A bet­ter life is promised for those who fol­low reli­gious teachings

Glenside News - - OPINION - Health& Sci­ence

If you’re ready for death when t he end is near, you’ll prob­a­bly look for­ward to the “next world.” In most reli­gions, the next world is usu­ally a pleas­ant place, of­ten a beau­ti­ful gar­den that pro­vides a calm ex­is­tence. It is al­ways a bet­ter world than the one in which the per­son had lived all his or her life.

When a child is very young, fam­i­lies will an­swer ques­tions about death with reli­gious be- liefs and ob­ser­vances that send a mes­sage that if a per­son fol­lows reli­gious teachings, dy­ing is fol­lowed by an ex­is­tence in a bet­ter place. As the child grows older, death is al­ways just a step to a bet­ter world. No re­li­gion trans­fers an ob­ser­vant mem­ber of the re­li­gion to a ter­ri­ble place af­ter death.

Ac­cord­ing to a Gallup Poll of May 2011, 9 out of 10 peo­ple do be­lieve in God. Dur­ing the 1950s, al­most all Amer­i­cans iden­ti­fied them­selves with a par­tic­u­lar re­li­gion. Notice the con­trast with the present where one out of 10 peo­ple has had no for­mal reli­gious iden­tity.

Be­lief in God is de­clin­ing world­wide al­though it is in­creas­ing in Is­rael and Rus­sia. In East Germa- ny, only 13 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion be­lieves in God. This is quite a con­trast with the Philippines where 94 per­cent of the pop­u­lace be­lieves in God.

In the United States, most young Amer­i­cans un­der the age of 30 do not be­lieve in God. How­ever, as peo­ple age, be­lief in God rises sig­nif­i­cantly. And God is not un­at­tached, as 68 per­cent of peo­ple in the United States be­lieve that God ex­erts an influence in a per­sonal way.

The­ists are peo­ple who be­lieve in God. Athe­ists do no be­lieve in any god. Ag­nos­tics are not sure if any god ex­ists. An ag­nos­tic ques­tions the ex­is­tence of God.

Peo­ple live l onger t han t hey did years ago. The life ex­pectancy in the United States has in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly from 45 years of age for men and 47 for women in 1900 to 75 years for men and 80 for women in 2011. When peo­ple are sick, they of­ten start to look for­ward to the end of life. They may smile and state, “I’ve had a good life and now I’m ready to end it.” Most of­ten at the end of life, an older per­son is peace­ful and looks for­ward to the next world.

Per­haps, life ex­pectancy would be ex­tended if a per­son had a dif­fer­ent out­look on the end of life and the next world. Too of­ten, a per­son in the fi­nal days has­tens the on­set of death by giv­ing up and look­ing for­ward to the next. From child­hood to old age, it’s been re­in­forced that be­ing good in this life will bring a won­der­ful ex­is­tence in the next world. It’s pos­si­ble that many ter­mi­nal pa­tients ac­tu­ally give up and bring about their early death as they look for­ward to that next world.

As shock­ing as it may be, if the next world did not look so won­der­ful, a per­son near the end of life might fight to stay alive. No one knows t he an­swer t o this con­cept, but throughout our lives, we’ve been taught that the next world will be a hap­pier, serene place. As peo­ple hurry to get there, our world might ap­pear a lit­tle friend­lier if we didn’t ex­pect the next world to be a bet­ter one.

Dr. Mil­ton Fried­man can be reached at tcgn@mont­gomerynews.com.

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