Freethought NOW!

Our brief reprieve from eternal oblivion

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A graphic of a black background with a tv screen full of static in the middle. The title is also in static and says our brief reprieve from eternal oblivion.

My grandpa, the last of my living grandparents, died Tuesday night after a short battle with cancer at the age of 89. I don’t know for certain whether he identified as an atheist, but he was certainly not religious. He didn’t go to church. In fact, when he was younger he would drop my grandma, mom, and aunts and uncles off at church on Sunday and pick them up afterward. On his deathbed, he didn’t ask us to pray for him, and unlike some of my family members, he wasn’t worried about whether a pastor or priest would be there when he died.

But, regardless of his personal views, the end of his life has led me to reflect on how being an atheist shapes my views on life and death. My grandpa didn’t pass away, move on or some other “comforting” euphemism. This perspective may seem stark to some. Yet, far from being nihilistic, confronting death as an atheist provides me with a pragmatic perspective through which to contemplate life, our brief reprieve from eternal oblivion.

I believe that there is no afterlife, no divine judgment and no eternal reward or punishment awaiting us beyond the veil of death. Instead, I believe that death is a natural and inevitable part of the human experience — a cessation of consciousness and the dissolution of the self into the vastness of the universe. Though it can be hard, as atheists we are compelled to confront death with a sense of intellectual honesty and emotional resilience. Without the promise of divine salvation or the fear of eternal damnation, we are liberated to grapple with the complexities of mortality on our own terms. We are free to explore philosophical questions surrounding the nature of existence, the meaning of life and the legacy we leave behind.

Unlike those who believe that our lives are just a pre-game for some main event after we die, we must find solace in the beauty of the present moment and the realization that this life is the only one we have. This perspective doesn’t diminish the significance of life. For me, it amplifies its value. It prompts me to live with intention, savor each moment, pursue my passions, nurture meaningful connections.

We atheists may not believe in an afterlife, but we find our meaning, purpose and beauty in the fleeting moments we have on this Earth. There is comfort in the knowledge that while our individual consciousness may cease to exist, we live on in the memories of those we’ve touched, as my granddad will live on in mine.

My granddad’s death has reminded me how important it is to make the most of this life, the only life we have.

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