Originally posted by dottewell
A friend recently asked how an atheist should deal with the prospect of death. I admit I was at a bit of a loss - it is ultimately a very upsetting thought indeed.
While I see no problem with the tactic of not thinking about it, one should be careful not to go to far and totally ignore it. One should also not got to the extreme of either denying the possibility or deluding oneself into thinking it wont happen (as is typical of most religious people).
I think the unpredictability of it helps us to block it out of our minds, people with terminal illness or other reasons to expect imminent death are often forced to confront it head on, though again this can instead simply lead to increased attempts at self delusion.
Living in Africa, where the effects of HIV has been extreme, I have seen the secondary effects of the fear of death. People when confronted with the possibility that they might have HIV react in different ways, but a very large proportion of them react with self delusion. Including denial that they could have it, denial that it exists, and / or increased religiosity. Interestingly, such denial often accompanies a refusal to take a test as even in the face to outright denial there is a realization that a test could force them to face something they do not want to believe. (I think creationists attacks on science are very similar in that respect.)
Now that various treatments have been shown to significantly prolong the life of those infected with HIV it is no longer seen as such an imminently terminal disease, and peoples reaction to it is changing dramatically.
I, personally, intend to postpone death as long as possible, enjoy my life to the fullest, and leave as good a legacy as I can for my children, relatives and others that I care about.