I've often thought about this too. I'm totally okay with slipping into nothingness. I really just think you... disappear. It's death, it's absolutely non existant conscious. Why would I be scared of it when I'm not going to even be there? I wouldn't say I'm afraid of it, but when you're an inch from death I'm sure you'll get a little anxious about the sensation of dying, ya know? That's me though. What I can't seem to think through, however, is putting that into comfort for someone else when they've had someone die. Especially when they're religious. I often try to show my friends my way of thinking when it comes to religion and I can easily hold up my anti-religion flag and bury their beliefs with common sense. But death has always been a touchy subject. What is a great way I can console about death using my athiest sense?
What is a great way I can console about death using my athiest sense?
Very good question. I suppose we use the standard grief models from psychology, and the human touch. In my brief experience, it is very good to let the bereaved person reminisce with you about the good memories there are about the deceased loved one, and all the ways in which they were wonderful, and can never be replaced. See if you have any nice photos of the deceased. Also, make sure the bereaved person has all the practical support they might need, without having to ask too hard for it. This can really count for a lot - the bereaved person is likely to be all upset and confused. I think this is when a true friend shows her/himself. Practical help, listening, fondly remembering the departed loved one. Devotion and caring. Don't assume they're already getting it.
I like Woody Allen's retort to those who feel we live on through our works and progeny: "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying."
A friend of mine passed away on Friday night. I wasn't very close with her, but we have mutual friends who were closer to her. But I knew her enough to call her a friend. She was only 32, and had three children, all elementary school age. She was a Christian, as are most of our mutual friends. I find it hard to find the right words to express my sentiments to her family and friends, without using words that are coded in religion.
I'm actually still in a place where I'm trying hard to maintain a level of spirituality because I really don't want to give that up. But I'm also infuriated by the evangelicalism that is rampant in my life, especially in times of death. I don't want to hear about how my friend is "dancing with Jesus" or how we will all meet again in heaven. I hate that she died so young. I hate that she left behind three young kids. I hate that she died alone. I hate that eventually everyone will die.
This is something I am not coming to terms with, and I don't know if I ever will.
I share your frustrations that most accepted forms of condolences seem to be steeped with religion or religious overtones. However, I came to the realization that many of those words and phrases that are acceptable ways to convey emotions in times of loss are really nothing more than canned words and phrases, easily uttered out of habit and requiring little thought. Struggling to find ways to express my sympathy, if even done awkwardly, seems much more genuine and heartfelt to me. And the struggle to do so reminds me that there are no easy answers, there is no ultimate comfort, and that we should enjoy life as much as we can between these moments of grief.
@ Cristynfaye: thanks for sharing that. It seems that Christians and atheists just have very different ways of thinking about death.
I think that we can't come to terms with someone else's death: only with our own.
For me, I think I've done about as decent a job as any other human being would at coming to terms with inevitability, on any scale. However, it's more of an issue of what will be left in life after I perish. (i.e: my children) Having already lost a parent at a young age, I do not wish them to bear that burden. Even as an adult, and especially an atheist, when someone is gone, they are gone.
I guess I'd say, it's something everyone is forced to do, and perhaps as much as one may think they come to terms, they don't. It's a maintenance.
But, I look forward to thoroughly reading through these answers, as I have pondered the same question, but have had no atheist peers to compare feelings.
I quite like Roddenberry's Klingon battle mantra - "today is a good day to die". I believe that the philosophy is that if you make each day a good day to die (a day when you are positive) then you will not fear death because you will be in a good place. (I believe it is also to help you concentrate on living in battle lol)
Let's hope it's short and sweet
It's natural to not want to die, in fact evolution demands it for our survival. I try not to over think my death, though i have in the past. I feel a therapist helped me more in that than religion ever would have. I'l die when i die, all that's left is to make the most of life while i have it.