How do atheists/agnostics deal with death?

Discussion in 'Community' started by springscansing, Nov 8, 2002.

  1. springscansing macrumors 6502a


    Oct 13, 2002
    New York
    How do athiests/agnostics deal with death?

    Posted by Springs on 2002-11-08 11:43:28 .


    I personally am an agnostic. You can't know for sure that a god exists. And you can't know for sure that a god does not exist. If you knew a god did not exist anywhere in the universe, you'd have to be all-knowing, hence making you a god yourself. This is basic stuff. If someone can convince me one way or another, remind me to give you all my worldly possessions.

    Anyway... how does an athiest or agnostic deal with death? Not on a grand scale, on a personal scale. Take for instance the person closest to you. Your wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, brother, sister, father, mother, whatever. If you do not believe in a god and hence believe in no afterlife... how do you feel about that person's death?

    For instance.. your wife has died. She no longer is conscious. She cannot think at all. She does not know you. To her, everything is non-existant. She, as the person you knew, has no existance, and never will again. She is just a pile of flesh and blood and other random bodily fluids, and not much else.

    How can you rationalize not existing? For your wife, there is no existance. And on top of that, how do you deal with that? You can't say she's in a better place, because she isn't. She isn't anywhere, she's just gone. To her, it is as if you never existed.

    Now... I'm sorry for this nuts topic, and I realize I am not the most metally with-it person going mind you, but... can anyone offer me anything on this? How can you deal with someone you love no longer existing, and knowing he or she never will again?

    I mean.. what if my girlfriend gets hit by a car tomorrow and dies.. like.. I don't know..

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  2. Mr. Anderson Moderator emeritus

    Mr. Anderson

    Nov 1, 2001
    This should be an interesting thread, I hope it doesn't get out of hand though, its a good discussion topic.

    First, why are you worried? It seems to me you are questioning your faith, or your belief. You don't believe in the organized religions and you want answers, but you have no place to go for them, no spiritual guidance except what you see and experience for yourself.

    I think you're going to have to either seek out some sort of spiritual enlightenment or try not to worry about something you don't believe in. And remember, spirituality and religion are not the same thing.

    Maybe you should let us know why you're worried about this.

  3. JupiterZen macrumors regular

    Jul 17, 2002
    Reality Maingrid 23 Subjunction 42A
    Re: How do atheists/agnostics deal with death?

    It's just the way the universe works (in our perception anyway).

    I lost my mother to aggressive cancer two years ago (took only three months or so). And you just life on without her.

    I call myself a spiritual scientist. I like to ponder all kinds of possible realities and see how they make me feel. Exploring and contemplating different religious, scientific or spiritual explanations and test their validity with my knowledge. It's great food for thought, but in the end I must admit that I do not know.

    So, until proven otherwise, my mother is gone. And all I have are my memories and the residual traces of her existance.

  4. Megaquad macrumors 6502a

    Jul 12, 2001
    Well I am personally christian. I found peace and truth in it.
    Until year ago I was formally christian, but agnostic and open minded inside. I was also searching for truth but I couldn't find any proof which would make me believe in something..
    Then I realized there are many proofs for existance of God, Jesus etc.
    First I found some answers in christian bible, and found proofs in statements of saint's and other christian literature.
    Those proofs can be supernatural happenings, sometimes in front of many people and they explained the core of some mysteries to me.
    I heared for some of those things in real life from people I trust, like exorcism reports and such.
    I experienced some things in the past so that probably helped in making my beliefs stronger.
    My point is, dont force yourself to believe in anything until you are sure of it, because you will end up in the wrong way, that will destroy you.
    Just stay open-minded, dont go to some sects if you ever in your life become desperate.
    Stop searching for answers and let the answers find you.
  5. vniow macrumors G4

    Jul 18, 2002
    I accidentally my whole location.

    I disagree.

    There is no need to be all knowing to know that a higher power exists, it's faith based. People have been doing it for thousands of years, for some reason they're wrong?
    It's not something based off of worldly, rational thought, it's a feeling.
    I take issue every time someone sez this cuz I have felt that existence and there's no way in hell that you're going to prove me otherwise.

    As for an afterlife, I have a little theory about it; I believe that whatever you truley believe in, that's where you end up.
    When you die, you just delve deeper into your own phyche, so deep that you reach a plane of collective consciousness. The same one others that have died have reached. It's something archetypal.
    Now, the idea of a higher power or an afterlife couldn't have just come out of thin air right? You can't make something out of nothing and even if those ideas were just made up by a bunch of civilizations long ago, it still had to come from somewhere in their minds.
  6. agreenster macrumors 68000


    Dec 6, 2001
    Walt Disney Animation Studios
    This is the question of the ages: What happens when we die?

    I think the safest, most simple answer is this- Have no fear or aprehension of the afterlife; the force that gave you life and sustained it these years will provide for you again when your time for death has come. In the meantime, love one another, be forgiving and strive to have a fulfilled life.

    I dont believe in 'God' or Jesus, (or budda, or whoever) but this always gives me peace.
  7. agreenster macrumors 68000


    Dec 6, 2001
    Walt Disney Animation Studios
    So you believe that after we die, consciousnesses will live together?

    Sure it could have. CUltures throughout history 'made up' stories about gods and goddesses for centuries, which have all been proven false. Just because some group of people collectively decide to believe something, it doesnt mean its true. If that was the case, Klingons would really exist, we would be living in the Matrix, and my neighbor is Hercules.
  8. vniow macrumors G4

    Jul 18, 2002
    I accidentally my whole location.

    Something like that.
    This is something that I'm still trying to work out, it's a new area of thinking on my part.

    Of course Kilngons don't realy exist and your next door neighbor isn't Hercules, but that doesn't make them any less real.
    People have been reading those myths for centuries and sci-fi is nothing but modern mythology. There's obviously some truth to it if a lot of people can relate to it.
    I believe that they were made up also but my question is where did that idea come from?
  9. Santiago macrumors regular

    Jun 14, 2002
    Mountain View, California
    Well, with respect to personal death, I don't fear it, but rather hate it. Since I believe that after my own death I will no longer exist, I will experience nothing, and there is nothing to be afraid of. On the other hand, I hate death because it will eventually deprive me of the opportunity to do everything that I would like to do the over the course of my life, requiring me to prioritize.

    With respect to the death of others that I know, there isn't much to do. I get depressed for a while and miss the person or pet in question, then move on, because I'm still alive and have the business of living to attend to. Remember the good times you had with the dead, and be happy about what you did get to share with them; mourning is a waste of precious time.
  10. JupiterZen macrumors regular

    Jul 17, 2002
    Reality Maingrid 23 Subjunction 42A
    Then I must partially disagree with you.

    Because as much as you feel that you know there is a higher power, you cannot prove anything to me. Why should I believe you, as you cannot provide me with evidence. (I immediately must think of the movie Contact with Jodie Foster before a high council trying to convince them that she didn't just drop thru the alien device :D :D :cool: )

    The reason people started believing in higher powers was because they were surrounded by things they could not explain otherwise. The more we explore and unravel reality, the more (we think) we can explain about it's workings thru rational thought. Leaving less space open for the option of a higher power.

    I don't know for sure there is a higher power. But I cannot deny the things that I cannot explain thru rational thought either. Leaving me somewhere in the middle, unsatisfied with the options of the various believe systems available, because they cannot provide me with a convincing argument. So I collect information and establish my own 'faith' based on my own experience.

    You have the right to believe anything you want, as long as you don't force it upon others.

    'knowing' and 'believing' are two very strangely woven concepts. But I think you should try to keep them apart in a discussion like this. Because much to often these discussions get out of hand due to misunderstanding and misinterpreting eachother.

  11. vniow macrumors G4

    Jul 18, 2002
    I accidentally my whole location.

    I know what I feel and you're not going to prove or disprove me otherwise, nor am I going to provide you with hard evidence because it doesn't work that way.
    It's something that everyone has to go through themselves, not everything I believe in is what everybody else believes in.

    That's only partially true.
    Take the Greek story of Hades and Persephone for example.
    In elementary, I was taught that it was the Greek's way of explaining winter.
    Upon further examination, I not only leared that the Greeks knew damn well what caused winter, hell they even know the circumfrence of the earth within a few miles!
    If you sit down and start analyzing all those old myths, them you find that they explain more about the internal side of things than the external and that's where a higher power comes in.

    That's actually what I did.[​IMG]
    I grew up in the Bible belt and had a lot of Christian friends, but that whole area of religion never sat well with me for some reason.

    If there's one thing I know what not to do it's that.
    It's that Bible belt backlash again.[​IMG]

    That led to some big misunderstandings in the 'creationism to be taught in schools' thread.

  12. jefhatfield Retired


    Jul 9, 2000
    when i was 20, i thought i would live forever even though i am a theist

    twenty years later, i know i am mortal and feel much different and feel really fortunate to have made it this long...twenty more years will be a gift and i take every day as precious now

    so when i see a 38 year old barry bonds hit a home run, i understand the amazement of the announcers in awe of a man at 38 holding his own with twenty-something players

    at some point, time will catch up will all of us...even barry bonds;)
  13. jayscheuerle macrumors 68020


    Pretty simple really...

    Life is like a rich symphony of beautiful original music, all played without notation, coming from the heart, an intuitive mesh. When death comes slowly, perhaps a few musicians just don't play as well. When the final moment arrives, the music stops, and all the intruments fall apart. The players move on, eventually being presented a new instrument to play completely different music with a completely new band.

    The elements of life have continued on since before life began. It's how they play together that makes us all different. When someone is gone, you'll remember the music that filled the air, not the notes that made the music.

    Appreciate those around you every day while they are here and you'll have fewer regrets when they're gone.

    Whether you lead your life based on faith or perception, the end we all face is the same. Think whatever you must to make your stay enjoyable for yourself and those around you. A true Agnostic has no doubts, for a doubt is evidence of a lack of faith. The most honest answer in the world is "I don't know". Agnosticism begins and ends there.

    - j
  14. MisterBlack macrumors member

    Nov 4, 2002
    You can't really excercise good judgement on a subject like this until you understand and truly believe three important things:

    1. Anything that any person claims as absolute truth (most religion, for example) is fundamentally incorrect. It might have had a sort of truth to it at one point in time, but that truth has been lost by the claim that the truth was there in the first place.

    2. Everything is true. Anything that can be imagined exists. You make reality.

    3. Nothing is true. Reality is an illusion. But it is your illusion.

    This is the key to the universe.

    "Throughout human history, as our species has faced the frightening, terrorizing fact that we do not know who we are, or where we are going in this ocean of chaos, it has been the authorities, the political, the religious, the educational authorities who attempted to comfort us by giving us order, rules, regulations, informing, forming in our minds their view of reality. To think for yourself you must question authority and learn how to put yourself in a state of vulnerable, open-mindedness; chaotic, confused, vulnerability to inform yourself. Think for yourself. Question authority."
  15. Kid Red macrumors 65816

    Dec 14, 2001
    Just because you don't believe in god doesn't mean you also don't believe in an afterlife. I personally do not believe in god but I do believe in spirits. We are all energy, positive and some *******s are negative. This influences your course in life. Right roads wrong roads, you get what you deserve as everything comes back to you whether it good or bad. I am a big believer in charma (sp?) I have a few times wished bad things on people who have done me wrong, putting bad energy out there against these people and negative things have happened to them. If enough people think negatively about someone, something negative will happen to them, and vise versa. I also believe that once our bodies expire, our energy stays around in the form of spirits. Not sure how i can explain my belief in re-incarnation, maybe these lingering energies are sucked up when a new life is born. I also believe those who pass may choose to stay around as ghosts, spirits, guardians if you will.

    I don't believe the center of the earth is a fiery pit with demons and bad people breaking rocks and suffering. Same as i don't believe there's a big cloud in the sky with gates that house a lot of good souls.
    So when someone I love passes, like my grandfather 2 years ago, his energy is out there, sometimes watching over me I believe. Hell, he might even have had a thing to do with my 15 month old daughter, who by chance is the only other person in my and my wife's family with blue eyes except my grandfather.
  16. Chomolungma macrumors regular

    Jul 25, 2002
    Santa Fe, NM
    Most of us will ever die, unless extinction

    Most of you seems to forget that we pass our DNA (half of us anyway, due to sexual reproduction) to our children. We also pass on our social being through the education of our children. In many sense we are the very being of the small population of people in Africa a million or two years ago. They live in us. We are all Africans. I'm satisfy with leaving this world knowing that I'll travel to the next life in my nephew and children.

    As kids we were taught to be good and Santa Claus will reward us with presents. As udults, we are told to be good, and god (God) will reward us with everlasting life. But we already possess this reward. Some people are just wishing for too much, and as such, reality seems to fade away and grandiose dreams becomes reality.
  17. jayscheuerle macrumors 68020



    Geez. This sounds so poetic- the kind of stuff college kid love. Is it French?

    1. 2 > 1
    2 & 3. You don't know what is true. Anything than can be imagined exists in your mind. Reality and your reality are two different things, with the difference being your perception versus the collective consensus and you cannot tell the difference without altering your reality. Reality is simply the summed input of our senses and the extrapolations built upon those. It's incomplete and it differs between us, but not so much that we cannot achieve great things by working together. To see with sonar like a bat or to cover 2,000 acres like a giant underground fungus, now those are different, and incomprehensible realities... - j
  18. jayscheuerle macrumors 68020


    Energy, smenergy.....

    Kid, what in the world does this mean, this new-age "energy" thing you speak of? I hear it tossed around so much, but nobody actually MEANS anything by it.

    Energy is heat, right?
    Energy is mass times the speed of light squared, eh?
    Energy is transmitted through radiation, as in radio, microwave, ultraviolet, infa-red (see heat).

    It seems like such a toss-away phrase to me, though most adopters us the "just because we can't detect/measure it doesn't mean it doesn't exist" line. Isn't that the definition of exist, except for concepts and feelings?

    I can see how a bad attitude affects all areas of your life, from your relationships to your health, but this happens without intervention of the supernatural. Good attitudes work the same way.

    Maybe some granola hut needs to sell "Positive Energy Bars".....
  19. MisterBlack macrumors member

    Nov 4, 2002

    My suggestion for you is this:

    eat a tablespoonfull of liquid lsd.


    if you do lose your mind, you screwed up, and should seriously consider a heroin addiction.

    As long as you stay reasonably sane (ie, still able to function in society), you will see what I am talking about.

    I am obviously typing in English.
  20. jayscheuerle macrumors 68020


    Too Late!

    Obviously, those who lose their mind aren't aware if they do.

    I imagined you were typing in French, hence it's a reality.

    Art school, late '80's, in Los Angeles.
    I don't do flashbacks.
  21. vniow macrumors G4

    Jul 18, 2002
    I accidentally my whole location.

    Here's my view of this, first the physical part:
    We are all made up of organs which are in turn made up of cells which are made up of molecules which are in turn made up of atoms.

    The spiritual part:
    What makes us alive?
    Everything above. To be more precise, the right combination of it.
    But what makes those chemicals actually turn into life?
    My take on it is that life is the result of being greater than the sum of its parts.
    Any scientist can take the same amino acids found in even the most basic of bacteria and mix them together in the exact combo as the bacteria itself, but it's not going to be alive.
    Reason being is that it takes more than the right combo of atoms and molecules to make life, it needs something more.
  22. diorio macrumors 6502a

    Aug 22, 2002
    The right combination of atoms and molecules will make life, it doesn't really take anything more than that.
  23. vniow macrumors G4

    Jul 18, 2002
    I accidentally my whole location.


    I'd luv2c your secret vat for making bacteria.
  24. Chomolungma macrumors regular

    Jul 25, 2002
    Santa Fe, NM
    degenerating into what is the meaning of life discussion

    "Reason being is that it takes more than the right combo of atoms and molecules to make life, it needs something more."

    Those combinations of complex organic molecules interact with each other and together responding to external environment is the nearest defintion of "life" that I can think of without offending anyone sensibility.
    For some reason those who think life is a force from above (in this case i'm refering to those who believes in the personal god variety) fails to hypothesize this alternative hypothesis. But then again when you begin to seek the answer to this question, I got a feeling you already have your mind made up. Coming up with alternative hypotheses are always, always, always important in critical thinking endeavor.
  25. diorio macrumors 6502a

    Aug 22, 2002
    What are the sperm and egg? Are they agents of god, or are they polyatomic molecules combining to form another chemical which leads to the development of a child? Everything is made of atoms and molecules, and all life have certain characteristics, such as they are made of carbon molecules. Life isn't created at the flick of God's hand, it's made from chemical reactions.

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