What does a human death signify in atheism? Imagine a man (or woman) who keeps a diary. He jots down every important event in his life. From time to time he rereads portions of his diary so that he won’t forget the precious memories, like growing up, or raising a child of his own. Evolving friendships.
All the little things that make a life add up to something. That layer a life with sentimental insights and attachments.
Then imagine burning the diary, one page at a time. Start on the very first page. Light the lower right-hand corner, then watch the flame move up the page, consuming every word, sentence, and dated entry. One by one, the flame unwrites everything the diarist wrote. It steadily overtakes the record of his life, from boyhood to old age. The pages smoke and curl into ash, then crumble into dust at the merest breath. His entire life reduced, in a matter of minutes, to a heap of smoldering ash.
But suppose, you say, that’s not all. For he still lives on in the hearts and minds of his children.
Yet the same flame will repeat the same process in the entries of their own lives as well. A series of ash heaps, scattered by the wind.