Millions long for immortality who don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon. - Susan Ertz
I rather agree with Mark Twain, who said "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."
The only thing that annoys me about death is that there is likely to be all kinds of interesting things occurring after I die that I won't be able to experience. It's more a complaint about missing out on things (like the first extra-solar colony, etc) than the fact that I'll be gone.
In the meantime, I just try to enjoy what I do get to experience and who knows, if I am lucky enough, we might come up with sufficient life-extension technologies for me to be able to live long enough to see some of those future events after all.
E. Part of being an atheist is accepting that as a reality. Knowing you are goint to die and that's it can be daunting. Especially if you think of the loved ones.
How I deal with it is this. I do all the things I want to do that make my life special and others special around me. I contribute to life through the knowledge and the experiences I have. I teach my children what it means to love and be a decent human. I do all I can do to help the human condition keep evolving. I hope I will not be like Anne Rice. When I face my mortality I hope fear doesn't drive me to seek the comfort of something I know is not real. She is a sad case.
Very true and probably harmless. But, it is another belief without foundation. So presumably those atheist, know they're lying to themselves?
A great quote was posted a few days ago in the Quote of the Day group:
It is often said that before you die your life passes before your eyes. It is in fact true. It's called living. - Terry Pratchett
I am actually writing a paper addressing this exact problem :) Perhaps I should post it on Think Atheist?
I may be an odd case, but I never so much as blinked at the idea of a nonexistance. And I'm not just saying that-- I'm truly unafraid of death (other than the pain of dying-- hopefully I'll die in my sleep)!
I believe it has everything to do with my outlook. For the first 18 years of my life, I lived with an abusive family. But out of everything that happened, I feel that the greatest injustice is that my eyes were closed to the world. I was a sheep, never caring to learn anything new, always leaning on others. I was property. And one day, once I escaped my home, I came to a tear-enducing revelation: I am my own person, I do not belong to a parent, or a god, and my life is what I make of it.
Dawkins said that we "wake up" in the universe after an billions of years of sleep (nonexistance). However, when I woke up, I was the walking dead. No independent thought, no hunger for learning or improvement. When I was freed, that was when I woke up. I am so incredibly grateful to be a part of this world, and to be a human being with self awareness (the same self awareness that makes us fear death ;)).
It's about truly appreciating what's around you, and realizing that you are SO LUCKY to be here. The odds against your existing were stupefying. It's easy for me to say that I appreciate life, because I came from a background of abuse. Not everyone experienced that (not that abuse is a good thing). But you need to discover how to view this world as beautiful, rather than "punishment" as you say. I'm sorry that you see life as "punishment." But I must say, having gone through everything I did, I'm thankful for the adversity, because it taught me to think in an more colorful way that made the pleasures more... pleasurable! I much more independent than people I know who had an "easy" life, and as a result, I get much more out of my experiences.
It is hard to explain why I am unafraid of death. I must direct you here (this was what inspired me to write my paper: http://www.thinkatheist.com/profiles/blogs/ann-druyan-talking-about...). Additionally, I cannot teach you how to not fear death. But I can tell you that for me, the key was understanding -really understanding- all the privilages I have as a human, with a magnificent planet at my fingertips.
Think of it this way: there are two things that could have happened to you:
1. You never exist.
2. You don't exist for a while, you exist for a very long time (by human's perceptions) on a lovely planet. Then you don't exist again.
Which is better?
I have never been physically abused, but I don't think that's the only kind of abuse there is, and I have experienced a lot of those other kinds of abuses. The world we live in is an ugly world because other people made it this way. It is indeed a punishment to live in a world like this. Hell is other people.
The odds of me never opening my mind and starting to make my own decisions is more stupefying. Think of those who remain sheeps, like you said you were, until they die. Why are they so lucky to be here, to be alive? What do they have to appreciate? The mom and dad that fill their minds with all kinds of crap, that control them and make every decision for them? I'm just lucky because I'm different and that at one point in my life I made a decision (whatever that might have been) that got me to open my mind and see the world and the people in it as they really are. I'm not lucky to be alive at all. The fact that chance is the only thing that can make us open our eyes make this world a really shitty one, and living a punishment.
And why is never existing worse than existing for a while? You can't know what you're missing if you never exist. So how is that a bad thing? How is living a good thing? There is a lot of pain you can go through while you're alive. How is that better than never being born? There is also a lot of pain you can make others go through while you're alive. How is that better?
What you say about the pain one can experience in life is spot-on, life is shit, granted we have it better than some, but never-the-less life on the whole it sucks. But, the view I have of life and a view I'd love to impart on you, is not of the whole, it's those fleeting moments, noticing an orange sunset glinting off wet leaves of a tree, that feeling you get witnessing a child help another child in a park after a tumble. A kind of "look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves" kinda of thing.
I'd agree with Meghan, that we are lucky to be alive, even the sheeple. Even though some choose to remain as sheep, they've won the opportunity to do something with it. If they don't "wake up" and then... sucks to be them, what a waste it is, to have lived a life without opening your eyes.
On the abuse issue, I see it in a way of "would I swap places with Meghan, to have her insight of how bad her life can be, to see how good life can be?" Probably not (Sorry Meghan), but would I love to see life the way she might? Hell yeah. For me, I feel I do Meghan and the many others like her a great disservice, in failing to try and see my life in the way she sees hers, whilst trying to make the most of those little things.
Some don't choose to remain as sheep, they were told for so long that they are sheep that they reach a point when even they believe it. People don't have their eyes closed by choice. Other people close their eyes from birth. That's the thing that really sucks.
Would you not agree then, your existence, our existence (as my ego would like to think) as more "enlightened" people, is of value to the lives of these people?
I take it as a mission to enlighten people, to get them out of there boxes and see the world and the cosmos in all it's grandeur and wonderment. Only the other day I enlightened my brother (nearly 40 years of age), that our star is only one of maybe 100bn others in our galaxy, he nearly tripped over his jaw. How the fuck has he got to nearly 40 without experiencing the awe of the numbers involved?
Some even reach 100... when people are brainwashed from a young age is not their fault for growing up in zombie-like people who don't know what the hell is going on. It depends a lot on the character of every person. If someone is a pushover, it's unlikely for that person to ever wake up and see the reality as it is.
And that's a very sad situation indeed. There's sometimes no way to get through to a person who is so entrenched in that view, that they can't see the splendor life has to offer, but one can only do so much in offering a better outlook on life. If I were to dwell on their misfortune, it would be to the detriment of my own happiness. I know it sounds heartless to say "fuck 'em", but I'm only one man with only one life, I can only lead by example and hope that they can empathise with me and my awe of life.