Friday, April 24, 2009


On death and atheism

In a post from last week’s Carnival of the Godless, Jennifer contemplates the lyrics of a song. The song is called “Thoughts of a Dying Atheist”, and it prompts her to say this:

And hell, the whole reason I liked the song in the first place is because I can relate to it: death DOES scare the hell out of me. I find it morbid thinking there’s nothing after death, and I can see how comforting the afterlife is to religious people. I just can’t force myself to believe in it because I’d like it to be true.

There’s a curious difference between her approach and mine: understanding that there’s nothing after death doesn’t frighten me, and I’d find no comfort in the idea of an afterlife. I’m not afraid of death at all.

Now, don’t take that as an arrogant “Bring it on!” sort of thing. I’m not full of the machismo of “Ha! I laugh at death and spit in its face.” I’m just saying that I’m not afraid that I will die, when the time comes, and that the result will be my non-existence.

What I do fear is the suffering that often precedes death. What does make me sad is knowing that those I leave behind will be saddened by my passing. What I might regret is not having made a difference in the time I’ve had. Not having done the things I’d like to have done.

But as to the departure itself, well... if there’s nothing after, then there’s nothing to fear. In fact, it’s the idea of an afterlife that should give one pause. Was I good enough in this life, to have it good after? Was there some transgression I neglected to atone for that will land me in hell? How confident am I, really, that the wonderful afterlife is true?

For me, it’s simple: with nothing after, there’s nothing to worry about, nothing to be afraid of.

No comments: