Shakespeare's Hamlet musing about suicide:
To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep—
No more—and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil?
What About Death?
Philosophers and psychologists
will tell you that two things motivate higher life forms including
humans: Eros and Thanatos,
fulfillment and death. We spend our lives trying to maximize our pleasure and
fulfillment on the one hand and trying to avoid suffering and dying on the other.
When I foresee the abyss, the blackness of
death ahead, it breeds existential gloom, a sense that everything ultimately
is meaningless—a bleak awareness that our struggles soon will be forgotten
and ignored, like those of past generations. I'm haunted by the Bard's rant:
"All our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out,
brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and
frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told
by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." - James Haught,
"Purpose Driven Lives", Free Inquiry, June/July 2017
So, why does God allow death and suffering? Why in his love, mercy and
forgiveness doesn't he just keep everybody alive? One obvious answer is that
death is the clearest indication that WE are doing something wrong. And that
if there were not death, there would really be no hope of ever coming to the
necessary truth. Yes, death CAN be a surcease from unbearable suffering but
it is the stark, ultimate indication of failure!
Some people, not willing to
look this issue full in the face, say that they are not afraid of death.
But that is mendacious because one never knows until faced with
it. And really, death is nothing much, as Shakespeare indicated. It is
the continual being at risk and the process of decay and dying that we
don't like and try to avoid. Yet it seems that everyone dies, and everyone has been dying for
so long that death is considered as inevitable, that no one escapes the grim
reaper. We REALLY BELIEVE in it, and have fashioned our concepts and
theologies to accommodate it.
"Everybody wants to go to heaven,
but nobody wants to die" Bill Bonner
However, in the four canonical
Gospels and including the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus states unequivocally
that he is offering us immortality now without dying. Altogether there
are 43 verses or passages where he states this clearly either in the
positive mode—"you will live"—or in the negative mode—"you will not
even taste death". Almost all theologians and Bible readers,
accommodating the reality that we know so well, jack these statements around to
be metaphorical or surmise that they apply to some later reality or life,
so that they don't literally mean what they say. This is
flat out intellectually dishonest and untenable! The message may or may not
be true—that is actually a different issue—but you have to be at least temporarily
irrational to not read the words for what they are, to not hear Jesus
offering immortality now without dying. You don't believe me? See:
If for whatever reasons you decide there
is no truth to these sayings, then walk away, don't look back, end of
story. BUT, if Jesus is who he says he is, then the unavoidable
conclusion is that something is monstrously wrong in our thinking,
even in the thinking of people that DO hear him saying this, and say
they believe it. BECAUSE THEY DIE ANYWAY!
Again, the remarkable premise of this site is that the greater message of
Jesus has NOT been understood, and that being because Christian apologists have tried to mix Jesus with the rest of the Bible and
understand his message within the ancient paradigm of the angry, lawgiving,
catastrophe-raining, center of power and control, Old Testament God. Oh,
they have mixed in portions—sometimes generous—of Jesus, but they have not seen
the gracious, serving, human Jesus as the
paradigm, the truth that fits the paradigm, and the inspiration to
care—the way, the truth, the life and the light. They have not listened to him
alone, framed by the real issues, and have not understood and followed his reasonable, simple instructions.
Billions have listened to and
followed the religion founded by the disciples and apostles to what end? They have let these
casters of shadows darken and override even the clearest words of Jesus! The whole
enterprise of Christendom has turned into a disharmonious hoping and coping system
while we wait, and then wait some more! This is what Jesus had in mind?
This is the good news? What part of "My sheep listen to MY voice" and
"My sheep follow ME" do we not hear? What part of "No man comes to
the Father except through ME" do we not get?
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved with mankind,
Therefore, send not to know,
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee. - John Donne
And so, death reigns supreme and we continue to just die in the sin of our
ignorance and confusion!