When I first accepted atheism as my own personal philosophy, I could feel the excitement of rebellion as well as a comforting relief "knowing" that God wasn't real, and neither was Hell. I've found some wonderful people with very diverse views and comprehensive, intelligent understanding of the universe and our place in it. It's been a grand, exciting time for me.
And yet I can't shake that one unending, horrifying sensation that's been at the back of my mind the whole time: abject terror of death.
I suppose it's one thing to say that spiritually that our bodies pass on and some part of us lingers to do something else. Maybe have grand adventures within the greatness of our galaxy or develop into something grander than just entities in hollow human shells. But as an atheist, I cannot accept this. I'm forced, by virtue of scientific progress and personal comprehension, that once I kick the bucket, I'm gone. All I'll be is wormfood and happy memories to a mournful group of friends and family.
I have a very dear friend who is losing someone very close and dear to him to cancer. He's told me (and I'm sharing his feelings) that the biggest reason he can't accept atheism is because he doesn't want to imagine his sister as wormfood. He wants to imagine that he can see his sister again happily on the "other side". And in grief, he's demanded that I keep myself open for that possibility, and I've agreed. How could I not, when I feel the same fear he's going through?
In all the beauty, grandeur, and glory of the natural universe and the fantastic amazement one can have for its processes, there's one undying fact that won't be ignored: we are all tiny and meaningless to this universe in which we live. We exist for not even the tiniest fraction of existence and pass on without a single thought. Now, instead of saying, "What's the point of doing anything now when there's something in the afterlife?" I'm saying, "What's the point of doing anything now when there's no point except to get up, live, then die?"
I've heard the argument that it's a cold, frustrated, bitter imagination that refuses to accept this world for what it is and demand that something must be behind it or must have created it. But it feels even more inhumane to say that we are tiny, insignificant dots in the grandeur of the universe.
And some atheists wonder why the religious hold onto their "bullshit dogma". Sometimes it seems like there's greater peace in ignorance than coming to terms with your own meaninglessness.
"Sometimes it seems like there's greater peace in ignorance than coming to terms with your own meaninglessness."
There is also greater peace being semi-camatose on heroin than being sober. still doesnt mean it is good for you.
But i can sypathize with you. for the first 2 years after becoming atheist i sometimes wished i could still be christian. life just seemed so much easier then, as i had an answer for all those big questions like "why am i here" . But while life was alot more scary without the crutch of religion, it was also alot more rewarding as i came to terms with reality.
But as to your main topic. You say you fear death? But that is only because you havent given much thought to what eternal life would be like to a sentient being. it would be the worst torture imaginable with no possibility of release ever. and when i say ever i mean EVER. how would you feel after watching a thousand years go by ,or a million, or 13.8 billion. and you will know this will never end. not ever. 5000 billion years from now you will still be around and even that great number is exactly zero compared to eternity. You say the idea of death is horrifying? i say the idea of eternal life would be worse than you could ever imagine.
Even the christian idea of heaven or hell is ludicrous. in heaven you will be eternaly happy worshiping god etc etc. in other words nothing more than a mindless automaton. because the christian heaven precludes any concept of free will. you will have no choice but to be happy. you will have no choice but to worship god forever. and vice versa for hell
Well put, exactly how I've been thinking and feeling lately.
I always find it strange when my religious friends are sad, angered, saying why'd they have to die when they believe in an afterlife. Shouldn't you be happy they've gone to a better place with no pain and all happiness?
I think deep down they know it's over, but still have to keep that hope that some day they'll see them again.
What happens after we die is a complete mystery, anyone who says they know what happens is a lying lunatic. I think if you dwell on death to much it will just eat you up. It will always be in the back of your mind but you just have to enjoy life, while you have life.
If you go at it from a pure science sense where they say "energy can neither be created nor destroyed", so our energy will always be here, just in different forms.
J. Frost 4/22/11
When man dies, he doesn’t leave much behind. The flesh, the bones, everything that we visually associate with who that person is, it’s all gone. Ah, but the memories, they last forever. Or do they? Only the ones that have known this person in life will have those to cherish. But it’s the LEGACY that will truly keep a person from disappearing into obscurity, this is what we all should aspire to, this is what will keep us on earth amongst the living, for historians to revisit for eternity.
Hm... I'm just wondering.
Just as we have hunger and, just as we have may have never seen food before, we yearn for it. Couldn't our desire for something else, something spiritual, some meaning and eternal life... be seen as the probability of there being something out there that can satisfy it? How would anyone here go against that reasoning?
(Yes, I'm a Catholic. I'm here because I'm in a... well, a learning spree I suppose.)
Yearning does not equate to probability. I can yearn a great deal to be the human incarnation of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The probability this is true however is less than infinitesimal.
We conceive of eternal life because we can conceive of life. But just as having a single roast chicken or ear of corn does not mean a cornucopia exists, so being able to see our existence as it is at present does not mean that eternal life is a reality. It does not mean eternal life cannot be a reality, and it does not mean we cannot seek it (through improved medical technology for example), but a desire for something does not logically mean it must be true.
We have a desire for understanding, a desire to have greater control of the world around us, a desire to not die and leave our loved ones behind, a desire for less suffering and pain. Religion pretends to fulfil those desires when all it really does is offer an illusory shadow.
The knowledge offered by religion is substantiated by nothing more than 'I believe so it is so', or 'the book said so'.
The only control religion provides is control over people who abdicate their freedoms to those who hold the reins of that religion, and not over the powers of nature to which we are held in thrall. Those who claim that prayer can cause or stop an earthquake have never been able to substantiate those assertions.
The only thing that has allowed us, in some small way, to ameliorate the capricious forces of the universe has been the human mind, human endeavour and the rational examination of the world we live in.
Death, pain, suffering, and all those aspects of our life that make us seek consolation in religion are all better combated by human action, rather than the vain hope that some other power will do it for us. Or more insidiously, the belief that we should surrender ourselves to suffering in this world because we can take comfort that there is something better in the next (or that our lot in this world has been ordained).
I'll be pedantic and say that your hunger analogy specifically is inaccurate. We have hunger and can yearn for food, but that is predicated on the reliance of our bodies upon food to survive. Though as neonates there was a time when we had yet to have consciously consumed our first meal from our mother's breast, we had never-the-less throughout all the months we were in-utero been receiving nourishment from our mother. Our bodies have physiological mechanisms to detect nourishment and mechanisms to inform us of a deficit. When we are born, even before we have had our first meal, we already have had evidence that food exists. The same cannot be said for life after death or the supernatural.
Couldn't our desire for something else, something spiritual, some meaning and eternal life... be seen as the probability of there being something out there that can satisfy it?
I yearn for telekinesis, telepathy, teleportation & mind reading powers. But no matter how much I yearn for them I can't seem to get these powers :O
I'm just a speck of dust living on a planet that's a speck of dust in our galaxy, which is only a speck of dust in the Universe, but I live my days the best I can.
Does it bum me that some day I'm going to die and that's it, heck yes.... but it's only because there's so much I still want to do in life. I wish I lived long enough to travel to another galaxy, visit another planet, etc.. yet I have so much I still want to do on our planet....I either need 3 lives or live for 500 years.
The part about death that worries me most is, I don't want to die slowly, I'd rather get it over quick when it's time. I think it's BS that the government steps in to say you can't take your own life when it's time. But look at how people think when it comes to our pets! It's fine to put them down when they're suffering/dying and yet it's not OK for humans to do the same? I'd much rather be put to sleep and not suffer than to have it drag out for months and be in pain the whole time. Maybe one day things will change and the religious mind-set won't control what we can or can't do when it comes to death. My life is mine and nobody elses.
I too have a fear of death.
Even though ignorance is bliss, I would loathe myself if I were to give in to ignorance just to avoid my fears.
As for purposes, why must one have a purpose (or meaning in their life)? To be honest, I am completely fine with a life and no purpose or meaning. I was given this life because my mom gave birth to me, not because I am needed by mother earth or god. I think people can still live happy lives without a purpose or any meaning.
As you said, in the end we become worm food, so why not live as happy as you can be until then? Why not help others feel happy and spread the love? I think it is Heaven that gives people reason to be ass holes. Heaven seems to give people justification to do stupid things without feeling remorse because they feel that it won't matter as long as they get into heaven.
We don't need purpose, meaning, religion, or any external self motivator to live a happy life. We have each other and ourselves, and that is all we need.
(of course, my understanding of "having meaning in life" may differ from others, but I see it as a blindfold which hides you from greater and more enjoyable aspects of life. You are here now, whether it matters or not, so deal with it and have some fun. :P)