He Giveth and He Taketh Away

Does mourning someone’s death mean a lack of faith in God?

Death is probably the most significant incident in anyone’s life. Whether we’re the ones preparing to greet it at our doorsteps, or whether it’s our loved ones who have left us, death is always a very difficult pill to swallow. That is also the time when the strength of one’s beliefs is tested—a test which both believers and non-believers tend to fail. There have been many claims of deathbed conversions from atheists, many of which are unverified or turned out to be spurious. The religious have a knack for desperately going to great lengths in order to score much needed points for their Lord and saviour and will either create their own scripts or latch on to anything that comes out of a dying man’s mouth that sounds like conversion material. The well known anecdote about Voltaire comes to mind, for example, the famous French philosopher and deist, who, after being pressured by a priest to turn to God, allegedly replied, “For God’s sake, let me die in peace.” That was all the conversion the devout priest needed. But let’s imagine for a minute that an atheist finds himself at the end of his journey, perhaps writhing in pain, and he decides to say a silent, fervent prayer of repentance in his head—the just-in-case-I’m-wrong syndrome—or he figures that he has nothing to lose by accepting Holy Communion from the family priest, what would that prove? Would that be considered an honest, genuine, born again conversion or merely the desperate cries of an ordinary human being who reverts to years of indoctrination and conditioning in the face of fear? This situation is no different from the brave, macho man who is not afraid of the dark, but who would jump and scream like a little girl if he found himself trapped in a pitch black room and something furry started to climb up his leg. This is certainly not the kind of confession that I would entertain or accept if I were God, and neither should any believer. What should be of concern to believers, however, is the glaring lack of faith which they demonstrate when somebody dies. Mourning the loss of a loved one is natural and understandable, especially when that individual who is “gone forever”, was once a prominent part of your life. The only problem is that according to Christian beliefs, the deceased is not really gone forever. All those who have died have gone to “a better place”—at least I have never heard anything to the contrary said at a funeral before. In addition, the anger and questions of disbelief, which usually accompany death, is a clear indication that Christians lack conviction, particularly when someone dies a gruesome death or has been murdered. There are only three explanations when such horrible deaths occur: either God is in charge and caused it to happen, God is in charge but allowed it to happen, or God is not in charge and death is a natural, random part of life. If you believe the first explanation, then you have only God to blame for all your anger and upheaval. You might as well shake hands with the convicted murderer who killed your son because he was only doing God’s will. If you believe God allows things like this to happen, for whatever reason, then you still have him to blame for allowing what he could have prevented and you should trust that he knows what he is doing. If you don’t believe God is in charge of this world and that accidents, sickness, and death are random, inevitable occurrences, then feel free to either call yourself a “deist”—one who believes that a God created the universe then turned his back on it, or welcome to my world of non-believers. Otherwise, cry if you must when someone dies, but please leave the outrage and despair to those of us who do not believe. Oh ye of little faith.

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