"To be, or not to be, that is the question—
Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing, end them? To die, to sleep—"
W. Shakespeare. Hamlet.
Is it rational to be afraid of death? For me, a materialist atheist, who expects "nothing" to occur after death - and I mean literally nothing - as in the absence of something, I see no reason to be apprehensive or fearful of the inevitable moment when I, like all those millions before me, "shuffle off this mortal coil" into nonexistence, most probably. I further expect, given the empirical and skeptical examination I have applied to nature revealed by science, that the afterlife is an illusion and a potentially sinister one at that. Nevertheless, the same skeptic, the socratic doubter in me, which cannot ever prove or rule out the possibility of afterlives, however absurd they seem when examined, I accept that there is always a chance that in death, "what dreams may come"...
It seems safe to affirm that our superstition riddled societies, of past and present, are partly to blame. One must also take into account the fact that we have barely emerged from those hundreds of thousands of credulous years, during which the faithful homo sapien species was dying with uncritical certainty that life after death is as real as life lived on Earth (be it a flat or spherical Earth, geo-or-helio centred...).
Part 2 on the way.