Often religious people wrongly consider that atheists are more afraid of dying than believers in God, which usually entails a belief in an afterlife.
That hasn't been the case with me. And it isn't the case with the many atheists I know.
In fact, I've found that actually the opposite has occurred. During the 35 years I was a devotee of an Eastern religion that taught the soul survives one's death, I was more afraid of dying than I am now.
Here's an excerpt from a previous post, "We'll die the way we have lived." My wife and I prepared our wills many years ago, so my request to our attorney was during my true-believing phase.
When my wife and I went to get our wills made, I asked the attorney to say "gerbiled" rather than "died" whenever she needed to refer to my death.
Yeah, it sounded sort of ridiculous when the attorney told us, "So upon Brian's gerbiling, his estate will pass to..." But I was fine with ridiculousness so long as I could lessen the probability that I'd have to seriously envision my, um, eventual gerbiling.
No, I can say it now: eventual death.
As noted in the post, likely growing older (something I've been unable to prevent, damn it) has something to do with becoming more comfortable with the inevitability of death. Observing changes in the body -- wrinkles, age/sun spots, assorted aches and pains -- clues us in to the fact that we're getting closer to the Big Change of death.
But I don't think this is the entire explanation for why I'm more comfortable with dying now that I've embraced atheism. The way it feels to me is that I've learned how to relax into reality.
After all, atheism isn't a belief. It is an absence of belief -- of God, the supernatural, life after death, heaven, and such. Everything that religious people believe in requires a lot of effort to maintain. That's why there are holy books, preachers, sermons, worship, rituals, and so much else that supports religious belief.
By contrast, us atheists live much simpler lives based on some obvious facts about reality.
Obviously there is a physical world.
Obviously everything that lives, dies.
Obviously human consciousness doesn't exist without a brain.
So atheism doesn't require any work, since all atheists need to do is observe reality as it is. Religious believers, though, have to exert considerable effort in attempts to convince themselves, and others, that there is a supernatural realm, there's life after death, and consciousness is separable from the body/brain.
I know this, because after 14 years of reading comments from religious people on this blog, I'm very familiar with the tortuous reasoning necessary to support beliefs such as the survival of something-or-other after a person dies.
I said something-or-other, because there's no evidence that anything non-material survives a person's death. And some religions, such as Christianity to my understanding, actually don't believe in a soul (Jesus' second coming is a physical event, when bodies come to life again, right?).
Thus it's been comforting for me to relax into a simple acceptance of what actually is, after those 35 years of attempting to convince myself that there was more to reality than the physical cosmos.
Nobody, repeat nobody, knows if they will enjoy a life after death, because everybody who believes this is still alive. Even if someone has a supposed out-of- body experience, or visions of a heavenly realm, this is taking place while they have a functioning physical body and brain.
There is zero, repeat zero, demonstrable evidence of God, life after death, heaven, or consciousness without a brain. Anyone who believes in these things is forced to say stuff like, "But there's a possibility they exist!"
There's also a possibility that nothing in the universe is truly real, because it could be a simulation of some advanced civilization that puts our computer games to shame. Just about anything we can imagine has some probability of actually existing, albeit extremely small.
Is it possible that death isn't the end, but the beginning of a new life? Yes. Is this at all likely? No. And that makes me feel good, because I find reality more comfortable than fantasy, even if I'd prefer that a fantasy be real.