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Coping With Death as an Atheist?
Billybob
Member #3,136
January 2003

In one of my college courses I learned about the death of Socrates, who was not a particularly religious man. Before his execution, he explained that he had no fear of death, because what death is is not known. The unknown should not be feared, simply because it is not known whether it is good, or bad. Or something like ...

Well, supposing his logic to be satisfactory, there's just one problem ... modern science has told us exactly what death is. Oblivion. You, as a thinking entity, cease to exist.

I had the thought this night, what if I were on my death bed, with nothing but regrets to comfort me? If I were an atheist, how would I cope with that? My memory immediately recalled the story of Socrates, and came to the conclusion above. How would an atheist, like Socrates, deal with death knowing now that death means oblivion?

TL;DR: How do you think an atheist should cope with death, if one regrets how one lived his or her life?

Arthur Kalliokoski
Second in Command
February 2005
avatar

The unknown has always been one of mans greatest fears, a la "unclear energy" or even math.

Whenever I think there's a good chance I'm going to die in the next few minutes, I don't regret anything (not that there isn't anything to regret) but instead there's an immense sense of loss, all those things yet to be done and experienced.

“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as "bad luck.”

― Robert A. Heinlein

Vanneto
Member #8,643
May 2007

Just think of it as sleeping without dreaming. Its a big void. You don't exist until you wake up in the morning.

So basically, once you are dead, its like taking an eternal nap. So don't be afraid, all your worries will disappear once you bite the dust.

In capitalist America bank robs you.

Arthur Kalliokoski
Second in Command
February 2005
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Vanneto said:

So don't be afraid

That's easy to say, but hard to do, grasshopper!

“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as "bad luck.”

― Robert A. Heinlein

Vanneto
Member #8,643
May 2007

Sorry, that is kind of stupid to say. Let me reword it a bit. Save your fear for just a few minutes before you die. Then be afraid as much as you want. Piss/shit your pants, cry and scream... And then, when those agonizing few minutes are gone, you are done.

In capitalist America bank robs you.

Tobias Dammers
Member #2,604
August 2002
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  • Belief in God (or any other deity) and belief in an afterlife aren't necessarily connected. You can believe in a God that doesn't give you an afterlife, and conversely, you can believe in life after death or reincarnation without any notion of a deity.

  • If you pick the "no afterlife" route (as Ockham's Razor suggests), then Death means you, as a conscious being, simply don't exist anymore. The question "what happens after you die" is therefor meaningless: there can't be anything at all, not even emptiness or loss, because there's no conscious being to experience it.

That said, I'm not scared of being dead (as Mark Twain put it: "Before I was born, I had been dead for centuries, and I didn't experience the slightest discomfort"), but the process of dying might be somewhere between unpleasant and agonizingly painful.

Billybob said:

How do you think an atheist should cope with death, if one regrets how one lived his or her life?

3 options.

a) Don't give a rat's shit
b) Die unhappy
c) Clear up the mess you can, man up and deal with the rest.

---
Me make music: Triofobie
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"We need Tobias and his awesome trombone, too." - Johan Halmén

Arthur Kalliokoski
Second in Command
February 2005
avatar

Belief in God (or any other deity) and belief in an afterlife aren't necessarily connected.

There was a passage in "The Sea Wolf" by Jack London where Larsen chokes Hump and mocks his efforts to free himself, not so sure at the moment that his soul was truly immortal.

“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as "bad luck.”

― Robert A. Heinlein

Tobias Dammers
Member #2,604
August 2002
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Yes? So? An immortal soul (or the absence of one) has no implications on the existance of a deity. You can believe in an immortal soul without believing in God, and vv.

---
Me make music: Triofobie
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"We need Tobias and his awesome trombone, too." - Johan Halmén

Yodhe23
Member #8,726
June 2007

Socrates wasn't very religious, but he seemed to be deeply spiritual.

You imply Socrates was an aethist, which would seem to be untrue. He just didn't believe in the model of spiritual hierarchy as promulgated by the Athenian system/elite. Though to be honest we know very little of what Socrates actually believed and said, a bit like the Buddha, and Jesus, as all the records come from their disciples, or people who were born after they died.

Though of more interest, recently I found out that supposedly Socrates was executed more for his dialogues against Athenian democracy than corrupting the young and knocking the local religious system.

www.justanotherturn.com

Trent Gamblin
Member #261
April 2000
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I've never died once in my entire life. That or I've re-spawned a few times.

X-G
Member #856
December 2000
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As best I can. Why worry? It's going to happen sooner or later and there ain't a lick I can do about it. It's not like it's something that comes up a lot, and frankly I don't understand why theists even feel the need to ask this question in the first place. Why is this such an engrossing question? Why is it even a problem that needs addressing?

Regrets are for the living. If you regret something, fix it or get over it. Dying ain't gonna change anything, and you're not going to exist after that to care about it.

--
Since 2008-Jun-18, democracy in Sweden is dead. | 悪霊退散!悪霊退散!怨霊、物の怪、困った時は ドーマン!セーマン!ドーマン!セーマン! 直ぐに呼びましょう陰陽師レッツゴー!

Timorg
Member #2,028
March 2002

Also modern science does not tell us that death is oblivion. It only shows that there is no evidence of the afterlife. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

If you embrace atheism and accept that you only have this life, so you better sure live life to the fullest. You can't know for sure what happens after death, until you have been there.

I will never be afraid of dying, ignoring my spiritual beliefs, its the not living anymore that scares me.

____________________________________________________________________________________________
"c is much better than c++ if you don't need OOP simply because it's smaller and requires less load time." - alethiophile
OMG my sides are hurting from laughing so hard... :D

Elias
Member #358
May 2000

My plan is to create a program which simulates me. Then at the moment I die I'll transfer my complete memory and behavior into it. So then only my body will be gone but I'll still be alive... as long as nobody cancels my server account :P

--
"Either help out or stop whining" - Evert

Tobias Dammers
Member #2,604
August 2002
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Timorg said:

Also modern science does not tell us that death is oblivion. It only shows that there is no evidence of the afterlife. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

However, Ockham's Razor can (and IMO should) be applied here.

Phenomenon: People die, and after they do, the rest of us cannot interact with their minds anymore.
Explanation A: When we die, our mind ceases to exist.
Explanation B: When we die, our mind goes somewhere else.

Now, there is no evidence favouring either explanation; however, explanation B yields a lot of unanswered questions (where does it go? how come we cannot contact that place? how does it get there?) that explanation A does not. So until conclusive evidence is presented for either one, Ockham's Razor says we should go with option A.

Quote:

I will never be afraid of dying, ignoring my spiritual beliefs, its the not living anymore that scares me.

You cannot be "not alive anymore": after you die, there is no "you" anymore. Nothing to be afraid of.

---
Me make music: Triofobie
---
"We need Tobias and his awesome trombone, too." - Johan Halmén

Johan Halmén
Member #1,550
September 2001

Timorg said:

Also modern science does not tell us that death is oblivion. It only shows that there is no evidence of the afterlife.

Um... I think it does. The question is about who we are. And what we are. As I see it, modern science sees man as an animal living and dying. And everything man feels, thinks, believes, whatever, is just processes in his living brain. Modern science knows very well what happens with a brain when it dies. It dies.

But if I see myself as a spiritual entity trapped in a material body, science no longer can explain my existence. Only the body part of it. The atheistic/materialistic/worldly/whatever explanation of human existence doesn't actually fail. It's just not enough for spiritual/religious/believing/whatever people. I've heard many atheists saying things like they don't care what will happen with their bodies after they die. My dad is buried in a graveyard next to an old church, same church where I got married. He has a gravestone with a cross. I picture myself being buried in a similar grave, though the idea of my ashes being spread in the forest also appeals to me. It all means something to me. Denying it would be like denying love. Like saying love doesn't exist, it's just nature's way of making the genes reproduce themselves. Science has proven the latter true.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Years of thorough research have revealed that the red "x" that closes a window, really isn't red, but white on red background.

Years of thorough research have revealed that what people find beautiful about the Mandelbrot set is not the set itself, but all the rest.

Dizzy Egg
Member #10,824
March 2009
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I'm an Atheist and feel luckier than people that beleive something amazing will happen after life! I know my time here is all I have and when it's done, regrets or not, it's done! So I make the most of this one knowing thats the only chance I get.

----------------------------------------------------
Please check out my songs:
https://soundcloud.com/dont-rob-the-machina

Timorg
Member #2,028
March 2002

Um... I think it does. The question is about who we are. And what we are. As I see it, modern science sees man as an animal living and dying. And everything man feels, thinks, believes, whatever, is just processes in his living brain. Modern science knows very well what happens with a brain when it dies. It dies.

When you die, your brain ceases to function in any meaningful fashion. That neither proves or disproves if we have a soul.

____________________________________________________________________________________________
"c is much better than c++ if you don't need OOP simply because it's smaller and requires less load time." - alethiophile
OMG my sides are hurting from laughing so hard... :D

X-G
Member #856
December 2000
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The day you can provide an empirically falsifiable definition of "soul" is the day I will give its existence even the slightest consideration.

--
Since 2008-Jun-18, democracy in Sweden is dead. | 悪霊退散!悪霊退散!怨霊、物の怪、困った時は ドーマン!セーマン!ドーマン!セーマン! 直ぐに呼びましょう陰陽師レッツゴー!

Timorg
Member #2,028
March 2002

Well when you die, you will find out for sure, but I am not going to murder you so you can find out.

____________________________________________________________________________________________
"c is much better than c++ if you don't need OOP simply because it's smaller and requires less load time." - alethiophile
OMG my sides are hurting from laughing so hard... :D

Tobias Dammers
Member #2,604
August 2002
avatar

Timorg said:

Also modern science does not tell us that death is oblivion. It only shows that there is no evidence of the afterlife. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

However, Ockham's Razor can (and IMO should) be applied here.

Phenomenon: People die, and after they do, the rest of us cannot interact with their minds anymore.
Explanation A: When we die, our mind ceases to exist.
Explanation B: When we die, our mind goes somewhere else.

Now, there is no evidence favouring either explanation; however, explanation B yields a lot of unanswered questions (where does it go? how come we cannot contact that place? how does it get there?) that explanation A does not. So until conclusive evidence is presented for either one, Ockham's Razor says we should go with option A.

Quote:

I will never be afraid of dying, ignoring my spiritual beliefs, its the not living anymore that scares me.

You cannot be "not alive anymore": after you die, there is no "you" anymore. Nothing to be afraid of.

---
Me make music: Triofobie
---
"We need Tobias and his awesome trombone, too." - Johan Halmén

Vanneto
Member #8,643
May 2007

Something got me thinking... I once watched Stargate and when they explained how the whole thing works, this is what I thought:

Lets say humans invent teleportation devices once in the future. These would work by taking you apart at a molecular level and putting you back again on the other side.

Now, it would put you back so you would be an exact copy of yourself - memories, experiences, behavior, etc. But would that person on the other side really be you? Or would you die at the entry device?

In capitalist America bank robs you.

Tobias Dammers
Member #2,604
August 2002
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You would die, and the copy would take your place. Assuming it is a perfect copy, with the state of the brain fully duplicated, and also assuming that the current assumption that mind and consciousness are functions of the brain and sensory organs, nobody would notice - not the original human, because he/she doesn't exist anymore, not the copy, because it is a perfect copy, and not the outside world, because they cannot tell the copy and the original apart.

An interesting side effect would be that there is nothing that mandates disassembling the original human: instead of teleporting, you could just create the copy and leave the original intact. You now have two physically identical humans with identical states of mind in two different locations; how do their lives diverge?

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Me make music: Triofobie
---
"We need Tobias and his awesome trombone, too." - Johan Halmén

Timorg
Member #2,028
March 2002

Would they destroy you as you went in? (Unless it was part of the reading process) or would they make sure there was not a stuff up at the other end, before destroying your old copy?

If they waited for confirmation, then for that time you would exist twice.

Or is it just creating a hard link to a file, before the original hard link is removed?

Edit:
Beaten

____________________________________________________________________________________________
"c is much better than c++ if you don't need OOP simply because it's smaller and requires less load time." - alethiophile
OMG my sides are hurting from laughing so hard... :D

Chris Katko
Member #1,881
January 2002
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Billybob said:

TL;DR: How do you think an atheist should cope with death, if one regrets how one lived his or her life?

Why not do what all the other ones do? Convert on their deathbed. ::)

-----sig:
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"Political Correctness is fascism disguised as manners" --George Carlin

Onewing
Member #6,152
August 2005
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Billybob said:

How do you think an atheist should cope with death

How should anyone cope with tomorrow? Where we are tomorrow is not a promise, anything can happen between now and then, even death. But yet, tomorrow is coming nonetheless.

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