I was an atheist for most of my life - especially in terms of believing that I would be annihilated at death - that nothing of me would remain.
I had heard it said that death was the main fact of life, that knowledge of our mortality cast a shadow back over life, that awareness of death affected everything about life - but I did not feel this myself. For a long time, death was a remote and 'theoretical' possibility.
I think this had to do with the nature of my reasoning about death - from an atheist perspective. The fact that everybody reported that everybody in the past had died - and the inference that therefore I too must die, was a 'secondhand' piece of information (like astronomy) - and was not inner knowledge.
I was 'convinced' of it only as I would be convinced by some fact of history or science. And facts of history or science are not the kind of thing that operate as 'the main fact of life'.
My general attitude to death was that I hoped it would come upon me unawares - that I would be living well (as I then regarded living well), and then suddenly I would not be alive - but would know no more about it than falling asleep.
In other words, contrary to the notion that death was the great fact of life, it was not a fact in my life.
This was, and is, pretty much the standard, mainstream modern attitude and belief, I think - among young people, most of the time. Death didn't bother me. I didn't have any 'hang-ups' about being dead; did not live in fear, was 'cool' about mortality...
I had no psychological problems about death - no depression, no anxiety...
And this seemed to me to assert the superiority of atheism over Christianity - because Christians seemed to be terribly bothered about death.
So, the assumption behind this atheist view of death is that being dead is separate from life and that therefore death has nothing to do with life.
Death is not an event 'in' life; consequently there is an exclusion of death from life.
Because we will not be around to experience it, it therefore seems best to live as if there is no death. Seize the day, and all that jazz.
What about the death of other people?
More of a worry - for sure. But it was understood wholly in terms of their absence. Somebody dead is outside of life, he has gone from life - irrevocably.
That might be very unpleasant for me (while I was alive) but after I died and ceased to suffer then that's it.
It now seems clear that this was a literally insane way to live; and the fact that it is normal, mainstream, common just means that nearly everyone is insane.
But why insane?
What's the problem - if there is no immediately-obvious negative psychological impact?
The problem is that by deleting death from life - there are no grounds for preferring life over death: such a preference is utterly arbitrary.
We can feel and say that we personally would - at this exact moment - prefer to be alive than dead. But if we were dead and gone, then we would be none the wiser - so the preference is arbitrary.
Indeed, matters are even worse; because life contains the possibility if suffering. Indeed, it seems that life entails suffering: suffering is inevitable. Suffering is, apparently, the main fact of life for some people (and for me, some of the time).
Since suffering is generally regarded (in this modern world) as The Worst Thing, then wouldn't people be better-off dead. Indeed, wouldn't everybody be better-off dead?
Why not? If death has nothing to do with life, and life has serious intractable problems; then who is to say that death isn't better? And if anyone disagrees - well, that's just their current personal preference, and might well change in an hour, a day or a year...
It turns-out that there are devastating long-term disadvantages to the exclusion of death from life.
To live with death excluded-from life is not 'obvious common sense' - as most modern people assume; this is something new in human history - and something alien, unnatural and deranging for human beings.
By deleting death from life; we delete our-selves from the universe; we render our lives insignificant because a matter of arbitrary preference.
Yet here we are - in the universe! And (for some reason) we keep on living - we keep on preferring life over death; and we keep on doing the same for others.
The insanity comes from the absolute conflict between fundamental beliefs and daily living; between our metaphysics and our morality; between what people do all the time and force other people to do - and the fact that they cannot (by their own basic assumptions) justify doing any of it.
Being insane, lacking any coherent basis for reasoning, people cannot think coherently; consequently people have no insight into the fact of their own insanity; and having no insight therefore cannot discover a cause or cure for it.
Such is the modern condition - and much of it derives from our failure to recognize, feel, experience in our depths - what was obvious to past generations: that death is indeed the great fact of life.