Religion and Death

Religion and Death April 12, 2015

Hemant Mehta drew attention to a statement by Larry King, to the effect that religion is entirely a response to fear of death. Here is the most relevant quote:

I think the only reason for religion is death. If you didn’t die, there’d be no religion.

I have to disagree, since in the case of ancient Israelite religion, we find the two separated – religion without expectation of an afterlife.

And so I think the interesting question is not “Would there be religion if people did not die?” but “Why has religion in the modern era become so focused on death and surviving it, when in the past this was not always the case?”

I’ve shared more of my thoughts on the afterlife in the past, not only here on the blog, but also in my book The Burial of Jesus. Rather than repeat what I have said in the past often, let me say something that I think I may have said before, but perhaps not as explicitly as this.

Some people seem to think that events can only be meaningful if they last forever, or are part of something that lasts forever. But that idea is very problematic, and could be reversed: if something isn’t meaningful when transitory, it cannot become meaningful, no matter how long you extend its duration.

Let me conclude with a link to a webcomic from Zen Pencils using words of Isaac Asimov. Here’s an excerpt:

 

ASIMOV02


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