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Death be not Proud

The Problem of the Afterlife


Mark Corner

Might people one day live for ever? Would they want to? What sense can be made of ideas commonly referred to in terms of an ‘afterlife’? What about notions of Heaven and Hell, of Purgatory and reincarnation? And in what sort of state are human beings expected to be during this ‘afterlife’ – immortal souls or resurrected bodies (and does either notion make sense)? What about the fact that any ‘afterlife’ concerns not just the fate of individuals but of society (‘communion of saints’) and even the physical universe itself?
This book tries to survey some of the existing arguments about life ‘after’ death, with chapters on material from Christian tradition (particularly the New Testament and the Early Church) and from the philosophy of religion. It then attempts to reach its own conclusions, drawing on Kant and Barth in order to suggest that death is to be overcome rather than survived.


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Chapter One The Inevitability of Death 3


Chapter One The Inevitability of Death This chapter argues what must, from a common-sense point of view, seem an obvious point, namely that we will die – like billions of people before us. It ought clearly to be seen as the one thing we all have in common with those who have gone before and those who are yet to come. Men and women live very dif ferent lives in very dif ferent conditions, but the end is always the same. In the less-than-inclusive language of the ancient syllogism, all men are mortal. However, despite what might be seen as the common-sense point of view, there have been a number of interesting scientific developments during the last fifty years or so which might be taken as suggesting some- thing dif ferent. This chapter will examine them more closely. Cryonics In the second half of the twentieth century there was a certain degree of interest in cryonics, ef fectively the view that a terminally ill patient could be frozen and then resuscitated when medical science had advanced to the point where he or she could be cured. The model seemed to be that of hibernation; the hope was that human beings could be held in a kind of suspended animation, if necessary for centuries to come. The propaganda or hype tied up with the extremely expensive proce- dures involved in cryonics was considerable. With your active co-operation, the next death in your family need not be permanent. Advocates like R.C.W. Ettinger in...

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