I just read a fascinating article on teenageatheist.com. She talks about dying and there being "nothing". Even though zillions of years passed before her 16 years on earth, she now exists and doesn't want it to end.
I believe my life will end and I will go to the same place I was in 10 million BC or 1940. Nowhere.
As an atheist, do you believe there is life after death? Or do you think there's just nothing; that you cease to exist and that's the end?
There is no reason to believe that our conscious selves survive our deaths. We don't go anywhere, we cease to exist, and even our language doesn't accurately describe death. He is dead? No. There is no "he".
Precisely. In fact I'd take it a step further even to say that our identiy really is a bit fallacious while we're alive, since our mental states are constantly dynamic, so we're really never entirely the same individual at any two pionts in time. But for more practical argument though, I second reggie's post.
While it is simple to rationalize away all reasons for fearing nothingness, I nonetheless still fear it. Even the bravest of us resist it with every breath. Even those among my friends and acquaintances who have attempted suicide readily admit that, if given the choice, they would choose a reasonably happy continuation of life over oblivion. It is a way out of depression or anxiety or despair that the suicidal truly desire, rather than simply an end to consciousness.
Religion arose, in part, as an answer to the existential question of death. If so, then the question does not disappear simply because we have rejected religion. God may not exist, but death certainly does and if we are honest, we must admit that our mortality does not render life precious; it renders it futile. We each go to the same grave, where all accomplishment and failure, merit and guilt are forgotten - first by the dead, then by their descendants. The gratitude of future generations is a hollow comfort, for no matter how altruistic I may be, what I wish for them I wish also for myself. I can think of no greater horror than a universe that, having succumbed to entropy, lies flat, uniform, and unchanging, with all the lives of its many beings left unremembered, unmourned, and unchampioned. Such may be the fate of the universe, but the living kick against that current with every fiber of their being, knowing there can be no greater injustice. It may not be rational, but it is instinctual.
I do not believe there is an afterlife, but I do believe it is too early to say whether or not we might engineer such a thing. Perhaps science and the singularitarians will devise a means to retard aging, eradicate disease, and achieve true immortality. Given that some processes in the universe, such as stars, can be sustained for billions of years without the benefit of intelligent design and that some individual trees still persist after millennia of living, is it so unreasonable to think we might find, in their stories, the secret to life eternal? Are we too not living things? Are we too not the children of stars?
Perhaps even time-travel will one day become a reality and non-supernatural resurrection will occur, with the dead being somehow revived in the far-flung future. If the standard model of physics is accurate, such things cannot be said to be impossible, but merely difficult in the extreme.
I do not know if such things are to be, but I do know that I want as much of enjoyable life as possible. And I know that if such things can be achieved, it is humans – or something that, like us, has the nigh omnipotent power of imagination - that will do so. Provided we account for factors such as overpopulation and the ravages of aging, immortality is a worthwhile pursuit. Indeed, it is a goal that each of us is already after - we go on living because we prefer life. And while there is life, there is hope.
I believe that, if we live well, we will come to terms with death. If presented with the choice of living just one more year or dying now, we would choose one more year. But would be choose one more year over and over again, ad infinitum? I don't think so. Coming to terms with death means coming to terms with life. Mortality is natural. A dignified life will eventually beg to end.
You don't need to start over, Fred. There's plenty of people who appreciate you right here. Being hated is not an action you can control -- hating is. Unless you've done something to deserve hatred, you have no responsibility for it. I'm sure that whoever you think hates you doesn't really hate you. Some people are simply unhappy and resentful: they're bitter and want to spoil anything sweet. Some might not be able to help themselves: there are neurological conditions (Asperger's Syndrome) that render some people unable to control antisocial impulses. But mostly, people have bad moments and behave like asses. They know they've made a mistake and regret it but might be too embarrassed to make amends.
I've never seen you express a sentiment that intends harm to anybody. You're putting yourself at fault for other people's problems. Don't let them get to you. To the extent that you subordinate your life to fear, you're already dead. Believe in yourself.