Recently, Roger Ebert wrote a wonderful essay about death – his death in particular. Overall, I think his attitude towards his own demise is a very healthy one. It also shows that one can approach the end of life fearlessly without any belief in an afterlife.
I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter.
He goes on to write:
But certainly, some readers have informed me, it is a tragic and dreary business to go into death without faith. I don’t feel that way. “Faith” is neutral. All depends on what is believed in. I have no desire to live forever. The concept frightens me.
I’ve had that very same fear when I did believe in an afterlife. Another option, annihilation, is much more appealing. My reasoning is captured in a Nietzsche quote, “Against boredom the gods themselves fight in vain.” Immortality sounds more like a burden than bonus to me. Others go even further, “I prefer not continuing to exist merely at the whim of a deity.”
The entire essay is well worth the read. Also of interest is a discussion of personal death that took place after this essay was posted on Dawkins’s website. It’s good insight into how non-believers think about their own inevitable demise.
On a side note, Ebert links to an interesting religious quiz in his essay. It’s purpose is to rank worldviews according to their compatibility with your beliefs. You can see my results below the fold.