Life's End Part 1
The question of what happens when a person dies is usually enough to attract interest and attention, and many different religious groups bank big on selling their "Get Out of Hell Free" card. All that hype and enthusiasm and guilt-mongering bases itself on one major premise, that hell is real. All things being equal, it also depends on heaven being real as well. In fact, much of the anxiety of dying comes from these beliefs, lurking in the back of people's minds thanks to cultural beliefs.
A Rational Hedonist is the god in his or her own world, master of their destiny who is so involved in living fulfilling lives that death is not dwelt upon. Rational Hedonists have Memorial or Remembrance Ceremonies, not funerals.
However, a few things should be made clear/pointed out.
While those who believe in gods believe the "spirit" leaves the body and soars off to some place, a Rational Hedonist believes the personality, the individuality of a person, is housed in the brain. This is why brain damage or diseases such as Alzheimer's rob family members and close friends of their loved one. The memories, personality, and recognition of the things the person once loved or disliked, in essence, what once made them their unique self, Gone. And if all that is the individual character is indeed housed in the brain, then it stands to reason, upon death of the body, the brain also ceases to function. No working brain, no more person. While for those left behind, this is a time to grieve; after all, there will never be exactly that person alive in the world again. But for the one who dies, what awaits him?
And that's not a bad thing.
"Non fui, fui, non sum, non curo" = "I was not, I was, I am not, I don't care."- Epicurus
For you to have an eternal "soul", you'd have to have existed eternally back into the past before you landed in your body. But no, people don't remember anything until after they're born. Life is for enjoying and experiencing, making memories not just for yourself but for those who will be left behind when you're gone. And when you once again no longer "are", you won't be cognizant or know it anyway. our consciousness is identical with the physical structure of our brains, and so will cease to exist when the brain ceases to function. Death might be something to be feared if the body had continued awareness, but as the brain is deprived of oxygen, dies. then disintegrates, there is no experience of suffering or even pleasure.
"The point here is that a change in structure invariably brings a change in function. If human
consciousness is a function of the brain and sense organs, then the death of the brain and
sense organs will obviously bring a cessation of consciousness. We lose consciousness when we
sleep. We lose consciousness after a blow to the head. Is it really so difficult to accept that
we lose consciousness after our brains and bodies are totally destroyed?" --- David Mills
"I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first. I
regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no
heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the
dark." --- Stephen Hawkings
"I firmly believe that, if we ever fully realized the fragility of life and the finality of death, we would never speak a word of anger or impatience to anyone close to us in our lives ever again. Such an epiphany might have other beneficial effects as well. It might help us realize that there are more important things than money and material gains." --- From Ebon Musings
"I say that I am not afraid of death. This does not mean that I will welcome it, only that I hope to accept it peacefully when the time comes. But, some might ask, can I really draw comfort from such a belief? Wouldn't it be more reassuring to believe that I will continue to exist even after my physical dissolution? In fact, I do believe that - in a sense.
Compared to the great vastness of the cosmos, the ocean of deep time, my individual existence is a blip, a bubble in the foam on the surface of a flowing river. I am a momentary arrangement of atoms and molecules - an arrangement that lives and moves, to be sure, an arrangement that thinks, laughs, appreciates beauty, dreams, and loves - but a mere arrangement nonetheless, a transient state, an ephemeral gathering. Soon the blip will go out, the bubble will pop, the arrangement will dissolve, molecular bonds released by entropy. My consciousness will cease. But the molecules that once were me will still exist. The atoms that made up my body - iron, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, all the heavy elements forged in the crucibles of dying stars - will remain. Liberated from their temporary home, they will rejoin the rest of the planet, taking new shapes, finding new arrangements, becoming part of other life. I will become merged with everything.
I will become part of the trees that grow wherever my ashes are scattered, joining the ecosystem of the forest. I will be in the slow green heartwood of the trunks as they patiently tick off the centuries, in the buds that burst forth in spring and in the leaves that explode with color in autumn. I will be the sparkle of sunlight on the surface of a flowing mountain stream. I will sink into the earth and mix with the groundwater, eventually flowing back and rejoining the ocean where all life on this planet ultimately began. I will be in the waves that crash on the shore, in the warm sheltered tidal pools, in the coral reefs that bloom with life, and in the depths that echo with whale songs. I will be subducted into the planet's core and join the three-hundred-million-year cycle of the continental plates. I will rise into the sky and, in the fullness of time, become dispersed throughout the atmosphere, until every breath will contain part of me. And billions of years from now, when our sun swells and blasts the Earth's atmosphere away, I will be there, streaming into space to rejoin the stars that gave my atoms birth. And perhaps some day, billions of years yet beyond that, on some distant planet beneath bright alien skies, an atom that once was part of me will take part in a series of chemical reactions that may ultimately lead to new life - life that will in time leave the sea that gave it birth, crawl up onto the beach, and look up into the cosmos and wonder where it came from.
And the cycle will begin again. " --- Ebon Musings
The last two quotes are from Ebon Musings, and this excellent, thoughtful blog can be seen in its entirety here.
G.K. is currently the official Spokesman representing Rational Hedonism online; an Ordained Celebrant (not "celibate"!) with R.H. and conducts or advises others with Weddings, Civil Unions, Remembrance Ceremonies (both people and pets), Adoption and Naming Ceremonies; and conducts "Garden" Parties for Rational Hedonists throughout the United States.