Why I am not afraid to die.
My father recently had a heart attack. Ive known for a long time
that this might happen, because every man in my family has had a
heart attack in his mid fifties. But because of my fathers healthy
lifestyle I thought he might dodge that bullet. Apparently, that is
not the case. And, being the oldest of his sons, I am the next in
line to experience the family tradition of heart disease. So, his
experience has brought my own inevitable mortality to the forefront
of my mind.
I am not afraid to die. I am afraid of being mamed or disabled so
that I live the rest of my life in pain. I am afraid of others close
to me dying because I know that will bring me heartache, but even
that I know will pass because I have experienced that in my life. I
am afraid of poverty and I am afraid of a life without meaning, but I
am not afraid of death. I am not old but I have lived long enough to
know that death is a part of life. I have lost a child and I have
lost grandparents to death and each took a little bit of me when they
went, but I survived and I became happy again, and life goes on.
My grandfather told me of the time he had a heart attack and was
technically dead for a few seconds. He said it was the most peaceful
feeling he had ever experienced. He didnt speak of a light or his
life flashing before him, only of undescribable peace. Then suddenly
he was awakened by someone beating on his chest and another person
ramming a needle into him. He was back in the world of the living.
I dont believe he was sorry to be back, but he didnt seem worried
about going back to the other place either.
Some might find this strange, but the reason I am not afraid to die
is because of my firm belief that there is no god. I know religious
people find that idea unbelievable, and I know this because I was
raised in a very religious home. God and Satan were very real in my
childhood home. And, though my parents claimed to believe in a
compassionate god, everything I learned about God made me afraid. I
was afraid of God because he could see the dirty little thoughts in
my head, and I was afraid of Satan and his demons because they were
evil and looking for the chance to possess me. So, knowing now that
there is no god and that death is merely an indescribable peace, I am
not afraid to die.
I did not arrive at this conclusion without effort. It took several
years of living, studying, and contemplating. It started when I
discovered that my first wife was not at all who I thought she was.
I discovered she had been lying and cheating for years, and I
suddenly realized that the last eight years of my life had been a
lie. This did not fit into the narrow worldview I had aquired. In
that world my wife would be faithful and kind because I was a
faithful and supportive husband. And, if this could happen to me
than the world was not what I believed it to be, and I needed to find
out what it really was.
I divorced her and began a quest. I needed to learn the facts about
the world and the people in it. I began taking classes at the
community college with the idea of not necessarily finding myself,
but rather finding the world and, subsequently, my place in it. I
inadvertently spent the next five years in college and, to my own
surprise, graduated from college at age 33. While there, I studied
the earth, the sky, the universe, and the people. I studied trees
and flowers, rocks and stars, and culture. After I graduated I read
Carl Sagan, Albert Einstein, and Charles Darwin. I read about the
mind and the universe. I read about evolutionary psychology. I
studied violence, religion, hate and love. I watched life, and I
compared all these things for all these years with what I knew about
God. And He was the one thing that did not fit. He did not make
sense. Everything else was logical, for everything else there was
proof. Evolution and biology could be proven by science. Peoples
behavior fit. Sex fit. Love and hate fit. But God did not fit. The
world made sense without him and became nonsense with him.
Why would a compassionate god create a being with inherent flaws?
Why would he make him have urges and desires and then forbid him from
satisfying them? Why do bad things happen to good people? But even
more puzzling, why do good things happen to bad people? The Bible is
wrong, science and life prove it. Good things do not come to those
who wait. The meek do not inherit the earth because the bullies
knock them down and take it from them. The evil claim the power.
The selfish hold the wealth. A good, all powerful god would not
create a world like this one. There is no doubt in my mind, there is
It took a long while before I had the courage to say that outloud.
The first time I did I was sure I would be struck by lightning. But
I have said it many times now and I am no worse for it.
I am grateful for my religious upbringing. It was part of the
education that brought me to this point. I do not fault my parents
for causing me to fear God. Without a clear understanding of God I
could not have proven his nonexistance to myself. And, because of
that proof I do not fear death. I do not need to worry about whether
or not I have been forgiven for my sins. I do not need to worry
about whether or not people who have gone before me place any blame
on me for anything that happened to them in life. I do not need to
try to figure out why a good, all powerful god allows bad things to
happen in the world. And, I do not need to wonder what will happen
to me after I die. I hope to live a long and happy life but when it
is over I know I will experience an indescribable peace, and the
older I get the more precious peace becomes.
Lance Nalley, November 21, 2002, Chico, CA.