Is religion born of man's fear of death?

It has been about 40 days of my father's death and I have missed him every single one. In my view of the world, my father's existence has ended; he is gone forever and I will never see him again. That neither makes the pain of my loss worse or unbearable for me; death is a natural part of life and is what makes life so precious and valuable. Nor would christianity's promise of eternal life make it easier. I still would not get to talk to him on the phone or hug him when I visit.

I was thinking about this last night at New Year's Eve mass. (I continue to go to mass for my wife's sake and because I enjoy the community interaction). Everytime I hear priests and preachers talk, they mention eternal life and the bliss of enjoying heaven and it seems to me that men are driven to believe in God simply because they are afraid of dying.

This fear of dying coupled with the usual promise of "eternal life" that religions offer, drives people to believe in christianity, judaism, islamism, budism, whatever. The hope of trascending our short stay in this world plus the promise of a better life if you behave, especially if your current life is not as nice as you would like, is a powerful magnet to faith.

And this magnet may have been one of the reasons for christianity's success against competing creeds, way back then. At the beginning of christianity, many religions offered eternal life but price of admission was steep and usually reserved for the rich. Then come these christians saying that Jesus offers eternal life for everyone in exchange for just belief. It must have been very tempting compared to what the competition offered - pay and eternal life or believe in Christ and eternal life. The choice is obvious. Then all others followed suit. Eternal life is cheap now, even if your church requires tithing. But then, churches now offer you wealth and health in exchange for your monthly dues and the whole thing seems only fair.

I had a "near death" experience a couple of years ago. I choked and lost conciousness for a few seconds. It was a very disconcerting experience to regain the use of my senses and wonder "where am I and who am I?". But after that wore off, I realized I had no memory of what had happened. I was walking and coughing one moment and the next I was looking at my wife's worried face. But after that, I reflected on one very important thing: I didn't feel anything! I could have died and never notice. Death would not have been painful and it would have been very quick.

I agree that there most be very painful ways to die. But the moment of death itself is like falling asleep at night. One moment you are looking at your book in your hands, the next moment you wake up wondering why you did not turn off the light on the nightstand. Only when you die you don't awaken, obviously. But, as I have told my friends and family, nothing to be afraid of.

Enjoy life while you can and try to leave this a better world when you check out.

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