In 2009, a Christian woman named Aasiya Noreen (a.k.a. Asia Bibi, below) got in a fight with Muslim co-workers over shared water. They said it was unclean because Noreen was Christian. An argument ensued during which Noreen said she would not covert to Islam, a statement her co-workers took as an insult to their faith and the Prophet Muhammad.
It wasn’t long before a Pakistani judge sentenced her to death. I repeat: They said she should die because some Muslim women felt she insulted their faith. (Thankfully, her execution hasn’t taken place yet, as her appeals process is still ongoing. The next hearing is scheduled for later this month.)
That brings us to Salmaan Taseer, a Pakistani businessman and politician, who was one of the people on Bibi’s side this whole time. He publicly criticized the blasphemy law and condemned the archaic thinking that led to her sentencing. And on January 4, 2011, Taseer was assassinated.
As tough as it may be to write about death, it’s one of the only truly universal topics. And yet people have very different ideas about what constitutes a “good” death. Is it smarter to remove a feeding tube from someone who has no chance of recovery? At what point should quality of life for the elderly be given more priority than the length of it? How should we talk about the subject?
Journalist and hospice volunteer Ann Neumann delves into all of these questions in her new book The Good Death: An Exploration of Dying in America (Beacon Press, 2016):
In the excerpt below, Neumann discusses how acknowledging the pain of others led to the rise of the “death with dignity” movement:
Earlier today, at the funeral for former First Lady Nancy Reagan, her son Ron Reagan, Jr. gave a stirring eulogy. And after sharing a few stories about her life, he made a passing reference to his own atheism:
Phil Zuckerman, professor of secular studies at Pitzer College, has just released a new book analyzing the research that has been done on the growing numbers of atheists, Agnostics, and others who don’t belong to any organized religion. It’s called The Nonreligious: Understanding Secular People and Societies (Oxford University Press, 2016).
In the excerpt below, Zuckerman and co-authors Luke W. Galen and Frank L. Pasquale discuss the topic of death and suicide: