The Scariest Part About Dying…

(via PostSecret)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Octoberfurst

     Funny, but the scariest thing I find about dying is not accomplishing all I want to accomplish before the end. You know, the whole “bucket list” thing. There is so much I want to see and do. But will I have the time, money and energy to do it?
      I honestly don’t care what people say at my funeral. I know people will say the usual stupid BS: ‘He has gone to Heaven”, “He is in a better place now”, “The Lord called him home”, etc.  (Or, if they know I am an atheist–”May God have mercy on his soul!” LOL.) I really can’t blame them though. They mean well and it will comfort my believing family members.

  • Glasofruix

    The scary thing for me is that the whole process might turn unpleasant, other than that there’s nothing to be afraid of.

  • Heidi

    If people say that crap at my funeral, I’m pretty sure it will piss off my kids.

  • GabyYYZ

    “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”  -Seneca

  • Tainda

    Mine too hahaha  I told my daughter no funeral, just have a big kegger

  • starskeptic

    Nothing scary about being dead; I’m afraid that the process of dying itself could be uncomfortable… 

  • Saddler

    Not knowing the rest of history is really annoying.

  • Luther

     I doubt they will say that at mine. Maybe, “Now that (kind? *!%$? )unbeliever is feeling the fire and brimstone” etc. Hopefully, my children will play the role of Pat Tillman’s brother if anyone suggests anything religious about me or attempts to  claim some type of deathbed conversion.

    Nothing to fear about death. Dying maybe. In any case I just hope everyone finds a way to actually live this life.

  • Pendragon

    I really don’t understand how people aren’t afraid of death. An eternity of nothingness  frightens the living shit outta me. I like existing.

  • Nox

    If it helps, you will never have to experience not existing.

  • M. Elaine

    When I realized and accepted my atheism, I stopped being afraid of death. Ironic, isn’t it?

    I’m still terrified of the dying part, though. I hope it’s quick and painless. After that, I’ll be dead so there will be no “eternity of nothingness” to worry about.

  • Glasofruix

    You never existed before you were born, was that unpleasant?

  • baronvoncarson

    I don’t so much fear death, I’m more sad at what I’ll miss seeing and participating in once I am dead. For instance, I’m bummed out I’ll miss space travel, and colonisation. I think I’ll get to see man on Mars in my life time, but I’m talking about seeing planets in other star system and colonising the galaxy.

    That said, I think from all of history we live in the most privileged era. Life expectancy is the highest it’s ever been, each day we move closer to true equality, education and knowledge is greater than ever.

  • Mary P.

     But there was nothingness BEFORE we existed.  That in itself to me is comforting.

    I agree with the others who are more afraid of missing something here.

    Since I plan to donate my body to medical education and all usable organs to those who need them, there won’t be any ceremonies.

  • M. Elaine

    If I die before my husband does, I worry that my religious family will give my atheist husband a hard time about funeral arrangements.

  • Paul Caggegi

    I thought that was Marcus Aurellius? Maybe I got the wrong meme in my facebook…

  • Paul Caggegi

    I like existing too. :) Nothing means no pain, no sadness, and no awareness that you’re actually missing anything. It also means no more joy, happiness, love. While we’re alive, that idea is kinda sad, but when we’re dead, we just won’t care anymore.

  • Secular Planet

    It’s commonly attributed to Aurelius, but there’s *no* evidence he actually said it, so he almost certainly did not. This is the first time I’ve seen it attributed to Seneca. It’s a nice thought, but it’s not an ancient quote.

  • M. Elaine

    Post Secret has a forum. Here is the thread on the above postcard/secret if anyone wants to join the discussion there:

  • Tom

    Told my folks to whatever they need to do, I won’t mind.

  • LesterBallard

    This is the only kind of service I would want . . .

  • julie

    I never thought about that before, but wow. Yeah, that’s gonna suck.

  • Richard Wade

    People say stupid shit about me and the things that are important to me now, while I’m alive, and despite my efforts to correct them, some of them still say it.  This is because they’re stupid, and my efforts aren’t going to change that. So if they say stupid shit at my funeral, I already don’t care.

    My plan is to outlive all the stupid ones, so I can say intelligent, sensitive things at their funerals.

  • Octoberfurst

     Well whoever made that quote I think it is brilliant!

  • Octoberfurst

     I agree with you. Like Pendragon I used to be afraid of the idea of not existing but then I realized that I won’t be aware that I am nonexisting so there is nothing to worry about. If you can’t experience non-existance then there is nothing horrible about it. It’s like going to sleep but not waking up. But that being said I want to exist for as long as I can. :-)

  • Patterrssonn

    I’d like to see my seedlings turn into a forest. But I’m sure whatever happens I’ll have had a good kicck at the can.

  • Pendragon

    I understand the mechanics behind it all. But I can comprehend not existing before I cease to exist. It’s not something I think of often but if I truly focus on the concept of no longer existing I do freak out slightly.

    I like knowing things, and learning things and eating and drinking and having sex. I may not know I am not doing those things when I am dead, but I know now that I wont be doing them when I am dead. So that freaks me out now.

    I still feel sorry for people that need to cling to some sort of bullshit fairytale to cope with this reality though. I may not like it but I am not afraid of accepting it as inevitable.

    The question of whether my non-existence before my birth was unpleasant is rather silly. Of course it wasn’t but I had no knowledge of existence as I hadn’t yet existed. I now do exist and thus can comprehend the idea of no longer existing.

  • Silo Mowbray

    That’s at best a bromide; I hear it a lot but it doesn’t offer comfort, nor is it even a good parallel. Before I existed, the thing that is me by definition couldn’t afraid of suddenly not existing. Pendragon explained the fear of not existing really well, I thought. That I exist now, and that at one point in the future the thing that is me will no longer be, is disturbing at a really fundamental level. At least for me, and folks like me. It doesn’t help atheism to glibly dismiss the fears that people have.

  • C Peterson

    Well, it’s not like you have very much knowledge of the 13+ billion years you were dead the first time. Just broad (and probably somewhat inaccurate) descriptions of most of it, and a little more detail for the last few thousand years, at most. You probably have the same general knowledge of what will happen for the next billions or trillions of years, so it’s not so bad.

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    I’ll be dead so I won’t really care what they are saying.

  • Mike Laing

     That’s, by far, what bothers me the most.

  • Guest

    I am not afraid of death. I just don’t want to be there when it happens -Woody Allen

  • Pseudonym

    I follow Post Secret, and read it before I read FA this week.

    Of this week’s collection, this is not the one I thought would get FA coverage. I thought it would be this one.

  • Coyotenose

    I’m just scared that there will be a Firefly reunion movie right after I die.

  • John of Indiana

    I’m kind of happy I won’t be here to experience the formation of United Jeebusland under the governance of Emperor Rick Warren the Fifth or whoever and the Second Dark Ages.

    For all its problems, both personal, medical, and cultural, I’m actually enjoying this ride and wish it could go on and on and on… But such is not to be.  Eh, I won’t give a flying fuck at a rolling donut hole what people say at my party. I’ll be DEAD!

  • GabyYYZ

    Okay…attributed to “Unknown Stoic” :-)

  • Timelessapologist

    Believing that you have a purpose to a purposeless existence is kinda stupid IMO.

    ‘stupid’ is also a subjective term

    From our recent discussions here I don’t necessarily find you to be stupid, but I do find you and the rest of your nature-heads to be cowards.

    Anyways, your plan means nothing.  A person can be intelligent but still die at a youg age. 

    Steve Jobs died at the age of 56

    Friedrich Nietzsche an Atheist Philosopher who stated life has no purpose and advocated Nihilism died at the age of 55

    We have intelligent musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and John Lennon who died young

    Pertaining to the Military we look at this important research that states intelligent soldiers were most likely to die in battle.

    So, I’m afraid your argument fails as you make a dubious point with no support but FAITH.

  • Timelessapologist

    unfortunately though you have to give good reasons why an ‘eternity of nothing’ will be the case.

    Just saying it, doesn’t make it true.  It’s good to back up statements with ‘reasoning’.

    You are probably afraid of death, because you realized that if there is no God life is meaningless anyways. 

    I agree!

    If God does not exist, then life has no ultimate purpose, no goal.

    Life would have came about from a valueless natural origin in which we would be here because of valueless processes coming together with other valueless processes which = valueless existence.

    When you have nothing to live for, of course you aren’t going to be afraid of death. 


  • Timelessapologist

    Honestly I don’t believe anyone (unless they have a history of being suicidal who says they are not afraid of death.  Survival is hardwired into us by evolutionary processes.  We have chemical reactions that help us maintain ourselves, if this wasn’t the case then we would have went extinct a long time ago.

    Natural selection is what causes it, we strive for the pursuit of happiness and dead people obviously do not have this feature.

    Just study simple cells and watch thier chemical reactions. 


    So every atheist in here that is trying to be macho, (have some sort of anti-religious reason)  whilst saying they aren’t afraid of death is full of it.  

    You can’t have your cake and it, please be consistent.  You are also anti-science as well.


  • Proxer

     Nonsense, we hit the highlights in school!.  If I could get the freshman-textbook version of the next 2,000 years, I’d take it :)

  • The Godless Monster


    I see where you are coming from, but perhaps this is an
    issue of poor clarification of terms. Maybe we should make a clear distinction
    between the act of dying and the state of being dead.

     There have been some
    occasions when my only reaction to (perceived) impending death was to be angry.
    It’s not an “either-or” proposition in my humble opinion. There have
    been plenty of times when I was afraid of dying and others when I was too angry
    to be afraid.

    For me, it’s never been about being afraid of the state of
    being dead, but having to go through the process of dying itself. I’ve seen
    people die both with and without pain. I’ll happily take the painless route out
    of here, thank you.

    As far as being dead, no, the thought doesn’t scare me one

  • RebeccaSparks

    Wow. Either a person is suicidal or a liar for not fearing death, huh?   I’m not actively seeking death or approaching life&death situations with the same equanimity as choosing what I want for dinner-but I don’t think this makes me afraid of death.  As you mention, the choice to live is hardwired into us all-even suicidal people falter, which is why there’s usually a few failed attempts before a person is able to really kill themselves.  But suicidal people are not usually less afraid of death (usually they’re more afraid because they’re thinking about death often), they’re just feeling that they are in too much pain to continue living.
    Generally when I’m talking about “fearing death”, it’s me worrying and speculating about what happens after death, will dying be painful, what will happen to my kid if I die (my current biggest worry) and stuff like that.  I don’t spend much time worrying and thinking about it, which to me means I’m not particularly afraid of death. 

  • Pendragon

    If god does exist what is the ultimate purpose or goal of life?

  • Evidence speaks

    For me, it is enough that God has the plan and knowledge.  I can understand that others are a little nosy, and want to know more.  I believe that  if you ask, and truly need to know, it will be revealed to you.  That has been my personal experience, and I have observed it in the lives of others.

  • OregoniAn

    I’m pro-science, non-suicidal, quite fit, definitely pursuing what happiness I can find – yet completely, undeniably “not even remotely” afraid of death…

    There’s nothing “macho” about this. It’s called being a grown-up, “timelessapologist”…

    Being as there’s absolutely nothing you or I can do to avoid that sad moment when we cease to be I choose to concentrate on more rewarding objectives and activities. 

    Right now that involves my wife, an episode of Dr.Who, and some home brewed IPA.

  • OregoniAn

    I apologize for the over-usage of quotation marks in the comment above. Hope you can all find it in your hearts to forgive me before we all die  =)

  • Richard Wade

    Hello, Timelessapologist.

    My argument fails? Did I make an argument? And you’re arguing against… whatever you think it was?  Your statements sound defensive, as if perhaps you think I was calling you stupid.  That’s certainly not the case, since I’ve never met you before, online or otherwise.

    In the midst of your ever-so-slightly Mabus-like disjointed remarks is this odd jab, that I and the rest of my nature-heads are cowards. Cowards about… what?  That’s a rather unfriendly thing to say, but sadly we get a lot of non sequitur, bizarre insults like that around here, usually from people who follow the Religion of Love. Perhaps you do too, and you’re hoping to… represent it well? 

    You seem to have taken my remark about outliving the stupid people seriously, missing the deliberate and rather obvious facetiousness. Try to lighten up, relax, look for humor in yourself, in others, and in situations. You might make some friends in unexpected places.

    And being more relaxed and  good-humored, you might live longer.

  • RobMcCune

    I think timelessapologist tried to derail threads a week or two ago under the name LeibnizianChristian.

    [Edit] Same nihilism accusations and quote dropping.

  • michael both

    I don’t take it as a glib dismissal:
    - before we were born there was nothing
    - while we are alive there is something
    - after we die there is nothing
    In the ‘nothing’ states we can’t think, reason, remember, feel or do anything (or, at least, there is no evidence for this abilities).Existing for some time is way, way better than never having existed at all.I accept, though, that this is a bigger worry for some people than others. I personally take the approach of ‘worrying about this is time better spent making the most of the SOMETHING’, as it seems this fear / worrying won’t actually help you anyway.

  • michael both

    He / she / it and plural gods may well exist have the plan and the knowledge, however it seems to take an awful lot of what I judge to be insane behaviour to get access to this stuff. It also seems to be impossible to reconcile what we know of the plans and knowledge of the multiple gods, and meanwhile these plans and knowledge cause a lot of unnecessary suffering.

    The best solution is to simply disregard gods and religion. Your god of choice will eventually become like the gods of old (Thor etc) –  important in a cultural and historical sense, but no more important than that.

  • Richard Wade

    Oh my goodness, you’re right. And he’s all over this site tonight, barraging on practically every post. The same absurd leading premise about “purposeless existence,” the same pretentious philosobabble, the same oh too eager to demonstrate that he’s sooo much smarter than everybody else rather than respectful dialogue, the same antagonism from out of the blue, and the same basic odor of a troll.

    Mr. Sock Puppet, a few days ago you asked where you could debate atheists, and I suggested that you do it in the privacy of your bedroom, alone, offline, the phone off the hook, with some lube. That suggestion is even more strongly recommended.

  • RobMcCune

    I had forgotten that comment ROFL!

  • cathouseumbrella

    Agreed. That’s always bothered me. It’s like watching a TV series that gets abruptly cancelled.

  • starskeptic

    Actually, since you won’t know – it can’t suck

  • Francis Montes de Oca

    Am I one of the few that are scared shitless of dying? Or rather, afraid of dying unexpectedly at a young age. I married my husband, and soon after I specifically told him to please  “not let my mom or any family member make my funeral arrangements” in case I die sooner than I thought I would. I don’t really care what happens at my funeral, if it were me I would prefer to be thrown in a forest somewhere. But what I really don’t want, is my death party misrepresenting and giving the idea to survivors that I was someone I wasn’t. 

  • ReadsInTrees

    I think we’re hard-wired to fear the unknown, which is why so many cultures make up an afterlife story so that death is no longer an unknown.
    But…speak for yourself. I don’t fear death any more than I fear the nothingness in between dreams while I’m sleeping. 

  • ReadsInTrees

    My husband doesn’t like me talking about my inevitable demise either. I’ve got the paperwork filled out to donate my body to science….but I’m giving him a little time to get used to the idea before I make him sign the forms as my next of kin. Strangely, he’s kind of a believer, and believes that there is some kind of heaven…..yet he’s the one that’s scared to talk about death and funerals and such.

  • ReadsInTrees

    I haven’t made official funeral arrangements, but I’d just rather not have a funeral. I’ve filled out the paperwork to have my body donated to science, so there may potentially be no body to bury. They can have a wake, and I hope no one says any dumb god stuff…but I guess there’s nothing I can do about that. I have already told people that if I die in a car crash or something, do NOT let people put up one of those white crosses on the side of the road. First off, it’s creepy. Second, it’s inappropriate because I’m an atheist. Third, they’re only a distraction to other people driving down the road, and therefore dangerous. And fourth, I hate littering.

  • Evidence speaks

    Re-formating your world view to be intellectualy acceptable to you is…..crazy.
    See the world as it truly is.  Look for truth.

  • Pendragon

    Wait what!

    How does God exists = God has a plan for me?

    Where is the evidence to state that if God exists it has a plan for people? 

  • Mark

    I was similarly concerned, so left some instructions for my funeral:

  • Drew M.

    Funerals are for the living. If the people I love take solace in saying that I’m in a better place and whatnot, so be it.

    I know I won’t be around to care.

  • Pendragon

    Umm, you didn’t answer my question. 

    Re-formating your world view to be intellectualy acceptable to you is…..what religion does.

    Seeing the world as it truly is, is what atheists do.