By George Yancy
In five previous interviews in this series we’ve explored the Buddhist, Jain, Taoist, Jewish and Christian views on death and the afterlife. But what about those without any religious faith or belief in God? Why not, some readers have asked, interview an atheist? So we did.
Today’s conversation is with Todd May, the author of 16 books of philosophy ranging from recent French thought to contemporary ethics. His books — including “A Significant Life,” “A Fragile Life” and, most recently, “A Decent Life: Morality for the Rest of Us” — investigate meaning, suffering and morality. His work has been featured in episodes of the television show “The Good Place,” where he served behind the scenes as a “philosophical consultant.” This interview was conducted by email and edited. — George Yancy
George Yancy: In your book “Death,” you very clearly state, “For the record, I am an atheist (which is why I don’t believe in an afterlife).” Cornel West is fond of saying that we will eventually become “the culinary delight of terrestrial worms.” So I assume you believe life ends right there, without any consciousness beyond the worms. Do all atheists subscribe to that belief?
Todd May: First, George, I owe you a debt of gratitude for this series. Confronting death is one of the most important and difficult tasks that we as humans face. It’s been inspiring to see the ways different traditions grapple with that task.
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