Image by dawn m. armfield via FlickrOccasionally I will read that death must be terrifying for those who believe there is no God and no after-life. It makes death so final, so empty!
I guess I must be a little odd, because I find it a great relief that there is no everlasting life. Of course, anyone would be relieved on coming to believe there is no hell - but no heaven? Well, frankly, I cannot imagine anything that wouldn’t get boring after hundreds or thousands of years of it, especially groveling before some egocentric god.
So what is death? Well, functionally, all the evidence suggests the death of a human is merely the end of awareness for that human; he is no longer conscious. This doesn’t frighten me in the least because it happens to me every night when I go to sleep. And while I’m asleep, I don’t miss my family or friends or any of the other things I love since I’m not aware that they (or I) exist. There is no pain, no longing, and no sadness.
But aren’t I sad that I will never again get to see my loved ones, even in heaven? Sure, I’m a bit sad while I’m alive that I can no longer see those loved ones who have died, or talk with them, or be with them, but after I’m dead that will never occur to me. The pain of missing them will be over.
I will never be able to witness my own death because I will have no awareness at the moment I die. And because I will have no awareness, I will not miss life in the least. We cannot miss something we are not aware of, and from that moment, I will not be aware of ever having lived. Oddly enough, for me, once awareness is gone, even death will not exist.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love life. Although I am of the gray haired set, I still enjoy life greatly, and there are still things I hope to accomplish in this life. But at the same time, I see no point to fearing death. I won’t even know it has happened.
As Mark Twain noted, I was dead for billions of years before I was born, but I don’t recall it being of the slightest inconvenience. Similarly, I am utterly convinced that I will never experience my death as an inconvenience.
Kind of ironic, isn’t it? It seems that billions of people through the ages have accepted religion, and tenaciously clung to religion, for fear of something that they will not even be aware of once it happens.