Friend who fears living forever

My boyfriend has always had a difficult time with the thought of living forever. He labels himself an atheist, however continues to have many panics about the "what if I am wrong?" I myself am a very strong atheist and I cannot seem to get a good enough persuasion for him to relax a little. How do you help someone who has extreme fears over living forever? What should a helpful explanation for him?
Atheist Answer: 

Infinity/eternity is frightening to anyone who really thinks about it. It can be especially troubling to the recently ex-religious, because they've lost their particular assurances of perfect eternal happiness. Compared to that superficial idea, the prospect of simple unending persistence is much harder to shake, because we all have a tough time imagining ourselves not existing.

Your boyfriend's on the right track intellectually, because he accepts that there probably won't be a him after he dies. We just need to address that small probability that there will, and settle his emotions a bit.

Right then, what if he IS wrong? Anything is possible. The odds of any particular afterlife story being the real deal, including whichever version he may have grown up with, is almost zero. That's because there are an infinite number of possible afterlifes: the thousands imagined by humans in the last few thousand years, plus the countless ones we haven't thought of yet.

You haven't said what he specifically fears about living forever. Maybe he hasn't really told you. He might fear torture in hell, or a post-life sentence as a ghost watching everything he knows crumble away, or imprisonment in his own disembodied mind deprived of all senses, going mad in darkness and silence. That last one sure gives me the willies.

If anything is possible, all of the above are. Is any one of them at all likely? No, because they're swimming in an endless sea of alternatives. Put simply, whatever he's afraid his ultimate fate will be if he doesn't end at death, he's almost certainly wrong.

The only death scenario for which there is any solid physical support is oblivion. The mind, the ego, the identity, the memory and everything else that comprises "you" is contained and operated in a physical, bio-electrical brain. After death, that brain first shuts down and then disintegrates. It's a materialist view, I know, but arguments against it centre on things the physical brain supposedly can't do, and without exhaustive analysis are arguments from ignorance.

So take your boyfriend's most troubling scenario and work out the chances: the probability of an identity outliving the human brain outside of all detection, multiplied by the probability of that scenario being the one real one out of infinity. It's like the chances of finding a particular blade of grass if you don't know which country it's in.

That's the thrust of my recommended reassurance. To sum up, if there's an afterlife, you can be confident that it's different from and therefore less scary than his idea of it.

- SmartLX

What, if anything, comes after this life? What do you believe?

I wonder if at times you must feel like a prisoner in a cave who escapes and returns to tell the other prisoners, still in the cave, of the truth that exists outside their prison. lol Yes I have done a little studying of Philosophy my own here lately and have enjoyed every bit of it. I was raised Pentalcostal during my early childhood years and as an adult I have no religion. That is not to say however that I do not believe in a higher power. My higher power has no label, but others can call my higher power a god if they wish. If they think it will put them in heaven after death. My question for you is this: what do you suppose happens to the energy that is within our bodies after we have passed on? I ask this because energy cannot die yet it can be passed on. What purpose does that energy serve at that point? Is this what Christians refer to as the soul?
Atheist Answer: 

I would suggest that what I consider to be "outside the cave" might simply be a larger cave, but yes, there is an urge to show people the new space.

I don't think anything comes after death. After death, there is no longer a person who might experience anything.

It's difficult for most people, including me, to properly wrap their heads around the idea of not existing. In the absence of an afterlife, many people still imagine themselves persisting forever, alone in darkness and silence. It's an idea I find more frightening than Hell. (Therefore if there is a Hell, that's how it might well manifest for me.) I remind myself that at the moment of death, there won't be a me anymore, so any thoughts of what might happen to me after death are meaningless.

The energy in the body is eternal, but it's not a soul. It's the simple chemical and electrical energy in our bodily fluids, as well as our muscles and our brains. When we die, it escapes mostly as heat. It also contributes to the reactions which decompose the body. Some of it goes to feed some lucky earthworms, and eventually to enrich the soil around the grave and whatever grows in it.

The Christian concept of a soul has nothing to do with quantifiable energy. (They did try to connect the two by identifying a measurable loss of substance at the moment of death, but ultimately failed.) The soul, hypothetically, is an intangible entity which accompanies the human body for its entire lifespan. It controls the body and supplies it with human qualities, and human worth. Essentially the soul is an externalisation of certain brain functions and social conventions. Upon death, it severs all connections with the physical world and goes to God to be distributed as He sees fit.

The soul shares a category with Buddhism's karma and all manner of energies posited by New Age systems, in that although it's credited with many effects (for example a person's conscience), none can be attributed to it unambiguously. Associating it with the ordinary, observable energy inside the body is one way to make it sound more plausible, but there's no merit in the comparison.

- SmartLX

How to keep moving on

What do you base on to keep moving on? I mean, I'm not a depressive person, but I really haven't shared my thoughts with atheists, only with Christians who simply argue with me without any question that God exists and that bible thing, threatening me that I won't go to heaven and so on. Well, assuming there is no God, and we are merely a nature random event that just happened. This way we'd assume that whatever is right is wrong is fully an interpretation of other people's rules created in order to attempt to make a peaceful coexistence, which I would name society. So, is it fair to try living restricted to these rules? I am from a country where most of it's population is corrupt, and lots of people that live in corruption find shortcuts to a "better life". I'm what we call an "honest" person and try my best not to hurt people's feelings, not to lie and not to be corrupt. I do not take those shortcuts. And if I were to take, I would not feel fine with myself. But since there is no heaven-hell thing, most of them won't be punished by living on their ignorance and greed. I won't too be rewarded by being such an honest person. That does not bother me at all, because my reward is to live each day knowing that I am not taking advantage of anyone else. But such a feeling that I have to be honest, wasn't born with me, it was imposed by the society's rules. Am I right? Another point is, aren't you afraid of dieing? Because if we do not believe in God we reject the after death theories. Or do the atheists have their own theory? Because if they do not, isn't it just insane to think of working your whole life for nothing? The only "benefit" of your life is to other people, like, you die and your kids inherit your money and property, or even your knowledge. Doesn't this annoy you? Because it really does to me. It makes me want really bad for something else to be there when I die, for my existence keep going and for me to keep having objectives. I cannot consider myself an atheist because I keep pending to believe in something which I do not know. But sometimes this belief just disappears and I feel really bad that I'll die, and it'll end there. This only bothers me or you have found too yourself thinking of this? I have more questions such as, what is life? isn't life an odd thing? A living thing is just a bunch of atoms which composition is different from a non living thing, that can be alive or dead. If God didn't create us, isn't it just curious how these small particles can cooperate with each other to make an alive creature? What is extra there? Soul? So if there is soul, there is afterlife, and there is something else, maybe God? What do you think? Please share. Thanks!
Atheist Answer: 

It is sad to think that many people who live selfishly will never be punished for it in their lifetimes, and then receive no punishment after death. That's why it's important to work to bring them to account while they're alive. The idea that it would be right, or just, for them to be judged when they die will not make it happen. It can be nicer to imagine, but that doesn't make it true. It's up to living people to uphold justice as we see it. Take it as motivation, not discouragement.

Generally our personal beliefs and values are passed on to us by our parents and friends, and reinforced by scoiety. Fair or not, that's how it is. You always have the option to go against those beliefs and values, but then you're going against your family, your friends, your society and often your own instincts. It is possible, and on rare occasions it's the best thing to do. It's what most religious people face when they want to leave their religions, for example.

There's no afterlife in an atheist's worldview. That's why I value life so much. Since there's no reward waiting for me, I work to have my rewards while I'm still here. That needn't mean living selfishly, as charity and altruism can be their own reward. If I believed in a heavenly afterlife I could reach, I might be satisfied with a less wonderful life because I'd think something better was coming. Again, the fact that it's a nice idea does not make it true. So I try to make my heaven right here.

- SmartLX

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