Facing death as an atheist by Anthony G. Arlen

I have been a longtime member of FFRF, but, alas, not lifetime. I have terminal pancreatic cancer. However, because I am an atheist, I am not the least afraid of death. It is just as the great Raymond Chandler called it: The Big Sleep. And I like taking naps!

I am an atheist for many reasons, starting with the great atheist philosophers and essayists who have come before us, including Bertrand Russell, Robert Ingersoll and Sigmund Freud, and of course, the “New Atheists,” Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, A.C. Grayling, Steven Pinker and many others. Gore Vidal’s essay “Monotheism and its Discontents” in The Nation magazine several years ago greatly influenced me.

But I am also, and most importantly, an atheist because of the wonderful community you have created with your great organization and expressed so beautifully and articulately in Freethought Today. I love the work you do in fighting the encroachment of religion into schools and government. I love the intelligent speeches from your conventions. I also love the essays from students, which make me confident that the future is in good hands. I love perhaps most of all the letters to the editor, which tell of personal journeys people have taken to a life of reason and rationality.

Now I live the fullest life I can, traveling as much as possible, visiting friends and family and watching baseball and my favorite movies and TV shows. I am not in pain, my chemo sessions are now benign and I am happy. Death is just part of life that we all must face. Because I am an atheist, I will not go into that “Big Sleep” with any fear that some utterly cruel fiend, whom many irrational people worship, is going to send me to an eternity of torture, which so many other dying people still fear today, much as they have done throughout history. I feel immensely sad for those people who have such fear of “what realms may come,” that the last moments of their lives will be filled with abject terror. My last moments will be filled with life, friends, family and love.

Anthony G. Arlen

Anthony was born Oct. 13, 1949, and graduated from U.C.-Berkeley and Hastings College of Law. He practiced in the Sacramento area for 34 years until retiring in 2014. He has a wife, two sons and two daughters.

Freedom From Religion Foundation