How do you deal with death?

I’ve been a atheist since grade school and my biggest problem with it is how to handle death. Honestly it scares the shit out of me. I am assuming that nothing happens due to the fact that there is no evidence to suggest otherwise, except for a couple of books that are thousands of years old. It sucks a little bit to see that this is it.

Posted: June 3rd 2009

Dave Hitt www

While I don’t fear my own death, I don’t deal with the death of friends any better than religious people do. I have to admit I’m just slightly jealous of survivors who have the comfort of believing their loved ones are still alive in heaven. Although, since most of my friends are interesting people, if I were religious I’d be afraid they were being tortured in hell.

It sucks a little bit to see that this is it.

It does, a little bit. But it can also be inspiring. Every one of us exists despite incredible odds against it, and we have an entire lifetime to be enthralled with this wonderful world and to do things that make big differences and little differences. We all have a built in expiration date, and the fact that we don’t know when it is can be an inspiration to get out there and do things, instead of wasting time collecting brownie points to earn a better, non-existent afterlife.

Posted: June 12th 2009

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George Ricker www

While I would certainly hate to suffer a long, painful death or a severe loss of mental acuity, I’m not that fearful of death itself. I can say, with a high degree of confidence, that once I am dead it won’t matter to me in the slightest.

I think most people are more concerned about dying than about death itself, and, often, it’s the prospect of losing those closest to us that bothers us more than our own demise.

Since I can do nothing to avoid death, my concern is with the nature and the quality of the life I live. That’s something I can do something about.

Finally, since nature is the ultimate recycling machine, and our constituent parts will be reprocessed and used over and over again for as long as a physical universe exists, the stuff we are made of has a durability that far exceeds our personal lives.

Posted: June 4th 2009

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I’m not sure what you mean. Are you talking about your death, or are you talking about the death of others?

I’m not scared of death. I expect that death is going to just be nothingness, and while I don’t look forward to it, I don’t fear it.

I do fear dying painfully, and I am generally against the whole concept of growing older and having my body deteriorate.

I also fear losing my mental abilities, and becoming a burden on my family.

As for other people, yes, it sucks when people die. I would prefer that they didn’t, but death is part of life.

Posted: June 4th 2009

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Paula Kirby www

I honestly don’t fear death at all. Dying, yes (not if it’s peaceful, but I fear a painful or violent or prolonged PROCESS of dying); but being dead holds no fears. I imagine it as an endless, dreamless sleep – I won’t know a thing about it, because I won’t exist any more.

We do know, actually, that nothing happens after death. Those who believe in an afterlife believe in a soul that survives the demise of our physical bodies; a soul that contains the essence of us; that can feel emotions (eg. joy at being reunited with loved ones); that can feel physical pain (eg. the flames of hell); that is essentially our personality plus senses, minus our body.

But we can be quite certain this isn’t true. If our personality resides in our souls, how come damage to our physical brains often alters our personality beyond recognition? If our senses ultimately reside in our soul, again, how come people whose eyes or ears have been damaged lose the ability to see or hear? And how come people with damage to specific parts of their physical brains lose sensation in other parts of their bodies? If our emotions reside in our soul, how come they can be stimulated and manipulated by electronic impulses to specific parts of our physical brains?

We KNOW that these things are the products of physical processes in our physical brains; and we know that, after death, our physical brains either decompose or are cremated, along with the rest of us.

There really will be no way we could possibly have any awareness of anything after death. That may be a disconcerting thought; it may incredibly hard to conceptualise; and we may feel sad at the thought of no longer being with our friends and families; but there really isn’t anything to fear.

Posted: June 3rd 2009

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SmartLX www

I take comfort from the words of two smart people.

Epicurus pointed out that in the absence of an afterlife, you you won’t be present to experience the condition: “Where death is, I am not; where I am, death is not.”

Mark Twain realised that we’ve already been in a condition identical to death, without any ill effect: “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.”

Posted: June 3rd 2009

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brian thomson www

Yes, it sucks. What can you do about it? Whatever you do, it will never feel like enough, since the person who died is not coming back. I find it helps to understand that everything that happens next is for the benefit of those left behind. The dearly departed has been released from all such concerns, and you can remember them as they were in better times.

I’m a big fan of the HBO series Six Feet Under, which follows the lives of a family of funeral directors. They deal with death every day, but have their own tragedies to deal with as time goes by, and none are as simple as “a death in the family”. I have never seen death treated in such a Humanist (or simply Human) manner before, in any published work. Watching it helped me clarify some of my own thoughts about death, and what it means to me and others.

As I write this, it’s a couple of days since an Air France plane crashed in the Atlantic between Rio and Paris, with the loss of over 200 lives. When I hear of people lost at sea, I think of Amelia Earhart, and the song that Joni Mitchell wrote.

Posted: June 3rd 2009

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