“Let’s stop treating death as though it belongs to religion….”
I dig Greta Christina and her writing has been a staple of my atheistic-readings-diet almost since the time of my deconversion, so naturally I was keen as beans to get my hands on her new mini e-book ‘Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing Do with God.’
I won’t lie, I was in two minds about this new book, Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do With God. In spite of my familiarity with Greta’s previous work, I still found myself concerned that this would be a book filled with wishy washy philosophies as to why death isn’t scary, but I was also secretly hoping that maybe it would have some sort of information that helps assuage the fear of death human beings experience…
…this book does neither of those things, and thankfully so! Because what it does do is even better. It levels the playing field when it comes to Theist VS Atheist ideas surrounding the topic of death.
The comfort the book provides does not come in the form of some sort of ‘death is actually ok!!’ revelation, but more through the focus on revealing the weaknesses of theistic promises regarding death (heaven, immortality, etc) aren’t as helpful as they might appear on the surface. In fact throughout the book Greta reiterates time and again, that, yes, death is scary and it does suck, and nothing will fix that – not even religion. She demonstrates how and why the comfort that comes from theistic ideal about death is fleeting, how these comforts can be destroyed simply when considering them for more than the microsecond that most believers dare to give.
Along side the demolishing of religions whimsical ideas of death or their ‘trump card’ as she refers to it, Christina also parallels these ideas with some of the popular Atheist/Humanist thoughts on the subject. These are ideas we’ve most likely all heard before (eg; not believing in an afterlife causes Atheists to value their lives more than those who do believe) and maybe even already apply to our lives. Of course she is not pretending as though this is new information that will bring solace to anyone fretting about their mortality.
The book ultimately demonstrates that neither believer’s or non believer’s ideas about death truly bring comfort When one scratches beneath the surface of the conversation on either side of the death-fence, only the atheistic philosophies hold merit and can not be so easily obliterated by simply scrutinising the mechanics of an afterlife. This because the philosophies about death entertained by non-believers are based on science, and the things we do know – rather than pretending to know things we can’t possibly know, like if heaven exists, how it works, and whether our dogs gay relatives will be permitted entry? In fact the point is actually made that the complete uncertainty regarding the finer details of an afterlife and how it might work actually causes believers more anxiety than it does comfort.
The message I took from the book was this; We are all scared of death, we might as well regulate that fear to the information we have – let’s not create band aid-fantasies which may help for a moment, but when the shit hits the fan, magic never follows through on it’s promises.