If you don't believe in God or an afterlife - how do you cope with death? Accepting death is never easy. But we don't need religion to find peace, comfort, and solace in the face of death. In this mini-audiobook collection of essays, prominent atheist author Greta Christina offers secular ways to handle your own mortality and the death of those you love. Blending intensely personal experience with compassionate, down-to-earth wisdom, Christina (Coming out Atheist and Why Are You Atheists So Angry?) explores a variety of natural philosophies of death. She shows how reality can be more comforting than illusion, shatters the myth that there are no atheists in foxholes - and tells how humanism got her through one of the grimmest times of her life.
©2014 Greta Christina (P)2014 Audible Inc.
"In this book Greta Christina tackles the subject of death with the insight of a philosopher and the relaxed candor of a friend - that really cool, intelligent friend who understands and cares." (David Niose, author of Fighting Back the Right: Reclaiming America From the Attack on Reason)
“When I was very young, I lost someone close to me in a car accident. Almost more painful than the loss was the way by which those around me attempted to find meaning in the senseless death of a young person. This is the book that seven-year-old me needed instead of the endless religious tracts that assured me that everything happens for a reason.” -Heina Dadabhoy, Heinous Dealings blog
"This is a book about the philosophy of death that actually confronts the practical reality of it, and helps you come to practical terms with it... The best book on the atheist philosophy of death you are likely ever to read." (Richard Carrier, author of On the Historicity of Jesus and Sense and Goodness without God)
Family father, neuroscientist, and non-fiction addict.
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.
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!
I've been atheist all my life but never had a real guide to grief and death and how I could approach it. I did ok with my grandparents' passings with some of my own research and thinking. My parents are getting close, however, to needing some real preparation on my part. Greta's book has given me a lot to think about and prepare for the inevitable. My own mortality fear is nothing compared to my worries about dealing with the death of my loved ones.
First, as a person who questions the existence of a supernatural being that controls our lives and makes rules for us to follow, and having read many books by Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Michael Sherlock......I thought I'd like the female slant on the same. She is sharp to the point and doesn't pull punches.
Greta Christiana makes you want to hear what she's saying. There is humor, but also truth. As Christopher Hitchens said "Religion Poisons Everything".
I enjoyed her narration, she's well spoken and knows how to express HER words. Not many authors are experienced at narration, Ms Christina is. I've listened to several of her books and enjoyed them all
Very easy to do because it was short and to the point
I know I'll get more of Greta Christina books in the future.
Being a defacto atheist, reason and rational thought, has helped me deal with death in a more realistic way, by placing it as a culmination of my trials, tribulations and triumphs thru life. Just like Ricky Gervais quoted "... Nothing to die for, but everything to live for..." it is claimed, by some, that true death comes to those who are forgotten, but what have you done to be remembered?
As an atheist I already knew most of what you said, but now I know how to better deal with the arguments of others without seeming like a pompous jerk.
Greta, as the author, is connected to the words. She isn't reading to me! She's a dear friend helping me to understand and getting me to explore with her.
She has a gentle voice that is welcoming and helpful for this topic.
YES! I did laugh and I did cry when listening. (Though I don't find that extreme- simply human.)
I'm an atheist and I've struggled with wondering how to find community and connection in dealing with loss and death and grief. Greta shared stories about how people coped with grieving the loss of their own loved ones, how they felt when the non-religious wishes of their families were or were not respected by the funeral planners, and a number of other real-life situations that happen when families deal with death.
Rather than making me sad or confused, Greta explains how some of my feelings are rational and can be explained. How some feelings may not be rational and those may also be explained. Comfort, and finding that, is a big part of this text, and it's handled carefully and is actually well researched.
Most importantly though is that this isn't a "Go atheists! We're so much smarter than everyone else!" book. It's a book that I will share with my religious loved ones so that they may better understand me. I will share this with my atheist loved ones so that we may better understand ourselves and our religious loved ones.
It's a hard job to write a book for atheists that religious people will get as much out of as non-religious. Greta has done this amazingly well.
Every funeral home, grief counselor, hospital chaplain and hospice needs to let their staff read this book and keep a few on hand for families who could really use the information!
This book will not disappoint. I caught myself a number of time thinking how did I not think this first. Wonderfully written as well.
A quick 2 and a half hours, but we'll worth it. Most atheists just kind of wing it when dealing with religious relatives at the time of loss. This will definitely help me cope with and help them relate to my nonbelief.
"Good for beginners"
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.
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