Yesterday, I attended a funeral service, that placed a heavy emphasis on traditionally catholic principles. While not militantly atheist, or especially religious, and as somewhat of an outsider to catholic doctrine, I was particularly taken aback by comforting aspects that faith brought to the occasion.
Yes, there were tears, there were expression of loss and sadness, but for most in attendance, the service was more of a goodbye to their loved one in terms of our world, rather than an eternal farewell.
The sense of purpose, and fulfillment, that firm religious belief gave not only the funeral, but to the deceased, as her life drew towards its end, was immense and deeply rewarding.
In the days leading up to her death (the woman for whom the funeral was held for), was in great pain. Thus in death, in both the release from pain, and in her reuniting with her deceased husband, death was ultimately an anticipated, preferred destination.
In this case, the way that religious belief helped a sick and elderly person embrace what is the inevitable, could not contrast more with the increasingly secular norms of our societies.
Death is an end so commonly dreaded, escaped, and avoided at every corner, which in a life- loving world it rightly should. But for those with terminal illnesses, or in other comparable circumstances, there is often no perceived hope or salvation, with eternal darkness the only outcome.
What a wretched, hopeless outlook. And beyond purely our ideas about death, what are the consequences of the increasing predominance of atheism?
Arguably, individual self- interest (while certainly essential), morphes from being a central component of our lives, to becoming virtually the only component of our lives. With no ultimate or heavenly reward in sight, and life lived purely in terms of this world, pervasive, self- absorbed attitudes have emerged.
It is difficult to argue that this has been a good thing. Accompanied with this perception of life viewed almost exclusively though these lenses of self- interest, is the need for instant gratification, and subsequently sexual promiscuity, materialism, and other lowly aspirations.
For outside the emotive rewards of charitable service, or assistance for others, surely the scope for such behavior, in a world ruled by secular, inward- looking individuals, is severely inhibited.
Arguments regarding the actual existence of religion, should always be heard, as the place of faith devoid of reason and questioning, is an unsavory and ill- desired one.
But a timely, and genuine recognition of the tremendous role that faith can play, would not go amiss.