Thursday, March 20, 2014

Christian Inconsistencies on the Treatment of Death

This is something that has caught me off guard a few times. Even though I've recognized these inconsistencies a number of years ago, it is something I tend to forget in discussions with Christians.

For a good example, one of the big advertising points of Christianity is that their god is awesome and loving because he (in this case, Jesus) sacrificed his life for us. I have written about this before, but I made a mistake in that post and I've made the mistake in online discussions with Christians. First, here's some of the text in question:

If Jesus were just a man, then sure, that would be quite a noble deed to give up your life and pay for our sins so that others can benefit...

...However, when we go back to Christian theology*, Jesus is more than just human. If Jesus is really God (or a part of God), then what is death to something that is part of the creator of death? It should be no big deal.

The mistake is in that first sentence. I was looking at death from the perspective that there is no afterlife. Christians, however, supposedly do believe in an afterlife.* So never mind the part about how death should be no big deal to an eternal god; death should be no big deal for humans!

Yet, Christians treat death as a big deal. Really, this pitch about Jesus making this supposedly great sacrifice relies on death being a big deal. If some event or action is not a big deal, then it can't really count as a sacrifice. This should be quite obvious, but I feel the need for a quick example anyway. If I donate $5 to charity, that's not a big deal. $5 isn't very much. If I were to give $5,000 to charity, however, that's a much bigger deal for someone with my income! It's a bigger deal and is thus a bigger sacrifice. So if death is just an event along the way to an afterlife that is supposedly better than this life, then it isn't really a sacrifice.

But I don't find that Christians fully believe in an afterlife like they claim. It was about 4 years ago now that I had brought this up to some Christians on Facebook. There was a story in the news I had found interesting. Best I can remember, it was about a man who was essentially dying from cancer. The cancer had already caused a bunch of throat damage to where he could no longer talk and had to eat through a tube. He had found some group, apparently without the approval of his wife, to assist him with suicide. In the news article, his Christian widow was very upset that this group was "playing God." It prompted me to ask why Christians make such a big deal out of death if it's just a stop along the way?

Well, I don't recall getting any good answers. I may have gotten a couple responses criticizing me for asking the question in the first place (but I really need to dig through my Facebook archives to verify this). The one answer I'm pretty sure I do remember was one that was not at all helpful. It unfortunately left me too dumbfounded at the time to respond. The answer was essentially that Christians view life as precious. There are two problems with that; the first being that I had already reached that conclusion, though it is perhaps my mistake for not being more explicit. The second problem is that it didn't even address the question. OK, so Christians find this life precious. So what? As far as I can tell, they also claim the afterlife to be essentially precious. Was this Christian suggesting the afterlife is not actually that great of a thing? Because if this life is precious and the afterlife is also precious, then there's not really any stark contrast here and we're right back to the idea that death is just a stop along the way. Worse, the impression I get is that the afterlife is more precious than this life. It does not make sense, then, to cling to this precious life when there is an even more precious afterlife waiting.

Again, I find the real answer to be that Christians don't actually believe in it as they claim. They want to believe it, but there is a lack of evidence for the afterlife that they have to deal with. Seriously, what is the evidence for an afterlife other than an old book claiming that it does? (Which isn't very good evidence.) Maybe some so-called "psychics" here and there claiming to talk to the dead? Maybe a few people here and there claiming to see the ghosts of their dead relatives? I'm not convinced that these really count for much, either. I suspect a lot of people claim to believe in these stories because, again, they want to believe. It's the old canard of "actions speak louder than words." If people really believe this stuff, then why all the hardship around death?

This is something I would like to see a good answer for. I don't expect there is one, so surprise me! Why do Christians make such a big deal out of death?

* One potential catch Christians would perhaps call me out on is that people may not have been going to an afterlife until Jesus's sacrifice. This, though, does not at all negate the inconsistent attitude Christians have toward death today.

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