So, Death, yeah? I’ve been thinking about it recently. Not just the morbid “oh what if I died, wouldn’t that suck.” kind of death-thinking, but the far more interesting, “why are you afraid of death? You’re an atheist.” kind of death-thinking. I’ve recently had this conversation with my wonderful sister-in-law Molly (brilliant girl, really), and then ran into it again watching a video of Sam Harris, known atheist ringleader who we all pay dues to and take orders from, naturally, because we’re atheists. (If you don’t get that joke, I’m sorry.)
So here’s the jist: There is an incredibly old (I mean greek philosopher old) argument that death should not be feared because “you didn’t fear your non-existence before you became conscious, so why fear your non-existence after you die?”
A seemingly sensible argument on its face, but let me make a distinction. There is a difference between what I fear to lose, being alive, and what I fear to experience after death. My issue hinges on the fact that this common place rationalization doesn’t answer my fear of death; namely the “I’ve got something to lose now”, bit. Further, the “what’s to fear after?” argument doesn’t even begin to sway me.
If I don’t believe that I existed before I woke as a screaming baby (BTW, existed how?), then my existence before I awoke can’t be used to sway me, because it (or I) didn’t exist. Only if I believe that I have existed, and more, that I therefore will exist after I die, does this argument have traction. However, I reject both these ideas. So, in short, this rationalization shouldn’t be offered to any atheist like me because it simply doesn’t fly.
As for my own fear of death, it’s quite simple: this really is the only life I’ll ever live. I better make the most of it. Every moment is precious. To me, lost time is one of my highest fears, just after death itself. And I don’t have to strive to “live by” this thought. It follows me always.