I get into discussions with christians a lot. Recently, I've had a lot of (online) discussion with fairly radical bible-literalist largely-creationist types.
I'm often asked by them if I fear death, and I explain that I came to terms with it years ago. I say I don't fear it at all. Many of them tell me I am lying, or that I am deceiving myself, and when faced with the real prospect of death I will come crying back to the Lawd begging for forgiveness, no-atheists-in-foxholes.
I never bought it - I've come close to death before, and even before I really thought it through, the prospect of dying wasn't that terrifying (pain, on the other hand, I'd really rather avoid, but that's a side issue). But how would I feel NOW?
Well, I recently had a serious prospect of death. I was laying face down on the floor, having crawled a few feet toward the phone and unable to move any further, with all the symptoms of a stroke, and resolved to wait for someone to find me (which I was pretty sure would be no more than ten minutes). So anyway, I had several minutes to ponder the very real possibility I might die, not at some distant time in the future, but with the very real good chance I might die today, possibly right there on the floor.
I didn't actually think death was all that likely, mind you; I was more worried about the prospect of surviving with major defects and being a damn nuisance, but even that didn't seem hugely likely - if things went well, I expected I'd probably come out of it mostly okay, given a few weeks or months at most. But still the prospect that "this could be the day I die" was there.
So how was it?
I felt not the slightest twinge of fear. Not the briefest moment of doubt. I had no impulse to pray. I had no sense that I was risking infinite torture imposed by the merciless and implacable god of the new testament*.
I simply thought that it was possible I might die. It was annoying, like missing the last half of a good TV show that I'd really been enjoying. I was somewhat concerned that my kids might see me dead on the floor, which would be somewhat traumatic. That was it.
So I feel vindicated. I was right. When faced with the immediate, real possibility of death... I don't fear it. Not a whit. All the vile christian threats - they don't work on me any more. Even when I think I might really die.
* This guy (I'm looking at KJV):
Matthew 10:28, 13:41-42, 25:41, 25:46
Mark 4:11-12, 9:43-48, 16:16
Luke 12:5, 13:23-30
John 3:36, 15:6