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.)

Tags: death

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Your assertion that things cannot cease to exist is in direct contrast to reason and logic. It is the pattern of atoms that give something its existence and therefore its identity. There is nothing special about the molecules that make you up, it is the way in which they come together that is important and when they stop creating that pattern that is you, you will no longer be. To say that some part of reality always exists is to say that nothing does. It is to attempt to negate the validity of identity and definition. We call a tree a tree and wood wood for a reason. While the wood was once part of the tree, it is not the tree. And when it is burned to ashes, it will no longer be wood. A piece of wax without a wick, is not a candle. And if you burn a candle down completely, there will be no wick and therefore no candle, only melted wax. It makes no sense to look at the wax on the table where there once was a candle and assert that it is still a candle. The myriad of particles that made the candle what it once was still exist of course, but in a different pattern (one not forming a candle). The pattern that gave the candle its identity and therefore existence is no longer. Something is not the same as its pieces; it's its pieces in a certain order. You are incorrectly equating a thing's particles and that thing. The thing is all the particles in a particular pattern. Just because the particle will continue to exist, does not mean that the pattern they held will.

If you assert that things can be after they are destroyed, then you might as well say that life after death (which is the end of life) is possible. This is what it looks like you mean, but then if so, cannot anything mean anything then? I wonder what sort of 'reason' drove you to become an atheist? Was it that you just don't like monotheism? Because it certainly doesn't appear that you adhere to the laws of causality and noncontradiction. If rather that describing existence and identity for what it is concretely, you seem to use metaphor as an sufficient tool for definition. Just because you can liken life to a computer file (both of which can be destroyed, by the way), does not mean that they are the same. 


Debate is debate I suppose. I'll respect your

views either way, no matter how condescending, or rude you may be in stating them.


In any case, reason, and logic are subjective concepts, meaning I don't mind being in contradiction with your logic or reasoning. There are definitive things, that are not subjective, and that's where the foundation for both our interpretations of the world come from. 


I warn you, this is a long passage.


@ Jezzy, if you don't like a debate going on here, and being so long, I apologize right now, I'll delete my comment, and just message this to Micheal.


To start;


"We call a tree a tree and wood wood for a

reason. While the wood was once part of the

tree, it is not the tree. And when it is burned

to ashes, it will no longer be wood."



"The pattern that gave the candle its identity and therefore existence is no longer."



"Just because the particle will continue to exist, does not mean that the pattern they held will."


That entire passage was somewhat irrelevant, as you have even said the particles continue to exist. This is really all I implied. Though the little chips can no longer be called

a tree, these particles that make up the tree did not cease to exist when cut down. Some are on the ground where it was chopped down, some are in the pant pocket of the lumberjack, and some are burning at the moment, and will then become ash, dumped into the ground in the backyard, to become soil for (more then likely) another tree.


Yeah, the pattern is definitely gone, but the compounds that created it still exist, which is what I implied too. This candle was not in it's essential state, unlike the chemicals within it, or the atoms in those.


So, it wasn't destroyed, nor was it removed from existence. It merely changed in form.


To go on, below, is why I called it a theory.


When I said I didn't believe something could cease to exist, I didn't think something immaterial like thought could cease to exist. It's our thought that makes us who we are. Now you will rebut that the thought is attached to the brain, within the body, and when the body is gone, we are too.


Well that's just where I have to disagree, and where you can call me loony and walk away.


cells > molecules > atoms > energy



From that base, everything is essentially made from the same structure. I am not implying were all the same thing, and that I can walk through a wall if I could, as cool as that would be. I imply that the only differentiating factor in this would be the awareness with us, our thought, and our consciousness. I don't believe our body and consciousness are the same thing. Merely one of those patterns, that are connected, but not truly interwoven as one and the same entity, able to be separated without being necessarily destroyed in it's entirety.


The candle can exist without the wick is what I believe.


I understand I could be placing a larger significance on thought, and our individuality within them, then called for. I understand that my thesis could be wrong.


"If you assert that things can be after they are destroyed, then you might as well say that life after death (which is the end of life) is possible."


I assert that it is impossible to destroy something in it's entirety once it exist. That something like thought, that is immaterial, possibly changes form, while the body rots, and goes into the ground, or is cremated for it's particles to go into a jar, into someones house, to be dropped one day, and drift into the nostrils of some unsuspecting relative.


From a practical standpoint, we're still ignorant to our own existential origin, universe, and even alot of our own earth. I don't feel bad making a theory, and changing them later.


"I wonder what sort of 'reason' drove you to become an atheist?"


Tsk, tsk. Atheism doesn't mean disbelief in the supernatural my rude friend, originating from our Greek counterparts, it means 'Without God', more literally translating for us to "Against theism", or "Opposing Theism". I can have a few self weighed opinions and be an Atheist too.


But is Ironic, that the "Supernatural" is basically the unexplained, yet we only equate it to things that we havn't seen ourselves, rather then the things we see, but don't know how got here. Ironic to me anyways.


I fill in the holes modern science has yet to, with my own ideas, and when science changes, so do those Ideas. I'm sure some Atheist would prefer not to create a thesis at all, and wait for the scientist to provide a credible idea, with substantial proof. Or like others here, just prefer not to think about it at all.


However, I don't too much mind sounding a little crazy while I wait for that, if I'm even breathing to see as much, if it means being another step closer to what things really are before I die.


Cause I don't negate that I could. In which case, huzzah, I think i'm a good person, and I lived a good life. 


", you seem to use metaphor as an sufficient tool for definition. Just because you can liken life to a computer file (both of which can be destroyed, by the way), does not mean that they are the same. "


What exactly did you not understand when I said "Philosophical definitions"? They are philosophical. Naturally philosophy is limited only to what someone can relatively perceive.


"(both of which can be destroyed, by the way)"


Both of which can be overwritten, or encrypted to near infeasible decryption, in order to be recovered, you mean. Not deleted. 7 passes of encryption would be military grade, but it would still be decrypt-able with a large amount of effort. A computer? Yeah it can be broken, to little bits, but the computer is still there too, along with the info on it. No longer reachable to us, but as material existence goes, it still exist. Just a different formation.


In this case, humans are a bit more complicated to me.


In any case, I was asked how I coped with death, which was basically, 'why fear what I don't understand?'. All of what I said could be true, and even more logically it could be wrong. But why should I be afraid if I don't know? And if I do find out it's just non-existence, and my whole thesis is wrong, well hell, I'm happy I got a chance to live.


Apples and oranges I say.

I was lucky in that few people died during my childhood. The tragedy of that familial longevity is that people are inevitably dropping off like flies now and there is so much pain to deal with over a rather short period of time. So, it's safe to say that death is a topic I have given much thought to.


Although many opportunities were woefully neglected, certainly I am happy for the extra years I have been able to spend with these people. I am also happy that I have been able to completely abandon all belief in heaven, hell, valhala, the North Pole, etc. prior to most of their deaths. When I was a child, Heaven and Hell were considered very real places. The fear of Hell, I think, was more a reason why I continued believing than excitement over Heaven--which sounded horribly boring. A family friend died when I still believed and it tore me apart thinking that he was probably in Hell. My mom had a dream that he had repented moments before he died and that was how she dealt with it. Even then I knew that that was just a sort of cognitive dissidence which thankfully I don't need anymore.


My Dad died nearly a year ago. It was tragic, there's literally not a single day where I don't think about him, but I know for a fact that he is not in hell or anywhere else for that matter. I wish he were alive, but I don't have to worry about him being tortured for the entire rest of eternity. Such things are nonsense and I wish my believing mother could have that comfort. Rather than waste time and stress about what could be happening to him (and all rationality says is not), I can instead concern myself with memories, and trying to make the best of life in his absence.


He will be gone forever, and there are a million things I wish could be different, but my greatest sadness is that my newphew will grow up without his grandpa. The only thing I can do is to let his memory live on through me.

You have said it very beautifully Caroline. By just growing up and accepting that one day we are all going to die, and that based on what we know that there will be no afterlife, for any of us is scary at first, but then peaceful once you accept it. You don't need to fear death for the fact that you won't know if you are dead you will just cease to exist.

I tend to disagree with your assessment of 'fear'. As far as I can tell, religion itself created the fear of death. When cultural anthropologists study tribal humans who are without religion, these kinds of fears simply do not exist, concepts of imaginary beings do not exist either.


Fear is a tool used that powerful people use to subdue masses, so fears are created, even when/where there should be none.


Death, we die, so what? 

Death needs to be de-tabooed, de-sacrified, de-mysteried. (sorry for invented words :)

Celebrate life, and when someone leaves it, celebrate who they WERE in life. Make it your duty to carry their memory with you and keep their gifts in the world.... or something like that.

  I couldnt agree more. In teaching my kids about death I found it went right along with teaching them where the atoms come from that combined to make them. They understand that my wish to be creamated stems from my desire to get those atoms back into circulation when my life is over.

  I think my kids and I both take great comfort in this knowledge. And the fact that they can keep some of my atoms close to them for the rest of their life also seems to give comfort to loss they will have to one day except.

They are not free from all fear... if a large predator prances into camp at night, moms fear for their child's safety, as does any animal. It's the general assessment of fear without a concrete causal agent. I look at your definition and I see that your version of religion is the result of a populist push, which I totally disagree with. Religion does not originate, as far as I can tell, from "the masses". I see it only as a tool, that wiser people (surprisingly?) discovered. A tool for mass manipulation and control, which utilises a weakness of the human brain, mimicry. These wiser people discovered they could hold POWER over others by creating fear 'systems', fear concepts, where no direct causal agent is present. In the end, it does take a wise person to exercise such control over others.


I don't think there is much in our society that is 'populist' in origin, most grand ideas, inventions, philosophies, etc all have very punctual and 'personal' origins, I see religion no differently.


I, as you, as a youth, occasionally rationalised religion through the awesomness of 'nature' as you mention... but I've come to realise that it does not fit the general pattern of human inventiveness.


To me fear should be non-existent outside of immediate risk to life. All other forms of fear are social disfunctions due to human overpopulation and the stress of constant close proximity.


I prefer to envision human society as an ape society, rather than an ant/termite/bee society, as many overpopulation-denialists would like to compare us to. We are not insects, we are apes. And the incredibly high densities we chose to live in are not conducive to healthy non fear. Our instincts and evolution do not take into account big city life and fast cars and nasty bosses, so our biology does what it can to cope... and fear/anxiety is a common result.


I am presently reading (ever so slowly) a book called RISK, which is along those lines as well.


As you say, fear is an extremely interesting topic :)


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