Tuesday, November 21, 2006

This, I didn't believe....   posted by Razib @ 11/21/2006 12:21:00 AM

Some of you may know that I was not a self-aware atheist until the age of 8. Before that point I was nominally religious insofar as if someone asked I would have said I believed in God. If they asked what that meant I don't know what I would have said, it wasn't a question I considered. I had a vague Deist sense of God being the Ground of all Being, the Prime Mover, but I never really lived a life where a personal God was active. The religious instruction I received also indicated that there was an afterlife, a heaven. And a hell. And yet, today I just realized that despite these notional beliefs I held, between the ages of 4 and 6 I experienced a great deal of terror over the inevitability of death. I had specific ideas of bodies buried and decomposing and what not. During these bouts of terror I never even considered the possibility of an afterlife. These bouts abated as I grew older, and by the time I had my atheistic epiphany I wasn't concerned with the afterlife at all.

The only reason I recount this is to wonder: is it normal for children to have such a detailed fear of death? Or, do children normally accept the plausibility of life after death? I know from psychological studies that children seem to have an innate sense of ensoulment. I don't feel that I ever had this...I recall specifically fretting over bodily decomposition, and there was no awareness of "looking down" from the "outside." On the other hand children do hold in their mind many contradictory thoughts and ideas, just as adults do.