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I am as confident as one can be that God does not exist. I believe that we live in a materialistic universe (in the philosophical sense), and that our brains and bodies are governed by natural laws, although randomness may also play a role. These beliefs which I find to be more or less self evident are hard to reconcile with a belief in an afterlife. Thus, when we die we cease to exist. Would I have preferred an afterlife such as those described in the “holy books”, where you wake up to find 72 virgin, or where you hang around with God and your dead relatives who are no longer capable of evil? Yes, I think so, but believing in fantasies don’t make them true, and I prefer realism to fantasy.
So, where do atheists such as me find comfort when facing death, of one self and of others? That is what this book is about. Greta Christina, an atheist with a big heart, tries to tackle the existential anxiety that some atheists may feel and that everyone who is not an atheist, assumes that atheists feel. Over the course of this rather short book Christina puts forth half a dussin or so reasons why death is not really that bad even though (as she herself admits), immortality seems kind of attractive…
The first comforting though according to Christina is that change is an integral part of life, and that life would be really boring if there was no change. Each moment in our lives is unique, and that is part of the excitement of life. I agree with this analysis of course, although I don’t know if it is comforting when facing death. It is still sad that one day my brain will not be able to experience more unique moments. The second reason she gives is that in a way we will always exists. When we die, the people we knew will still remember us. As Christina says, Paris does not cease to exist because we are not in Paris. I don’t think this is a good comparison because the city with its dynamic activity still exists even though we are not there whereas my brain will not exist when I die…
The other comforting thoughts that Christina puts forth are not as comforting as they are sobering. First she says that fearing death is natural and that sometimes it is better to just live through the anxiety because you will eventually come out on the other side. Then she says that complaining about death is like complaining that you only won a hundred million on a lottery, referring to the fact that we are very lucky to have been born in the first place. Of course I agree with all this and she expressed these thoughts well, but death is still sort of a downer.
To summarize, this relatively short book summarizes atheist reasoning about death. I doubt that any reader will walk away feeling that death no longer bothers them, at least it did not have that effect on me. Also, too much of the book was spent complaining about religious people ego try to push their ideas on atheists going through a difficult time. While I agree that such Christians are indeed a nuisance, I think that such complaints do not belong in this book.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book but I had a feeling I would probably resonate with it. Turns out, that would be an understatement. I didn't imagine that I would be inwardly exclaiming "yes yes yes! "the whole way through. Greta's unflinching honesty and intellectual integrity is refreshing and - yes - genuinely comforting. As a former evangelical Christian, I could relate to the baggage she described from her own past, and I appreciated the sense that I was listening to a truly kindred spirit. I am also grateful that the author read her own work herself; it made her writing feel all the more accessible. I listened to this book straight through two times in two days, and I've already recommended it to others. I'm so delighted to have found this little gem. I feel like I've made a new friend!
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
This book was... okay. not many terribly new ideas, but it would serve as a great compendium of ideas for any non-believers new to the subject. Surprise: turns out, death sucks no matter what your metaphysical beliefs are. Christina spends a bit more time disparaging religious coping mechanisms than providing comforting thoughts (which, while legitimate and fine, seem to circumvent the title's promise of "nothing to do with god"... the audio book is very well performed. I like Greta Christina. This book didn't help me with my newfound thanatophobia, and it didn't help me cope with my pets' impending deaths... but maybe it's because, as she states throughout her book, death sucks.