The fact that everyone is going to die is well known to us all, yet it still effects us deeply when one of our personal connections dies.
Death is the cessation of biochemical processes. Total loss of homeostasis.
The former human, once animated by a variety of chemical processes is now just a lump of rapidly decaying matter that was once an organism. Death of individual cells, whether by apoptosis or some other means, is a regular part of life for multi-cellular organisms, happening on a constant basis.
Thus, a human corpse is no different than a human shaped steak, anything else is just sentimentalism. But, humans are sentimental. We honor these lumps of decaying flesh, and dispose of them with ritual and reverence. Strange creatures, we are.
I generally think of my self as rational, and I've never been the least bit superstitious. But death has always bothered me a lot, way more than it should. And it's not a fear of dying, but it's after the death occurs that bothers me. When I was a kid, I was terrified of cemeteries, and to this day I refuse to live near one. I don't even like shopping at stores or eating at restaurants near them. Funeral homes creep me out even more. It has nothing to do with evil spirits or anything like that, it's just a visceral response to the idea of proximity to dead people. I have no rational explanation for why these things bother me so much; after all, dead bodies are just a bunch of chemicals, not fundamentally different from any other matter, as the OP suggests. I suppose it could be simply a result of never being exposed to such things as a kid; out here in the West, Europeans have a much shorter history than they do in most other places, so there is naturally less evidence of the dead laying around. I went most of my life without ever even seeing a cemetery, and no one close to me died until I was in my 20's so I never really had to be exposed to it growing up. Because I have such a negative visceral response to anything associated with death (black curtains, stately urns, coffins, the style of architecture that all funeral homes seem to have) the idea of dispensing with all the ceremony and just maybe tossing me out in the woods and letting the natural process of decay take over is rather comforting.
Couple things about death. First off I'm not afraid to die... However what scares the Hell out of me is not being able to take care of myself or just being a shell with no actual quality of life. I don't want to be in a situation where I need someone to help me shower, eat, etc. I would truly rather be dead if that were the case. Also I don't like the idea of being embalmed. I've seen the process and I find it rather gross, and it makes the body look like a wax doll IMO. When I die I just want to be buried right away.
I'm with you on embalming. I don't need my body preserved for some reason. "Green burials" sound better and better - let my nutrients go back into the earth, not preserved in a concrete vault.
I am far more afraid of my mind going than my body. Senility is actually something I am decently afraid of. But yeah, I have too much pride to be nursed. I don't like people doing things for me like that.
Also with you on being embalmed. Unless you're sitting up with the dead or something, it really is a waste.
But, humans are sentimental. We honor these lumps of decaying flesh, and dispose of them with ritual and reverence. Strange creatures, we are.
True for most humans, but not all. Wahabbi Sunni muslims bury their dead in unmarked graves - including the kings of Saudi Arabia. They feel visiting tombstones, monuments, etc smacks of ancestor worship.
That's interesting. Thank you.
Yeah but that doesn't mean that they aren't sentimental or honour them in other ways.
Your feelings about death depend greatly on what you believe happens after. As a Christian, I believe death is the beginning and not the end.
"without believing in an afterlife, there wouldn't be anything 'valuable' or 'invaluable' about this life to begin with, because what one does or does not do in this life would be entirely irrelevant if the end game were identical."
On its own, this statement is not supported, and too much of your argument hinges on it.
Can you explain further?
Valuable to whom? And what determines that value?
I would venture that whether you choose to be a responsible parent and be involved in a child's life - for instance - as opposed to abandoning them - has value (and matters, either way) regardless of any afterlife. Irrelevant is not the word I would use for that reality.
Is your contention truly, that without an afterlife, a life of service and kindness is of equal value to a life causing pain and suffering?
First - don't assume I am a pure materialist just because I am an atheist.
"If the end-game is the same regarless of the actions one takes in this life, then whether or not one has 1 life or 1000 wouldn't have any affect on its value."
This assumes that life is in a vacuum, and does not impact others. Much less that such an impact could continue over time.
Most of your arguments seem to derive only from "value" to the self (spiritual, eternal, etc.). Mine are to society - here and now. What matters to me is the effect you have on the world and the people around you. Not where you serve your reward or punishment.
"if one could achieve less pain simply by putting a gun to their head right now, than by living out a natural life, why should not they?"
Because you cannot know that to be the case. That's an irreversible decision made without having evidence to support making it.
"Because under a materialist outlook, by what rationale "should" one do anything at all, beyond a utilitarian means to an end?"
Even from a materialist standpoint we see that cooperative societies last longer, have healthier happier participants, etc. If we reduce the "means to an end" to survival of the species (and tribe/society) - a healthier one reproduces better. We could assert from this that "happy and healthy" are "good" values, which support a reasonably defined end.
But again, I'm not a materialist in this sense.