I have been thinking about death a fair bit lately and I realized that I no longer have a fear of death. I used to be terrified of dying, when I realized I haven't had that kind of fear in a long time it was a bit of a surprise to me. I have been trying to analyze the possible reasons for this and the only real credible one I can think of is my lack of religion.
When I was a kid, we spent a lot of time talking about heaven and hell. Good people go to heaven and experience eternal bliss and bad people go to hell an get tortured for eternity. We were the right religion, we believed in God, we let Jesus into our hearts, so we were going to heaven. I believed these things, so one would think that I would be comfortable with death, but I was not.
The other side of this coin is that bad people go to hell. When my church talked about how bad hell is, they usually focused on rapists and murderers, people who it is easy to accept that they are getting justice. On the other hand, during other times, the pastors would talk about how we are all sinners and all deserve to go to hell. But through the grace of God, we get to go to heaven anyway when we accept Jesus.
So I have this rolling around in my head. I have been told that I deserve to burn in hell forever. I am a bad person. There is a loophole that lets me get into heaven anyway, but the message is there, I am a bad person and I deserve to be tortured. I lived in a fairly strong cultural bubble growing up, but I was vaguely aware that there are other religions with other rules out there. What if our version of Christianity is the wrong one? What if what we are doing to get into heaven isn't quite right? What if I die and wind up in hell? I don't think these questions were ever fully formed in my mind, but the ideas were there under the surface.
I think my fear of death was always really a fear of hell. Now that I don't believe in hell, there is no reason to be afraid of death. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to die, I'd like to live as long as possible. And I am not looking forward to the process of dying, many ways of dying can be very slow and painful. But in comparison to being tortured forever, there is nothing to be afraid of.