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The Circle of Life

By Klym ~

After almost five years of deconverting from Christianity, I can now look back and recognize that this religion is totally based on a fear of death. I can remember as a young child being terrified of death---and all because of the doctrine of hell and salvation. Now that I can see it clearly for what it is, and think about it logically and without fear, the whole idea of needing to be "saved" from death just crumbles to dust.

For ancient mankind, the world must have been a very scary place. It's still pretty dang scary today, as a matter of fact. I think that religions sprung up as an attempt to control the uncontrollable. The scariest thing in life IS death, because it takes our loved ones away from us and hurts so deeply that we scramble to make some sort of sense of it. The idea of an afterlife where everything is made right and just then becomes extremely appealing.

This will sound strange to many of you, but it was a defining moment in my life, so I want to share it with you. About seven years ago, I had to put down my sweet, sweet dog named Bear. Bear was a 90 pound hunk of love and light, a black lab mix, and it was killing me to have to end his life. He had gotten to the point where he could no longer swallow or raise himself up to a standing or sitting position. It was difficult to watch him suffer.

I put him in the backseat of my car and was on my way to the vet's office to have him put to sleep. He was hanging his head out the window enjoying the breeze on what would be his last ride in the car. I looked back at him and suddenly, this Bible verse popped into my head: "The wages of sin is death." For the first time ever, I thought, "Wait a minute, Bear has never sinned in his life. So, he SHOULD live forever, right?" (Of course when I shared this epiphany with Christian friends, they said that animals do not have a soul, so that wouldn't apply. To which I thought that if any living being has a soul, it would be a dog---dogs are much nicer than most people.)

Anyway, the epiphany I had that day planted a seed in my already doubting brain that continued to sprout until I am today an atheist. I began to look at the whole Jesus dying for our sins thing in a different light. The salvation/crucifixion story had bugged me since early childhood--the idea of my being so worthless in God's eyes that he had to torture and kill another human being on my behalf never sat well with me.

How different my life would have been if I had been taught that death was natural and nothing to fear.And that brings me to today. I am an educator, so I often read children's books. This past week, a colleague of mine gave me a children's book titled "Lifetimes" by Bryan Mellonie. OH MY GOSH---this has to be the most beautiful book I have ever read about death! I sat in my office at school and cried as I read it. It describes death as a natural, normal part of living. I cried because I thought of all the years I wasted worrying about hell and pleasing god and hoping that I was "good enough" to make it to heaven. I cried for all the children today who are being taught to fear death as I was taught. I wished I could buy a million of these books and send them to every Christian church in the world. (Here's an interesting sidenote: the colleague who gave me the book is a Christian and believes in Jesus as savior!)

I cried because I thought about how different my life would have been if I had been taught that death was natural and nothing to fear; that this life is all we have and that it is up to us to live it to the fullest and to work for justice in the world TODAY---NOT to wait for justice in some fairy-tale afterlife. To go ahead and live fully and freely TODAY---What a life-affirming message!

This tiny book opened a door in my heart and flooded me with gratitude and joy. It tells that all living beings have a lifetime---birds, bugs, humans, trees, etc. It explains that some lifetimes are very very short, and some are long. Some human lives are short because of disease or accidents, some human lives are long, and it's all OKAY. And yet it doesn't minimize death in any way---it just normalizes it. Wow...just wow....

So, we are all part of the ongoing cycle of life, like the movie The Lion King sings about. I know that's an oversimplification, but I think it's a much more positive view of life and the world than the "salvation" view. Now, how can we rid the world of such a destructive view? I'm not sure, but I will try in my own small sphere of influence to teach the normal cycle of life to the next generation. Maybe my small contribution today will make a positive difference in the lives of children tomorrow. It's a start, anyhow.