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Lecture 11

RELI 2732 Lecture 11: Lecture 11 Notes

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Carleton University
RELI 2732
Angela Sumegi

Monday, March 27, 2017 Religion: Secularization and Changing Views of Death Secularization 2 Views on Dying: - One is a sociological study and one is a literary account of one man’s experience of dying and death. Book: The Eclipse of Eternity, A Sociology of the Afterlife by Tony Walter Secularization and the Terror of Death - Secularization: Literally means becoming worldly, the turning away from religion. - Religious perspective always presupposes a reality beyond the visual and senses. - Secular view: Only this life in the life of the senses. - Tony Walter examines 3 prominent theses. Tony Walter — Thesis 1 Death in the modern world is an alienating and terrifying experience. - According to this view our society isolates the old, the ill, the dying. - People are put in special wards in hospitals, and old age homes. - Intensely grieving people are not so welcome in society. - Because of secularization, modern society has lost the religious ritual and symbols that comforted past generations that helped with death and grief. - The loss of religion has left people without the strategies that once helped people. The “Happy Death” or “Natural Death” Movement - Agrees with thesis 1 that modern death is terrifying and proposes that: 1 Monday, March 27, 2017 - Death and grieving were easier when people had religion and ritual to rely on. - Modern death is medicalized — not as natural as it was in the past. - Modern death perceived as unnatural to life. The Claim: - Death and grieving were easier when people had religion and ritual to rely on. According to Walter’s Research: - The thought of heaven might be comforting. - But the though of hell could be terrifying. - A person could die accidentally without rituals that they needed to be in a state of grace. - Difficult, if not impossible, to come to any proven conclusion about what the overall effect of christian belief was on dying and grieving people. The Claim: - Modern medicalized death not as natural as it was in the past. According to Walter’s Research: - It is the Bible that says death is the consequence of sin. - And the doctor of the 18th century who said death was a natural part of life. The Claim: - Religious beliefs in heaven and hell help people to die. According to Walter’s Research: - How can we know what people actually believe? - It is possible that some people just kept quiet about their disbelief so that they would not be punished by their community. The Claim: - Community mourning and funerals of the past were psychologically comforting. According to Walter’s Research: 2 Monday, March 27, 2017 - The whole psychological approach to death and grief is a modern idea, so there is no way to study this in the writing of past generations. - Not so much what you believe but that you have no doubt about what you believe. - Also difficult to say dying well, for both, due to personal faith or due to support of family and friends. The Claim: - Religious faith makes dying easier. According to Walter’s Research: - Studies show that both firm believers in God and firm atheists face death with equanimity. Walter’s Conclusion - It could be that death and grieving were easier in past time due to religion, but we have no way of proving this and cannot know for sure. Thesis 2 (Opposite Thesis) The Claim: - Modern death is a good death. According to Walter’s Research: - The Biblical view of a peaceful death at the end of a full life with children to inherit is more common in modern times that it was in past centuries. - Ordinary peaceful death in old age is fairly normal in modern western societies, no need to fear violent, painful death because of pain management. Simple childhood diseases don’t carry death sentences anymore. Death of spouse does not leave majority of people in financial distress. - In Britain in 1996 only 24% of people over 85 were in old age homes or institutions. - 2017 updates puts that number at 16% But what about religion? 3 Monday, March 27, 2017 If due to medical science and education, I can live a long good life and
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