Saturday, May 19, 2012

I Willingly Die Every Night...


Death is scary to many people, religious or not, and I've always wondered... why? Outside of having to experience an excruciatingly, long drawn-out sort of tragic accident or disease while on your way towards death, how is the actual part about being dead scary?

Troy Boyle and I must have been on the same wave-length when he recently published "The Atheist and Death". I'd already started this piece, but hadn't completed it yet. The "great minds think alike" cliche comes to mind or rather "Damn. He beat me to the punch!" :)

I'd have to agree with many points that Troy makes in his article, and I honed in on the "UNconsciousness" part that he refers to because that is what has always made it "UNterrifying" to me. This was to be the subject for my writing. His opinion is that this part, specifically, would be disquieting to an individual. This may be true for many, but definitely not true for me.
 
Each night we all willingly close our eyes to enter the rejuvenating darkness that envelops us. It heals our minds and bodies from the stress we endured to better face the following day. The fact that everyone of us can willingly do so tells me that people can accept and do not fear being unconscious because of an understanding of what sleep actually is. Continuing to wake up every morning and many mornings for many years confirms their understanding that sleeping is just a natural function. 

So, how can those people who understand sleeping be terrified of the experience of being dead when they understanding the concept of black oblivion or discontinuity? Why would they be disquieted and even terrified when death seems to be just like what is willingly wished for when they lay down their heads at night?

Rationally spoken death itself is not worth being terrified about, but what does create the fear is what it means beyond the physical experience (or actually, the lack of experience). Those who are fearful of being dead can't accept that it is nothing more than eternal "UNconsciousness".

In today's society, particularly in the communities of faith, their understanding of death does not focus on what it actually is but, rather, takes on the mystical quality of what it means for an after-life. The biblical interpretations and explanations received during their indoctrination makes it hard for people to take a position of acceptance about death being a natural event in their lives. The woefully lacking realistic explanation surrounding death only helps to induce the irrational fears we are talking about. Gnashing of teeth, fire and brimstone for eternity is what they can expect if they were not good in the eyes of their lord, and eternal bliss and happiness if they fulfilled all of god's expectations. It's perfectly natural to expect they would be fearful rather than accepting that it will be a non-event when they are given this limited explanation of death as only being a possibility of not knowing where they are going come judgement day.

As I said earlier, I can understand perfectly that people are fearful if their death doesn't come swiftly and painlessly or the time preceding it is filled with suffering, but to be fearful 'of death' seems irrational considering the knowledge we have today.

Our impending deaths should make us want to experience life more fully knowing that it really is just the end of being who we know we are, just like when we are sleeping and in the physical state known as "UNconsciousness". Life should be a time devoid of angst and rich with experience. Seems to me that the best thing would be to ignore death until it makes its entrance and pledge to experience life to its fullest, making the pursuit of happiness the optimal goal!

Also published at AtheismResource.com

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