In survey after survey when posed to people as to ‘What is the world’s greatest mystery?,’ the same answer, or question, is always at the top of the survey. It’s not ‘Whats the purpose of Stonehenge?’, ‘Does the Lochness Monster/Bigfoot/Yeti exist?’ or even ‘Is there intelligent life in the universe other than ourselves?’ No. It’s always, worded in one way or another, ‘Is there life after death?’
Death is the great unknown. There is no true hard science to prove life after death and yet there is no hard science to disprove it either; that in itself is reason enough to fear death. Some would argue otherwise stating that it is irrational to wish to avoid that which is unavoidable. That logic holds little weight as most living creatures, that are conscious of one’s self, will fight to live and will often struggle to survive even in the most horrible of circumstances. In other words, a mother in Africa will brave the elements, animals and armies to give her child a chance to survive or a dog will bite, claw and fight to the death if it’s existence is threatened.
For holders of religious belief many fear death because of the impending judgment that awaits them and judgment after one’s physical life is commonplace of many religions around the world. Death than judgment. Islam teaches it. Christianity teaches it. Buddhism teaches it as does Judaism, Hinduism, Mormonism and most others. Many believers will ask themselves “Have I lived a righteous life?” or wonder if they will make it to Heaven or paradise or whatnot. Most fear judgment from others whether it be here on Earth or in the hands of an angry God.
Agnostics and atheists have different reasons to fear death. For some, the very fact that the end is death and then nothing is not a comforting thought. Even for the skeptic the idea that you will see your loved one’s again someday is at the very least a pleasant thought. Also, I would think that for the atheist/agnostic they would have to question their belief at some point as death nears. “What if I am wrong?” That’s a good question; with no empirical data to sort through that is one wager I, personally, wouldn’t feel comfortable making.
In ending, we fear death for really one of two reasons:
A) We are at the end of life and there is nothing else.
B) We are at the end of life, as we know it, and await something grander and bigger than ourselves.
Either way, alas, we do not truly know for sure.