Religion and the Denial of Death
Recently, it was
revealed that in 2009 in the
I must say that I
am puzzled by all this, especially in the face of the fact that time and time
again, of all the modern industrialized nations on the earth, the
All this makes me wonder, could it be that religion, at least as we have come to understand it, is simply a disguised form of egotism? Not that it has always been so, but that somehow religion, especially Christianity, with its emphasis on saving our individual souls, has ended up this way. In fact I have often wondered if this slow shift from God-centeredness to self-centeredness was not inevitable as humanity slowly evolved from a stage of tribal group-think toward modern individualism. And as this happened, do we not find the explanation as to why Christianity, with its promise of personal salvation, eventually took much of the world by storm, taking the place of so many other cults for which individual survival in the face of death remained highly problematic?
If my thesis is correct, then I can only conclude that the paradox I’ve described — the irrational fear of death among those who claim to be religious — is either the result of too much of a good thing (self-consciousness become self-centeredness) or else of a religion that has completely lost its bearings. Religion, in the original sense of word, is supposed to be what takes us back or binds us (re-ligare) to our origins or (as theologian Paul Tillich put it) to “the Ground of [all] Being.” Now, if that were really true, religious faith would make us ready or even anxious, at least when the time has come, to return to the source of our existence. Instead, what we seem to have ended up with, at least in this country, is a pseudo-religiosity that is more of an escape hatch from reality than anything resembling religion in the true sense of the word.