Myth We Can Even Should Be Comfortable with the Idea of Death

Fear of death is among our healthiest and most desirable fears. Natural selection put it there, after all, and for good reason. Imagine two early ancestors crossing the savannah. One has a genetically endowed fear of death, while the other is indifferent to it. A predator sprints their way. All other things being equal, which of these guys will survive to pass on his attitude toward death?

The desire to live is also a helpful social regulator. It has been noted by several commentators that only by using the promise of a glorious afterlife to suppress the simple and natural fear of death were the attacks of September 11 made possible.3 Membership in the ranks of those who stand fearless in the face of death is not something we should wish for our children.

So perhaps we can agree that curing our children of the fear of death is off the table. But then what are our obligations to our children regarding mortality? I would suggest two: to provide reasonable comfort and to encourage thoughtful engagement.

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