As an Atheist, how do you deal with it?

It's definitely, definitely the hardest thing for me. I think about how crappy it is to have a mother who is hurt by my religious decisions, but how much worse would it be to realize that when I lose someone in my family, they're gone forever?

A lot of the Atheists I speak to don't think about it, or don't seem to mind. What do you think?
(Hopefully this isn't a duplicate thread.)

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I think many Westerners should stop assuming that we are statistically promised to live x years until we die. This is the core problem why people feel the uncertaintly of death. If we just accept that death CAN happen at any moment and just forget the "but statistics also say...", then I think it would be a lot easier for some to accept death.

Death is highly stigmatized in our Western society, even more so among Americans I believe. There was a study done that showed that Americans may generally be more worried about the afterlife than Scandinavians, and I think the worry of an afterlife is another reason why people fear death.

If you start thinking of the afterlife and what you'll do if you end up there or if it exists at all... then I agree, death can seem a bit scary too :) So best advice is most likely just live your life and don't worry what comes after, it will come anyway!

Human nature is our greatest enemy, the worry of something to happen before it happens is always greater than the worry becoming true. This is true for more situations than death itself.
Mortality is the natural order and a blessing...what the hell would you do for all eternity? Time-space would no longer exist and you would just "exist"

People have the internet, porn, video games, porn, hundreds of channels of television, porn, gymnasiums, porn, books, porn, and did I mention porn? And still get bored...death isn't a curse, it is a gift.
There's peace in acceptance.

Love that Mark Twain quote shared by Natalie Bunting:

The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.

The constant awareness that death will come for all of us gives perspective. You then try to live(admittedly easier said than done) so as to never have regrets. You take time for and put energy into all that's around you- here and now. People. Art. Nature.
Jezzy, what a beautiful thread this has become. Thanks for your candor and questions. I've had a myriad of emotions in reading the responses.

I have dealt with death, and as I get older, seem to do so with greater regularity. But that's just it. Death is a regularity, as it's part of life.

That said, it's tough to lose somebody you care about. We grieve. We mourn the fact they won't be there to talk to, to hang with, to love and to cuddle. It sucks, but it's also just a part of life.
As I write this, my eyes are moist. It's nearly the anniversary of my good friend's passing... all the way back in '95! Seems anniversary dates take me unawares.
And you know, as long as that person is in my memory, as long as I "remember the time", alone or even better, with others, the dead yet live! No, not physically. But the legacy. And of course, the elements of our body live on in feeding nature, nurturing life.

It's good to remember. To play music that reminds you of that person. When somebody dies, honor their memory. Do what you need to do to process it for yourself. There is no shame in sorrow. It's natural.

And while you live, truly live, won't you? And encourage the same of others. Maybe even live a little together, while you can.
Thank you. I think it was kind of surprising how little this pinnacle of atheism had been touched on. But it is a very hard subject.

That's what I'm trying to do-- live. Coming through slowly as a nontheist and a nearly adult woman, I've only grown a greater appreciation for life and other people. I feel like I want to do everything, and not just for the sake of doing it. I've also grown a steady and powerful awe of death, which has nearly escalated to paranoia. Not for me, like a lot of repliers have guessed, I wont know it if I die, but I'm always afraid someone close will die too soon. I think when I grow older I'll be able to understand and cope more, and I'll be able to have lived fully with the people I love. I just couldn't cope if someone I loved died as my life began. I guess all I can do is try to stop worrying and enjoy the time I have with other people, and look to this kind of guidance- remembering their legacy- when and if I lose someone.
Hello Jezzy (and everyone else on this thread). Still coming late to these, catching up as a newcomer, but this one hit me hard.

I've lost a large number of my immediate family, mostly in the last few years, mostly in the last 18 months. 2 brothers, a sister, both parents, a nephew, 2 uncles...

The sister was, well as you put it Jezzy; words like 'sister' and 'best friend' don't even cover it. I'm still reeling and struggling to deal myself so I don't know how much help I would be here.

But I can say that I absolutely see the temptation to cling to religion if only on the sole basis that it gives us pseudo-answers about death. You'll be reunited with everyone you love. Everyone you hate will be burning in hell. "Glory!"

In all my own grief, I just can't bring myself to fill that void with make-believe. It feels disrespectful somehow. We are all indeed made of stardust and we do know there is a quantum world we hardly understand. Perhaps some energy signature of us lingers, perhaps it doesn't. That's the most belief in an afterlife for me. But I'm digressing and rambling now.

I can say that one thing that's helping at the moment: Upon Mom's recent death I and one of my nieces have decided to take up her baton of researching family history. We had no idea how much she had gathered until we got together for her funeral. Loads of letters, postcards, pictures, tax records from the Civil War, military records, newspaper clippings. One of my writing projects for this would-be author is based on a great-grandfather's real life Civil War adventure. As I flesh out the 20 pages he wrote about it into something larger, I'm having to tap into myself to connect to him. How would he have felt at this point in the story? What is his real moral dilemma with that point? It's very cool to read his words and think, "Wow! This is my flesh and blood, my direct ancestor! 1/8 of me that went through what he went through!"

Somehow, working on all that, keeping their stories alive, makes these people feel more alive than imagining some pretend-heaven.
Genealogy is very interesting! My grandfather claimed we're related to Blackbeard, and we're descendant from vikings on my father's side and royalty on my mother's. I can see both sides in me.

That's a truly terrible amount of death in your life. The only family I've had die are three grandparents, two of whom I hardly knew except for past abuse of my father. People, particularly atheists, who find the courage to cope are very inspiring, I don't know how well I could do it.
Also discovered just after Mom died; She had very recently, after years of searching, disproved the family legend that President John Adams is my great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, uncle.

But she also proved the family myth wasn't just pulled out of someone's backside. Turns out we do go straight back to a John and Abigail Adams, who lived about the same time (just a few years earlier) as President John/First Lady Abigail Adams. Nice research work Mom!

On the sheer amount of death, it has indeed been too much all at once. Damn poverty and damn lack of access to medical - including psychological - care in this country.

Being a full generation younger than all 5 of my siblings I've had to accept that I'm likely to outlive them all. It's not easy, no matter how the death occurred. One was a suicide. A couple were terminally ill. One was sort of ill but went way, way too unexpectedly. Dad had Alzheimer's and was in a great deal of physical pain as well as heartbroken over Mom's death. So even though his passing was a relief on many levels, even though we expect to outlive our parents, it still leaves that huge void.

And did I mention it's just not easy?

I suppose the best advice is to deal. To know you have to deal but you also have to go on with your own life. Some people get wrapped up in the extreme end of grief or the extreme end of I-can't-show-my-feelings. I think the healthy path is somewhere in the middle. You have to let yourself grieve in order to get it out of your system so you can function. Don't know if that's real 'advice' but it's what I have at the moment.

Wow Chris - that's kind of deep. Makes my head spin thinking about it!

As a scifi geek, this is of course the big dilemma of the vampires and Highlanders of our fantasy worlds. Immortality sure sounds cool and is sought after by many, but after a while, could you really handle watching so many around you die? Never wanting to start a relationship because the other person will grow old and you won't?
I kind of don't deal with death. It is a situation, and there is not much to be done about it. Depending on who has died, I either miss them, or not, if I miss them I occasionally set aside time to feel sorry for myself for missing them, and then I deal with whatever part of life comes up next. I don't see a need to deal with death as some big concept or issue.

It just is.
Fear of Death
For many, the fear of death is that 'I' won't exist any longer. As an atheist, I don't fear my death. I do fear losing my loved ones. Now, if you're a christian shouldn't you be eager to die and go to the paradise of Heaven?

Grieving is important to the living. When some one you love passes on, it leaves a very big hole in your life. Being sad about that loss is healthy. It reminds us that nothing lasts forever. Memories of our loved ones help fill the hole they left in our lives. Don't ever be ashamed for grieving, its natural.

Is there an up-side of dying?
At this time, my parents are in a nursing home. It hurts me deeply to witness the physical pain they each live with everyday, and to know this is what their lives will be until they pass on. Do I want my parents to die, absolutely not. Yet, I'm willing to experience the loss of them if it will release them of the lack of control over their lives, the sadness of having to leave their home of 55 years, the humiliation of applying for medicare when their life savings is gone, and their pain. For me the pain of their current lives, far out weighs my pain of grieving when they are gone.
Do you realize
that everyone you know
will die?

And instead of saying all of your goodbyes
let them know
you realize
that life goes fast
It's hard to make the good things last
You realize
the sun don't go down
It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning 'round

-from Do You Realize? by the Flaming Lips




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