Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Are we a death culture or a life culture?

Inspired by the controversy swirling around Terri's court-sanctioned murder, Dennis Prager has come out with one of his best columns yet. In this one, he tackles the fact that Judaism and, from it, Christianity stood out in the ancient world as life-affirming, not death-affirming, religions. As he notes, this viewpoint still distinguishes them from other religions, most notably, now, fundamentalist Islam, with its unending focus on 72 virgins (or raisins). He walks through many of Judaisms rituals and proscriptions to explain that they were intended to stand in stark contrast to the Egyptian obsession with death:

[I]f there is anything that Judeo-Christian values stand for, it is choosing life and rejecting death. As the Torah puts it, "I have put before you today life and death, and you shall choose life." Even believing Jews and Christians are not fully aware of how much the rejection of death-oriented Egypt underlies the values and practices of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible held sacred by Judaism and Christianity. Egyptian civilization was steeped in death. Its bible was the Book of the Dead, and its greatest monuments, its very symbols, the pyramids, were gigantic tombs. One of the Torah's first tasks was to destroy the connection between civilization (and, of course, religion) and death. That is the reason, I am convinced, for the absence of overt mention of the afterlife in the Jewish Bible — it was greatly concerned with getting humanity preoccupied with life. With a few noble exceptions, preoccupation with the afterlife has led to denigration of life. The Islamic terrorists and the cultures that support them are only the most recent examples.
The longevity of Egyptian civilization indicates that a nation built around a death cult can still be a thriving, powerful nation. It's not necessarily a recipe for cultural suicide. However, I have to ask myself if that's the type of nation we want to be. I'd rather choose life.