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The value of death The value of death
by Jan Sand
2006-10-16 10:18:00
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The fact that our individual existences are limited is an irrefutable fact which some religions attempt to deny for the comfort of their adherents and the health of their coffers. However, deep down, even the most convinced of an afterlife probably has tiny twinges of doubt. And a good many of us are full-blown deniers.

I must have been about four-years-old when the fact that someday I would die struck me solidly and, just as any condemned person, I felt a chill that still persists after all these years. In my adolescence, on occasion, the complete realization would hit me like a bucket of icy water in the face and it took a day or two to re-anaesthetize myself and enjoy life again. The one saving thought was that death was only the state I was in before I was born and that wasn’t so bad, was it?

Even at that age of four, it seemed to me that religion was a scam, a feeling transmitted by both of my parents who never had any religious convictions. They made me aware, at that early age, of the horrors that religion has inflicted on a gullible world in the way it has encouraged evidently decent people to behave in an abominable manner. Current events have only confirmed that this tragedy is still in very dynamic operation.

In my first early theological arguments with the Catholic kids in my neighborhood they tried to convince me that human nature was essentially evil and if there were no Hell everybody would go there. My readings of Bernard Shaw, who exulted in disbelief, revealed he had once said that if he were given the choice of going to Heaven or Hell he would, of course, choose Hell, as that was where the company was most interesting.

Over the years I became aware of the many very good things that religious organizations have done, but it never seemed to me that the very good people involved were coerced into their activities by religious threats, rather that they were intrinsically good sensitive people who would have performed their wonders whatever theological trappings they might have acquired.

Even today, after much rationality has crystallized into a large body of knowledge indicating that original creation and the progress of life forms have no need of theology, some people with scientific training persist in their adherence to religion. But this seems to me the result of a lack of imagination in an inability to accredit very elemental forces the capability of sufficient sophistication to produce the very complicated world around us.

To substitute the mythical construction formulated out of ignorance and handed down in religious texts for a simple acceptance that there were yet many things to learn does seem to me more a lack of courage than anything acceptable to an intelligent mind. But I have learned through the years that the fact of the existence or non-existence of a super being is logically unassailable and the very deep emotional need of such a being for many people makes debate over this a futile exercise.

I have had two close personal encounters with death, one a delusion and the other quite real.

The first was the result of an extremely strong reaction to penicillin which started with recurrent swollen joints and progressed to a swelling in my throat that threatened to choke off my breathing. This took several weeks and I became erroneously convinced that the swellings were moving up towards my brain and, when it reached that point, I would succumb. I began living moment to moment and any ten minutes might become my last ten minutes. Naturally, there was an element of fear involved but the overwhelming emotion was delight in being alive for whatever time might be left. It was an epiphany where colors, scents, textures, delights in motion and the instant events that comprise the ever-present present became highly amplified and immensely intense. I eventually recovered but those moments of deep momentary awareness of merely being alive are a treasure I have always remembered and prize.

The second encounter was when my son died after thirty years as a respirator patient in the hospital. My life had revolved about his nightmarish trials and wonderful successes for this time and he loved life for all its difficulties. His last words were, “Save me”. And I couldn’t.

Religious people came to me afterwards and they tried to comfort me with consolations that he was better off, in a genuine attempt to relieve me of my grief. I could only recoil in horror from their nonsense to anaesthetize my real huge pain at his death. This was a pain that was commensurate with my loss and, in context, was a hugely necessary adjunct to the whole experience of my son’s very difficult life. I still have that pain although ten years distance has permitted me to make it containable.

Religion revolts me.


  
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Thanos2006-10-15 15:33:14
"I still have that pain although ten years distance has permitted me to make it containable."

I really hope it has!!!


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