God, Goodness, and Death

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die . . .

~ Philip Larkin, Aubade

I used to fear death. No matter that my faith instructed me in the nature of the afterlife, and in my assurance of salvation from any evil that could await me there. No, “fear” is the wrong word. I hated death. I raged against its cruelty, its inevitability, its unfairness. I think it was actually God I raged against, the master planner of life and death.

If you are going through hell, keep going.Winston Churchill

My faith provided the rationalizations I needed to live with this terrible knowledge, that all will die, many without having had the chance to realize their dreams, many cut off in the midst of what might have been a great accomplishment. The afterlife was proposed as the equalizer. No matter what injustice was suffered in this earthly life, it would be made right in the next life, for the faithful, for those favored by God. I could not bring myself to fully accept that. If this life is the preparation for the next, if this life is a test or a preview of the glory to come, why, for so many, is it just short and frustrating? Why do innocent children die, why do babies? Why is death, for some, a welcome relief after months or years of agony? What does that teach anyone?

The church answered all this with the argument of ignorance: we cannot understand the ways of the Lord, which is no answer, or with the concept of free will. That is to say, we (the first Man) chose to rebel against our father, God, so he had to make us mortal. Not just mortal in that we would live a fixed lifespan, but we would also face a second death after our physical death, if we had not reconciled with God.

The problem I have always had with this is that it portrays God as a petty dictator; if you do not obey his rules unswervingly without question, he will sentence you to death. Yet we are taught that God is our loving father. I maintain that it would be easy for a good, all-powerful God to create a world in which everyone freely loves him.

A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.Carl Sandburg

Think of it this way. How many children hate their parents? It happens, but it is not the norm. If the parents are decent human beings, and don’t make any huge mistakes in child-rearing, and the children have no serious mental problems, the parents will be loved. So if God created us without major defects, and spent time with us as a loving parent, of course we would love him. It is our nature to go through periods of rebellion as we grow in wisdom, to figure out what the limits are. It is our nature to be angry when our parents correct us, and to learn to love them better as a result. It is our parents nature to love us no matter how far astray we go, no matter if we do have disabilities that cause us to behave badly.

Do children draw pictures on a wall to express their hatred of their mother? Have they turned against her in a plot to take over the household? When Mom finds the drawings, will she kill her children? No, no, and no. The children may face punishment, but they draw pictures because it is their nature to explore and create. They simply need to learn the discipline to properly express that creativity, which Mom will likely help them learn.

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.Mae West

It seems apparent that most moms and dads know more about child rearing than God. Could it be that this concept of God is not correct? Think about it. I know what I have come to believe, and it has enabled me to get past my hatred and fear. The statement “Death is a natural part of life” used to feel wrong to me, because I was taught that God created us to be immortal. False doctrine. We are indeed as mortal as we appear to be. Having a limited time to enjoy life, to accomplish whatever we can, attributes meaning to what we do. Death is nothing to fear; it is merely the endpoint of one’s life. It is the life that is valuable.

Credit for title image: flickriver.

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