Free Inquiry’s latest issue has a special section on death and dying from the secular humanist perspective:
You’d think dying would be harder for the nonreligious. For us, death is the end, as final as turning off the television-and throwing it in the lake. However falsely, believers can look forward to eternal bliss or, if not bliss, at least justice; resolution, all the same. Picturing a deity’s hand upon the cosmic helm, believers can hope for all accounts to be settled and each injustice compensated, with every life set firmly into meaning’s great template.
How strange, then, that, despite the comfort and support their beliefs are said to bring, most religious people appear to fear dying and dread death no less fiercely than any secular humanist. Maybe it’s the animal in each of us, snarling at the dying of the light, no matter what mind and heart believe about eternity. Or maybe, when it comes to the capital E End, some believers feel less certain of what lies beyond the grave than they had hoped they would.
For those who view life as a prelude and those who view it as all there is, dying and death constitute the ultimate crucible. In so many ways, we reshape ourselves in our responses to the dyings and the deaths of those we love. Soon enough, each of us will face a dying, a death all our own. For some, the dying process will be transformative, the summation of a life well authored. Others will be denied that opportunity but spared also the suffering that may come with it.