Results from my modern art contest »« Just in case you haven’t rage punched your screen yet today

Dealing with death

From formspring.me: How do you personally come to terms with “having to close the book before it reaches the climax”?

For anyone who’s confused, that’s a line I use in a post earlier today for describing death.

And to be honest, I don’t have a very satisfying answer. I just kind of… don’t think about it.

That doesn’t seem like a good method, but it’s the best one I have. Obsessing over death can be paralyzing, and I used to fret about it way too much when I was younger. But one of my mantra’s in life is “Don’t worry about anything that may happen that you have absolutely no control over,” and I’ve learned to apply that to the issue of death as well.

Since I’ve done that, I’ve been significantly happier. It just does not help to stress about the inevitable. I will die. You will die. We can take actions to increase the probability of that happening when we’re much older, but we can’t achieve immortality (at least not yet). Wasting the precious time we do have on our planet worrying about the inevitable seems like a shame to me.

People often give atheists a hard time, saying that our outlook on life is bleak because we think this way. They say even if we enjoy life and aren’t all committing mass suicide, the lack of an afterlife is just too dreary for them to ever be an atheist. There may be many good arguments against religion, but that comfort alone is enough for them to believe.

To an extent, I think they’re right. Certain ideas about the afterlife are very heartwarming. Like I said before, I’d much prefer reincarnation over ceasing to exist. Even heaven would be nice. That’s an area I think atheists really need to work on if we’re to deal with our growing numbers, and keep them growing. We need psychologists, philosophers, poets, artists – whoever – to come up with equally comforting but true messages about atheism.

But to be honest, I was much more depressed, worried, and stressed about death when I was an agnostic and deist. Basing my philosophy on unknowns just led to constant pondering – no, obsessing about death. I’m not saying all agnostics and deists are this way, but it just did not work for me. “Nothing happens when you die” was a much more comforting message to me than “You have no idea what happens when you die, so constantly freak out about which outcome is actually right.”

Thinking about death still makes me a bit melancholy. I’ve been lucky to not lose anyone extremely close to me yet, and I do worry about how I’ll handle it when it happens. The Flaming Lips have a line that goes, “Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?” It still gets to me whenever I hear that song because, well, it’s not exactly a cheery thought. But then I think of some of the religious people (granted, a minority) who are actually happy when people die. Who rejoice when their love ones pass away because they think they’re actually in a better place. Who can’t wait for death themselves. I rather know the truth and appreciate the true loss and sadness of a friend dying. To deny that, to me, is more terrifying than death.

This is post 21 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.