Fear of death and the failure of secularism

Many of us on the conservative side bemoan the decline of religion on moral grounds.  The Judeo-Christian tradition spells out moral absolutes, so that we don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel to figure out the big “rights” and the big “wrongs.”  (David Klinghoffer points out the disaster that happens when you keep having to reinvent the moral wheel.)

Religious morals are important for day to day life and they are an important part of a healthy, functioning society.   I’ve long thought, though, that religion’s chief virtue lies in its focus on the inevitability of death.  All religions tackle death, with some offering reincarnation, some offering instant Heaven, some offering reunification with God at the end of days, etc.  This statement is true not just of modern religions, but of ancient Pagan ones as well.  To the extent that death is the great mystery, which none of us can avoid, it’s comforting to have a belief that there will be meaning, and possibly endless life, once death overtakes us.  Secularism is the only religion that skirts death entirely.  It offers no meaning or consolation.  When you’re dead, the essence that is you vanishes and your body rots in the ground.  End of story.  How depressing.  How frightening.  How nihilistic.  And why am I waffling on about this?

I’m waffling about this because of an article in American Thinker that I read about the rising tide of Islam in ultra secular Europe.  The article points to the fact that the few remaining Christians in Europe are trying to fit themselves in the Islamist mold, and then goes on to look at Allah — and why Allah is not the same God as the Judeo-Christian concept of God.

It’s an interesting article and one I think you’d enjoy.  As it is, it took me down the completely different path of thinking about the many Europeans who have turned to Islam, not because of pressure, but because they’re searching for meaning in their lives.  Christianity in Europe is so weak and self-doubting that it offers no draw to someone glumly contemplating a moral vacuum of a life followed by a meaningless death.  Islam, however, for all that it practices and preaches submission, is robust in its beliefs:  we are the best, Allah will care for you, and whether you die peacefully or violently, the afterlife will be wonderful.  Since death is the one great unifier, the thing that binds the stockbroker in London and the sheep herder in Nepal, a religion that offers assurances about death, and that actually seems to believe in those assurances, is going to be very enticing — especially as life becomes less stable and violence more prevalent in so many formerly peaceful First World enclaves.

I don’t know if our Judeo-Christian culture has the strength any more to counter the fear of death.  J.K. Rowling gives it a good try in her last book, as did C.S. Lewis in his last Narnia book, but that’s probably not enough.  A good, thoughtful children’s book is not going to do away with a culture that has taken the greatest human fear — death — and ignored it.  And with Islam hollering in the background about those 72 virgins (or raisins), I fear many in our world, as they see death creeping closer, with grab onto the Islamist life raft thrown their way.

5 Responses

  1. […] excessive drinking is just one symptom of a secular world characterized by an absence of morals and an inconsolable fear of death (see […]

  2. I would have ended your article with:
    “…grab onto the Islamist life rift thrown their way.”

    You know something is this deeply important when you realize how many billions of dollars are spent anually by adults running frantically away from death as fast as they can; old people desperately clinging to the attitudes and appearances of teenagers. We used to remark on adolescents as being in denial of death, believing that death could not touch them. Part of maturity was the realization and acceptance that death is a part of life, and is inescapable. Nowadays, it seems, we are surrounded by perpetual adolescents.

  3. Also: for a society of secular ultra-materialists, the ultra-materialism of the Islamic heaven must be irrestible.

  4. These Sunni and Shia clerics follow sectarian Islam that relies on hadiths for 95% of its jurisprudence. Hadiths were “compiled” 2 to 3 centuries after the prophet. They are the “supposed” deeds and speeches of the prophet that the clerics use to “explain” the Koran. Each sects have hadiths that refutes the other. Both claim that their hadiths have been rigorously “authenticated”. Even if they had to carry out this “authentication” process 2 to 3 centuries after the events. They rely on orally transmitted narrations they claim was “carefully passed down” through the ages. The prophet never left behind him any hadiths. The only text the prophet and the 4 caliphs left behind and spread was the Koran.

    The Koran gave COMPLETE freedom for everyone.

    The Quran(Koran) Concerning other monotheist faiths:

    Not all of them are alike; a party of the people of the Scripture stand for the right, they recite the Verses of God during the hours of the night, prostrating themselves in prayer. They believe in God and the Last Day; they enjoin good and forbid wrong; and they hasten in good works; and they are among the righteous. And whatever good they do, nothing will be rejected of them; for God knows well those who are God fearing. 3:113-115

    And there are, certainly, among the people of the Scripture, those who believe in God and in that which has been revealed to you, and in that which has been revealed to them, humbling themselves before God. They do not sell the Verses of God for a little price, for them is a reward with their Lord. Surely, God is Swift in account. 3:199

    Verily! Those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, whoever believes in God and the Last Day and do righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve . 2:62

    Say: “O people of the Scripture : Come to a word that is just between us and you, that we worship none but God, and that we associate no partners with Him, and that none of us shall take others as lords besides God. 3:64

    And they say: “None shall enter Paradise unless he be a Jew or a Christian.” Those are their (vain) desires. Say: “Produce your proof if ye are truthful.”Nay,-whoever submits His whole self to God and is a doer of good,- He will get his reward with his Lord; on such shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. The Jews say: “The Christians have naught (to stand) upon; and the Christians say: “The Jews have naught (To stand) upon.” Yet they study the (same) Book. Like unto their word is what those say who know not; but God will judge between them in their quarrel on the Day of Judgment. 2.111-113

    If any do deeds of righteousness,- be they male or female – and have faith, they will enter Heaven, and not the least injustice will be done to them 4.124

    The Quran(Koran) Concerning who we fight or don’t:

    As for such who do not fight you on account of faith, or drive you forth from your homelands, God does not forbid you to show them kindness and to deal with them with equity, for God loves those who act equitably. God only forbids you to turn in friendship towards such as fight against you because of faith and drive you forth from your homelands or aid in driving you forth. As for those from among you who turn towards them for alliance, it is they who are wrongdoers. 60:8-9

    Permission (to fight) is given to those against whom war is being wrongfully waged, and verily, God has indeed the power to aid them. Those who have been driven from their homelands in defiance of right for no other reason than their saying, ‘Our Lord is God.’ 22:39-40

    The Quran(Koran) Concerning freedom:

    2:256 There is no compulsion in religion, for the right way is clearly from the wrong way. Whoever therefore rejects the forces of evil and believes in God, he has taken hold of a support most unfailing, which shall never give way, for God is All Hearing and Knowing.

    16:82 But if they turn away from you, your only duty is a clear delivery of the Message .

    6:107 Yet if God had so willed, they would not have ascribed Divinity to aught besides Him; hence, We have not made you their keeper, nor are you a guardian over them.

    4:79-80 Say:’Whatever good betides you is from God and whatever evil betides you is from your own self and that We have sent you to mankind only as a messenger and all sufficing is God as witness. Whoso obeys the Messenger, he indeed obeys God. And for those who turn away, We have not sent you as a keeper.”

    11:28 He (Noah) said “O my people! think over it! If I act upon a clear direction from my Lord who has bestowed on me from Himself the Merciful talent of seeing the right way, a way which you cannot see for yourself, does it follow that we can force you to take the right path when you definitely decline to take it?°

    17:53-54 And tell my servants that they should speak in a most kindly manner. Verily, Satan is always ready to stir up discord between men; for verily; Satan is mans foe …. Hence, We have not sent you with power to determine their Faith.

    21:107-109 (O Prophet?) ‘We have not sent you except to be a mercy to all mankind:” Declare, “Verily, what is revealed to me is this, your God is the only One God, so is it not up to you to bow down to Him?’ But if they turn away then say, “I have delivered the Truth in a manner clear to one and all, and I know not whether the promised hour is near or far.”

    22:67 To every people have We appointed ceremonial rites which they observe; therefore, let them not wrangle over this matter with you, but bid them to turn to your Lord. You indeed are rightly guided. But if they still dispute you in this matter, `God best knows what you do.”

    24.54. Say: “Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger. but if ye turn away, he is only responsible for the duty placed on him and ye for that placed on you. If ye obey him, ye shall be on right guidance. The Messenger’s duty is only to preach the clear (Message).

    88:21 22; And so, exhort them your task is only to exhort; you cannot compel them to believe.

    48:28 He it is Who has sent forth His Messenger with the Guidance and the Religion of Truth, to the end that tie make it prevail over every religion, and none can bear witness to the Truth as God does.

    36:16 17 (Three Messengers to their people) Said, “Our Sustainer knows that we have indeed been sent unto you, but we are not bound to more than clearly deliver the Message entrusted to us.’

    39:41 Assuredly, We have sent down the Book to you in right form for the good of man. Whoso guided himself by it does so to his own advantage, and whoso turns away from it does so at his own loss. You certainly are not their keeper.

    42:6 48 And whoso takes for patrons others besides God, over them does God keep a watch. Mark, you are not a keeper over them. But if they turn aside from you (do not get disheartened), for We have not sent you to be a keeper over them; your task is but to preach ….

    64:12 Obey God then and obey the Messenger, but if you turn away (no blame shall attach to our Messenger), for the duty of Our Messenger is just to deliver the message.

    67:25 26 And they ask, “When shall the promise be fulfilled if you speak the Truth?” Say, “The knowledge of it is verily with God alone, and verily I am but a plain warner.”

    The Quran(Koran) concerning justice:

    “And among His signs are the creation of the heaven and earth, and the variation in your language and your colors; verily in that are signs for those who know” (30:22).

    “Satan seeks only to cast among you enmity and hate”(5:91).

    O you who believe! Stand out for justice, as witnesses to God, and even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be rich or poor. An-Nisaa’ 4:134

    “O you who believe! Be the maintainers of justice and bearers of witness for God’s sake though it be against your own self, parents and relatives” (4:135).

    “O you mankind! We have created you from a single pair of male and female and made you into nations and tribes so that you know each other. Verily the most honored in the sight of God is the one who is most righteous” (49:13).

    O you who believe! Stand out firmly for God, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety and fear God, for God is well acquainted with all that you do. 5:8

    And thus We made of you a justly balanced community that you might bear witness to humankind and the Apostle might bear witness over you. 2:143

    O you who believe, observe your duty to God with right observance, and die not except in a state of submission (to Him). And hold fast, all of you together, to the rope of God, and do not separate, and remember God’s favor unto you: how you were enemies and He put love between your hearts so that you became as brothers by His grace: and how you were upon the brink of a fire and He saved you from it. Thus God makes clear His revelations unto you so that you may be guided” (3:102-103).

    “The believers are nothing else other than brothers, Thus make peace between your brethren and observe your duty to God that you may haply receive His mercy” (49: 1 0).

    The Quran(Koran) Concerning propagation:

    Invite (all humankind) to the path of your Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation and argue with them in the most kindly manner, for, indeed, your Lord knows best as to who strays from His path, and best who are the right-guided. (16:125)

    Had your Lord so willed, all those who live on earth would surely have attained faith, will you then compel people, against their will, to believe? 10:99

    And We have not sent you, but as mercy to all the worlds. 21:107

    Islam is peace!

  5. Islam is what Muslims make it.

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