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Arp's avatar

Atheists, what do you tell your kids when they ask "What happens when you die"?

Asked by Arp (3516points) April 5th, 2010

I always kind of wondered. I suppose i’ll say something along the lines of “Nobody knows for sure, but people make up these crazy stories sometimes”. What do you say?

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37 Answers

lilikoi's avatar

You cease to exist.

Wait, that ^ is what I believe.

I’d tell my kids this:

“What do you think happens?”

Lightning's avatar

You body becomes one with the dirt. You become part of the trees…

wundayatta's avatar

You have no consciousness. I.e., you can’t think and aren’t aware of anything, even yourself. Nothingness remains. It’s a nothingness that you aren’t even there to appreciate. I.e., it’s no biggie being dead. You won’t even know. What is a big deal is contemplating the idea that one day you’ll be dead and you will no longer know anything—even the idea that you ever existed.

janbb's avatar

You live on in the memories of those whose lives you’ve touched.

OneMoreMinute's avatar

@wundayatta What about the Love and Fear? In the movie “Ghost” Patrick Swazee says you take all the Love with you. Why would consciousness stop, just cause we separated from our body? I thought our body was just a vehicle, our greater and much grander self is multidimensional. Why would that stop just be cause it let the body go?
I know it’s just a movie, but I’ve watched it like twenty times, cry every time, and it MUST be true!!!

davidbetterman's avatar

@Arp Great question.
If they are honest, they have to tell the child that it is all over and all that remains is a dark hole in the ground with no eternity and no afterlife and no nothing!
Or they will give some BS non-answer like, “no one has ever come back to tell…”

DarkScribe's avatar

Someone else gets all your stuff.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

I’d say that we don’t really know for certain since no one has come back to tell us about it.

wonderingwhy's avatar

I don’t have kids, but I’d probably say “Nobody really knows.”

earthduzt's avatar

I tell them, “We are Energy, and energy does not leave the Universe, it just morphs or transforms itself into a different type of energy. The amount of energy that was around when the Universe was created is the same amount that is around today. No more, No less….We are part of that energy so therefore we don’t really leave we just transform into a different type of energy.”

If I were to take a gun for example it has stored up energy, once I pull the trigger it releases that energy and is now transformed into several types of energy (fire, shock waves, sound waves, force) The energy of the gun isn’t dead, it just transformed into different types.

You will join the stars and remain in the place you were born 14 billion years ago.

wundayatta's avatar

@OneMoreMinute I’m a little confused as to where this question is coming from. I answered the OP’s question about what I tell my kids. It should be clear from my answer that I don’t think there is a shred of evidence that consciousness survives death. It would be nice if it did, but I’ve never heard or known anyone who has heard from a dead person where the communication could be verified.

This idea that body and mind and spirit are separate things also concerns me. You can not have either spirit or mind without body. They do not exist separately. Much of our thinking and spirituality occurs within the body. Of course, the brain can not think with a physical structure. But the spirit of a person also can not exist without a body. It just makes no sense to try to separate such concepts. Of course, that doesn’t stop people from doing it all the time.

I think that people use “spirit” in the context of an individual as metaphor for the essence of that person—as people perceive it. So spirit is a concept that others place on us, and of course, when we die, spirit lives on because it is their idea, not ours.

Cruiser's avatar

I gave mine all the popular main beliefs of the afterlife and left it at that. They will ask questions later on as they process the information in their own way. They eventually asked about mine and I shared it as beautifully as I could. They are now informed as they should be.

davidbetterman's avatar

@wundayattaThis idea that body and mind and spirit are separate things also concerns me. You can not have either spirit or mind without body.”

How do you know?

Lightning's avatar

How do you know its the other way around? We are getting NO WHERE.

OneMoreMinute's avatar

@wundayatta I guess my understanding of Athiest must be off somewhere.
sorry about that…but I liked you explanation further.

ubersiren's avatar

I will tell them that it’s impossible to know what happens. Anyone who tells you they know for a fact what happens is an arrogant fool. That means people who firmly believe something happens, and people who firmly believe nothing happens. People who claim to “know” something that is so impossible to know and base it on “logic” are probably idiots.

SeventhSense's avatar

I pretty much agree with that and I don’t consider myself an Atheist. We’re all closer than we imagine.

earthduzt's avatar

@SeventhSense yes exactly…I could use water as a basic eample. The amount of water on the earth today is the exact same amount that was on the earth 4 billion years ago when it formed, no more no less. It just takes a different form at times.
Same with energy..we are energy and energy doesn’t go away ever, the universe cannot create new energy ever and it cannot get rid of energy. Therefore we are infinite beings not finite beings…we just take a different form when we die.

Moral of my story…Nothing ever really “leaves” this Universe

Cruiser's avatar

@earthduzt What is more intense to imagine is how this “energy” interacts…that is for me the spiritual nature of our existence.

filmfann's avatar


earthduzt's avatar

@cruiser I agree, it is very spiritual if you think about it. All of this “energy” does interact to create wondrous and glorious things. To think we as humans with a conscious, not even that all sentient life was created out of the very same thing our Sun is created out of, out of the very same particles that a lonely asteroid that wanders the vast emptiness of space. every atom in our body vibrating at just the right frequency to create us and vibrating at a slight less frequency to create a rock and anything in between, but essentially made out of the same matter. All of this is energy and to interact like it does to create the diversity it does…it really does put you on a spiritual journey that astounds your mind to no comprehension.

Cruiser's avatar

@earthduzt Dust to dust…but you know this! For me it is the “memory” of this shared energy and matter that intrigues me the most!

OneMoreMinute's avatar

@filmfann LOL! the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, in your tummy and out your mouth!

ninjacolin's avatar

i vote for “nobody knows” or “just what it sounds like.”

Rarebear's avatar

My daughter has never asked, actually. But if she did, I’d say that the carbon in your body goes back into the Earth to help generate new life.

Ron_C's avatar

My kids never asked that question and as far as I know, neither have my grandchilden.
If they had I would probably tell them that when they die, they won’t notice it and they will live on in the memories of the people they loved and that loved them.

Let’s face it we have not been alive for millions and millions of years and didn’t notice anything. I don’t expect it to be different after we are no longer alive.

AstroChuck's avatar

I tell them the truth. No one knows.

Shuttle128's avatar

@earthduzt “The amount of water on the earth today is the exact same amount that was on the earth 4 billion years ago when it formed, no more no less. It just takes a different form at times.”

Probably not. The earth has probably been hit by several icy bodies over the course of its life. Much of the water that was originally on the earth is now hydrogens and oxygens in various other compounds or vice versa. The earth’s atmosphere looses light diatomic molecules like hydrogen all the time. Also the earth collects charged ions of hydrogen from the sun all the time from the solar wind. Its entirely possible (though highly unlikely) that much of the water that was on earth when it was formed is gone.

YARNLADY's avatar

I would be more likely to say “Nothing”. It’s like when you turn off the TV – ‘nothing’.

Fenris's avatar

I tell them that I believe that the cycle of the world is a cycle between life and death – life is the fuel of death and death is the fuel of life. We are forever changing between the two, becoming food for the rest of the world to grow, so that others have food to grow and become food when their turn is over. We don’t cease to exist, because our bodies something greater than the form it takes now, as it’s nutrients go back into the web of life, and the mind never dies, because we carry on in the hearts of those around us we touch. So in a way, though there is death and life, there is not death and life, only change.
I’ve been told my reverence for the cycles, circles and rhythms of physics and the fundaments of the Universe border on mysticism, but I just hold a great amount of respect and caring for the forces that shape our existence.

augustlan's avatar

When my children and I discuss religion and/or death, this is how I handle it. I say “Some people believe X. Some people believe Y. Still others believe Z. No one knows for sure.”

earthduzt's avatar

@Shuttle128 Facts and trivia on different subjects concerning water

Did you know…?
About water chemistry and water movement:

1. Most of the earth’s surface consists of water; there is much more water than there is land.

2. Water can not only be found on the surface, but also in the ground and in the air.

3. There is the same amount of water on earth as there was when the earth was formed. The water that came from your faucet could contain molecules that Neanderthals drankā€¦

4. The overall amount of water on our planet has remained the same for two billion years.

5. There are two kinds of water; salt water and freshwater. Salt water contains great amounts of salt, whereas freshwater has a dissolved salt concentration of less than 1%. Only freshwater can be applied as drinking water.

6. Water consists of three atoms, 2 Hydrogen atoms and an Oxygen atom, that are bond together due to electrical charges.

Does the amount of water on planet earth increase or decrease with time?

Neither. We have the same amount of water on our planet now as we had a hundred years ago, water goes through a process called “The Water Cycle” while in some places water may be in small or large quantities at times, there is still the same amount of water, it has just not been distributed evenly, or it is going through one of the processes in The Water Cycle called evaporation, which means water vapor on the ground, is evaporating into cloud matter, the water in the clouds will be released during another process of The Water Cycle called precipitaion, more commomly known as rain.

etc etc….

JackiePaper's avatar

I don’t know.Now go to bed, or Santa wont leave you all those presents i bought at the store for you.

filmfann's avatar

@JackiePaper Welcome to fluther. Lurve.
Great name, btw.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I say something along the lines of what @earthduzt said – I say ‘I believe you become part of the sun and the rain and the universe’.

crazy_twilight_chick's avatar

You tell them that when they die they are going to become part of a tree & that later on in their tree life their spirit will leave the tree and they will become human again but they won’t be able to remember any of their past life and they are going to start from the begining. At least that’s what I would tell them.

Ron_C's avatar

@augustlan unfortunately x,y, and z are likely to believe and “know” that they are correct and all others are at best lost or as they typically say, are going to hell.

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