First of all I'd like to apologize for my English, it is not my native language and I'm still learning it. 

Now, death. It's been the subject of my great fascination ever since as a child I discovered that everyone dies (interestingly, it is something you actually have to discover, for some reason we automatically assume that everything is eternal). 

The concept of death seems to be entirely different for a person who believes in an afterlife than for an atheist. It is quite simple if you are a believer: death does not change anything whatsoever, you still exist in some form or another after you die, you maintain your identity, thoughts, feelings etc. Of course eternal life makes no sense for number of reasons.

So, if you happen to be an atheist, death, to put it simply, changes everything. It takes the whole world away and never lets you return. Everything you ever felt, everything you knew, everything you stood for, every place you visited, every person you loved is lost forever at the second you die. 

The whole world disappears, because the world only exists as a model in our brain created from the information that comes from our senses. But if the brain and the senses are gone, it makes no difference for their owner if the world they used to let her perceive still exist or not. So, when we die, how can we tell if it's us disappearing or the world disappearing? We can't. We assume the world keeps on existing after our death because we can observe that when other people die, the world does not disappear. But there's such a big difference between other people and me! The "me" that's writing this words and the "me" belonging to some other body and brain who is maybe reading this sentence right now. And when this "me" is gone, will there be anything left at all?

It's actually great that we humans can sleep. Sleeping (without dreaming) is probably quite similar to being dead. Except that we can wake up later and reflect upon how it felt to be asleep. And we find that it somehow didn't feel at all. 
So, shouldn't all atheists be suicidal? After all we're destined to die anyway, and our own existence has no real significance in the long run. Well, I believe we aren't all suicidal for only one simple reason. Our brains are evolved not to be. 

There's a very rational part of my mind, who clearly believes that there's no real difference if she's dead or alive. So if for some reason she feels even slightly unsatisfied or disturbed (for example: in physical pain) she'd immediately kill herself (assuming there's a non-painful and 100% effective way to do it).

But then, there's another part of my brain, totally unreasonable but having a huge impact on the decisions I make. For example, she wouldn't kill herself because it would cause pain to the people who care about me. And the "me" that's still alive does not want that. "But", says the more rational part of my brain, "even though you now care about what other people might feel if you kill yourself, you surely won't care when you'll be dead. You will not know about the existence of those people, about the concept of pain, or even about the existence of human race. You won't be a human anymore, you will not be yourself anymore. You won't be anything anymore." It surely seems logical to choose to die from that point of view.
 
So, what do you think of death? Are you afraid to die? Would you kill yourself if you were in severe pain? Would you be able to overcome the feelings of regret you might feel when making the decision, knowing all those feelings would be gone the second you die?

Tags: death

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First, your English is quite good. When I was a child I feared death, probably because I always associated it with the pain of being away from my family, not to mention that I was forced to go to church as a child and I fear going to hell. Once I stopped going to church and thinking for myself, I realized that from the day a person is born they are already headed toward death. So now I'm not afraid to die, I just don't want to be in pain when I die.

According to many women that I know that have gone through child birth, they say I have never experienced severe pain. But I doubt I would kill myself as a result of severe pain, but I guess I wouldn't know unless I was in that situation.
I am atheist and I am not suicidal. I do not think being atheist or religious has anything to do with being suicidal. Those who feel suicidal should find professional help immediatley. Those who are not suicidal focus on survival by one means or another. I think in life you cannot spend all your time preparing to die or you may really never experience life, or the inspiring thought.

There is no way for any human to know what death is like and I believe you must accept that. You can certaintly use your imagination and dream up some possibilities but if you preach it as fact you just invented another religion. My feeling of death is we people have accually experienced not being alive more than we have been alive. Why? Because we have eternally never existed until we were born. Now just think about that time before you existed and how that felt. Were you in pain or were you in heaven? Maybe you were a rock in space.

What ever you choose to imagine or experience you can only go by what you know. I know like you know that you don't know. I also know like you know the world still exist for us who are still alive and we must continue following the life cycle to continue living. If you are sad or afraid of whatever, there are ways to feel better by seeking the help from those who are qualified to help you.

I think the questions of life are as complex as those of death.
I was kind of expecting such replies when I posted this topic. Don't worry - what I'm trying to do is just a thought experiment, I don't want to die, for the precise reasons I described earlier. And also for some other reasons, such as for example the fact that I actually like to be alive. I find this experience of living entirely amusing. But someday it may change, can't it?
And here goes another interesting question: Why shouldn't we want to die? Why is it so wrong to want to die? If you choose bananas over apples why are you not allowed to choose death over life? Or rather, nonexistence over existence? Why do we cure those who want to die; can a desire be defined as a sickness? There's of course clinical depression which can be easily diagnosed and dealt with. But aren't our desires part of who we are? And when we change them using medications, are we still the same person?
My personal view of all this is that everybody should have the right to die. It should be as fundamental as the right to live. We're so obsessed with keeping all of the suicidal people alive, aren't we only oppressing them by imposing our own opinions? How can we know what they feel, how can we be sure that it is better for them to stay alive at all costs? After all, as you have just said, nonexistence was not uncomfortable in any way. We've all nonexisted for so long, we all sort of know what that means and if we choose it, should they force us to live instead?

I definitely disagree that "in life you cannot spend all your time preparing to die or you may really never experience life, or the inspiring thought". I think that being aware of the oncoming death only makes you more fascinated by what life is. Each day I'm amazed by the world I find myself in and the thought that all of this will soon disappear only makes it more magical, more wonderful, more precious. But even if it would only make me sad and miserable, it would still be the truth, and I'd have to live with it or be ignorant, and I don't think that's actually a matter of choice.
I get what you are saying and I am glad you are not suicidal. I want you to imagine you have a child and one day your child comes up to you and says, "Mom, I want to kill myself". What are you going to do?
That's very tricky indeed! Mostly because there's so many irrational emotions involved… I don't have children yet, so for the purpose of explaining my opinion I just assume that the love a mother feels for her child is extremely strong (which is probably true anyway).
In that case I'd probably beg the child not to kill herself/himself. It's possible that I would force her/him not to do it. And if I did, I'd be doing it out of my own natural selfishness, my own fear of loss. Would I rather satisfy my own need to keep my child alive or let her/him go, breaking my own heart? Most probably, I'd do the first, even of I don't stand for that with the rational part of my brain. But those human feelings, they can get pretty intense, can't they?
I would not call survival irrational. Most people do not want to die because they are happy about life. They are most likely afraid, confused, and sad. Trying to help a person work through issues of fear, confusion or sadness be it counseling or medication is not over stepping your welcome. It seems you try to separate your self with the discription of what is rational and human. You are human. What you may seem to think is rational may be but when does that become irrational? I am against the death penalty but I am not against self defense. I know if I had a close member of my family die by the hand of a murderer my feelings would be irrational and think of them as rational.
Before I was conceived by my parents I did not exist. I had no fear or anxiety or other feelings whatsoever about this state of nonexistence, because nonexistent things cannot. Now that I am alive my state of mind and perception of reality is a product of my brain chemistry and senses. Since I don't believe in the supernatural and my perception is a product of my living brain I don't believe that I will continue to exist, in any form, after I die. I can fear nonexistence but that is irrational because nonexistent things cannot feel anything.

I choose to live life as well as I can because it is the only existence I will have. Fearing its end is a waste of my time and resources.
Hawkings said it best in his 10 questions in Time magazine couple days ago...
and the god thing... 'impersonal god' how poetic.
Over thinking it. Its a part of nature, all things die. I think the 'why not commit suicide' question is crazy. Why would someone even ask such a question, especially of someone who feels like suicide is the end? I don't think the past or the future exists in any way shape or form other than a memory and a daydream. The only time is now. Stay in the now and whatever shape or form the now is, is what it is and don't worry about it, that's my philosophy. In other words, quit thinking about it, there's no point.
I would say you could probably pose as someone who learned English as their first language, as your English is completely understandable and mostly error free.

I wrote an email to someone a while back that addressed this question, so I'll paste part of it here:

"What's the point of even trying? Why bother trying to figure out a way to become financially secure? Why bother about anything? Why bother about your life? Why bother about others' lives? My answer is... I guess you want to enjoy your life, and in the case of others' lives, you don't want others to suffer, because suffering sucks. I'm of the opinion that purpose in life is essentially nonexistent when it comes to our entire species and planet and universe and everything, so there's really no point to living. But there's no point to dying, either, so you might as well live, because that's what comes first, unless you have a reason not to live. I say, if you absolutely have good reason not to live because you go through much suffering all the time, and there may be no hope in the future, then you might as well die. But if there is some hope that the future may be different and better, I think it's worth it to continue for as long as you can, because when you get to that point in life when the future has come and things are better, you will be glad you waited and glad you didn't die, since you can enjoy your life."

Through reason we can decide that living is what we were meant to do, as you can see through my deduction. It's incredibly interesting how it's like that.

By the way, I enjoyed your commentary on death. It was insightful. I actually never compared sleep to death before.
I was very pleased to read your reply, you're actually the first person who didn't start by disapproving me for what I had written. So many people say that there's no point in thinking of death.

I first came across comparing death to sleep in one of my favourite books, "Maya" by Jostein Gaarder. I think this comparison is quite accurate. The part of us that's afraid to die is our consciousness, our self-awareness. But that also seems to be the most uncertain, volatile part of us. Jostein Gaarder compared consciousness to a mechanical doll that is breaking apart every evening and assembling back together every morning. The separate elements are dead, yet the doll as a whole has the unique property of being self aware. The consciousness is actually appearing from nothing, every time we wake up. But i think it's not all black and white, we're not either aware or dead. I think there are middle-stages. For example, in my opinion, people with Alzheimer are actually slowly disappearing while being alive. Or rather their self-awareness, intelligence, identity is disappearing. And that's the core of who we are, isn't it? If we can artificially keep alive bodies with dead brains, are the people who had once resided in them still alive? No, they aren't, they had cease to exist and can never return. So if the very essence of who that person is is slowly leaking out, slowly blurring away, can we say that he is still the same person he had been a year before? A month? A minute? Is he gone when he forgets who he is or is he gone when he can no longer talk? There are stages, shocking as it is, even our consciousness is not inseparable. We can actually die piece by piece, day by day. That's why I think Alzheimer is the most terrifying disease of all.
Of course there are plenty of diseases that slowly kill our bodies. But our bodies are so NOT who we are! We can have someone else's heart or an artificial leg and doesn't feel like we are less of a person than we were before. We're not even our brains, it would probably be theoretically possible to recreate someone's brain molecule by molecule and thus create a second copy of that person. What we truly are seems to be virtual, it doesn't exist physically. We are the pattern, the configuration, if you like, of atoms in our brains. Like computer software, only a bit more emotional about having to be shut down at some point. And rightly so, we're supposed to be emotional! Or rather, it is useful to be installed with an emotional software in terms of gene survival. It has to, since that's how we have evolved to be.

Anyway, I certainly don't think that the subject of death is unimportant or uninteresting.
I don't understand peoples' obsession with living forever, as so few people seem to take advantage of the life they do have. Do they really want to spend an eternity eating fast food, watching TV, and being stuck in a dead-end job?

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