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A Contemporary Philosopher on Our Fear of Death

Contemporary philosopher Simon Critchley often writes about how we don't know how to prepare for death. He's especially surprised that Christians, who have many reasons not to fear death, are still so afraid to die.

A detailed national survey … from 2003 claimed that fully 92 percent of Americans believe in God, 85 percent believe in heaven and 82 percent believe in miracles. But the deeper truth is that such religious belief, complete with a heavenly afterlife, brings believers little solace in the face of death. The only priesthood in which people really believe is the medical profession and the purpose of their sacramental drugs and technology is to support longevity, the sole unquestioned good of contemporary Western life.
If proof were needed that many religious believers actually do not practice what they preach, then it can be found in the ignorance of religious teaching on death, particularly Christian teaching …. Christianity, in the hands of a Paul, an Augustine or a Luther, is a way of becoming reconciled to the brevity of human life and giving up the desire for wealth, worldly goods, and temporal power …. [But many Christians today] are actually leading desperate atheist lives bounded by a desire for longevity and a terror of [death].

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