Here’s a common complaint from Christians: death is largely avoided in our culture. People are uncomfortable with it, because they have no hope of heaven. Enter Christianity. Christians can face death without fear, because they have confidence in resurrection. They know that death isn’t the end, that they’ll see their loved ones again, that in heaven they will experience the presence of God which is far better than life. They will live “forever and ever”. Have I got it right?
I used to believe those things too, and they comforted me. It made death easier to fathom, easier to think about. But isn’t it just a big mind game? Christians in no way accept the reality of death, which is that death is actually the end.
Facing death takes much more courage that simply consoling yourself with an afterlife. It means acceptance that there really is an end– something that Christians never acknowledge. Grief isn’t supposed to be easy. I’m suddenly concerned about the psychological effects of never accepting loss, never going through the proper stages of grief, and never undergoing the self-analysis and growth required for coming to terms with one’s own mortality.
Christians don’t really face anything. Being comforted is not the same thing as facing reality. That should be obvious, but it seems like a universal characteristic for Christians to think that they face reality more than the rest of us simply because they’re comforted.
The Christian doctrine of resurrection of the dead is based on a philosophy of reward for good behavior. Children need the bribe of dessert before they will finish their vegetables. But if Christianity is as good as it’s purported to be, there wouldn’t be so many Christians hanging onto eternal life as vital to their faith.
For me, Christianity would be much more compelling if it had no afterlife. I would be much more attracted to God and to Christ if all of the hundreds of millions of Christians, in the face of mortality, believed that He was a God worth serving with their limited years on Earth, the only years they would ever be given. Of course, that wouldn’t be my only condition for belief, but it would make Christianity much more worthy of respect if Christians were willing to give up everything they had without receiving eternity in return.
“Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1 Corinthians 15:29-30, 32)
Why, indeed, do we eat our vegetables? Because we have been promised dessert.