As an atheist, I’ve pondered the thought of death a good bit and have been asked quite a lot what exactly I believe will happen when I die. If I do not believe in god, then it’s a safe assumption that I must not believe in heaven or hell either, and that is correct. I don’t. So what do I believe will happen when I die? My answer is a whole lot of nothing. My vision of what the afterlife will be like is simply that it will not even exist. I will die, and simply be dead. No golden gate of heaven opening as god greets me with a smile or fiery pits of hell I am eternally burning alive in, just blissful, peaceful death. And I don’t mean this in a depressing “I hate life” kind of way. I love life, I love being alive and being an inhabitant of this beautiful planet we call Earth. However, I also feel that one lifetime is more than enough for me, and that if dying is an inevitable thing I’m going to have to do, when it does happen I’d rather I just stay that way. However when I tell people this, especially to those with faith, they usually don’t understand how I can believe that death is the definite end. So I get asked lots of questions that are some variation of “How can you believe that there is nothing else after this without feeling like your life is meaningless and has no purpose?” or “How can the idea of an eternal life of perfection in heaven not appeal to you?”
For the first part of this final report, I want to address the first question, of how I can believe that there is nothing more after death and still feel that life is significant. For myself, it is not too difficult because I believe that in the grand scheme of things, my life actually is pretty meaningless. Again, I don’t mean this in depressing way. I mean it in a way that, in terms of my existence in this universe, I kind of am unimportant and there is no true set “meaning” or “purpose” to my life. It is meaningless, which is not saddening but actually incredibly freeing because I am left to make my OWN meaning and purpose for my existence that will only matter to me and those involved in my life. This meaning for my life that I create is not dependent on whether a god deems it meaningful, or whether a god finds it worthy of heaven. If the afterlife is taken away then I am still left with this life. In my eyes that makes it still equally, if not more worthwhile because suddenly this is all you have got, and so you better make the best of it. There is no option of anything more, whether that “more” is good or bad. I don’t see how that concept doesn’t make this life all the more precious than before if anything.