" Are Atheists Afraid Of Death?"
This is a complex question, and while I don't profess to speak for all heathens, I'll try to answer to the best of my ability.
While I don't spend too much time obsessing about death, there is certainly a fear of becoming nonexistent. It's inevitable, but it's so very final, and often times it's not on your terms. It's the fear of the unknown that I believe began all of the religions in the first place. Earlier man had very little understanding of the world and her surrounding universe, and death due to disease, fighting, and accidents was a constant. The concept that when you take your final breath and your being simply ceases to operate is a terrifying prospect for many, especially for the surviving family and friends, so belief in an afterlife became a panacea for all of those scary, misunderstood thoughts, an analgesic for the grieving.
Even in my own life, as a formerly religious person, I bought into the death lies. I was brought up to believe that I was a punishment from God brought on because my mum prayed every night for boys. My parents prayed too hard, so they got a dyke. This sounds like fuzzy logic to some, but it remains the prevailing belief amongst a few people close to me. I used to constantly pray for death because the afterlife couldn't be worse than the horrendous torments visited upon me by both family and strangers. When I believed in God, I had no fear of death whatsoever. I've driven drunk, done tons of incredibly dangerous stunts, and came within a few minutes of peacefully dying from sepsis before being saved by a "miracle", which was really some experiment that a genius Nurse Practitioner thought up.
I also prayed to dead people, like my heroic grandmother, survivor of combat and POW camps, for advice and found no answers. But I knew she had to be in heaven because she'd led a righteous life. she was up there, chilling out with my brother and my uncle and my haemophiliac buddy from school who died of AIDS. Life came to an end on the Earth, but there were ghosts an angels all around in my mind, because God and heaven are the lies your parents were told and they told you, but as I've said in previous chapters, I finally decided that I could not believe in these things anymore. It was then that I truly mourned the losses of those who I once loved and decided to continue my life in a realistic fashion. Now I have a healthy respect for life and death for what they are, knowing that the former is never infinite and the latter is forever.
Because I am of the opinion that we die just as all other animals do, I'm certainly more inclined to try to maximize my time spent on Earth as a sentient being, living and loving, and trying to avoid doing absolutely stupid things, not out of a phobia of a manmade hell, but out of respect for myself and others. Humans as a species may have a strong self preservation instinct in general, however it's easier to give up on life when faced with the prospect of fighting and even dying from a serious illness when you think that there is going to be a utopia when you close your eyes for the last time. As I don't suffer from the god delusion, I'm going to make my best effort to overcome all challenges set before me, and should I gain victory over a deadly condition, offer my sincere thanks to the very human scientists who assisted in the lengthening of my life.
But, alas, death will still come without my express written consent. My mental lamp will burn out, just as those of the generations before me. I may be aware that it is going to arrive, or I may simply pass away in my sleep as so many do. And while I won't be able to see, or touch, or even be anymore, I hope that the most important afterlife one can have occurs. All of my organs shall be donated and my corpse will never be embalmed. My body will nourish generations of insects and maybe even a vulture or two. My death will be like my life- in concordance with the scientific model. For my survivors, I wish them the most pleasant memories of me, but not sadness. Should my memory be sullied like that of Pat Tillman, I'd hope my family would be as tough as his, unafraid to educate and attest to the decency that one can hold without buying into an existential lie.
I can understand why us arrogant humans would like to believe that we have control over life, both before it begins and after it ends, but we do not. The destruction of a star began our evolution and when our star fades away, it will take what is left of us with it. But until the light goes out, we as a species will continue acting our parts in a global play, with alternating characters, many identical dancers, a few prima ballerinas, and the odd clown. Death is inevitable for all of us, so we need to be present in our daily lives. It's your choice whether to sit on the sidelines, paralyzed by the words of men who are long dead and cannot hurt you, or to hop on stage and show the world what you're really about while you're still kicking.
Death is a normal life process, and it's normal to be afraid of it, but I'd rather have that fear than be paralyzed by the idea of eternal hellfire as preached by the men who earn their living promoting spirit-destroying myths. Existence is real, it's finite, and I've wasted far too much of it as a prisoner of the concept that it lasts forever. Be a decent person because kind works spread joy, instead of hoping for a ticket into a place that your inner reason knows cannot exist. Humanity has been distorted because of our refusal to accept the fact that death is absolute. If there was no fear of ending up in the wrong afterlife, men wouldn't start wars, parents wouldn't mutilate their babies' genitals, and women wouldn't cover every inch of skin in 120 degree weather.
I personally would rather have a healthy respect for life and the finality of death than to be forced to live a life of sexism, racism, homophobia, war, and abuse in the hopes of gaining an afterlife.
Death is nothing to us, since when we are, death has not come, and when death has come, we are not. - Epicurus