Religious vs secular experience of dying
Posted: 25 March 2007 09:04 AM   [ Ignore ]
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During a discussion group this morning at my Unitarian-Universalist congregation - of which secular (and religious) humanism are major traditions - I made the point that humanism (living life as if THIS life was the life that mattered) was a better preparation for death than religion (living life as if the NEXT life was the life that mattered).  Anecdotally that is true in my experience and in that of my wife, a nurse.  But I’m sure I’ve come across a more scientific documentation of that assertion, perhaps in a POI podcast.  So, my question is, can anyone point me to some evidence for this statement?  Thanks. :?:

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Noel

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Posted: 26 March 2007 01:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Great Question, I hope someone has an answer!
Jim

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Jimmie Keyes
Tavernier, FL
http://secularhumanism.meetup.com/1/
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. (MLK Jr.)

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Posted: 26 March 2007 02:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Much as I prefer the secular outlook on living and dying, I’m not sure how one would define a “better” attitude or prove scientifically that one outlook was superior. People are so varied in personality/temperment and in their experiences, and dying is quite varied too dependaing on at what age and of what you are dying, I’m not sure an optimal approach could exist. But I too will be very interested to hear what others think on this one.

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The SkeptVet
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Militant Agnostic: I don’t know, and neither do you!

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Posted: 26 March 2007 03:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Posted: 26 March 2007 05:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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While it’s not a scientific study, Jeaneane Fowler had some fairly good responses/thoughts to this question in her book “Humanism: Beliefs and Practices”.  I’m looking for it right now.

Page 280:

Humanists believe in only one life and it is therefore important that it ends in the kind of dignity and quality with which that life was lived.  In principle, this is compassionate, and Humanists claim that it is wrong to deny people such compassion out of fear of abuse of such principles by a small minority.  This is unfair to the suffering.

The idea is to live life to the fullest and when death comes it can hopefully be faced head on with courage just as life was faced with courage.

The Value of life- page 37:

Humanism does not accept that there is life after death, and therefore one has to reassess life in relation to the present.  Death is final, and that makes life more precious.

Page 38:

The Humanist begins his choice of life by choosing to live.

If fear of death and belief in God serve to make an individual put all his or her eggs into the afterlife basket instead of into this life, then that individual is only living half a life.

This could be the key- Humanist do charish life and try to live it to its fullest.

Page 39:

Death is a common denominator for all humanity, it cannot be ignored.  But the best way to put it in perspective is to ensure that the life which precedes it is full, fruitful, dynamic, self-evolving and self-assertive in ways that not only enhance an individual life, but which also serve to enhance the society within which one is placed.

Page 101:

First, you can do as much good as you can, give as much love to your fellow human beings as you can, but you will never benefit from this until you die.  This makes death optimistic, but it is wholly pessimistic about life. Second, while Christians are told that they ought to be humble, the idea of of personal reward in heaven promotes egoistic self-interest and elitism; the good one does is for one’s own rewards. This is seen both individually and collectively.

This world is more important than the next one, for if human beings do not know how to find value in life, then death will be feared.

This is where Humanists differ from Christians.  We try to find meaning to life.  We do things for others because we want to do them, we want to bring the “good life” to everyone we possibly can, unselfishly and without any expectation of a reward.  We find pleasure in doing things for others and in enjoying this life, because we know this is it and we must charish the time we have here.

Page 102:

Secular Humanists reject this kind of negative view of the present existence, and the concept of life in a wonderful existence beyond the grave in some kind of resurrected and reconstituted physical body.  The rejection of dualistic conceptions of the self, and the rejection of a theistic, anthropomorphized deity who rewards and punishes those who worship or reject him respectively, makes belief in an afterlife unnecessary.  Secular and atheistic Humanism believes that this life is all that we have, and we should therefore be optimistic about what we wish to do in it and what we are able to do in it.  It is a positive view of life, with high expectations for individuals within it.  Rewards are not in heaven, they are on earth, and they are both necessary for the individual in his or her own realization of personal goals, and for broader, societal and global benefit.  What greater reward can a person have in life, than to know that he or she leaves behind at death some contribution to a better world?

Page 110:

When the finitude of life cannot be faced with courage, then life is lived with a deep subconscious fear and profound dread of death.  Part of the Humanist outlook is the fostering of a healthy attitude to death, and an openness in facing it as the total extinction of a life.

The optimism about life and the healthy attitude that is fostered is proably what prepares us better for death.  Christians are so concerned about achieving an afterlife that they fear death more.  They fear they did not do what they needed to do in order to get to Heaven.  We Humanists don’t worry about that.  We are more concerned with living this life, our only life, to it’s fullest, thus death is less feared.

I’m not sure if this helps to answer your questions, but I think it is something to ponder towards finding the answer to the question.  I also think Paul Kurtz mentioned something about this in one of his CFI interviews too.

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 26 March 2007 06:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Excellent response, Mriana.

I’ve tried to live my life in a manner to give it positive meaning, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job in most cases.  However, if I’m still mentally capable when I die, I don’t plan to do so with dignity.  I’ll be screaming, immature, and generally obnoxious.  Then, when I cease to exist, everyone can say, “Geez, thank goodness.  He took long enough, didn’t he?” 

I’d rather they don’t grieve but instead are glad to be rid of me.  I believe in making people happy.  :D

Occam

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Posted: 26 March 2007 07:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Thanks, Occam.  smile

Well, you know, you could have a Humanist Funeral Celebration in which they can celebrate your life.  Look into it and you will see what I mean.  Yes, they still mourn, but they think about all the good times, the little things about you that made them smile, and alike.  It is the celebration of a life that has come to an end.  You may find it worth checking into at least and telling your family this is the funeral I want you to have for me.

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 27 March 2007 10:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I’ve considered making a video tape (whoops, dated myself - DVD), but they’ve all heard all of my jokes and anecdotes (probably too many times).  However, you’re right. 

Although, my family is composed of wise asses so they’d probably do something like have a thoroughly religious memorial just to confuse all my friends.  :D

Occam

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