24 February 2022

Are we taught to fear death?


Are we taught to fear death?


Topic by James

Essay by Lawrence


I don’t think we need to be taught to fear death. If by this time in the process of evolution we are not afraid of death then something must have gone wrong all these thousands of years; especially given that most living biological creatures are afraid to die.


Maybe the question is not whether we are taught to fear death but rather are we taught not to fear death? Indeed this is the main reason of all religions: to undermine the psychological stress of thinking and living with death of other people around us. If we had to stop and ruminate about death we would hardly get anything done.


Are we taught not to fear death? Rather than “taught” I would be inclined to use “conditioned”; are we conditioned not to fear death? As I said already, religions not only try to condition us to accept death but in the process they try to take advantage of our weakness. Traditionally, this weakness was exploited by religions by pointing at the supposed benevolence and grandeur of their god. A god is always portrayed as all powerful but also merciful; and long as we believe in the dogma.


Apart from the ideology, many religions took this conditioning a step further by building huge and big temples once again in an attempt to portray the grandeur of their god. Thus the logic is that there is nothing to be afraid of death as long as you follow the respective god.


But death is not only a source of income for religions but also commercial businesses. The “healthy” eating fashion, for example, promises a healthy life, the opportunity to live a longer life, and by implication a supposed natural but painless death. In reality not everyone has access to wholesome food, let alone afford trendy food.  Cars are also good candidates to reduce the fear of death: safety measures and the design of the car are supposed to mitigate against fatal accidents. Thus a safe car will give one a better chance of not dying should one be involved in an accident. In reality the seat belt has saved more lives than any marketing photos.


But the business trend is the same as the religious trend: you do not need to worry about death, or the manner of death, because we have the answer except of course this will cost you some money. Businesses help us to think of death as something we can do something about it. In the same way we can do something about cold weather, hot weather, a headache and other inconveniences.


Our fear of death is also exploited by conspiracy theorists, remember 5G telephony or the Covid 19 vaccine, to manipulate our feelings. It is not clear who benefits from such conspiracies even when we account for the nutters and mischief makers.


Finally, we find death a key force in politics and geopolitics to coerce people. As I write the war in Ukraine is developing in force. War and death are the ultimate in combination for human beings. But when governments wage wars they mitigate death amongst their population by appealing to patriotism, revenge, historical contexts, and of course the military prowess of the armed forces.


It is not that we are taught to fear death, but as I said, death is mitigated but in the process we become naïve victims of exploitation and manipulation.


Best Lawrence


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