Why Do We Fear Death?

“Death is the most terrible of all things; for it is the end.”​—Aristotle.

SHE was regarded by her peers as a pious woman, a true believer. Some even called her “a pillar of her church.” She was taught that death was not really the end but, rather, a passage to the afterlife. Yet, when her own death seemed imminent, she became overwhelmed by fear. Plagued by doubts, the woman asked her spiritual counselor, “There are so many [beliefs about what happens at death]; how do you know which is the right one?”

Virtually every religion and society has embraced the notion that humans continue to exist, or will exist again, after death. Among the many beliefs, which one is true? Many people doubt the existence of an afterlife altogether. What about you? Have you been taught that human life continues after death? Do you believe that it does? Do you fear death?

The Fear of Becoming Nothing

Researchers refer to the fear of death as “death anxiety.” In recent decades many books and scientific reports have been written on the topic. Still, most people prefer not to think about death. The reality of death, however, forces us to think about it sooner or later. Human life is very fragile​—over 160,000 people die on average each day! Every human, without exception, is subject to death, and this reality is frightening to many.

Experts have classified death anxiety into various categories. These include the fear of pain, the fear of the unknown, the fear of losing loved ones in death, and the fear of the negative consequences that one’s death may have on survivors.

Prominent among those anxieties is the fear of ceasing to exist. Religious beliefs notwithstanding, the idea that death is the absolute end of life scares many people. And science adds fuel to this fear. After all, most functions of the human body can now be explained in scientific terms. Certainly no biologist, physicist, or chemist has ever found within us evidence of an invisible entity capable of surviving the death of the physical body. Hence, many scientists explain human death as merely a biological process.

It is no surprise, then, that many people who outwardly are devout believers in the  afterlife may inwardly dread being reduced to nothingness at death. Interestingly, in his writings ancient King Solomon ascribed to human death a finality that some may consider frightening.

“Dust”​—The Final Destination?

In the 3,000-year-old book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote: “The living are conscious that death will come to them, but the dead are not conscious of anything, and they no longer have a reward, because there is no memory of them. Their love and their hate and their envy are now ended.” He added: “Whatever comes to your hand to do with all your power, do it because there is no work, or thought, or knowledge, or wisdom in the place of the dead to which you are going.”​—Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6, 10, The Bible in Basic English.

Solomon was inspired to say that “the fate of the sons of men and the fate of the beasts is the same. As is the death of one so is the death of the other . . . Man is not higher than the beasts . . . All go to one place, all are of the dust, and all will be turned to dust again.”​—Ecclesiastes 3:19, 20, The Bible in Basic English.

Although written by King Solomon, the above words were inspired by God and form part of his written Word, the Bible. These scriptures, along with many others in the Bible, do not support the popular belief that something inside us survives death to live on in another form. (Genesis 2:7; 3:19; Ezekiel 18:4) Is God then telling us that “dust,” or nothingness, is the ultimate end for all humans? Definitely not!

The Bible does not teach that any part of a human survives death. Yet, it does offer an unmistakably clear hope for those who die. The following article will show why you should not fear that death is the absolute end of human life.

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AN INESCAPABLE ENEMY

Death has been called man’s enemy. It is a real enemy, and the evidence is all around us. According to one estimate, some 59 million people die every year​—an average of 2 every second. How does death take its toll?

▪ One person dies as a war victim every 102 seconds.

▪ One person is murdered every 61 seconds.

▪ One person commits suicide every 39 seconds.

▪ One person dies in a traffic accident every 26 seconds.

▪ One person dies from hunger-related causes every three seconds.

▪ One child under the age of five dies every three seconds.

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A FUTILE PURSUIT

On November 9, 1949, James Kidd, a 70-year-old copper miner, disappeared in the mountains of Arizona, U.S.A. Several years later, after he was declared legally dead, his pencil-written will was discovered, along with his investments worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. In his will Kidd stipulated that his money be used for research to find “some scientific proof of a soul of the human body which leaves at death.”

Soon afterward, over 100 purported researchers and scientists applied for the funds. There were months of court hearings and thousands of claims suggesting the existence of an invisible soul. Finally, the judge awarded the money to two reputable research organizations. Well over half a century later, those researchers have yet to produce “scientific proof of a soul of the human body which leaves at death.”