Freethought NOW!

I’m not afraid of death

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They ask, “Aren’t you afraid of what might happen to you after you die?”

Well, I don’t see that what will happen to me is anything particularly fearful. One way or another, my body will dissolve into its component atoms and be reabsorbed into the surrounding environment; and along with this general dissolution will go my brain, the mechanism of my consciousness. Thus, I will be unconscious forever, since I will no longer exist as a single entity. That’s hardly anything frightening. I have experienced periods of unconsciousness every night of my life — and found no inconvenience in it. To me, it makes perfect sense to call death the “final sleep.”

“What about God?” they ask. “Aren’t you afraid that you may have to face him after all, and you might end up in a state of eternal torture?”

But, of course, I can hardly fear any such abuse when all the nerves and synapses of my body and brain are long gone. How can sensations exist when there is no way to feel them? Moreover, I have nothing but contempt for a God who would be so sadistic as to create eternal hells for his allegedly beloved children, and would punish the most trivial offenses with something so drastic as eternal torture.

The other alternative, I was told in Sunday school, is going to heaven and spending all eternity joining the angels in singing praises to this incredibly egotistic deity who wants to be praised every second by everyone everywhere. In view of his offensive vanity, this God hasn’t much to offer. Ancient sex-oriented religions claimed that paradise would resemble an eternal orgasm, but the patriarchal Judeo/Christian/ Muslim “father” would have nothing to do with that idea. I’m not fond of choral singing, and the idea of having to do it forever sounded to me more hellish than heavenly. Surely, nonexistence is preferable to either of these alternatives.

Throughout the history of our civilization, it has been customary to locate heaven literally in the sky and hell below the Earth’s surface. Believers still speak of God looking “down” and address their prayers upward. But we now know perfectly well what our atmosphere consists of, and also the space beyond it. We know as well what lies under the surface of the Earth — and it’s not a vast torture chamber. So, the physical locations of these mythological concepts have been quite effectively removed.

No, I’m not at all afraid of death, but I am afraid of dying if it means a period of being in pain. I dislike pain. My mother died many years ago in far too much pain because the social network to give her relief did not then exist. More recently, dying people can receive palliative lethal medications. But this is still not in full legal recognition, and many religious authorities, notably the Catholic Church, condemn it.

The real reason behind the Catholic Church’s centuries-old battle against suicide has been simple greed. As comedian and social critic George Carlin once remarked, what God always wants is more money. When the Inquisition was in full swing, all the property of arrested victims was immediately seized by the Church, a centuries-old habit that eventually made the Church the richest organization in Europe. But if the victim managed to commit suicide before being taken to the torture chamber, the Church was deprived of its loot. Therefore, suicides were condemned to the nethermost levels of hell. Religion still seeks to control all of life’s important occasions: Birth, baptism, marriage and death all present money-making opportunities for religions. It’s tax-free income, too. Thus, religious authorities want to keep these matters “holy” so they can make a profit from every ceremonial turning point of life.

I am fortunate to have lived a long, productive, enjoyable life, and I have no problem with contemplating its end. Ever since I reached an age of reason, I have turned up my nose at this absurd hangover from a dark age: the vain, pompous, punitive all-male deity that many less-than-grown-up adults seem to think they still can’t live without. Some day in what I hope is the not-too-distant future, most of the world will finally realize how absurd the whole idea is, and celebrations of life’s beginnings and endings will become much more secular.

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9 Responses

  1. Your letter perfectly outlines where I am today. It has been a process of 72 years, first being taught to trust and believe deeply, only to find with experience and knowledge that my beliefs were unfounded. Unravelling has taken over half of my life, energy that should have been spent in loving, not fearing.
    Thank you for giving me the words to the peace I have found.

  2. As JOHN LENNON (who in the 1960’s was more popular than the imposter prophet named jesus) sang in his song –
    god is a CONCEPT – by which we measure Our PAIN ! ! ! He did not believe in any superior entity or myths- he just believed in Himself . . . . . & Peace & Love

  3. Yet another wonderful article — thank you, Barbara!
    Reminds me of my turning moment: In 12th grade, raised/practicing Catholic, I was discussing death with the smartest [by a long ways] math-guy in school, who was also raised Catholic, but had become an atheist. I asked him, sincerely, “Aren’t you afraid of being, you know, dead forever?” He half-smiled and replied, “When you’re dead, you don’t know you’re dead.” The light-bulb came on, and I felt simultaneously foolish and, interestingly, free. Another atheist was born.

  4. I’m also not AT ALL afraid of death, but pain is DEFINITELY to be avoided. I have clearly stated my wishes within my Healthcare Directive document.
    RE: “I have experienced periods of unconsciousness every night of my life — and found no inconvenience in it.” PERFECT!!! 😁

  5. I endured Catholic delusional indoctrination from kindergarten through my first year of college. As much as I disliked the military, being drafted resulted in an interruption of this insanity. This break started the questioning of my “faith-based beliefs”. Eventually, I arrived at all the same conclusions you eloquently expressed in your writings.

    However, I didn’t have the benefit of reading essays like yours that so clearly articulated the preposterous tenets of religious dogma. I suffered a couple of years of significant mental distress deprogramming myself. And, I succeeded mostly because an older co-worker gently prodded me into asking all the right questions and researching for the answers.

    I truly wish that your essays were required reading at the earliest possible elementary school level.

    Thanks for all you do!

  6. Barbara, thank you. You are really putting into words some of my thoughts. It’s awesome that we have such fearless individuals out there sharing their perspectives.

  7. Love your articles. You could be reading my mind. (Except that Quantum Field Theory says you can’t do that, and neither can God!)

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