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April 9, 2005 9:53 AM   Subscribe

Why are people who believe in heaven sad about death?
posted by Pretty_Generic to Religion & Philosophy (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I've often wondered that myself. I know you're not supposed to kill yourself, but you'd think that people would be secretly hoping to be hit by a bus, ASAP.
posted by Turd Ferguson at 9:56 AM on April 9, 2005


isn't it the difference between faith and belief? they have faith in all that stuff, even if they have trouble believing it.
posted by andrew cooke at 10:02 AM on April 9, 2005


Sad about death; whose, yours or mine? You do miss loved ones when they move away.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:06 AM on April 9, 2005


Death still means the end of your life and and any chance you have to make a difference. If you've become a Christian sometime in your life yes, you can feel safe that you are going to heaven but there can still be regret that you wasted (parts of) your life.

I think lot's of people look back an wish that they had done more with there life. Not so much wishing they had gone cooler places and worked on more interesting projects but that they actually really shared with their friends what they believed. Lot's of times people look back on their lives and wish that they had lived more like they should have lived if they were really convinced that they were going to heaven. Lot's of people believe they are going to heaven but not enough to let it impact their lives, which is really unfortunate.
posted by sirsteven at 10:07 AM on April 9, 2005


I believe in something more afterwards, but that life is more important because this is where we are now.

(not in the "pro-life" sense, but in the living your life and enjoying and learning and giving and relating and trying to do good sense, etc)
posted by amberglow at 10:08 AM on April 9, 2005


Sad about loved ones dying? Because they aren't around any more, and it's awfully nice to have them around.
Sad about one's own coming death? There are lots of things that make living fun. Friends, family, love, sex, good books, good movies, coffee shops, bicycles. If heaven is better, it will still be different--and the prospect of losing all those things is still scary.
posted by Jeanne at 10:09 AM on April 9, 2005


I think it's a combination of factors:
1) Even people who believe in heaven generally believe in our present existence more. That is, they may harbor some doubt, even suppressed out of their conscious mind, that heaven really does exist.
2) There's generally suffering associated with death. The suffering is a cause for sadness, even if it's a means to an end.
3) Even if you believe that your loved one has gone to a better place, there's still the pain of separation (even if you believe that it's only temporary) and loss.
4) Our western religious culture tends to pay lip service to ideas about eternal life, but it usually takes a back seat to our ideas about enjoying life and life being a good thing in and of itself. It's a much more pre-Christian dedication than the "culture of life" people would like to acknowledge.

Alternatively, one could posit that the entire idea of heaven is a tool to help us cope with our unique knowledge of our own mortality. Sadly, it usually isn't a good enough tool to get us around the fear, sadness, etc., with which we view the certainty of our own deaths and the deaths of people we care about.

If you're interested in this kind of stuff, you might read some Heidegger.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 10:11 AM on April 9, 2005


Selfishness. They haven't finish using them.
posted by peacay at 10:18 AM on April 9, 2005


It's human nature to feel some regret when you leave what is known and familiar for what is unknown. I knew there was a better life waiting for me after high school, but I was still a little sad to leave it behind. Compare that with leaving behind everything that your senses have ever described.
posted by coelecanth at 10:22 AM on April 9, 2005


Coelencanth has a good point. Heaven - I believe in heaven, but physical death might include suffering - something which I am not really looking forward to. Quietly in my sleep would be great - like my uncle - not screaming and shouting like his passengers.
posted by bright77blue at 10:37 AM on April 9, 2005


Also, there is an unknown factor about dying with people thinking it may be very painful. So they try avoiding it. Which leads you to; people preaching the world is ending, Christ is returning tomorrow. Which will save them from dying than the more logical approach, many years form now long after their own death.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:51 AM on April 9, 2005


I've always seen it as an issue of control. While alive, you have choice over your actions. You can make the choice to sin or walk a righteous path. Heaven is supposed to be perfection. What choices exist in perfection? Is it possible to sin in heaven? Is Paradise subjective?

Loss of control. I think humankind as a whole has serious control issues (thanks Religion!).

Then again, I'm all agnostic-y and stuff, and Paradise is something you try to experience in the now rather than have it offered as a carrot to get through tomorrow.
posted by zerokey at 10:52 AM on April 9, 2005


Quietly in my sleep would be great
Drowning is better; besides no pain, you fall into sleep w/o closing your eyes, death.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:53 AM on April 9, 2005


I may be talking out my ass here, but I think there's a type of religious fundamentalism called Armageddon Theology where they just can't wait to die and be with Jesus.
posted by pieoverdone at 10:54 AM on April 9, 2005


Why are people who believe in heaven sad about death?

Because they know they aren't getting in.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:55 AM on April 9, 2005


Sharing the ideology of kilgore trout, I expect death to be eternal rest. Theology, for the most part, is a way for the common man to have comfort.
posted by Dean Keaton at 11:06 AM on April 9, 2005


I think Jeanne nailed it. Mostly the part about missing your loved ones. Whether or not you believe you'll be reunited in Heaven, you miss that person (or persons) here on earth in the present.
posted by deborah at 11:14 AM on April 9, 2005


Theology, for the most part, is a way for the common man to have comfort.

And common people are iiidiots. Whatever we may think, we are bio-organisms and thus (generally) insistent on maintaining our existence for as long as possible. All the cultural conditioning in the world won't make it much easier to step in front of a bus.

However, I would mention there's a bit of Western bias in your question: the Middle East provides regular examples of people who don't suffer from the hypocrisy you question.
posted by yerfatma at 11:16 AM on April 9, 2005


All the cultural conditioning in the world won't make it much easier to step in front of a bus.

Speaking of the Middle East--maybe not in front of, but it seems to make it a lot easier to get on a bus and blow oneself up.
posted by ori at 12:10 PM on April 9, 2005


Just so it's out there, it's worth noting that Christian people wonder about this too. Saint Augustine, in the Confessions 9.13, writes about how he could not help but grieve at the death of his mother, even though he believed very much that she was going to a better place.

This is one of those places where faith is a struggle--I don't think that grieving at the death of a loved one is quite a 'look at those dumb religious crazies!' moment. The quandary is a pretty profound one. I found a quote in Philip Fisher's The Vehement Passions (a great book btw):

"I closed her eyes and a great wave of sorrow surged into my heart. It would have overflowed in tears if I had not made a strong effort of will and stemmed the flow, so that the tears dried in my eyes. What a terrible struggle it was to hold them back! As she breathed her last, the boy Adeodatus began to wail aloud and only ceased his cries when we all checked him. I, too, felt that I wanted to cry like a child, but a more mature voice within me, the voice of my heart, bade me keep my sobs in check, and I remained silent. For we did not think it right to mark my mother's death with weeping and moaning, because such lamentations are the usual accompaniment of death when it is thought of as a state of misery or as total extinction. But she had not died in misery nor had she wholly died. Of this we were certain."

In the Confessions Augustine confesses all of his sins, from his birth until the moment of writing--so this moment is a pretty fascinating one, since that's the spirit in which it's retold.
posted by josh at 12:21 PM on April 9, 2005


ignoring the generalization of the current question... do all people who believe in heaven fear death?

many persons of faith-in-heaven who value life value it because they believe that it is the crucial decision-making time in our fleeting existence... that, as believers in heaven they would insist that after life is past a soul's lot for eternity is cast, no more second chances. for them this is a sad reality in some cases.

in terms of their own personal trepidations re: death... i suspect that what you have identified as fear is rather a sincere kind of humility of the respectful, we're-not-worthy variety, something many believers would call fearfulness, or, in religious parlance "fear of god." it's usually defined somewhat differently than the fear to which this question refers. those who believe in heaven typically also believe in a god who will judge their every action, every thought.
posted by RockyChrysler at 12:23 PM on April 9, 2005


those who believe in heaven typically also believe in a god who will judge their every action, every thought.

And they know that not every action and thought has fit the rules they were taught, a la Civil_Disobedient's comment above.
posted by amberglow at 12:45 PM on April 9, 2005


At least in part it's because of the survival instinct, which bends to no religion (by and large).
posted by abcde at 4:43 PM on April 9, 2005


Just so it's out there, it's worth noting that Christian people wonder about this too. Saint Augustine, in the Confessions 9.13, writes about how he could not help but grieve at the death of his mother, even though he believed very much that she was going to a better place.

Thanks for the St. Augustine info, josh.

And it points to what I said. If you're Jewish, Christian, Muslim or a member of another Heaven believing religion (I was raised Episcopalian, but I'm no longer Christian), it really is a Catch-22 situation. You want your loved ones with you, not somewhere you can't touch them or talk to them even if it is somewhere better.

I'd venture to guess that religious folk try to overcome this and be better [insert religious noun here]. Me, I just wallow in my selfishness and wish my grandmother was still here.
posted by deborah at 5:53 PM on April 9, 2005


I had wondered the same thing. Then I became an elder in my church and since elders are supposed to attend funerals if at all possible, I've seen my pastor do several funerals. Let me tell ya, while he feels bad for those left behind, he does exude a pretty joyful demeanor for the better place the deceased is occupying.

The closest relative I've lost is my dad. While I really believe he is in heaven, I must say I do miss conversations with him. I would love to know how he came to possess the baseball signed by the 1931 Yankees that he willed to me (I didn't even know he had it until after he died!) and I would like to hear how he thinks his grandsons are doing as they grow up. The feedback would be really important to me.
posted by Doohickie at 9:53 PM on April 9, 2005


Drowning is better; besides no pain, you fall into sleep w/o closing your eyes, death.

Asphyxiation is actually about the worst way I can think of to go out.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 12:15 PM on April 10, 2005


Why? Think you may be looking at this as your lungs being deprived of an element, O. When you drown, your lungs fill with H2O causing no gasping as you die. The medical profession says it’s the calmest way to go.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:27 PM on April 11, 2005


I would immediately get a second opinion from whatever halfassed quack said that. Drowning victims struggle in extreme panic. As a lifeguard, I was trained not to get too close to a drowning person from the front, because they often try to use you as a ladder to get up into the air (pushing you down into the water) out of sheer terror. And, even if you're rescuing them, their struggling can work against the both of you. If they keep struggling, the best practice is to dunk them under the water while maintaining a carotid armbar in order to show your control over their condition, your willingness to drown them to save yourself, and hopefully to shock them into sensibility.

The act of breathing water feels horrible, and your body's survival instinct mechanisms immediately take over. Unless you're unconscious before you start drowning (i.e., falling asleep in the bath), there's no way it's peaceful, and even then, people wake up drowned right before they die and have a very bad few minutes.

The calmest way to go is to have a morphine button on your IV that permits you to overdose at will. You press the button, and you're asleep, and then gone.
posted by felix at 11:12 AM on April 12, 2005


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