are a true atheist you have no fear of death. If you, by any chance, even slightly believe in an afterlife of some sort, I can see where the fear originates.
Christopher Hitchens has said that he has a fear of dying; not death, and I agree. He is fearful of a slow and painful death or gradually losing his ability to think clearly before dying. I feel exactly the same way.
Why not just concentrate living life to the fullest? Worrying about what happens after death is a true waste of time. If you have ever seen a dead animal or a dead insect - realize that that is death. Nothing more and nothing less. Your fears are definitely unfounded.
You were profoundly lucky to have lived at all; considering the ways of the world.
My fondest wish is to live long enough to see the end of religion, hatred and war; however considering that that could take at least another millennium, that won't be possible. So I am learning as much as I can stuff into this head during my time here and enjoying every moment!
Your soul is the memory of those who knew you or knew about you. The treatment of "your soul" will depend upon your relationship with those who remember. Hitler is in heaven to many Germans. So the most you can hope for is to have more good memories than bad. Once there is no record of you and no-one alive remembers you, you cease to exist. My epitaph will read "All Ye who pass here, speak my name, that I might attain immortality".
Just remember; Death rides a horse named Binky.
I call myself an agnostic in the pure sense of the word, and as Huxley intended it. In so far as it applies to god, so also does it apply to the prospect of another life after this one. We may say - and I agree - there is no real evidence of such an existence, but the lack of evidence is not conclusive proof, and it would only be possible to have such proof if you had been there and come back.
What happens after death - if anything - must remain a mystery until we each arrive at that point. But consider this: As it is possible to conceive of a "God", such as a Pantheistic one, and yet there might still be NO afterlife, it is also possible to conceive of another reality beyond this one, and there would NOT have to be such a being as we would call God.
That comes down to the ultimate nature of reality itself - what if the entire universe is but a computer program in some "larger" reality, and what if we are, in fact, the programmers that have written ourselves into it? - or, we have been written into it by others? Death, then would be simply a return to the "programmers" reality.
There is no chance, or even a realistic hope, of these questions having any final answer anytime soon. So, in fact, nothing about a future state - or the lack thereof - can be known now. To make any other claims is to delude ourselves and the answer is out of reach to any honest mind.
That's the way I handle it - I simply admit I don't know, and will not until I leave here - and I don't worry about it.
"This would not be conclusive proof, either. Much more reasonable to assume it some form of hallucination, delusion, etc. "
I agree, I have no problem with this, but I do have a little quibble. This statement can also apply to "reality" as we experience it, and there in lies a problem. I could say, "Prove to me the reality YOU experience is the same reality *I* experience." That can be boiled down to, as my Philosophy professor put it, "Prove the color RED I see is the same as what YOU call red."
It can't be done. Of course we can line up a whole bunch of different colors and, when asked to select the red color we might point to the same square, but that, in itself, does NOT prove we are preceiving that color the same - leaving aside color-blindness, of course. The point is there is a subjective experience that short of a Vulcan mind meld - HAHA!! - will never let us really experience what someone else does.
So ALL of what we call the material world - as far as "Experience" goes - has a subjective factor to it. We recently adopted a cat from the local humane society. He will be sleeping soundly in the living room and abruptly jerk awake as though startled by some sound. Through observation I've learned he actually hears my wife's car coming from a MUCH greater distance than I can. Both dogs and cats - and cats even more so than dogs - have the ability to hear a range of sounds far beyond what WE can. Does that range of sounds NOT exist because WE can't hear them?
Of course not. In the same way a friend of mine undergoing a critical operation "died" on the operating table several years ago -and they brought him back. He told me he saw nothing, but he DID hear the "Most beautiful music I've ever heard in my life." By what criteria can I judge him wrong? I KNOW, rationally, that it was most likely an audio hallucination of some sort. But is that a DEFINITE proof that that is what it was? No. Short of being in his head, I can't experience what he did. And the only way to assert otherwise - "It was a hallucination", period, is to take as dogmatic a position as a BELIEVER in god, or an afterlife.
Experience is the key. And much of our human experience IS subjective and I for one cannot be dogmatic about that. We simply do not know, nor have we even experienced enough - nor can we - for that kind of certainty.
We will find out when the time comes.
The idea doesn't bother me at all. Life scares me more. I don't know what will happen from day to day and it's always a tooth and nail fight with small spaces of peace and quiet. Death may be the end for me but I don't mind. I've lived a good life but most importantly to me, I'm who a want to be so I'll die the man I wanted to become in this life. We can't all cure cancer but we can all live up to our own expectations. So I didn't change the world. So what. I changed the lives I touched and I think mostly for the better. That's enough for me.
I think the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus tackled this problem best. He said that people feared death only because of the mistaken belief that after death there is awareness.
According to Epicurus, when we exist death is not, and when death exists we are not. All sensation and consciousness ends with death and therefore in death there is neither pleasure nor pain.
In ancient Rome, many adherents of the Epicurean philosophy had their tombstones engraved with the epitaph: "Non fui, fui, non sum, non curo" (I was not, I was, I am not, I don't care).
Another quote that I rather like on this subject comes from Mark Twain:
"I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it."
This is my first post, and I know that this is an old question, but I wanted to share my experience with death.
I watched my husband die on the floor of my bedroom when he was only 36, and after doing CPR on him for the 10 minutes it took the ambulance to come and having them work on him and tell me that there is nothing they could do and that he was dead, I was shattered. I had been living with this man for 11 years and one week exactly. My entire adult life was spent with this man as my partner, lover, and though it sounds cliché, my best friend. I am only 29 years old. It has been less than a month since my life changed forever. In the first 2 weeks, which felt like years and seconds at the same time, I wished that I could believe in a heaven where Ken will be waiting for me and can still see me and in a way, be with me….But I know in my heart that this is not true. I know that him dying on the floor in front of me after being sick for 6 months by congestive heart failure, crying and telling me he was sorry that I had to take care of him at least once a week, needing my assistance for the most basic things that those who are not sick take for granted…none of that was part of a god’s plan. It is just the shitty part of life. I find no comfort in people’s reply that “he is in a better place” and that they “will pray for my comfort” and other religious statements. I know that they aren’t doing it to hurt me, but it does hurt. I know that this is not true. My husband is dead, and I have the ashes of his body in a container in my bedroom and some in a necklace around my neck; not in heaven, not in hell.
I find that my atheism has actually helped me accept my husband’s death. Since there is no after life, I have had to confront his death head on, no cushion of heaven or anything to delude me from the reality that the remainder of my one and only life here on earth will be forever different. I owe it to myself not to deprive myself of living this life to the fullest, the life that my husband did not get to live. Don’t get me wrong, I am not “over him.” I will still cry and mourn him for the rest of my life, he was good to me, and forgiving and really did love me. I haven’t had the kind of connection with him with anyone else. I believe that my life is better for having known him, and although it hurts to have lost him, and I can’t say what the future will hold, but I do know that if I play my cards right I can have another 50 years to continue to promote my husband’s art and put on the shows that he didn’t get to. If I can do that, I can truly give him an everlasting life.
I feel that we will not pass away into nothingness, as long as we leave something behind... memories, kind acts, or something more tactile like my husband's art.
Thank you for sharing that experience. I had a longer journey to this realization than you, but the death of my brother - and his life - taught me not to fear.
I was raised in a secular home and have never believed in a supernatural deity. Strangely enough, though, I never feared my own death but was shaken to the core by the death of my brother. He practiced non-theistic Zen Buddhism and was open and comfortable with his approaching death. We were able to speak about it and about his life but he was very focused on the beauty of each day as it unfolded... each minute. He lived intensely in the present and I treasured that experience. When he died, however, I was really thrown into a black hole inside. I had been his caregiver for so long and had defined my existence through this role. That is what led me, in a sense, to monastic life. Not because I wanted to believe in a god and a heaven and whatnot, but because I sought to live intensely in each moment focusing on the inner life. I also wanted to believe that his essence, in some form, lived on. I still believe that but not in the sense of heaven or reincarnation but rather in the play of energies which are at the core of existence which is devoid of essential memory.
I do not fear death. I live each day and try to be mindful of the world around me in each unfolding of the present moment. I practice death by letting go of "possessions," be they relationships or material, and being aware of my interconnectedness with all things and beings. I enjoy what comes into my life and try to release it with grace when it is time for it to go.
I work in hospice and have experienced death countless times over the years. There is something incredible in the moment of death. There is something palpably different in the room during this transition from life to death... no matter how difficult or relatively easy the passing is. There is a deep quiet and peace. It is a mystery, not in the sense of supernatural but in the sense of being a frontier we know nothing about. How can no-thing... a lack of conscious thought be something to fear? "Fear is the mind-killer... the little death that brings total obliteration." A lot of our problems come with our mind's limited ability to grapple with abstractions which creates unnecessary fear.
All that I know is it strengthens me not to dwell on things I cannot know until it is my time to experience them myself. It is an age old question... what we experience after physical death. But it is irrelevant to my life now. I live each moment and walk with those who face death. I learn from them. There is much suffering in human existence (along with the joy) but I see death as the permanent cessation of suffering.