A better life is promised for those who follow religious teachings
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.