Posted by Vale
It’s natural to fear death and you might think that, just as naturally, religion would help you face and overcome your fears. But it ain’t necessarily so. In a recent book, Society Without God, Anne, a 43 year old Hospice nurse from Aarhus in Denmark is interviewed. The author, Robert Zuckerman records that:
She told me that in her many years of experience working with the dying, she found that it was generally the atheists who had an easier time calmly accepting their fate, while Christians had the hardest time facing death, often being racked with worry and anxiety.
The book is a fascinating read. Zuckerman spent months interviewing people in Denmark and Sweden – the least religious in the world – to find out how secularism on such a scale affects society. Throughout you hear the authentic voices of ordinary people. Leif, a 75 year old, is a Jew and a self designated atheist. Asked what he thinks happens after we die he answers:
‘And how does that make you feel?’
‘Well, not very sorry. It is as it is. Really I don’t feel anything about it especially.’
‘You’re not worried or scared?’
‘No I’m not. I’m not very well in health anyway, but I’m not worried.’
Sometimes we hear the surprise of the author. Reflecting on the number of non-believers who show no fear of death at all, he says that, that:
when sociologist of religion William Sims Bainbridge asks ‘How can humans…deal with the crushing awareness of mortality’ I think he is committing a mistake that many scholars of religion commit: assuming that his own fears about death are universal, when clearly they aren’t.
The effect of the interviews – on every aspect of life and society – is to present a real challenge to the argument of the religious that, without belief, society descends into sin and despair. Is it a coincidence that Danes and Swedes are recorded as the most contented in the world?
Britain, you might want to note, is not far off Scandinavia in terms of our own lack of religion.