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Austin Cline

Forum Discussion: Fear of Death?

By September 15, 2010

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The fear of death appears to be one of the driving forces behind the resilience of religion. A religion can explain why death happens and promise that it isn't "real" because you will live on in some fashion, thus dealing with serious fears a person might have. How, then, do irreligious atheists handle death? Are you afraid of death? Why or why not?

A forum member writes:

I am afraid of dying. In fact, if it was left in my hands, I wouldn't do it. This is when I envy folks who believe in God and the afterlife. It must be soothing to believe there is more after this life. I was never afraid of death until I reached my 30's. So, am I alone? If so, please explain to me how you've avoided this fear. I realize it is fruitless to worry about something I cannot control.

If anything is the case, it may be that atheists could be a little more inclined to fear death than theists because atheists don't generally believe in an afterlife and so they know that this life is all they have -- just one chance to experience being alive and then that's it. This doesn't mean that all atheists definitely are more afraid of death than others, it's just a reason why it's possible.

Add your thoughts to the comments here or join the ongoing discussion in the forum.

Comments
September 15, 2010 at 9:10 pm
(1) Ron says:

Some logic and reason
What is the fear of death? Perhaps it is a fear of the unknown. But it is not unknown. Simply put, it is where I was before I was born. Non-existence. Put another way. Good news, and bad news. First, the bad news. When I die, I will not get to enjoy any more beautiful sunsets. Now, the good news. I will not be aware of what I am missing. So what is there to fear? Of course we must remember that nature has programed us to survive, so when the time comes to die, none of us are going to be prepared. Atheist or theist. The theist does not fool me! When he gets sick he runs to the doctor just the same as us.

September 16, 2010 at 3:40 pm
(2) Dave says:

It seems to me that death is something we cannot experience. This seems true to me because it takes time to go from being alive to being dead so you should always be alive because there is an infinite amount of time between the two(zeno paradox here?) by the same token, we dont experience being unconcious. If you think about it, we are and have always been concious at least subjectivly. Does this mean we will always be subjectivly concious? I think this would imply time slowing down during the dying process. I really hope this is not true. Hmmmmmm

September 19, 2010 at 3:10 pm
(3) Kendall says:

No amount of fear or belief can stop death. Once you accept this, you can enjoy what you have. I kind of feel sorry for those in an afterlife. Sure the first couple hundred years may be fun, but after a million you’d have to think you’d be really bored, especially considering you don’t even have a body.

September 19, 2010 at 11:02 pm
(4) mira says:

In death I would like to be a time and space traveler and an aid worker in the universe. I don’t mind stopping for a while to say hay to the folks and God etc; but that’s it.
Through out the world all cultures believe in existence after death, they can’t all be wrong, can they ?
I am a catholic and was taught to believe in heaven.
A man was shot and killed running out of a brothel near by one night, I went to have a look, he was covered over on the ground. I could feel his conscious energy in the surrounding night air; what was that ?
The Egyptians and Aborigines and many others, conceived of a soul as an aspect of cosmological process. A creating soul, universal soul, natural soul of species, and a unique individual soul.
That the ego survives death and remains intact into the after life also that lost knowledge of burial practices assisting the spiritual energy to separate from the earths sphere has caused the pollution of the atmosphere with fragmented, embodied, energies of the dead, which can interact with the living, inhibiting, shadowing.controlling conscious behavior and destiny.
According to science we are energy, figments of each others imagination even, when broken down to a mathematical equation.
1 : Lots of different energies all rolled up in one ?
2 : And how does spirit energy go anywhere, it stays within the earths atmosphere ?
3 : Hence we are haunted by memory energy of the past living ?
4 : And possessed by ……. they live through us ?
5 : Is reaching heaven a state of mind for the dead…… through ritual we send them to a happy mind place in the cosmos….next door [ a holding place] so to speak, so as to be separate from their interference ?
6 : And is life eternal, an never ending re-hashed cycle ?
Let’s not go psychic or mumbo jumbo ……yes ? Let’s stay with science.
What are we down to the lowest common denominator ?

September 20, 2010 at 8:32 am
(5) Austin Cline says:

Through out the world all cultures believe in existence after death, they can’t all be wrong, can they ?

Sure they can.

According to science we are energy, figments of each others imagination even

The first is essentially true; however, the first does not entail the latter.

2 : And how does spirit energy go anywhere, it stays within the earths atmosphere ?

It hasn’t been established that there is such a thing as “spirit,” much less that it has “energy”.

Let’s not go psychic or mumbo jumbo ……yes ? Let’s stay with science.

I agree. All scientific evidence we have is unambiguous that who “we” are as individuals is based on our memories and our personalities. Those, in turn, are based on the physical brain — change or damage the brain to the point where memories and personalities are changed enough, and we become radically different people.

What this means is that when the physical brain dies, so do our memories and personality. If they die, then “we” as people die as well. If “something” survives our death, then, it won’t be us.

This is the only conclusion currently supported by science. Absolutely no scientific evidence points anywhere else right now.

September 19, 2010 at 11:30 pm
(6) mira says:

I know a young Greek man who says he remembers traveling through “space” to the labor room to be born. He sane and rational and honest. ? ? What are we and we do we come from ? ?

September 20, 2010 at 7:39 am
(7) Kendall says:

“Through out the world all cultures believe in existence after death, they can’t all be wrong, can they ?” – mira

Through out the world all cultures use to think that the world was flat and that the sun revolved around us and that we were the center of the universe. We see how those “truths” worked out. A majority does not make a truth. The truth is not a democracy.

September 21, 2010 at 12:46 am
(8) Ramli says:

Our body is but a shell within which our true self lies. The self or soul, as it is also known, will be held accountable in afterlife. The question of the soul is very complex and we Muslims are not compelled and not encouraged to study into it too deeply. Just leave it the Al-Mighty Allah, our Creator, the Owner of all that is on earth and in the heavens. We continue with the life we destined for in this wonderful world.

The human mind is infinitismal small complared that that of the Devine Being. Even people like Albert Enstein is gifted with a mind of a mere few percent.

So the question of existence is extremely complex and anybody who declares that he knows everything is actually plain stupid. Atheists and theists alike.

We are not to fear death. We need to prepare for it.
Every moment the house says “go” and every moment the grave says “come”.

September 21, 2010 at 6:49 am
(9) Austin Cline says:

Our body is but a shell within which our true self lies.

Prove it.

September 21, 2010 at 10:25 am
(10) Ramli says:

No one can prove such matters pertaining to the unseen. All that the teachers ask of you is to believe and have faith.
There are two sides of the coin. The atheist asks for proof of the existence of God, the theist can also ask the former to proof the belief in the inexistence of God.

So, as a human being, where does one stand? It’s either this or that.

We are awed by our surroundings, i.e. the beautiful flowers, insects, interesting animals, the landscape, the seas, the stars and planets and ourselves.

That brings a question man has been asking himself since time immemorial, “who and what am I and where did I come from and to where will I go”. We all know that we come into this world through our parents. Allah has revealed in the Al-Quran the process from insemination to the exit of foetus from the womb to be called a baby. Several weeks old in the womb the foetus is blown into him the soul, which is to be the self. During this dawn in his creation, Allah asks him “Am I not thy Lord?” He answers “Yes thou art”. This is the assention he must hold with absolute obedience till his last breadth.

It is believed that dreams during sleep are experiences of the soul. We have dreams that that are very frightening and those which are very pleasant. Interestingly, Mohammad Iqbal says in his book, “dreams are true while they last, aren’t we live in a dream?” During sleep and dream, time is absolute. During our waking hours we live in time that is serial,i.e. the future dies or diminishes the moment it is born. So there seems to be no present as the clock’s second hand ticks on. Existence is at the tip of the needle.

Body and soul is akin to that of the computer hardware and software. One cannot exist without the other.

September 21, 2010 at 11:35 am
(11) Austin Cline says:

No one can prove such matters pertaining to the unseen.

If you can’t support your claims, you shouldn’t be making them.

All that the teachers ask of you is to believe and have faith.

One can say the same about absolutely any empirical claim; and it’s equally useless for all for all of them. It’s nothing more than an admission that one has no sound basis for a position but wants to exempt it from normal standards.

There are two sides of the coin. The atheist asks for proof of the existence of God, the theist can also ask the former to proof the belief in the inexistence of God.

When an atheist claims that some particular deity doesn’t exist, it’s entirely appropriate to ask them to support that claim. Until then, though, the theist is the only one with any burden of proof or support. So long as they cannot meet that burden, the only reasonable course of action is to refrain from believing them.

So, as a human being, where does one stand? It’s either this or that.

No, it’s either portioning one’s beliefs to the evidence or abandoning any reasonable standards and accepting as true whatever random assertions come along.

Several weeks old in the womb the foetus is blown into him the soul, which is to be the self.

Prove it.

It is believed that dreams during sleep are experiences of the soul.

Lots of things are “believed.” The mere fact that someone believes something doesn’t mean it’s reasonable, much less true.

In principle, I don’t care what you believe. Once you make the choice to assert your beliefs in public and, what’s more, present them as something others should believe as well, then you make your beliefs a public matter. You open them to public scrutiny, evaluation, and criticism. You necessarily assume a burden to support, defend, explain, and justify them.

Body and soul is akin to that of the computer hardware and software. One cannot exist without the other.

Prove it.

And if you cannot even begin to offer any sort of support for these claims, then you have no business making them.

September 21, 2010 at 7:21 pm
(12) Tom Edgar says:

I have no fear of death. There being nothing to fear.
As my late wife’s favourite poem says.

“Don’t weep for me now, cry for me never.
I’m off to do nothing for ever and ever.

How do I KNOW that there is nothing after this? I don’t, but I’ve never been shown any evidence to the contrary. This is in the diametrically opposite position of believers. There IS something, and they believe fervently, without a skerrick of evidence to support the position.

Now the dying bit is a different matter. This is something of which I have no wish to experience, and being in my mid eighties it is something that occupies my mind a lot more than it did in my thirties.

Two very close friends. Husband and wife, I was with them very shortly before they died, albeit several years apart.
Stan said to me. “Your right Tom, there is nothing after this.” he left an hour later. Molly, in her nineties, and always an Episcopalian/CoE. died slowly over a week.
a few short hours before she died said, weakly.. “Oh Tom. If this is the road to heaven, I really can’t recommend it.”

We’ve all got to do it. It is not about how, or when, you die. but about how you lived that matters. For me I’m looking for a painless self inflicted departure, then enough guts to do it. My only concern is not to inconvenience or upset the ones I leave.

September 21, 2010 at 7:58 pm
(13) Ramli says:

When you are in an airplane, you have belief and faith that the pilot and the airplane are ok. You don’t think much. Just eat and sleep throughout the journey.
It’s a great sense of relief when the aircraft thuds on the runway and taxis to the terminal.

Many Americans dread travelling by air. They have no faith in the pilot and his airplane. I hope you’re not one of them, Austin. I believe that as a human you have the conscience to believe in fate.

September 21, 2010 at 10:32 pm
(14) Austin Cline says:

When you are in an airplane, you have belief and faith that the pilot and the airplane are ok.

That’s not the same as religious “faith” and its’ not anywhere close to accepting as true claims like those you are making.

If you cannot or will not support your claims, then you have no business posting them here and should just stop.

September 22, 2010 at 12:23 am
(15) Zack says:

As Woody Allen said, some people want to achieve immortality through a great work of art — I prefer to achieve immortality by not dying.

Fear of death may be irrational, but it’s certainly not the only irrational fear that humans have.

We can use habituation to innoculate ourselves against many irrational fears: if you’re afraid of bunny rabbits, you can start looking at photos of bunnies, then hold realistic toy bunnies, then stand in the same room with a bunny, and so on. Eventually you’ve got a new pet named Harvey.

I’m not sure how well this would work with death, though. I guess you could hang out in cemetaries or something, but maybe that would only habituate you to tombstones. I can’t think of a way to progressively get a little more dead. Except, maybe, moving to the suburbs.

Death is the one challenge life presents to us that will certainly be met with absolutely equal success no matter how one approaches it, so I suppose one might just as well go out crying and screaming and clutching at the emergency roon staff. At least your passing will be remembered.

It also seems to me that a hard-wired fear of death has obvious survival value that would cause natural selection to preserve it.

September 22, 2010 at 12:35 am
(16) Tom Edgar says:

Ramli.

That is not “Faith” That is trust. Not the same thing at all.

You can see the machine and the staff, you can view their credentials, and trust that they are genuine.

Faith is for the brain dead who will put their trust in something for which their is no evidence of existence, something that anybody ever sees, smells, touches or hears. For me, that is unthinking, unbelievable, childish, and senseless.

Show me the evidence that I, and millions of others, are wrong.

September 22, 2010 at 10:21 am
(17) Ramli says:

Tom,
I must apologise to Austin for being such an annoyance. In my postings I do not intend to impose on others what I believe. To each his own. I merely impart my opinions for awareness. I am a moderate open minded Muslim without long beard, moustache and not wearing a turban.

I have read about other religions, their beliefs and values. Being a Muslim from birth, it is natural that I disagree with the basic beliefs of those religions. I agree that all religions teach the followers to be good.

Religions came into existence among mankind at the four corners of the world to provide unity, social order and peaceful co-existence. Problems arised owing to corrupt priesthoods and deviant imams who strayed away from the good straight path as specified in the holy scriptures.

The subject of life and death is very complex indeed. So it is best not to talk too much about it. Bertrand Russell was once asked by his son, “Dad, what is mind?” He answered, “Matter”. The boy asked again “What is matter?”
Bertrand said “Never mind”.

Before ending, let me share pictures (regret that I do know how to attach to this posting) showing the last minutes of the passengers before they died when the plane crashed in South America. Rescuers found the camera damaged but the SD card was not. You can just imagine the horror they went through.

Should we next discuss about autoscopy and out-of-body experience? I think we shouldn’t as we may end up trapped in the depths of mysticism. Remember Betrand’s words.

Goodnight Tom,, and Austin.

September 22, 2010 at 3:57 pm
(18) Todd says:

Ramli,

Bertand’s story doesn’t offer proof of anything. It’s not even a claim. He just didn’t have time to go into a physics lecture with a child who wouldn’t understand them. You could pile every Nobel Prize winning scientist and ask them, what is the mind, and what is matter. They’d all shrug and say they don’t really know. That’s the heart of scientific thinking. Being honest about your ignorance. i don’t claim to know what matter and mind are at some deep level. i can give you a definition that would be workable, but to be honest, we/i don’t know. It might be strings vibrating in the 11th dimension.

Religion on the other hand, “knows” things it doesn’t. They claim knowlegde of the origin of the universe and life because of what some dusty tome written by shephards or merchants or whoever tells them. Religion offers “turtles all the way down”.

September 22, 2010 at 9:06 pm
(19) mira says:

Yo, Kemosabe.
Reg; Energy:
Energy is the capacity of a system to do work.
A wave of light crossing a space.
Sound is a form of kinetic energy.
The Anthropic Principle. Carbon based life form = us.
Water is a self-organising structure. Water has memory. When water molecules have received energy they transfer information about their status to neighboring molecules. Blood contains 92% water. Ice remembers the pre-history of the liquid water phase. Chemical compounds have memory and when they form/change to other compounds they still have and even have more and different memory.
Spirit Energy ? What if when one dies all that energy memory transforms ? It can not not exist, we are just afraid to see it because it will totally re-define us.

September 22, 2010 at 9:16 pm
(20) Austin Cline says:

Mira: nothing you wrote is relevant or makes any sense. Water “memory” has nothing to do with human “memory.” They aren’t even remotely related concepts. Yes energy “transforms,” and once it transforms it’s no longer the same thing. Our memories are dependent upon particular physical, chemical, and electrical organizations. Eliminate those organizations and you eliminate the memories – ergo, you eliminate “us.” There is no more “us” after death. Nothing. We are gone.

Please, study a bit of the science behind the brain before trying to comment on it.

September 23, 2010 at 3:51 am
(21) mira says:

You have left me no reading material, or any direction to go to Kimosabe, to prove your point or at least to illustrate or enlighten me. As this is what you require of me, {double standards ?}. ?
Do you know what The brain is made of ? In fact what we are made of ? In fact what everything that consists of anything is made of ? Darling the “most” top scientists in the world are with me and given a little time I could bring this reading material to your doorstep. How come the 2 comments before this one are not up on the site so as to enlighten interested readers? ? i.e The NEW SCIENTIST articles ?
I play fair, how about you Kimosabe ?

September 23, 2010 at 7:03 am
(22) Austin Cline says:

You have left me no reading material, or any direction to go to Kimosabe, to prove your point or at least to illustrate or enlighten me.

Do you want the titles of basic books on biology? Do you actually need that?

Do you know what The brain is made of ?

Cells.

In fact what we are made of ?

Cells.

In fact what everything that consists of anything is made of ?

Atoms

Darling the “most” top scientists in the world are with me

Argument from Popularity, a popular fallacy.

and given a little time I could bring this reading material to your doorstep.

I doubt that, since as I already noted there is absolutely no scientific evidence pointing away from the conclusion that physical death means the death of us.

How come the 2 comments before this one are not up on the site so as to enlighten interested readers? ? i.e The NEW SCIENTIST articles ?

I have no idea what you’re talking about.

I play fair, how about you Kimosabe ?

I’m informed. You should try to be as well.

September 23, 2010 at 3:56 am
(23) Tom Edgar says:

I’m not actually disagreeing with Austin, but philosophically whilst there remains in another person’s memory the experiences past on from another then that person still lives.
Art least that is how I see my late wife. Her influence is profound and influences me, and my children, daily.
Physically of course at the last breath then thereafter there is nothing.

One could argue that her scattered ashes,on the mountain top, behind the house, have just changed their energy form. But I sure don’t recognise them.

Ramli

You imply that religions and their followers are the ones who are motivated to the higher planes of goodness. To my mind a very notable failure, there is the further implication that those of us without those beliefs cannot measure up. I’m sorry but statistics there will prove most emphatically the reverse is true.

What Todd says is so true. Believers
“KNOW” without supportive evidence. Non Believers without supportive evidence will confess to not knowing.

September 24, 2010 at 12:44 am
(24) mira says:

You win, I consed, well done Kemosabe!
It was enlightening !
I love a good, uncensored competition, don’t you !/?
Puts hair on ones chest, hey !
And we have all learned, nes pas !
Ones reputation is all, to my way of thinking, other wise who can respect you and count on you, Kemosabe ?/!
And, most important of all ,it’s not weather you win or loose it’s how you play the game.
It was a shuffle and a bit of a scuffle and here we are, still intact, wow, man !
We are scraping the barnacles of the boat this weekend, getting ship shape. We are going to chase some stars around at sea, with a camera for posterity/$ $ $, If you see what I mean. Astronomy is the only way to go.
Enjoy your weekend Kemosabe, Autumn is the best in NY.

September 28, 2010 at 4:52 pm
(25) Ray says:

Ramli is unable to think logically and with reason because his parents and society in which he was raised forbade him to be a rational human being.

Ramli, you were not born a Muslim, but were born an atheist with no concept of religion, and apparently the child of parents who were of the Muslim religion. They imposed it on you and brainwashed you to not think and question absurd concepts.

You are a victim of your upbringing. As most intelligent people know, your religion is generally a product of geography, not choice. Doesn’t it ever cross your mind that faith is the absence of facts. It is just like saying that 2 plus 2 = 5 because that is what you believe. Faith is giving up the ability to think.

My parents were not religious, and my father said to me that I should first get educated before I consider religion, since children are incapable of the concept of religion. By the time I was nine, I had seen enough of religionists to become a lifelong atheist.

The definition of religion is “… the substitution of fear for reason..”

September 28, 2010 at 8:11 pm
(26) Bob says:

Several years ago I had a 4 hour operation. During that time I was virtually dead. I totally lacked awareness. Afterwards I thought that must be like death except I won’t wake up.

I don’t want to die anymore than anyone else. But then I thought would I want to continue living forever. If I could live forever I suspect I would be wanting to die after a while just to escape the boredom having done every thing it is possible to do and travelled everywhere several times over.

I have heard claims that Christians have much better deaths than atheists. That might be so but only because they have deluded themselves about an after life. Mind you if unreal claims make them feel better who am I to knock them.

The promise of paradise after death had a lot to do with the success of Christianity in it’s early stages. Most converts were poor, in poor health living short miserable lives.

Younger people might fear death because they know they have plenty more life left in them. Many very old mentally and physically incapacitated people want to die knowing there is nothing more for them.

October 2, 2010 at 2:45 pm
(27) d says:

why does the author look like a member from the adams family

October 10, 2010 at 5:06 pm
(28) Andy says:

I am not the least bit superstitious, I don’t believe in the existence of any god or afterlife and my greatest fear is that my beliefs are correct.

It’s not so much a fear of being dead, nothing can be done of it and I won’t know the difference. I fear the moment before I die, I fear that I will blink and find myself on my deathbed. Not dissimilar to looking back on your childhood and feeling it went by too quickly.
I have several anxiety attacks a day because of this fear. I have to go to sleep with the television on because whenever I find a quiet moment I freak out and at night is when it’s the worst.

Bob made a good point when writing: But then I thought would I want to continue living forever?
That same thought helps me to calm down sometimes, but knowing that I won’t have time enough to read every great book, travel the world, GO TO SPACE! Starts me up again.

And the argument of: You have no more to fear in death than you did before life, doesn’t work for me. Because I have seen outstanding things since birth, I’m only twenty five and have seen the internet go from ‘that aol thing mom uses’ to…THIS! I sold one of the first full color cell phones, was there for the Large Hadron Collider, Ipad, robot bartender, et cetera. And I don’t want to miss out on the rest, maybe that’s dumb but it means a great deal to me.
I’ve experienced life since I was born, I’ve eaten pizza, fallen in love, had children. My fear is in knowing it will all come to an end.

I realize that I seemingly have a long life ahead of me…but I don’t and that constantly frightens me.

November 7, 2010 at 11:28 pm
(29) JFISH says:

I’ve decided there is no death; it is a social construction. I am certain my body will rot. Likely what I know as my self (personality, ego, reality constructed from experiences) will end. However, life does not die – it changes form – endlessly. An obvious example is that only life can rot a body. Death, a social concept, is born from attachment and fear. Attachment to a particular form, and the fear of losing it. I read that people were not as afraid of death when they identified with a community of people or nature; that our fear of death increased with the identification to our individual selves and bodies. After the black plague in Europe, for example, whole villages and societies were destroyed. People began to identify death as something that happened to individuals, and began to fear their own individual death. When I look at death this way, it is irrelevant what I think about god.

November 28, 2010 at 6:04 pm
(30) dave says:

I can’t get myself to accept religious beliefs. I think it is taught to keep people being good and having hope.
I can’t imagine what a spiritual world would be.
Why would we be in our human form?

I also fear the pain of dying.
I don’t want people looking at my dead and smelly body. I probably could accept the whole event if only I could go and die without anyone seeing me dead.
Arg !!

September 6, 2011 at 5:23 pm
(31) wicked old man says:

I’m an unbeliever and I’m afraid of death.
Some people say that fear of death is “irrational” – that there is nothing to fear. I’m not sure at all what they mean by that. Sometimes we say it if the event is not bound to happen – someone who fears that the sky will fall on his head is irrational (and there is nothing to fear) exactly because this will not happen – and he should know that this will not happen! But this is clearly not the case with death – believe me, it will happen to all of you. So, what do you mean by “irrational fear”? Do you think that “rationally” you can be afraid only of suffering? If so, do you think that my fears of what will happen with my children after I die (and my efforts to provide them a good living) are irrational, because when I die their misfortunes won’t cause me any suffering?
I fear that I will not exist any more. That everything valuable in my life will come to an end – that there will be no values, as far as I’m concerned, because there will be no “me”. Of course I will not suffer because of this (for the same reason: there will be no “me”) – but I can see no reason why it’s only suffering that one should be rationally afraid of. It looks to me like you’ve just decreed such a view by “fiat”, with no justification whatsoever.

September 6, 2011 at 6:14 pm
(32) Austin Cline says:

If so, do you think that my fears of what will happen with my children after I die (and my efforts to provide them a good living) are irrational, because when I die their misfortunes won’t cause me any suffering?

First, this isn’t really a fear of death. After all, you can fear what will happen with your children even while you’re alive.

Second, if we narrow it a bit and say “fear of being able to help your children when they’re in trouble because you’re no longer around,” That’s still problematic because you can’t always help them when you’re around.

But let’s ignore that… there’s the problem of why you “fear” that. Why “fear” it? It makes sense to say that you dislike the possibility. Even loathe it. But “fear”?

I fear that I will not exist any more. That everything valuable in my life will come to an end

Why? What exactly is it that you “fear”?

September 13, 2011 at 10:08 am
(33) wicked old man says:

First, this isn’t really a fear of death

Of course it isn’t. It was just an example illustrating that suffering is not the only thing we are afraid of.

Why “fear” it? It makes sense to say that you dislike the possibility. Even loathe it. But “fear”?

I must say that I don’t understand your point. Yes, my emotional reaction (not rarely) is fear. Not mere loathing or disliking. You can say that you do not share it – and that would be fine, I can see no reason why everyone should live through this like me.
What puzzles me is that you seem to think that it’s somehow problematic. It seems like you think that people shouldn’t fear death – that it’s somehow irrational. And I don’t get it.

Why? What exactly is it that you “fear”?

I fear that my consciousness will stop functioning, stop forever. That colours, tastes, sounds … well, beer and football as well – all this stuff will exist just for the others, but never again for me. The mere thought of it is surreal and it produces … ok, I think that fear is the name of this feeling.
And yes, I realize that once I’m dead, it won’t bother me. But this knowledge changes nothing. Fear of death for me is not a fear of suffering.

September 17, 2011 at 7:58 pm
(34) sonia says:

To wicked old man…

I am 47 and lost my parents this year. One in March, one in April. I am not religious. We will all just die one day. I used to be scared of dying… now… after my parents died… I feel a lot more fear and anxiety. I know I will die one day… in the meantime I would like to “enjoy life life as much as possible”. And I do. But I keep thinking about my parents’ death and the meaning of it all ? What does life mean ? Why are we (and of course I mean people who do not believe in some kind of god and afterlife) not all scared ? Why is society actually functioning ? Why is there not total anarchy ? I mean… I obviously live in a “first world” country… I am not focused on mere survival every day of my life (that is why I have the luxury of even writing this and expressing these thoughts). I look around and see people complain about their lives, their jobs, their partners… and I wonder why nobody is consumed by the idea that we are all dying anyway, what does it matter to worry about the weeds in the front lawn ? I try to live my life as fully as I possibly can but some days it is hard.

November 11, 2011 at 8:44 am
(35) Sal says:

Sorry for not speaking proper or even formal English, I’m not English myself.

I am a believer. and most believers wouldn’t go to a site that talks about the fear of dead and how it may or may not have led to religion. I don’t disagree to this statement, becuase I don’t know if this actually happened.

I wouldn’t drop my religion at all, that’s not what I am trying to say. Being interested in something never hurts.

Anyway, my views of Death:
-”If” heaven excists I might have a chance of going there.
-”If” heaven doesn’t excist I have had a religion without outcome.
-”If” hell excists I might have a chance of going there.

I can accept the first 2, but am a little worried about the last. I’m not really what you call an”extreme religious” person. So fearing hell can be normal.

In my opinion ”Religion” is one of the most terrifying things in the world, depends on the person ofcourse:

-Say you are an atheďst:
You do not believe in afterlife nor God. ”If” heaven and hell excist, the person would go to hell (obvious reasons). The person doesn’t believe in hell, so he wouldn’t fear it.
”If” heaven and hell don’t excist the person would die in natural causes mentioned in the top comment. A person may or may not fear this.

-Say you are a “theďst”:
You are a believer, in afterlife and God. As a believer you would either go to heaven or hell. You believe in hell so you could fear it more then an atheďst.
The fear of doing things wrong, saying things wrong, becuase you could go to hell.
The fear that you will be hated by your family, becuase you do things wrong or say things wrong.
The fear of still beleiving in hell after you have stopped beleiving, for example:
- you do not believe anymore, it is mentioned that the minutes before the day of judgement horns will be blown. Fearing loud noises caused from natural things outside. This could even call fear to a believer.

-See next comment

November 11, 2011 at 11:48 am
(36) Austin Cline says:

-”If” heaven excists I might have a chance of going there.

Which heaven?

-”If” hell excists I might have a chance of going there.

Which hell?

You do not believe in afterlife nor God. “If” heaven and hell excist, the person would go to hell (obvious reasons).

Why is it obvious? You’re assuming the existence of a very particular sort of god, and without apparent justification.

January 18, 2012 at 2:50 pm
(37) Dmitry says:

Hi, Austin!

Concerning your question about the fear of death, I suggest that you read “Staring at the Sun” by Irvin D. Yalom.

The author is a humanitarian therapist, and the the entire book is devoted to the search of non-thiestic consolation and meaning in the face of death.

I say “search” because it isn’t a run-of-the-mill self help guide of “Do this and that, and you’ll never fear death again.”

One of the main premises of the book is that fear of death is a fundamental human emotion, which cannot be removed. It can be either numbed by various means, or faced and experienced.
Another is that we absolutely can’t “know” death, but we do “know about” death. And this “about” is a huge layer of unconscious mythology that we all share, and that affects us in all kinds of unexpected ways.

The book has case studies of people of all ages with fear of death, and accounts of how they dealt with it.
Yalom himself is very sincere in admitting his own feelings about the subject (he is 80 now).

One of the things I loved about the book is that the author doesn’t try or suggest avoiding the very feeling of fear by over-rationalizing or playing “logical tricks”.
What he seems to be looking for are the ways to accept death.
Not “begrudgingly agree”, but actually “come to terms”.

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