On Atheism and Death  

Thursday, December 13, 2007

This post was prompted by an email from John-Evo at Evolutionary Middleman. And I selfishly co-opted the email as I started musing on something death. Death has never been a big, scary thing for me. When I was a Christian it was gateway to fairy-land. When I was a spiritualist, it was the possibility of reincarnation. But really, in any form I never really thought about it too much. Maybe it wasn't real or maybe I just didn't care.

And as an atheist it's just the end. And I won't be aware of anything after that, so it's not like it's going to really hurt after it's all over. So why worry about it?

But I guess as I've gotten older I've begun to feel my own mortality. I think it's in watching my parent's health and sanity break over time. That's going to be me before too long. I've never felt a need for immortality, or to leave anything of myself behind. I don't even have a strong drive to have children. But there is something about being forgotten that disturbs me.

I think about whether or not I'll be scared when I die, if I happen to know it's coming. Will it change my perspective? I don't fear eternal torment, so I don't think I'd grasp at religion, but will I feel a desperation to immortalize myself or will I feel regret? I hope I'm happy with the time I've had.

Being an atheist doesn't mean I don't have human emotions. Just because I feel certain about the choices I've made doesn't mean I don't feel the same things other people do. It doesn't mean I have a perfectly mapped out life. Lots of atheists are bothered by the thought of death. And theists jump all over that. Which is funny. It's not really about the way we feel, but about the choices we make.

But after analyzing it some more it's not death that really bothers me. It's being forgotten. And I can understand how people throughout history have wanted to immortalize themselves. I think it would be cool for people to find my bones thousands of years from now and be able to piece together a little bit about how we lived. That's the type of immortality that appeals to me.

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