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Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  282 ratings  ·  41 reviews
If you don't believe in God or an afterlife -- how do you cope with death?

Accepting death is never easy. But we don't need religion to find peace, comfort, and solace in the face of death. In this mini-book collection of essays, prominent atheist author Greta Christina offers secular ways to handle your own mortality and the death of those you love.

Blending intensely perso
Kindle Edition, 120 pages
Published December 10th 2014 by Dirty Heathen Publishing
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Mohamed al-Jamri
Jan 31, 2016 rated it liked it
The book's title and the introduction give the impression that the author is going to talk about the best ways non-religious people face death and perhaps give us some inspirational examples.

Instead that only constitutes brief sections of the book - which is a very short one to begin with. The majority is about how religion is not really that comforting and in fact can be distressing. How heaven and eternal life are lies/delusions/wishful thinking and even if they weren't, they'd still be unwant
Jan 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book had lots of valuable things for me. The biggest lesson is that change is the one thing we can count on. Life wouldn't exist without it. I'm frightened and angered by change, and death is the biggest one. Greta says that's natural and not accepting it only makes it worse. I try always to realize that I have beaten astronomical odds just to be alive and that my brief time of existence is even more precious for that. But, still, I'm scared.

I downloaded this book because I'm a fan of Greta
Sep 12, 2015 rated it it was ok
I read this book from my Father's recommendation as this was a largely unexplored existential despair of my childhood and young adulthood atheism. Unfortunately, I found the humanist philosophy regarding death to be largely without comfort. It makes some good points oh the contradictions of our conception of an afterlife, but as a nurse and having seen so many people die, and the comfort faith gave them, I always felt immense guilt and sadness that as an Atheist I had nothing to offer them in te ...more
This was a quick, enjoyable read that really gave me a more relatable look at death and dying. So many things I have wondered or questioned are discussed and it really helped me understand things better. I think this is probably one of the few books on this topic created just for nonbelievers.
Rob Thompson
This book is short, direct and to the point, a little like this review. Here are the notes I made:

The problem: Death is an appalling and scary thought. Its hardwired into your genes to be afraid of it. Additionally, your life, when measured against the life of the universe is meaningless. Your relationships, achievements, wants, desires and fears, mean nothing. This leads to existential despair especially as belief in an afterlife is just that, a belief and not a fact.

An alternative way of think
Oct 21, 2016 rated it liked it
I had a mixed response to this book. It has good ideas, and makes good points, but I found the writing somewhat flat and hard to remember. I like Greta Christina, and think she's a good speaker, but the prose in this book lacked punch and, for such a short book, suffered from too much repetition. Nonetheless, I still believe that plenty of people may well get a lot out of this book -- I'm not necessarily saying you shouldn't read it (the prose may not strike you the same way). Some of the strong ...more
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: secularism
Greta Christina never disappoints. This excellent book explores how nonbelievers deal with death and grief, and how religious attempts at comfort are unhelpful at best, possibly even insulting and guilt-laden. She hits hard at religion, appropriately so, since so much of religious comfort is mindless parroting without thought about how the message is received. Atheists don't need religion to deal with tragedy, they don't wish they had religion at such times, they don't need pity over their lack ...more
Jan 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
I love Greta Christina, and this little book is as great as you'd expect her work to be. Because it's composed of a number of essays that appeared separately, there's a lot of repetition in phrasing that got on my nerves, but I think I'm just being picky. It makes perfect sense for one paragraph of an essay/post/whatever to cover ideas in a very similar was as another piece by the same author on the same topic, but when they're all brought together in one place, it can feel strange. Some great t ...more
Blair Hodgkinson
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the hardest things about atheism is dealing with the presumed fact (for want of compelling evidence otherwise) that we only have this one life to live--no afterlife, no reincarnation. The author goes through a number of ways in which not only can we take comfort from our belief in just one life, but sometimes taking more comfort in our convictions than our religious counterparts. This book won't shake unshakeable faith, but for those with minds open to evidence and logic may find much of ...more
John de' Medici
Feb 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Some folk have it worse than you do, that is undoubtedly a fact. Is it comforting to remind yourself of this when you're down?

Maybe that's the issue I had with this book, Yes! a lot of thoughts were based upon reality, but are they truly comforting? I don't know... Maybe someone finds comfort in them, maybe I'm just not so easily comforted, Maybe it's just as Woody Allen put it: Whatever Works!
Ryan Smith
For a buck 50 one audible it was the the shortest but maybe most important books to help cope with with death in a world where I am conscious about reality.
Justin Tapp
Sep 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
I read this book about mourning in an attempt to compare an atheist philosophy on death and mourning with a Christian philosophy/theology of mourning as found in C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed, which I read together with Greta Christina's work. This review and my review of Lewis' book should be read in parallel.

The author has two missions with this book, the first is to put forth an atheist philosophy on death and grief and to be critical of Christian approaches to death and Christian disrespect t
Aug 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
I wouldn’t say I feel altogether comforted by this short read, but there were some interesting points to ponder—the fact that you will one day be gone doesn’t take away from the fact that you were once here, something that will never change; using your inevitable death as a motivator to not put things off for “one day”; the infinitely small odds that you would have been born in the first place and how statistically lucky you are. My main criticism is the author seems to spend more time pulling a ...more
John Ronald
Mar 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nice to revisit Greta Christina's work in audio book format and this was no exception. Read by the author, whom I've seen present in person. It was an interesting, secular perspective on death and mourning, one that I largely share as a fellow atheist. Having recently lost my father due to complications from surgery, it held a special resonance for me, prompting me to think about the totality of my Dad's life, what he meant to me....and to reflect on how hard his life was and his many struggles ...more
Jenna Owens
Apr 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Half about seeking comfort from death as a non-believer, and another half debunking the argument that religion offers comforting thoughts about death. Really enjoyable and comforting - though I think a bit repetitive at times. I particularly like the idea of death as being a deadline and how this way of thinking can motivate us to reach our goals faster and stop procrastinating. More motivation for moving to Madagascar :)
Joe Farhaven
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This is an incredible book with enormous depth of comfort and perspective. While it is unabashedly atheist, it presents ways of looking at our existence that I had never considered. If you are an atheist, you must read this book. If not, you may find it interesting if you can look past the atheist bent.
Aug 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Could have dwelled more on the comfort and less on the atheism.
Amanda Brent
Jun 09, 2017 rated it liked it
I found the execution and writing style rather poor, but the main ideas good.
Todd Martin
Those of us who are atheists have no illusions that our consciousness will survive the death of our bodies. There is not a shred of evidence for an ‘eternal soul’ or for life after death. All the laws of physics and chemistry point to the fact that our all too brief time in the world is all that there is, and that following our deaths we will return to the same state as that which preceded our births … non-existence.

This isn’t a very cheery thought, particularly when compared with the blissful
Lance Schonberg
Feb 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
This is a collection of short essays (blog posts) gleaned from her website. It’s presented as an exploration of how atheists deal with grief, except it’s not, exactly. It’s more of an exploration of how a particular atheist has dealt with grief and what she’s learned along the way. And that’s not a bad thing. There’s no reason we can’t learn from other peoples’ experiences and thoughts, if we’re willing.

It’s also a book that religious people might find useful for the insights it provides, along
Jan 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
After the passing of my father two years ago, I was faced a challenge I didn't expect - I struggled with my beliefs. I was inundated with religious words from people in my life ("Just pray. He's with God now.") who undoubtedly wanted to ease my pain. I watched as some of my family members turned to their faith for strength, like my grandmother who looked at my father, bearded and with long hair, and said he looked like Jesus as he laid still on his deathbed. I was given religious material from t ...more
Sep 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really, really love this book. It came early in the mail and I was excited to see it! I was also surprised at the size of it. It was kind of small. But, boy, does it have a lot of important stuff packed in there!

It wasn't exactly what I was expecting when I read the title and decided to buy it, but it turned out to be even better!

I was expecting maybe a lot of quotes and anecdotes and stories from or about atheists who had something to say to comfort people who had gone through experiences whe
Dec 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: kindle
Despite the title, there is a good deal of talk about God in this book! One of the issues I have with a lot of atheist books is that they seem to continually define their perspective contra theism. So while there are quite a few interesting (and comforting, depending on who you are) thoughts about death in this book, too much of it is arguing against theistic ideas or criticising the way theists may communicate with atheists about death and grieving. What I'd like to see is a book that makes no ...more
Dec 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
I've been reading Greta Christina's blog for some while, but this is the first time I've read anything longer by her. It's only a short book - just over 60 pages - but written with clarity and passion. In it Christina makes a convincing case that atheists and humanists have good reason to face death with courage, and indeed do so, as her own experience shows. Not surprisingly there's a bias towards countering the particular difficulties non-believers face in the States. This means the arguments ...more
Louise Pare-Lobinske
As a mostly-believer who's on the fence about the afterlife, I found this book educational about "how the atheist side thinks". In my experience, I would have argued the believer's side differently than Greta Christina does (particularly in the chapters Atheism and the Argument from Comfort and Humanism in a Shitstorm). But my experience is different from hers. My atheism was not able to carry me through the worst night of my life; I ended up having to seek help from a deity. I'm glad that Greta ...more
Jul 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wonderfully reassuring. Much of the thoughts she discussed are ones I already believed or had considered, but it sounded SO good to hear it echoed back right now and hear another perspective just after my father's death and just when I have been hearing way too many religious platitudes that only upset me. I bought the audible book to listen to but will also buy the Kindle version to read again. The believers already have their own books and beliefs that bring little to no comfort to anyone who ...more
Unit of Raine
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
Admittedly, I never really think about WHY I'm an atheist or how it comforts me. It just makes sense to me, so the majority of the essays about how atheism can be more comforting than religon were interesting, but repetitive for me. There were some interesting points, and of course, pointed out some of the hypocrisies and double-think that proselytizing Christians push (very evident in the current national situation), but over-all not a re-read and not really a comfort if I was deal with grief. ...more
Jan 01, 2016 rated it liked it
I would have liked this book more if it spent more time on the comforting thoughts about death and less on the nothing to do with God -- I've been an atheist for my entire life and don't need that kind of affirmation. It felt like the majority of the book was arguing for a secular/non-religious framework, and I wish there'd been more detail on the comforting thoughts. Instead, they were quickly enumerated and not discussed in the detail spent on tearing down a religious framework.
Feb 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
I have never read anything of Greta Christina's but this came highly recommended after the loss of my 38 year old sister. It was a little more philosophical than I expected which was off-putting at first because that's not usually my preferred genre but I stuck with it and I'm so glad I did. Really powerful.
Tom Hail
Apr 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This has helped me in many ways, past deaths, recent death, friends who need support, anticipation of future death. I found that I am mostly dealing with death for myself, what to do for others has always been a mystery to me. This has helped a lot.
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Greta Christina has been writing professionally since 1989, on topics including atheism, sexuality and sex-positivity, LGBT issues, politics, culture, and whatever crosses her mind. She is on the speakers's bureaus of the Secular Student Alliance and the Center for Inquiry. She is editor of the "Best Erotic Comics" anthology series, and of "Paying For It: A Guide by Sex Workers for Their Clients." ...more

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“The fact that your lifespan is an infinitesimally tiny fragment in the life of the universe, and that there is, at the very least, a strong possibility that when you die, you disappear completely and forever, and that in five hundred years nobody will remember you and in five billion years the Earth will be boiled into the sun: this can be a profound and defining truth about your existence that you reflexively repulse, that you flinch away from and refuse to accept or even think about, consistently pushing to the back of your mind whenever it sneaks up, for fear that if you allow it to sit in your mind even for a minute, it will swallow everything else. It can make everything you do, and everything anyone else does, seem meaningless, trivial to the point of absurdity.” 10 likes
“The idea that our dead loved ones are no longer suffering because they’re in a blissful Heaven is radically different from the idea that our dead loved ones are no longer suffering because they no longer exist, and that being dead is no more painful or frightening than not having been born yet. The idea that death is an illusion is radically different from the idea that death is necessary for life and change to be possible. The idea that the soul will live forever is radically different from the idea that things don’t have to be permanent to be valuable.” 5 likes
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