For most of my life, the possibility of dying seemed like something far off. After my father died at a young age, I realized that if I lived as long as my father did, I wouldn’t have many years left. The possibility of dying became more real. Many people put off thinking about death, but after a diagnosis of cancer, Greta Christina gave the issue her usual thoughtful analysis.

Christina insists, “let’s stop treating death as if it belongs to religion.” She asks what would Heaven be like if we would not be ourselves and would have nothing to strive for implying that Heaven would be dull. The threats of Hell can make death difficult for many believers. Also, complicating belief are nagging questions about why someone dies. As a nonbeliever, you “don’t have to torture yourselves wondering what you did wrong.” Even with religious beliefs, people can still suffer pains of loss.

Instead of religious beliefs, Greta Christina offers a range of observations about the role of death in our lives. For example, change is a necessary part of our lives and that includes the change of death. Death creates a deadline that encourages us to make use of our time and shows our connection to the natural world. What matters is that we have the good fortune to be alive and to create our own meaning in life. Our “slice of time” will always exist, and our genes and ideas can live on after us. We did not exist for billions of years in the past, so nonexistence in the future need not be physically painful.

Still, the loss of that life can be painful now. Christina suggests that we allow ourselves to feel those emotions and to offer companionship to others by being aware of their pain.

Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God presents Greta Christina’s words of good sense that do not take the pain of loss away but suggest how the realities can be managed from a secular point of view.

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