Wednesday, July 17, 2002

From a comment on yesterday's post:

Can't agree with the sweep of your argument.

All religion, including Christianity and Judaism, is an answer to the question of death more than origin.

Death is much less abstract and is personal. Genesis is not as pressing a question except in conjunction with Death to explain how it came to be and what must be done about it.

My point isn't what religion starts out to explain. First, actually, I'd take exception to the notion that Christianity is meant to explain death. Christ came to destroy death, not explain it.

But setting that aside, my argument simply means to point out that, alone among the religions of the world, Christianity principally asks you to understand the natural world as natural. It is not really surprisiging (though it can still be frightening) that death should exist. All the pagan and other religions don't really explain why death happens: only what happens afterwards. Judaism and Christianity explain why life exists at all, and in the most ordinary terms possible. God loves us. Christianity then takes it further and says, not only does life exist--and this is the truly extraordinary thing--but it is meant to exist in other ways, and here are the ordinary things you can do to achieve it. Love your neighbor. Forgive those who harm you. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Forget all that nonsense about building a pyre of goats--or of babies, as in Carthage. Those extraordinary things will do nothing to put ordinary food in your mouth, so stop it. Live your life as decently as you can, tolerate the misfortune that falls on you, celebrate the good fortune that comes, and live your life. That is all that God asks in return for the gift of your life.


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