The Benefits of Contemplating Death

Ever since my deconversion I’ve been much more aware of how temporary my life and the lives of those around me are. Once I came to the conclusion that there is no afterlife, I became much more aware of how I want to spend my remaining days on earth. I find this has really helped me to keep my eyes more focused on what’s really important in my life and what isn’t. Of course none of us will ever be perfect at this, but contemplating death is a good thing to a point and we should use it to help us keep things in perspective and to appreciate each moment more. Considering I think the formation of religions was and still is based on this ultimate fear of our own death and our inability to control that and many other things in our lives, this is a topic that I’ve thought about a decent amount. And as foreign as the idea is to us – I encourage all of us to think about death more often! Not in a fearful way but in a way that reminds us that each moment in our lives is precious and that we should choose wisely how we spend them.

Here’s a great post: Before I Die: A Global Ethnography of Anonymous Aspirations in Chalk and Public Space

The book I recommended in a previous post also covers this topic near the end: The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman

In that book, I came across these other titles that he mentions and they are on my to-read list:

Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death by Irvin D. Yalom

The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker

Anyone have thoughts on this topic?

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9 thoughts on “The Benefits of Contemplating Death

  1. Brenda, I know exactly what you’re talking about. In fact, if I’m ever feeling down about something or frustrated, I stop myself and say “You know what, you’ve got one life and then IT’S OVER. You better enjoy it while it lasts!” I immediately feel a little better about my situation because it’s true. When I was a Christian, it would have been “Well at least I have another life to look forward to.” Of course, that wasn’t without the fear that I might end up in Hell because I wasn’t living according to God’s standards, but that’s another topic!
    So yeah, I do think it’s a good idea to realize that we will die and use it as a positive motivation instead of always as a negative.

    • I’m sorry, but I’m very disturbed by your post. Do you mean to say that somehow Christians don’t try to get the most out of their lives and live and love to the fullest because we believe there is a life to come after this one?

      I beg to differ. We are just as much in love with this life as anyone else, but I live it in understanding that it does not end here. So I hold myself to high standards of morals and common sense that were given to me by the Creator, our God. This idea of I only have the here and now and tomorrow it’s gone, seems to be tempting to just do whatever I want, at least for most people. That would certainly take something away from living responsibly. God and living for Him, and living for the life to come should not be seen as something meant to control you or ruin your life. If you choose to not allow Him to impact your life, that’s your decision. But please don’t generally assume that those of us who choose to believe are bunched up under a rock, suffocating from repression by God. That is highly incorrect and a very poor assumption.

      • You are making an incorrect assumption that atheists don’t hold themselves to high a moral standard. I hear that all the time from the so-called religious truth bearers. I always ask, why would I want to hurt someone? If Hitler took Jesus into is heart the second before he pulled the trigger, would be get a pass to heaven? According to much of Christian theology he would. Morals have been and always will be defined by humans. If a person were to actually follow the Bible word for word, women would be subjugated to a subservient role or sleeping with their fathers. Men would have multiple wives. Anyone caught working on a Saturday would be put to death. As for seeing the world and universe, a view that everything is only 6000 years old is terribly limiting. As an example not that long ago, religious scholars claimed the all the stars revolved around the earth. Do you still believe that? My guess is no, but at one time people were excommunicated for this idea. You enjoy the modern conveniences of life, ignoring how these same technologies prove so much that is contrary to religious teachings.

      • Joe,
        I don’t believe I said anywhere in my post that ALL Christians feel that way. I was talking about my personal experience. I try not to assume anything of all Christians or all Atheists because no two individuals are alike.

    • Mike,

      I did not at any point assume or state that people who do not believe in God don’t have morals. If that’s how it sounded, I apologize for the miscommunication. What I did mean is that my belief is that morals and standards are God given characteristics placed in each human being. The ability to differentiate right from wrong. Maybe that’s where we disagree, but definitely not on the point that you and I both have morals. The way I see it is that there are people out there who don’t believe in God because they see Him as restricting and live to do wreckless things. But these people may not have thought to label themselves “atheists” or given the whole faith thing much thought. But by definition if you don’t believe in a supreme being, then you are atheist. But I certainly don’t mean that all atheists lack responsibility.

      I must disagree about the example of Hitler. Even atheists, I’m sure, can agree that suicide is a grave mistake. If there is no after life in fact, then you only have one chance here, no? But then again, I can see how that can be a rationalization for someone who is near their wits end and in despair.

      As far as science and faith go, there is much that science has showed us and so much good has come of it, there’s no doubt of that. But there is much science cannot prove and that fact can’t be denied.

      In regards to the Bible, without being too wordy about this. .. if you take any one part and don’t take into account the context and facts, you can criticize it, but unfairly. That applies to much of anything i.e. a misquoted interview, libel, etc.

      My reason for responding was to engage in conversation and point out that not all people of faith are close minded, not aware of their mortality, and not enjoying their lives. My goal was not to offend.

      • I’ll only make one point and stop. Most scientists would agree there is much we have not proved and even things we may never prove; however the difference is that they don’t say “I don’t know, so God did it.” Instead the scientist says, “I don’t know, let’s see if we can find an answer.” That’s how human knowledge progresses. That’s how we know have modern medicine rather than religious figures praying away evil spirits to cure disease.

  2. My fear of death is the idea of never existing again. I do not see any reliable evidence for the existence of a God or afterlife to believe there is one. It is something I suspected as early as age 8.

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