Essay Question for Chapter 12, Is There Life After Death?
You have already been introduced to Julie Yip-Williams, the author of The Unwinding of the Miracle, her memoir of her losing battle with colon cancer. She grew up honoring the Buddhist traditions of her Chinese family. When she went off to college in America, she ceased practicing the Buddhist rites. After her cancer diagnosis, one her daughters suggested that they attend church, so the family began attending an Episcopal church on Sunday mornings. Julie did not claim to be a Christian, but she did confess that she believed in a divine being or power. As youll see from the quotation below, taken from Chapter 41 Death, Part II, she firmly believed in an after life.
I know that soon I will stand on the brink of something extraordinary, something greater than the human mind can understand. I have far greater faith in the belief that there is more than this life than I do in a God. I know with every fiber of my being that there is an after life (p. 265).
John Updike wrote the short story Pigeon Feathers which tells the story of David Kern. Davids mother is nominally a Christian, but all the other people in Davids life are unbelievers or are so hypocritical that David has little faith. Without faith, David becomes fearful of death and the eternal extinction of him it will mean. One day David is told to shoot a flock of pigeons that have begun to roost in the family barn. He kills them with a .22 rifle, then begins to bury them. Heres what happens at the end of the story as David begins to bury the pigeons.
The next [pigeon] was almost wholly white, but for a salmon glaze at its throat. As he fitted the last two, still pliant, on the top, and stood up, crusty coverings were lifted from him, and with a feminine, slipping sensation along his nerves that seemed to give the air hands, he was robed in this certainty that the God who had lavished such craft upon these worthless birds would not destroy His whole Creation by refusing to let David live forever.
The belief of Christians in an after life is grounded in scriptural testimony related to the resurrection of Jesus. Julie Yip-Williams and David Kern are two individuals, one real and the other the creation of an artist, who believe in an after life, a belief that is unaccompanied by any religious support or conviction. Apart from the resurrection of Jesus, what are some rational or experiential bases for believing in an after life? Put another way, why are people without religious sensibilities also prone to believe in life after deathd? What could be concluded about the kind of existence we would experience after death from these rational and experiential arguments?
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