The following is another article that was initially posted to Qondio. I deliberately avoided the use of holy books and the opinions of religious teachers in order to try to generate an open discussion:-
As I rapidly approach the final official working day of my life, I suppose it should not surprise me that the fact I am now so close to death is becoming more obvious.
From my earliest childhood memories, death has been my constant companion. The fears that my mother might die in a grand mal seizure or my blind father get killed by a car on his way to or from work were my living night-mares. These nightmares were not eased when I moved up to a school that over-looked the crematorium!
The unexpected and premature deaths of so many in my immediate family have ensured that death has not become a back-ground threat but a foreground promise.
So, what is death?
Whatever religion you espouse, death is the doorway to another life or form of existence (or non-existence if that is what you aspire to), but just how true is this?
There is not a single, documented case of a dead person coming back to life to give a first hand report of what lies beyond. There are many cases of the reversal of ‘clinical’ death but there is still very little known about the final diagnosis of death. People who have been diagnosed as dead have made remarkable recoveries at the graveside or at wakes. Wakes, of course, are the earliest known, popular tests of a diagnosis of death. Just in case the diagnosis was incorrect, a wild party was thrown, with the ‘corpse’ as the guest of honour, in order to attempt to ‘awaken the dead’.
So, what is death?
If we look at death coldly and logically, death is simply the return to the natural state of being of the molecules of which we are made. Death is a process that lasts all of our lives. From our very first breath, our individual cells are dying and being replaced, indeed, there is not a living adult who has a significant number of the cells with which he/she was born.
Apart from this continual ‘dying’ process, the final ‘last gasp death’ simply kills off all of the remaining cells and the symbiotic population of associated fauna. Without the living tissue, the essence that is ‘us’ has nowhere to exist and so, logically, will also vanish.
Although this is not a welcome thought, it does make a lot of sense when you consider that the natural state of ‘us’ is non-existence. 130 years ago, not a single one of ‘us’ existed – nor did we for the millions or billions of years that preceded that period. Mankind generally counts its life expectancy as three score years and ten. What is seventy years of existence when compared with the inumerable years of non-existence?
On that basis, isn’t life an anomaly?
Mankind became sentient and, when the fact of his death was accepted as something to fear rather than as a natural and inevitable process, he created religion as a comfort blanket to ease his sleep at night. Few religions accept that the whole aim of life is to end, to cease to be and most of them have created fabulous beings who are enormously strong and immortal. These fabulous beings are credited with creating mankind and guiding it through its short, temporal existence and to gather it to their loving bosoms at the end.
None of the religions question the creation of such a pathetically weak and short-lived creature by the fabulous beings that they worship. What possible reason could there be for a god to want to ‘rescue’ mankind from death? Would a man decide that he would extend the lives of the ants in an ant farm indefinitely just so that they would continue to entertain him? It’s hardly likely is it? After all, a man can always find more ants to repopulate the ant farm if he was daft enough to let most of them die – is there a shortage of mankind for a god to repopulate the Earth if it died off significantly?
Mankind is an immeasurably tiny fraction of the life that exists on this Earth. Mankind is a virulent pest that abuses and slaughters without conscience.
Why, if you were a god, would you rescue mankind? Wouldn’t you feel much more fulfilled if you put your best efforts into creating a being with which you could have a significant relationship? Wouldn’t you want to have an equal with which to exchange ideas and opinions?
Wouldn’t you be tempted to let mankind vanish and rescue all the dogs? After all, a dog gives unqualified love and respect to a kind master and, if you read the future promised to many religious adherents, that is what most gods want, millions of souls to worship them throughout eternity.
Is death nothing more than a ticket to a seat on a cloud, a harp and an eternity of hymn singing and praise?
It was inevitable that one of the first responses quoted the bible:-
I would say two scriptures come to mind to answer your question.
The first is Genesis 2:7 And Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul.
This tells us that before Adam was created he was just dust. Nothing more and nothing less.
The second is Genesis 2:19 In the sweat of your face you will eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For dust you are and to dust you will return.
I guess I have trouble ignoring those.
To which my response was:-
Although I did not want to bring specific religions into this discussion, I thank you for giving the two quotations from the bible that state, quite categorically, that death is an end.
God created a living soul from the dust of the Earth and condemned that dust to return to the earth at the end of its given life. If the soul turns to dust, (Nothing more and nothing less.) there can be no eternal life.
It would appear that the commentor could not give a rational response and has not tried to defend his stance or to confirm that I had interpretted his comment correctly.