Martyrdom has been given a bad name by religion. Not surprising, since religion tends to poison whatever it touches. But at it’s core it is still a noble concept – to give up one’s life for something one deems to be more important for society or humanity. To gain more fulfillment of your utility function by dying to support a goal than could be gained by continuing to live – it is tragic and awe inspiring.
Belief in an afterlife seems to cheapen the whole concept. Jesus didn’t permanently die for anyone’s sins – he was temporarily inconvenienced. As was pointed out in 39, dying isn’t so horrible when it doesn’t end your life. When someone who knows that death is permanent accepts a significant risk of death, giving their life over for good, it feels to me like it means far more. This may be self-serving bias. But I think of Tricia Glasswell as a hard-bitten cop with no delusions of an afterlife, and it makes me want to write a fanfic-fanfic of her story. Facing annihilation when there is no afterlife recourse – that is hard-boiled badassery.