Not believing in an afterlife does not mean i am a "sad' person.

I work in healthcare in a long term care facility and I deal with death on a regular basis. About a year ago the opportunity arose for me to take a palliative care course through my work.  I enjoyed it for the most part. It dealt with topics such as end of life care, pain relief and addressing the spiritual needs of different individuals based on their religious beliefs.

There was one instance however that was decidedly unpleasant, and unfortunately really overshadowed the rest of my time in the course.  During the segment on Spirituality the teacher coughed up some stats on who believes what.  I forget the percentage of people who believe in heaven vs. reincarnation, etc. but i remember the percent of people who don't believe in an after life was something like 20%.  It wasn't the number that upset me, it was the fact that the instructor said it like this, "and 20% of people don't believe in any kind of after life at all, and I think that's just sad." I remember feeling decidedly awkward at that point, especially when there were gasps, heads shaking and mumbled agreements all around me.

I remember timidly raising my hand and saying that I was one of those 20% and I wasn't particularly sad. The teacher did a bit of back peddling, some platitudes about how everyone was entitled to their believes, yadda, yadda, but i really felt like the odd woman out from that time on. There was a lot of walking on eggshells so as not to upset the token heathen.

What is genuinely sad is the notion that not believing in god or an afterlife means that you are somehow a morbid or unhappy person.  I don't tell everyone that i am an atheist.  I am kind of a closet case. When i do tell people, they are often surprised.  I'm not sure what they expect an atheist to be like... maybe they are looking for horns growing out of my forehead or something.  I think it is just that i am a happy and smiling person that confuses people.

Anyway, i'm not sure exactly the point i am trying to make.  Maybe I just resent people making assumptions about me because of my beliefs... or I resent when people assume that i am a religious person just because i am a cheery person. Maybe i just wanted to share my story with more of you "sad" people out there! :)

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Comment by Easton Le on May 22, 2013 at 10:07pm

@Rachel: Realizing I have only one life to live also encourages me to live a happier and fuller life, as well as invest in a future I know I will not be around to appreciate. It seems only logical to me.

@Dennis: I've always wondered what it would be like to live forever, or at least an incredibly long time---assuming I have good health all the while. All the moments in the past I could have been present for, both beautiful and horrifying, and all the history that is opening before us. I feel like I grow when I participate in history. There is a character in a graphic novel, The Sandman, named Hob Gadling, who is given the blessing of never dying unless he wishes it. Over 300 years he lives and faces the best and worst possible experiences and despite everything he still wants to live another hundred years, and another hundred years, and another and so on. I think it's because he doesn't know what tomorrow will bring but he is curious about it. I feel the same way. Tomorrow excites me. When the day I do kick the bucket I will feel sad only for that reason.

Comment by Rachel Riley on May 22, 2013 at 5:26pm

I once had a friend who said that she felt bad for people who believed that there was nothing after death. It was the first and only time I have ever been truly offended by a friend. I told her not to feel bad because there's nothing to water down how special and important this life is..even if it doesn't seem important is the large scheme of things. With no proof of reincarnation or heaven, this one...single... chance to live means you need to do what you can to live happily, and maybe leave the world a better place.  
There may have been a couple of cuss words interspersed in there.

Comment by Michael Penn on May 22, 2013 at 12:17pm

Living forever is not what it's cracked up to be. I'm not sad, but I do get tired more often. Imagine how sad and tired you would be after a few hundred years of singing praises and hosannas with God. Maybe it wouldn't even take that long!

Comment by Loren Miller on May 22, 2013 at 11:07am

There are a TON of assumptions out there about atheists, mostly promulgated by believers and very often by believers who have NEVER MET an atheist!  This is where speaking out continues to be so very important, and me 'at's off to you for doing so in that situation!



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