The deathbed is the ultimate test

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's picture
The deathbed is the ultimate test

I have always been curious as to how many atheists still hold on to their mindset once they are faced with their last hours or days. Because i have heard many stories of people asking god for his forgiveness when they are in those last moments. And it does seem like the ultimate test for an atheist person to go through. Does anyone here have any stories to share about atheists that you knew that died and how they faced their last moments?

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's picture
This is a good topic. I hav

This is a good topic. I hav also heard of this many times. The atheist that repents on his last minutes or questions his lack of belief. And it would be great to learn more about famous atheists and if they all remained atheists at least to everyone involved in their last hours.

Please re-enter your username here...flyingdetrius's picture
Most stories of death bed

Most stories of death bed conversions can be traced back to christians who wish to make atheists look foolish.

's picture


Yes that might very well be the truth. But it's still good to debate all things, even if they seem to go against what you might believe. I think no theory or belief should be taken as absolute and without questioning.

I was reading about Anton Lavey and the rumors of him accepting jesus christ, and same rumors came out when many other figures that go against the church have died. But it doesnt make it any less intersting as a topic.

Zarathustra's picture
A common story is that of

A common story is that of Darwin, who is claimed to have converted to Christianity upon his death, when he told Lady Hope that he so very regretted writing his Origin of Species. Of course, as you say, it would be tremendous for Christians to relish that their great challenger from science of the time had changed his mind and even outright regretted it when dying...but it simply isn't true. Lady Hope was not at his deathbed, his daughter was, and she claims he made no conversion.

How could he have told Lady Hope if she wasn't there, after all? Sounds like a case of trying to claim famous non-believers as converters to, as Flyingdetrius says, fools. Or at least, try to rebut their life's work to satisfy some urge for uniformity in belief and conviction. I'm sure there may have been deathbed conversions. But supposedly, Voltaire, when asked by a priest to renounce Satan (who, for those not-informed, he did not belief in either), replied "Now is not the time for making new enemies." Just my two pence.

jaymesbond's picture
This is a good question. I

This is a good question. I wished I had a personal account to share but alas I do not (at least not one that helps). However, I think the reason many 'might' convert is because of the system in which we root our belief, i.e. our belief system is disbelief, our faith is no faith. This is fine throughout our lives but when faced with the possibility of death how do you put your disbelief into practice, or rather how do you put your faith in no faith at all. I am speaking from experience - when I was doing a tour in Iraq there were times when my atheism faltered (though I do not like to admit it). Seeing brothers die around me and questioning every next turn we took through the towns e.g. IED, etc. - it was hard not to question my own disbelief. This coupled with Chrsitian soldiers seeming so arrogant about their fates and souls, made my disbelief almost unbearable. I guess what I would like to see is a response to this type of situation from someone who has overcame it or rather knows an atheist / agnostic who didn't search for hope of something more in the face of death... I think it would help others to hear a response as well (maybe from a life long atheist), as this is an age old problem for us.

's picture
Thanks for sharing your

Thanks for sharing your experience in Iraq Bond. I think everyone could feel like their beliefs are questioned at some point in their life, even if their beliefs are not to believe at all.

AnimalLeader's picture
There is no doubt that the

There is no doubt that the ultimate test is indeed the death bed. Your subconcious mind can hide the fear of eternal damnation until you are faced with impending death.

's picture
A good video on the

A good video on the subject

Melinda Davis's picture
I'm just not convinced of the

I'm just not convinced of the importance of the death bed conversion in the first place. Animals in traps do all manner of things, rational and not, to escape a trap. I remember being in the hospital for a major health issue and calling out for my mother, a woman who was just abusive and who would only have made me upset. The point being that I didn't regain faith in my mother; I blurted out something in a moment of fear and pain. Deathbed conversions, when they aren't faked, are more often than not the same sort of things.

AnimalLeader's picture
I think it depends on your

I think it depends on your level of fear when it comes to death. Some people have suffered more than other in life and have lost most of their loved one by the time of their death, and this make it easier to welcome it.

Please re-enter your username here...'s picture
I think dying must be scary

I think dying must be scary because noone knows what is going to happen...

's picture
I feel like the religious try

I feel like the religious try to use the death bed conversions argument as if it gives credibility to their beliefs. I see this as nothing more than humans being emotional in a vulnerable state. We are emotional beings and more times than not our subconscious is in more control than our conscious mind. We long to be with others and live on because our sub/conscious knows no other reality. Facing death I'm sure is a desperate state to be in mentally, and some probably look for any possible way to continue on. However this doesn't mean that when we're able to think clearly about our beliefs, our reason is not sound.

Could it be that this shows how unreasonable belief is? That we only turn to in it in desperate times?

Nicktator's picture
Now, this is a topic that I

Now, this is a topic that I regularly ponder. I have always planned to pray during my last seconds on earth. This is kind of a better safe than sorry deal. I hope that if there is a god up there watching over us the best he can, that he would forgive me during my last moments on earth. I seriously ponder it when thinking about the after life, that no one knows about, so it is pretty scary to think about in my opinion.

Lauren's picture
There must be a sense of fear

There must be a sense of fear for so many right before death that they would pray to god out of shear fear. In those times giving words to any kind of distant being would be comforting because we think he/she/they understand, they know what we are going through. I just view it as a form of comfort, not literal belief.

's picture
There are not much atheists

There are not much atheists where i live, so i do not know personally of any that dont believe in God,. but it's tradition here to pray over the dead, you know, just in case there is God.

Delani Rorschech Zondo's picture
If God Does exist. I think I

If God Does exist. I think I'll go to hell laughing if I proved how much of a dick he was on earth.

DarkLight's picture
LOL delani, that is a good

LOL delani, that is a good answer righ there!

New user 12's picture
Well said Delani. To be

Well said Delani. To be honest though, I am not sure if I will be able to laugh if and when I am sent to hell (though I would prefer to laugh), because such a God can torture me even more than here on earth and make it impossible for me to laugh in a literal sense. It is the of Problem of Evil for which there is no convincing answer from theists that makes me an agnostic atheist.
If you were brought up in Eastern religions such as Jainism or Hinduism, you face a different dilemma. In my opinion, those religions have more solid philosophical and metaphysical groundings for their beliefs because they had a thousands of philosopher monks who relentlessly tried to find a logical basis for their claims, were less constrained than Abrahamic religions to stick to one fixed definition of God or salvation and therefore revised their belief systems to give logically more defensible arguments for their claims, though some of those beliefs are still unconvincing or unverifiable from a scientific viewpoint. Those religions, at least their main streams, don't believe in eternal damnation. But even unintentional or minor transgressions of their prescribed rituals and moral code of conduct count as sins for which one will have to suffer in the next birth. One attains salvation only when he/she has reaped the fruits (i.e. suffered through) of all sins accumulated over all births and has not accumulated new sins. In some ways, that too is as terrifying a prospect as eternal hell, because life on earth, as we all know, can be extremely harsh to many if not all

chimp3's picture
Welcome New user 12! Please

Welcome New user 12! Please note the date of this post. None of the posters on this thread are still active. It is a 6 year old thread. Interesting topic, why not start one of your own?

Henry Plantagenet's picture
The infamous 19th-centry

The infamous 19th-centry atheist Bob Ingersoll pointed out that Jesus was capable of error – he believed in devils and chose Judas as his right-hand man -- and then committed the biggest error of all. “For the man Christ, I feel only admiration and respect. I think he was in many things mistaken. His reliance upon the goodness of God was perfect. He seemed to believe that his father in heaven would protect him. He thought that if God clothed the lilies of the field in beauty, if he provided for the sparrows, he would surely protect a perfectly just and loving man. In this he was mistaken; and in the darkness of death, overwhelmed, he cried out -- Why hast thou forsaken me?" Thus proving also that he did not intend to die. This issue was particularly irksome to Ingersoll, because many of his would-be tormentors taunted him with the notion that atheists would invariably repent and beg for God on their deathbeds. “Suppose that Voltaire and Thomas Paine and Volney and Hume and Hobbes had cried out when dying "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" what would the clergymen of this city then have said?”....Even if an atheist "converts: on his deathbed, that's not faith, that's fear.

Henry Plantagenet's picture
This issue was particularly

This issue was particularly irksome to the famous atheist Bob Ingersoll, because many of his would-be tormentors taunted him with the notion that atheists would invariably repent and beg for God on their deathbeds. “Suppose that Voltaire and Thomas Paine and Volney and Hume and Hobbes had cried out when dying 'My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?'what would the clergymen then have said?”...and in any case, deathbed conversions would be driven by fear, not belief.

Giacomo's picture
It does not matter. And it is

It does not matter. And it is no test. In those moments a person is compromised to varying degrees. You may not have your faculties about you. You would likely be emotionally compromised as well. None of those people within the last hours are themselves, all of those conversions are invalid. I find them a slight against the memory of rational people by theists who wish to use the story to brainwash the living.

Zaphod's picture
Death is a scary proposition

Death is a scary proposition no matter what you believe. we live our whole lives fighting to stay alive. Death is boldly going into the unknown if by choice or not. It was once said, better to believe in God and not have there be one than to not believe in god and find out you were wrong. Personally, I don't think it would matter if you were wrong as long as you lived a good life, if this god is any sort of just or fair that should be enough.

Cognostic's picture

DEATH BED CONFESSION, is the final indignity thrust upon the poor, sick, and dying. The final con to manipulate the emotionally downtrodden and separate them from their wealth.

Weekly donations given to a church help to pay the rent, keep the preacher and his family fed, and pay for the grounds upkeep. The real money comes from making the infirmed feel guilty upon their death.

By doing this priests and preachers get the frail and ailing as well as their despondent families to donate money and property to the Church. Priests and preachers promising the infirmed a reward in the afterlife and encouraging them to buy their way into an afterlife existence of peace. Priests, like vultures linger near the dying in expectation of picking the flesh from the bones of the dying. They do this to fill their pockets with wealth. Nothing is more profitable than manipulating fear and despair of the infirmed and their suffering family members.

The Deathbed is the Ultimate TEST because THAT IS WHAT THE CHURCH WANTS YOU TO BELIEVE. The death bed is the FINAL MANIPULATION. Death bed GUILT is the most lucrative manipulation the Church has ever created. This is where all the BIG MONEY comes from. An ailing person, convinced of their guilt, threatened with eternal damnation, and told they can have salvation through their donation to the Church is likely to feel guilty enough to surrender all they have.


Seek3R's picture
But then the question is,

But then the question is, which god to ask forgiveness for?

And what happens if perhaps in 2050 a man dies and just 10 years earlier in 2040 we found all the scientific answers to everything we ever wanted to know and someone tells a orthodox religious man on his death bed, "Sir, we have empirical evidence that your god is false. There is no hell or heaven sir."

Would there be a deathbed reversion to atheism?

Why is the latter question considered stupid, as I assume, while the former (the one you asked) is considered the ultimate test?

We are so used to fooling ourselves and cheating death, isn't it? It's so amazing. It's thousands of years of evolved brains that we're talking about.

David Killens's picture


"Would there be a deathbed reversion to atheism? "

No, and it was already explained that religion is a con, and based on offering the desperate and frightened an escape. Atheism does not offer an escape clause. You die, it's over, you can't buy you way to living longer or enjoying some heaven. There would be zero gain by accepting atheism and rejecting the god scenario.

Seek3R's picture
Why zero gain? What if you

Why zero gain? What if you lived a "sinful" life on earth and someone tells you, mate, don't worry, no one is going to hold you accountable. You are not going to be eternally damned.

Imagine if you knew your sinful life would lead you to hell. Knowing hell doesn't exist, would help. If it doesn't help, something's wrong with the individual then.

Cognostic's picture
Seek3R: Do you have any idea

Seek3R: Do you have any idea at all what the word "sinful" means? Your attempt at disguising Pascal's Wager was lame.
Atheists do not fit into your paradigm. There is no "sin" in atheism. We do not believe in God or gods. It is an impossibility to lead a sinful life without a religious reference.

LogicFTW's picture
Adding to what Cognostic

Adding to what Cognostic wrote in response to Seek3R:

I am not sure what atheist has to do with it. Pick any religion where what you have done can be absolved or not considered "wrong" in the first place and voila, that person is helped with the burden of feeling "guilty" for what he has done that they feel guilty about if they decide to believe the particular religious garbage.

Does a religion have to be of a certain "popularity" contest winner or runner up to "work" for this? There are millions of religions as well as the simple negative (atheist) you could even make one up on your deathbed if you do not have a "popularity contest" standard for the religion. It would have the same level of authenticity, truth/fact/reality etc. of any other religious idea once you strip away the popularity contest part of it.

Take Jihad, a nice little loophole, you can kill (and a whole lot more!) with impunity as long as they are deemed an "infidel" and if you are not sure, you can make it up as you go along, get in a large enough group with them and you can even possibly escape normal societal punishment for this stuff, at least for a while.



I am an atheist that always likes a good debate
Please include @LogicFTW for responses to me
Tips on forum use. ▮ A.R. Member since 2016.

Peurii's picture
The point about which god

The point about which god should one ask forgiveness on the death bed is exactly the important question here. Reminds me of Hitchens pondering on this issue and relating this story:

Voltaire was on his deathbed. A priest was asking him to renounce Satan. To which Voltaire said: "this is no time to make enemies".* As in life, so in death, accepting one god would be renouncing others. To Pascal's wager, being atheist really is the safest bet.

*There is no evidence that Voltaire said this, unfortunately. It has been attributed to Niccolo Macchiavelli too, but none of them probably said it.


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