What are your thoughts on death?
How about I show you a full course on Death by Professor Kagan.
I'm reading Julian Barnes' Nothing to be Frightened Of where he discusses his fear of death and his lack of religiousness. To me, and to put it simplistically, religion makes death mpre acceptable - insofar as death could ever be acceptable - for people as it gives them some sort of promise of an afterlife. It seems like it's easy to dismiss it when you're young and death is generally quite far away; but what if you're suddenly faced with it, either your own or someone that you love? I can't foresee religion ever being a source of comfort for me (which is why I've taken to reading that Barnes book) but I just wonder what normal atheists think of this. It's okay to think of myself fading into oblivion once I die, but it's hard to really accept this when it comes to the people that I love.
I don't think I've expressed myself well but I hope you get what I mean.
I got what you mean.
There is a quote that is often attributed to Mark Twain (though I personally it to be misattributed): “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.”
When I die, I will not know I'm dead. Death is only significant insofar as it is related to life. I think you are right in that religious people might have a better chance at coping with death based on their beliefs in an afterlife. But I cannot help what I believe, and I certainly cannot believe in something just because it makes me feel good or I find it reassuring.
What I find rather striking, however, is the realisation that religious people do not seem to fear death less than atheists do. Surely they ought to congratulate themselves in the prospect of eternal bliss in paradise. But they overwhelmingly don't...
Let me ask you something though, what do you mean but "normal atheists"? Are you an "abnormal atheist"? What does that mean?
EDIT: That is one of the main issues I have with Christianity. Christianity has at its core the concept of redemption and the quest for salvation. Life is merely a transitional step, a stepping stone, a test for admission into the real
life, the one that we shall experience eternally in paradise or in hell. That is such a limited and limiting view, it is phantasmagorically depressing to the point of being wicked. It deprives life of its meaning by turning it into a sort of a mixture between a rat lab experiment, an agility contest and a puppet show.
You and me and every single one of the 7 billion people on this planet are extremely fortunate to be individuals of the more highly evolved creature on this spec of dust. We exist for a brief period of time in the vastness of history, and then we're gone. Inevitably. I believe it to be not only our right, but also our duty as humans to do the best we can to contribute to the advancement and flourishing of our species. What better way to survive death than by leaving a mark in the memories of our fellow human beings. Is Mark Twain dead? Einstein? Aristotle? Shakespeare?
This is the only life we've got, so we ought to live it to its fullest and make the best of it.