Don't You Fear Death?


Here's a recent email I received from a Christian posing a question I'd like to answer:

Hello, My names J and I'm a Christian, I'm not here to preach to you lol, I just had a question, Don't you ever think about the day you die? Does it not scare you? I hear this saying that people usually say that "It's easy to be a atheist your whole life but hard to be one on your death bed." Please don't be feisty with me, cause most Atheists are mean. I just want to know your thoughts! Thanks for taking the time to read this message!!
I replaced the name provided with the letter J for the sake of privacy but did no other editing.

Great question, J. Do I ever think about the day I'll die? Yes and no. I tend to think far more about the eventual death of others close to me than I do about my own death. I think this is mostly due to my recognition that I do not handle grief well at all. I've known this about myself for some time, and I don't like it. I'm working on trying to confront the reality of outliving some of those I will miss in the hope that doing so might make it just a bit easier to deal with when it happens.

When I do think about my own death, I can honestly say that I do so without any consideration of what happens afterward. I have no fear around this aspect of death at all. I'll be dead, and I'm reasonably confident that this means anything I might call "me" will cease to exist when I die. I don't believe in any sort of afterlife or various entities interested in judging me. Instead, my thoughts center around the pain and suffering leading up to death, how I will die, and whether it will be by suicide at a time of my choosing or the far more horrific aspects of old age awaiting us all.

The fears of death that I do have all involve the loss of independence followed by the agonizing process of wasting away in the hospital or nursing home. This is the only aspect of death that terrifies me, and it does indeed terrify me. I hope that we will have access to legal and humane assisted suicide long before I reach this point. If not, I expect to end my life by whatever means I can come by before I reach the point where I can no longer live independently. I won't have any family by this point or anyone depending on me, so I'll have the luxury of not having to be concerned with how this might impact anyone else.

I hope I have answered your question. I certainly can't pretend to speak for all atheists, and I am fairly confident that other atheists would give you different answers. Based on some of the discussion threads I have seen on Reddit, there are certainly atheists out there who do fear death.

Finally, I am sorry to hear that you have found most atheists to be mean. This has not been my experience of atheists offline, but I have encountered a large number of atheists who could reasonably be described as mean - or at least very angry and antagonistic toward people who do not share their beliefs - online. Some have valid reasons for feeling angry, as they have been treated poorly by religious believers. Then again, being treated poorly by others seems like a questionable justification for treating others poorly.