Ever since I became an atheist, I’ve been struck by the fact that, even when people believe that death is no more than a temporary separation, they still grieve deeply and desperately for the people they love, as if they were never going to see those people again. Belief in an afterlife doesn’t keep people from mourning in terrible anguish when their loved ones die. It doesn’t keep people from missing the loved ones they’ve lost, for years, for the rest of their lives. And it doesn’t keep people from fearing their own death, and putting it off as long as they can. (And for the record: No, I don’t think this makes them hypocrites. I think it makes them human.) The comfort of religion doesn’t eradicate grief, any more than the comfort of atheism does. It simply alleviates it to some extent.
But does an atheist philosophy of death offer less comfort than a religious one? Honestly — I think that depends. For one thing, I think it depends on the atheist philosophy. A philosophy of (for instance) “Yes, I’m going to die, but my ideas and the effect I had on the world will live on for a while ” will probably be more comforting than a philosophy of, “Yeah, death totally sucks, but that’s reality, reality bites, whaddya gonna do.”
Plus, obviously, it depends on the religion as well. Many true believers in a blissful afterlife aren’t actually very comforted by this belief. It’s common for believers to be tormented by the thought that, even if they’re going to Heaven, the apostates in their family are going to burn in Hell… and how can Heaven be Heaven if their loved ones are burning in Hell? And many religious beliefs about death fill their believers, not with comfort, but with terror and guilt… and many atheists who once held those beliefs say that letting go of them was a profound relief. They would much rather believe in no afterlife at all than an afterlife determined by the vengeful, nitpicky, capricious, psychopathically sadistic god they were brought up to believe in.
Alternet: Does Atheism Offer As Much Comfort in Death As Religion?
January 12, 2010 at 11:57 pm
Well, there’s something to be said for a situation where the worst thing that can happen to you is nothing.
February 23, 2010 at 4:10 am
We, Atheists, understand that death is a natural phenomenon that closes our life assignment. So we don’t need comfort from priests. When they approach a death-bed they are not trying to comfort; they are trying to get “money”–that most desirable God:
THAT MOST POWERFUL GOD EVERYONE SECRETIVELY LOVES AND WORSHIPS. -Flavioos / Summer 2009
When I see on Dollar bills the motto “In God We Trust”, I always question myself why people don’t realize that the correct motto should be “In GOLD We Trust”, for gold (Money) is the most powerful god that really assists us 24 hours/day, from the first to the last day of our lives — and beyond because after death always come the last bills for the funeral services. Surely, the word Gold was premeditatedly misspelled in order to hide the true meaning of that motto stamped on our “green” bills.
I challenge those who deride what I am saying by suggesting them to immediately give up all their clothing, and stay seven days without using money or any items or services acquired with it. At end, if they dare to try this heroic experiment, they will find out that those seven days was the most disgraceful, degrading, deteriorating and miserable week in their lives. Then they can clearly understand that the word is truly misspelled, and why everyone, without exceptions, loves and worships that real god called MONEY.
When properly harnessed, that god performs incredible works by making some people look more important and authoritative than others, giving us better and more comfortable lives, helping men to build wonderful towns and cities, explore the outer space, improve the general life-standards around our Planet, etc. But because he is worshipped only through hard-work and creativity, no other god would be able to help us in performing such wonderful tasks. Also, apart of being the most inimitable and powerful, that god is so charismatic that a great part of its worshippers ignores its honorable spot in our Society and commits the most unbelievable cheatings and atrocities in order to take possession of him.