Death can be no more than an illusion in a universe that remembers everything.
There is a difference between wanting to survive and being terrified of death.
On abortion: killing a zygote could very well be taking a life, but it must assuredly be less of a sin to nip in the bud a life not worth living, a life of suffering and misery, than to irresponsibly do the opposite. Life is full of sacrifices, whether we like it or not.
The vast majority of humans are deluding themselves if they think for a minute that their actions have any other motivation or point than the facilitation of sex and the avoidance of death. Sex and death. Most everything else is mere ornamentation.
Death anxiety is clearly a fundamental trait of the modern human animal, being one of the primary causal players psychologically. Let us not, however, make the mistake of assuming it is a universal trait, for it appears that it is not.
There are two forms, in humans, of the fear of death. There is the instinctual one, which all animals have. There is also an existential fear of one's own extinction, peculiar to humans -- possibly civilized humans only. The two work synergetically to generate some whopping death anxiety. Which, naturally, is a primary driving force in all human affairs.
Dear Futurists, Singularitarians and those in denial everywhere: No matter what happens with life extension technologies, genetic advances or any other sort of advanced technology pertaining to cheating death: Your soul will transmigrate. At some point, you will die. All of this immortality nonsense is death anxiety at it most comical.
It seems to me that death anxiety is, in and of itself, more fundamentally an instinctual phenomenon than existential or conceptual. It is really at the root of our entire fear mechanism, which is shared by all animals. Civilized man tends to fixate on it to an exaggerated degree, due in part to certain ego pathologies. Tribal peoples surely had some death anxiety, but their natural anxieties were triggered less because they did not obsess over the subject, instead accepting it as part of the fundamental order of things. The fear mechanism is the same, at least for primates, but civilized man, in his constant, irrational focus on it, suffers it all the more because he triggers it excessively in his sedentism, and in his obsession on an intellectual level. This suggests, naturally, that what we refer to as DA is not natural to humans, but rather has some pathology to it. It is well documented that tribal peoples do not suffer from it nearly to the degree that civilized ones do. Not to mention certain studies in which terminal patients, when administered psychedelics, had markedly attenuated fear of death -- and in many recorded cases suffered none at all.
We seem to think that chronic death anxiety is natural for humans, but the fact is that there have been very many cultures on Earth that explicitly did not fear death -- sometimes quite the contrary.
What is the reason for the toxic belief that death represents our personal, and permanent, extinction? Is it that as a people we have come to decide that we have so perverted culture and life that we wish to attain oblivion? Or is it rather that we are so caught up in our virtual religion of materiality that we are simply lost, and blind? Or both?
There is no dividing line between life and death. It isn't there. We are all already dead. And the dead are alive.
Hunter-gatherers are known to have very little or no fear of death. Death is not a concern for them (even though, as with all living things, they seek to avoid it instinctively). DA (Death Anxiety) is not a universal, and seems to be a localized pathology of certain civilized groups.
It's funny: we fear death, yet we willingly and gladly send ourselves into unconsciousness every single night.
There have been many cultures, over the course of humanity's time on Earth, whose constituents did not fear death. The fear of death is not existential; it is not human nature. Aboriginal peoples believed that when they died, they returned to the universe out of which they came; they did not fear death. Samurai warriors believed that to die with honor was the greatest achievement to which one could aspire; they did not fear death. The ancient Greeks and the Romans saw death as a part of life and potentially a noble act; suicide was unusually common in both cultures; they did not fear death. Our fear of death is largely psychological, not biological or in any way inherent in our being, and that psychology is a corollary of the evolution of our culture. Interestingly, modern humans and more particularly westerners find that the fear of death becomes suspended during the psychedelic experience. Perhaps psychedelics afford us a temporary foray into a more natural psychology. Scientists are finding that, as restrictions are being relaxed and they are once again allowed to administer LSD in certain settings, terminal patients are much more relaxed and accepting of their fate on a regimen of LSD or psilocybin. We shouldn't take the fear of death for granted, or at face value, because, by all reasonable consideration, it actually appears to be pathological. (That isn't to say it diminishes the anxiety -- an intellectual acknowledgement or understanding is admittedly a far cry from a somatic, felt one).
Look at the chain of causation. What drives civilization? What drives an individual's need to be a part of the workforce? The answer to that is: survival. Everyone does what they do, at least as far as putting food on the table, because of an innate drive to survive. And what is survival really? The result of the desire not to die. So at least there is a solid causation for entertaining the abstraction we call "death anxiety." Some people are not as afraid of death as others. But probably, most would rather be alive than dead, and just because one doesn't actively get bothered by the notion of dying, chances are it will be pretty hard to take when it happens, if it doesn't happen suddenly.
Whatever is not in time exists everywhere at once -- and does not die.
Dying and death are inevitable. Death should not be feared for intellectual reasons, as it is perfectly natural. It should, and must, of course be feared for "fight or flight" instinctual ones. Of course our instincts preserve us for reasons of DNA replication. But there is nothing really wrong with death. It represents the eternal release from a spacetime, mass-energy, earth life, culture prison of the soul. The fear of death almost appears as the perfect metaphor for our whole terrible culture -- for our whole anti-nature, aggressively egotistical, nasty, diversity annihilating lunacy. If anything truly good and non-destructive can generate and indefinitely have support in the multiverse -- if anything far beyond us in evolution, like many authors suggest, can and will exist, if it is likely enough to happen more than once by general principle, then our deaths can have no meaning one way or another. We have no responsibility to the universe and we have no responsibility to attempt to improve upon earth evolution. Death will either be some sort of ultimate final oblivion, or it won't -- or it will be both, whatever. I'm inclined to think there is some chance it may not be, and that it is quite absurd that anyone thinks anyone's life is all that important and crucial to the well-being of the cosmological order. One's human death is not all that much to fret about. It may or may not be an issue at a much more developed phase of the evolution of intelligence.
If the universe can support immortality, we ought to be optimistic that there are immortal beings somewhere who would do the right thing and save us at death -- which to them would undoubtedly be very easy. On the other hand, if the universe is cold and dead and that's it -- if it in fact does not support immortality as a possibility -- we can take comfort in the fact that through oblivion we don't have to suffer constant defeat in vainly trying to create immortality and ultimately dying anyway. Either way, by necessity and pragmatically speaking, a desirable outcome (in purely practical terms) will follow. I'm sure some would object that even in a universe which cannot sustain immortal beings death is no comfort; however, I merely wish to point out that, honestly speaking, the truly appropriate course will present itself at the moment of each of our deaths. I find some comfort in this tidiness.
Atoms and molecules don't age. They don't die. They've existed at least since the big bang, and perhaps an infinitely long time. What does it mean for us mortal beings that we're made of an immortal essence?
The fear of death is a positive evolutionary trait, with a corresponding set of hard-wired thought patterns and behaviors. It is not an epiphenomenon of existential reflection, although some people fear it less than others. We do not decide whether to fear or loathe death, except in rare circumstances. It is quite hard-wired.