Why Are People Afraid To Die?

In this thread we get to read about a ‘universal groupmind’ that all us poor atheists can go to when we die without having to believe in God (We’ve still got to believe in something as . . . interesting as a universal groupmind, and think that’s in some way a good idea); While in this one we hear the story of smooth talking charlatans ‘hearing voices from beyond’

Not to mention a few others floating around on the boards right now. My question: Why?

What exactly is it about the end of our lives that scares people so badly? I mean, I’ve had a few nights where I crawl into bed, set the alarm and fall into a nice six or seven hour totally dreamless sleep.

It wasn’t that bad, really. I can’t imagine total, final oblivion would be that much worse. (Since, by definition, we wouldn’t even realize that we’d been, um, obliviated)

Is the primary attraction of religion the promise of an afterlife? Is it so hard to believe that after we die, that’s the end?

I have a theory… if there is no sort of post-humous existence, wouldn’t that mean that, when we die, we’d spend the rest of eternity locked in that single moment of death? I don’t wanna spend the rest of eternity “dying”.

All Animals fear death. It’s hardwired into our systems - perhaps the ultimate survival trait.

JDeMobray wrote:

It’s not being dead that upsets me. What makes me sad is that things will go on after I’m gone. I’ll never know what aliens look like or what my great grandchildren will become. That’s what makes me sad. We only get one shot at things, no second tries or updates a few hundred years down the road.

Alessan wrote:

Is that really true? Animals fear pain, but I believe we’re the only species that is aware that one day we will die.

When a deer is shot in the leg, it will still run like heck, even though it is running on what is certainly a very painfully injured leg. It is running to preserve its life, not to escape pain (in fact, it is probably incurring more pain this way).

Self-preservation is instinctive in most species because those animals with a strong instinct for self-preservation have a greater chance of surviving to reproduce, thus passing on the genes that caused the self-preservation instinct to begin with. Those animals without a strong instinct for self-preservation tend to die before they reproduce, and there genes “die” with them.

Note that it is those instincts which increase your chances for reproductive success that tend to be passed on to the next generation. A self-preservation instinct is useful for repreductive success, but it’s not the only one; the urge to mate, and to protect your offspring – even at the cost of your own life – can be just as important as, or even more important than, a self-preservation instinct as far as reproductive success goes. (For example, ocean salmon will swim into freshwater streams to mate, even though this kills them – the urge to mate and lay eggs in a freshwater environment, where ocean predators can’t get the eggs, is stronger than the urge for self-preservation because it is more important to reproductive success.)

I admit, I would be interested to see my grandchildren become aliens :wink:

On a serious note, I suppose a better title for the thread might have been ‘Why Do You Believe in an Afterlife?’

While it is sort of a bummer to imagine all the cool things that we may never get to see, what is it about us humans that makes us believe that there ‘must be somethigng else.’

The funeral isn’t for the dead. After all, what does that person care?
You realize you’re getting into an area of philosophy that has been debated from almost the beginning of human existance. On that point you’re carrying on a time-honored tradition.
But you’re also bringing up a question that cannot be fully answered if an afterlife exists.

“…what is it about us humans that makes us believe that there ‘must be something else.’”

–Because we can. You may consider that a horrible answer. Can you think of a better one?

People are always afraid of the unknown. Heck, even in cases where people are entering some kind of change willingly and knowing it is probably for the better leaves people nervous.

Nobody knows what lies behind the walls of death. It is the ultimate unknown.

On top of that, I think that everyone - from the most devout faihful person to the most hardened atheist - realize that the answers to the cosmic questions will also be answered in death.

As such, it makes sense that we are afraid of death as a whole.

Yer pal,

Six months, two weeks, one day, 4 hours, 47 minutes and 46 seconds.
7927 cigarettes not smoked, saving $991.00.
Extra time with Drain Bead: 3 weeks, 6 days, 12 hours, 35 minutes.

I slept with a REPUBLICAN moderator!*

I do not fear death as much as I fear the absence of life, it is the unknown versus the known.

I enjoy my life, I get to wake up to the most wonderful woman on this earth and she is my best friend. I get to spend my mornings with the two adorable little girls and am proud of the two handsome boys I send to school each morning. I have a great job that is very fulfilling. When I come home I am quite often smothered in hugs and kisses and I think perhaps some kids wish their dad didn’t have to go to work. I wish I could just stay home with them too.

When my day finally ends I get to fall asleep with my arms around that wonderful woman I woke up to.

I don’t see myself getting tired of this heaven on earth.

There is no way death can be this good.

My guess is that it has something to do with not living anymore.

What, they’re worried that they may find out exactly how shitty the whole universe is?

“Hey, I’m dead… hey, I know everything! Wait a minute… Quarks are made out of Spam?!?”

Or maybe they’re worried that God is really Don Knots or something.

Hey, that’d be pretty cool.

I think there are two issues here. One is why each person fears death. Personally, most of my reasons have already been given. To me, this life is all there is. I don’t want it to end. I want to know what happens as we continue forward. I don’t exactly look forward to the oblivion that follows.

Now, there is also the overall question of why belief in an afterlife ever arose. I think it is because people (and all animals, in their own ways, as noted) fear death. This was especially true in history, when life hung more by a thread than today. Furthermore, many people didn’t exactly have great lives. So you need something to look forward to.

A friend of mine wrote a book, The Running Dogs of Loyalty: Honest Reflections on a Magical Zoo, and he inserted some quotes relevant to this topic:

“Supernaturalism is the false hope of escape, of justice, of something better, clutched in desperation by the spirit-broken, the life-damaged, the tired-of-being-kicked, the never-had-a-chance, the born-to-lose, the suffers-too-much, and the soon-to-die.”

“Most creatures prefer a warm lie to a cold truth. If you make them feel good, the masses will love you. If you make them think, they will hate you. I warn you: He who dares disturb the sleepwalk of masses, prepares for nightmare.”

So, David, is your friend one of those “never-met-a-hy-phen-I-didn’t-like” kind of writers? [sub]sorry. I just had to.[/sub]

Actually, I would argue that not everyone fears death. Many people seek death, finding it preferable to whatever pains they suffer at the time. Others flirt with death, transforming fear into adrenalin driven ecstasy.

Personally, I do not so much fear death (at this moment) as ardently not desire to end life. I have far too many joys and struggles left before me, and I don’t want to miss out on them. My aversion is based not upon fear but on a selfish desire to continue.

That, of course, is also my answer for why so many people believe in an afterlife. The desire to continue is very strong, both on an instinctual level and on an emotional level. The hope that such a desire might be fulfilled is a very compelling one, especially when it also offers the hope hat those we have loved who died before us might also not be lost to us forever. I have absolutely no belief that any such afterlife exists, but I have felt, and still feel, that irrational hope.

Some days, I am even thankful for it.

He doesn’t sound like he’d be much fun at parties, either.

Allegedly, Joe DiMaggio’s last words were, “Now I’ll get to see Marilyn.”

Add me to the list of folk who don’t “fear” death. That ain’t to say I’m exactly looking forward to it. At times this life is pretty neat. At others, less so. But seeing as I am pretty comfortable believing that I exist as I perceive myself and that this life actually is occurring, I’m not all that eager for it to end just because there is the possibility, unsupported by any current science, that something else exists afterwards.

Uh, JDe, you didn’t mind your last night’s sleep, so why should eternal oblivion be that much worse? At the risk of stating the obvious, you woke up this morning.

As to why a belief in an afterlife developed, could it have been to appease the lower classes who had a pretty crappy day-to-day existence? And to reinforce the respect given those fortunate enough to find themselves on top of the heap. Maybe the Jews figured after how many years of being shat on, maybe paradise on earth wasn’t likely to happen too soon. So let’s tweak that baby.

Satan and Feynn have pretty much hit at the root of the issue. Fear of the unknown has been with us since about as long as we’ve had two brain cells to rub together.

Personally it’s not so much what happens after I die that scares me as much as it is the actual process of dying itself. After that it’ll be oblivion, nirvana or hell. Personally I’m betting on the first two choices and live a worthwhile enough life that I doubt I’d be due for hell even if such a place existed.

I don’t know who said it (W.C. Fields?) but my personal last words favorite is gesturing someone close to you, grabbing thier arm and saying, “You’re it.”

To me , sleep is little brief snatch of death-the thing that awaits us all. I neither enjoy it or am very good at it-I’ve been an insomniac since the age of 7. My biggest fear-that death is like the state described at the end of Mark Twain’s classic story, “THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER”…"you are a thought, that has existed alone in the universe, throughout the empty ages…"If you can imagine the death stae as being aware(in some limited sense), but being trapped forever in eternal night, kind of what the ancient Sumerians imagined it to be. Truly terrifying!

Also factor in that death means, well, dying. There are many, many ways to die, and I can’t think of any of them as being pleasant experiences-- burning, drowning, car crash, cancer, pneumonia, heart attack, being shot, falling, suffocating, and on and on ad infinitum. Even the jokes about dying during sex are just jokes. It’s not as if a massive coronary is going to do anything other than ruin your “last dance.” The very best one seems to be able to hope for is to be blissfully unaware of it when it comes. I don’t like pain. Pain hurts dammit!

So, besides the fact that I’m going to miss out on all that life offers, in order to get to that point that I have no desire to get to, I have to go through some horrible experience? What a rip-off!

Which is, of course, what I said. . . .

Am I the only one who thought that was funny? :stuck_out_tongue: There was something about the curtness and truthfulness of it that made me laugh iRL. I don’t do that very often while reading.