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"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." G.K.Chesterton

"You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion." G.K.Chesterton

"As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that."C. S. Lewis

"I blog, therefore I am." Anon

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

the abolition of death?

Imagine there's no heaven,
It's easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people
living for today...

No need to imagine, it's already come true... and it ain't no utopia

Thanks to the apparent abolition of death in recent years, the fear of it, and of what lies beyond, have been shoved to the edges of our lives, and consideration of our eventual fate postponed until 'later', much like worrying about a pension in your twenties. People generally grow seriously old before they die, as they used not to do, and the deaths we notice - and are often outraged and angry over - are the deaths of the young and healthy. The old have usually become unpersons long before they dieā€¦ After their final retirement from office or factory, people increasingly drop out of the consciousness of friends who only knew them because of what they did, rather than because of who they are. Weakened families, driven apart by serial divorce or geographic separation, likewise tend to ignore and neglect their older members, who generally face a long period of ill-health before death thanks to the 'advances' of modern medicine. This is why so many die in hospitals or nursing homes rather than in their own beds. Home death is becoming as rare as home birth.

The Church still goes through the motions, its priests and ministers officiating at abbreviated ceremonies in the production-line crematoria of the nation, at funerals where fewer and fewer of the younger mourners have any idea of how to behave, or dress, or speak, or of what to say. At the funerals of the young, entirely secular pop songs are often played as substitutes for hymns. In the last few years, mourners have taken to telling jokes during funeral eulogies, as if they were at a wedding. Decorum has disappeared not because people are consciously ill-mannered but because they have no idea that it is required. Children at a primary school in the Isle of Wight were spoken to sharply by their teachers in 1996, after they mocked and jeered at a passing funeral. Nobody had. told them that death demanded respect. And in a world where blinds are not drawn down, and there are no hats to doff as the hearse goes by, how were they supposed to learn and what does it matter anyway?

And yet, night after night, in the wards of a hundred hospitals, people die as they have always done, alone at the end and in many cases afraid of what is to come, more and more comforted by morphine, less and less by the Holy Ghost. We prefer not to notice. In the midst of death, we are in life and John Lennon's wish in 'Imagine' - 'no religion, no heaven and no hell, and all the people thinking for today', has come true. How odd that the Church itself should have helped it to do so, by abandoning its cold and austere central truth, that we must all die and may be judged, the one piece of ground nobody, not even Hitler or Stalin, could ever have captured from it.

Peter Hitchens The Abolition of Britain London: Quartet, 1999 pp132-133

9:31:00 am