Home > Philosophy Why the Fear of Death Is Irrational

Why the Fear of Death Is Irrational

Someone with death anxiety emailed to Kevin Williams the following question, “I am terribly afraid of death right now. I don’t really know why. I’ve never been afraid before. With so many different NDE versions, all claiming to be the one answer, how could any of them really be?” This article addresses this concern.

Kevin Williams

Each person’s NDE testimony is their own personal experience of a reality that is far more dynamic than physical reality. Detectives know that if you ask several eyewitnesses of a robbery, for example, you will not get exactly the same story and some may even be contradictory or erroneous for various reasons. The reasons why near-death experiences are so different from each other are the same reasons why experiences in this world are different (although there are a large amount of similarities). I have a web page that gives a more in depth discussion on why NDEs are different.

The question as it exists today is whether the NDE is an actual afterlife experience or dying brains mass hallucinating tunnels, light, and being told it isn’t time yet. Looking at this from a scientific view, which is somewhat limiting, the only conclusion is that there is no scientific evidence that NDEs are actual afterlife experiences. Perhaps it is impossible to obtain scientific proof short of someone bringing back from an NDE the sandal of Jesus, for example.

Even if researchers scientifically confirm that people are actually seeing and hearing things far from their physical bodies, this only proves, in my opinion, that conscious awareness can expand from the body to witness remote events. It is not evidence that consciousness can survive death. And even if doctors began performing “flatline experiments” like in the movie “Flatliners” (where would doctors voluntarily undergo clinical and brain death and be revived to recount their NDE) and scientifically verify that the experiencer was conscious while brain dead and observed events far from their body, I still don’t think this will be enough to call it “scientific proof” of an afterlife. The fact is the NDE of Pam Reynolds is probably the closest anyone has ever come to providing such proof.

Here is a good website by The Campaign for Philosophical Freedom that gives good reasons why the scientific establishment of today, who ignores the evidence for survival, resembles the Church leaders who ignored the evidence that the world is round.

(By the way, the website just mentioned is an excellent source for information on the scientific effort to verify the survival of consciousness after death. There motto is: “Scientific proof of survival after death has existed for over a century. The Campaign for Philosophical Freedom is working to increase public awareness of the existence of scientific proof that we all survive the death of our physical bodies irrespective of religious beliefs.”)

Here is another excellent article by The Campaign concerning how quantum physics has proven the existence of a multi-dimensional reality.

And then there is Victor Zammit’s outstanding website A Lawyer Argues For The Afterlife which presents very good evidence.

Although there may never be evidence that satisfies the minds of orthodox scientism, I believe very strong evidence will be discovered that will convince most people that consciousness survives bodily death.

This aside, the circumstantial evidence in favor of survival after death is so overwhelming that the proverbial ball is really in the skeptic’s court. We don’t have to explain anything. Millions of people having NDEs can’t be all wrong. It is the skeptics who must come up with proof that it is only a brain thing. So far, all the skeptics’ arguments do not fit the scientific facts.

I have the following web pages that list some of the most fascinating evidence from NDEs that suggest they are much more than only a brain thing. Here they are:

NDEs and ScienceNDEs and Quantum TheoryNDE Afterlife EvidenceSkeptic’s Corner

Personally, I am convinced that our consciousness survives bodily death. This is my belief which is based on a mountain of circumstantial evidence (see above). Not much faith is required when the circumstantial evidence is there. NDErs don’t need any scientific or circumstantial evidence to believe in an afterlife because they actually experienced it. I have never been to France but I know it exists because of what I have read and seen on TV. Perhaps it is the scientific method that needs questioned here.

As for the fear of death, it is completely natural and valuable to have because it is part of our “fight or flight” mechanism that has evolved over millions of years to help humans to be at the top of the food chain. However, there is an affliction called “death anxiety” that some people have that can interfere with their life. This can be treated the same way that all anxieties are treated, that is, with medicine. There is a wealth of websites on death anxiety and they are worth visiting.

Of course, everyone is tremendously afraid of pain and suffering. Everyone is afraid of death to some degree, but some people have death anxiety so bad that they have trouble functioning in life. It wouldn’t hurt to tell your doctor about it also.

Also, the overwhelming opinion of those who have died and had an NDE is that death is not painful. I have reports from people who were shot, run over, drowned, drug overdose, committed suicide, illness, burns, etc.. and the overwhelming opinion is that trauma to the body immediately causes your brain to produce morphine-like chemicals that eliminates the pain. And NDErs generally say that any pain they had was very brief. There are even NDEs where a person is yanked from their body before the trauma happens so they don’t feel a thing. Read Norman Paulsen’s NDE. This phenomenon is not uncommon. It is my opinion that this phenomenon happens to people in deadly plane crashes and other very traumatic catastrophes.

But even philosophically, having an unnatural fear of death is not rational. This is because there are only 2 options when it comes to death and both of them are good.

Option #1:  There is no survival after death.

If this option is true, then at best you will have an NDE that ultimately results in oblivion – the end of everything. And is this option so bad? Suppose at death there is no NDE but absolute oblivion. Then, you won’t be around to fear it. It would be the “blessed end of everything.” This option only means that there is nothing gained after death. It is irrational, I think, to be sorrowful about something we were not given, in this case life after death. I think of life after death as being “the icing on the cake”. We should probably live our lives if we were going to die tomorrow anyway. And if it is the blessed end of everything, then we won’t be around to think about it. It is just that there is nothing gained and nothing lost.

Option #2:  There is survival after death.

If there is survival after death, then we can have our cake and eat it too. If there is survival, the question is whether life after death will be heavenly or hellish. I am convinced that the same principle found in life also applies to the afterlife. Life is what you make it. We can kill someone and end up in prison. Or we can do good things and live contently. I believe this principle applies to heaven and hell. So, if any fear is justifiable, it would be the fear of going to hell. But, if you are not a criminal why worry about it? It is not the just who fears the law.

In conclusion, here is the cost/benefit analysis of death:

No survival —-> nothing lost and nothing gained

Survival ——–> nothing lost and something gained

This means that death is a “win/win” situation. Either option is a winner. Granted, the option of survival after death would be preferred. So, by this formula, there is no rational reason to fear death.

Concerning the need to have “faith,” faith implies the possibility of doubt and a state of doubt can be miserable. Knowledge implies certainty. And when it comes to NDEs, it is based on solid knowledge and facts rather than faith. If a million astronauts go to Mars and say that there’s Martians living there, I would be inclined to believe them. If a million people experience death and then say there’s life after death, I would be inclined to believe them just the same.

This said, it is still a good idea to keep an open mind on this and remain a true skeptic (holding to the possibility that there isn’t life after death). Probably the important thing about NDEs is how their impact on society right now. The concept of unconditional love is certainly something the whole world should learn about. Everything else (religious, scientific, metaphysical dogma) is like debating “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin.” There is a lot of problems with dogma because, more often than not, they only create limits to an open mind.

For this reason, one can make the case that the only thing that is really important is loving others, loving life, and loving everything. Faith and knowledge can change, but love is worth keeping and cultivating. Even the Bible says that love is greater than faith. Having faith in religious dogma, instead of having a healthy skepticism, can lead to disaster, in my opinion. For example, that pastor named Paul Hill who was just executed for killing an abortion doctor. This guy was such a religious zealot that he turned into a devil.

My own religious experience has been one of constant evolution. I change my mind all the time. Being manic depressive, I mean this literally. The only thing that is constant is love. This is why I always council people to “follow your heart” because the head is subject to greater change in my opinion. Suppose a person believes there is no afterlife because of having a healthy skepticism. Such skepticism does not really change anything about life. Right now, it is this life that matters and it is love really makes the world go around. The problem is that some people are so sure there is no afterlife that they treat people badly. This kind of situation is probably the only real “sin.” But not believing in an afterlife shouldn’t change things.

A man named Don Morse wrote an excellent book about his death anxiety, NDE and research into the many theories and beliefs about the afterlife. It is entitled, Searching For Eternity and it is well worth reading.

In conclusion, here are some words of wisdom concerning the fear of death. Perhaps it will help.

“To fear death is nothing other than to think oneself wise when one is not. For it is to think one knows what one does not know. No one knows whether death may not even turn out to be one of the greatest blessings of human beings. And yet people fear it as if they knew for certain it is the greatest evil.” (Socrates)

“Nothing in life is to be feared, only understood.” (Madame Marie Curie)

“In the light of the near-death experience, death is nothing more than the illusion of separateness and finality, and those who can believe in this vision of death, like near-death experiencers themselves, lose all fear of it, for how can you fear that which does not exist?” (Dr. Ken Ring)