Death is the natural state of an organism following life, when the biological processes that define life cease. In the case of most animals, including humans, this state is achieved when the breathing and blood circulation stop for a long enough period that they cannot be restored.
Many people find the thought of their own death, or that of their loved ones, to be extremely troubling. This might be one reason certain aspects of religion, such as certain burial traditions and belief in an afterlife, began in early humans in the first place.
Clinical Versus Legal Death
Death is currently known as an irreversible reaction in all organisms, however, there are many known cases where people their hearts had stopped beating but were revived by CPR. For this reason, the definition of permanent death in the legal and biological sense does not entirely rest on the activity of the heart. Absolute unrecoverable death entails the irreparable destruction of the brain which can be caused by oxygen deprivation, bleeding of the brain, incineration, or high impact trauma. In the distant future, when the entire physical state of a brain can be copied at the necessary resolution to preserve fidelity to the original, the definition of death may change. The ability of nanotechnology to reconstitute the brain after it is destroyed to the exact state it was before the destruction may also make true death more difficult to establish.
Homeostasis is a phenomenon that is what defines living organisms. If humans or their descendants attain non-biological physical forms that only act as platforms for the continued operation of the mind, then according to modern definitions of life, these transhumans/posthumans would not be considered living since their cells (or the nanotech equivelents) will not necessarily have to exhibit homeostasis in order to facilitate the primary function of simply acting as a platform for consciousness.
It can be hard to accept that our consciousness will finally end and won't return. That's why different religions develop different fantasies about an afterlife and imagine they will carry on being conscious somewhere else. There is no evidence for any afterlife. It's just wishful thinking and can even become a terrifying nightmare when people are taught to believe in Hell. Too often religious people make themselves and those around them miserable in this life doing things which they hope will get them a better afterlife. This life is the only life that we know exists. It's best to concentrate on making this life as good as possible for ourselves and for those around us. Seriously, being unconscious doesn't hurt.
Facing Death without Religion
So must I die, and so be laid at rest, Inanimate as though I'd ne'er had been No more entranced by joy, by care oppressed, A withered mass, uncomely to be seen. READ THE WHOLE POEM
- How to Face Death without Religious Beliefs
- The Type of Advice Given by a Physican to an Atheist Patient who is dying
- Death (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
- Christians Are Unafraid Of Death Very funny and irrerevant video. This video may not be ideal for people who are dying or recently bereaved.