The following is an essay put together from reading the thoughts of many others, some of them very learned and wise people on this subject. If you’d like to read more of this sort of thing, please Google “Apologetics” and you’ll find a wealth of great articles.
Is a fear of death logical? What are the main two viewpoints one could have? With regards to dying, there is empirical evidence to support that the human body stops functioning. When a human body dies, either the human being permanently ceases to be conscious, or does not permanently cease to be conscious.
There are two main ‘camps’ of thought when it comes to what happens as a result of the body ceasing function. One philosophical position on dying comes from the ontological naturalism camp. Ontological naturalism is a worldview that holds that there is nothing but natural elements, principles, and relations of the kind studied by the natural sciences. The other position comes from the theistic approach Theism, in a nutshell, is a belief in a God, Creator, or Superior Intelligence who sustains a personal relation in some way with Their creations.
The first of these positions would encompass meaning. Let’s presume that in order for a human life to have objective meaning, it would require immortality. If this is true, the inescapability of death is, for ontological naturalism, not much more than nihilism, or a belief that life is essentially meaningless. Life for a nihilist has no over-arching meaning, and death is simply an end to an absurd existence. In the theistic or Christian view, physical death does not stop consciousness, as physical death is just a transition to a more meaningful experience of mental and spiritual life beyond the bounds of the physical and material.
When considering ethics or morality, we have to keep in mind that a nihilist or naturalist does not believe in a God or that He is a natural condition for objective morality. In other words, there is no objective morality and no ultimate happiness or point behind living virtuously or within rules or limits in this life. In this view, anything and everything you do is ultimately meaningless, and makes no difference to anything. Christianity and theism differ in that they suppose objective morality is very real, that human choices matter, and that the existence of God and the immortality of the human soul means and ensures that virtue, salvation, love, and happiness unite in a meaningful bond with God. In this case, each human life is significant.
So, for a naturalist, there is no hope after death. The only echo of a human life might be their fame or memory, but nothing of the person themselves. On the contrary, a Christian LIVES a life in which they prepare themselves through their hopes and actions for a life beyond the corporeal. It isn’t just hope beyond death, it is hope while still alive. This hope can bring more joy, more peace, and more true living due to it having a recognizable and quantifiable purpose and meaning.
In light of this, should anyone fear death? Do naturalists or theists have more or less reason for fear or lack of it when considering physical death?
Naturalism is hopelessness. In this view, when physical life ends, so does mental function, and thus, a person dies into a dark and featureless oblivion, never to think again. In this case, what is there really to fear? Perhaps the means of death, and it’s associated pain or suffering may matter, but after those material and temporal considerations are considered, death itself is an end to experience, and should not strike any fear of any kind in anyone.
Theism or Christianity in particular believe in an endless future of indescribable flourishing in the presence of our Loving Creator. Eternal life is a true knowledge of God in every respect. The very view of death for a Christian is contingent on God and not ourselves, so…again, why the fear?
It’s not entirely logical for either position to fear death. A naturalist may fear or be uneasy about the permanent annihilation of self, and actually long for the end to an unnecessary, miserable existence.
A theist, on the other hand, shouldn’t fear death because their belief supposes that death is merely a portal into a vaster kind of life. Sure, no one wants to die in pain, or go through needless suffering, but ultimately…when all of that passes away, there’s no reason to fear the next step, regardless.
It doesn’t seem purely logical to fear death, it’s just another part of the cycle of life, regardless of whether one takes a purely naturalistic view, or goes further with a spiritual and theistic view. Either way, upon the moment of death, we can be assured that we won’t much care any further about the actual moment we ceased to be a physical human.
In essence, as long as neither position doubts itself, neither position has need for fear. On the contrary, if naturalism is wrong and theism is right, naturalists have A LOT to fear for not having gotten to know their Creator well, or for having fought against Him. The same holds true for a Christian. If you have no doubt, there should be no fear, but if you doubt your position, your salvation, or God Himself, well…That could be problematic for you.
1 Corinthians 16:13 – “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”
Ultimately…a position: What if the naturalist fears death precisely because he or she ‘knows’ spiritually, (whether this knowledge is buried or not), that there IS in fact a Creator, that they are willingly aligning themselves against this Creator for the duration of their natural and temporal life, and fully expect to have to ‘pay’ for that insolence in the next life? Truly, that would be something to fear, don’t you think?
1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”