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Coping With Death as an Atheist?
Member #11,605
January 2010


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Arthur Kalliokoski
Second in Command
February 2005

We play the blaming game, yes I mind, it's not your turn?

I'm going to Valhalla!

They all watch too much MSNBC... they get ideas.

Member #1,090
July 2003

Because I just love beating a dead horse (and I didn't even read the thread too)..

..isn't it by definition impossible to "cope" with death?

Now where's my medal?

Neil Black
Member #7,867
October 2006


Tobias Dammers
Member #2,604
August 2002

Dennis said:

..isn't it by definition impossible to "cope" with death?

You should learn Lojban.

Obviously, what is meant by this is "cope with the fact that you are going to die some day", or simply, "cope with being mortal".

The whole mess comes from a combination of three facts:

  • We are born with a really strong survival instinct

  • We are mortal

  • We have the brain capacity to understand both these facts, and a desire to make sense of them

While the first two are, rationally speaking, not a contradiction, they do feel like one - we are "made" to survive, yet we are destined to die eventually. Typical solutions to this perceived dilemma:

  • "Our survival instinct can be overcome" (ignore fact 1 - the suicidal cult solution)

  • "We aren't really mortal after all, when our bodies die, our 'soul' lives on" (ignore fact 2 - the Spiritual solution, inventing an afterlife or reincarnation)

  • "Just make the best of it and enjoy while you can, don't give it too much thought" (ignore fact 3 - the Hedonist solution)

  • "Let go of the separation between 'yourself' and 'the world'; it's all one. Your life and death aren't really meaningful when there is no 'you'." (the Zen solution)

  • "There is no sense to it. We are born, we die, there is no plan. If we want it to make sense, we'll have to make it meaningful ourselves." (the Existentialist solution)

  • "All three facts are evolutionary requirements - we need to be mortal to prevent our gene pool from going stale, we need the survival instinct to survive long enough to produce offspring, and we need the brain capacity and the desire to make sense of things to play our evolutionary strength, this horribly expensive brain of ours." (the Biologist's solution)

Note that each of these can be combined with Atheism just as well as with Theism.

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

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