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The Concept of Death and Dying in Religions

Religions teach people to perceive the world around them by certain canons and laws prescribed by higher powers. In different faiths, approaches to the interpretation of human existence during life on earth and after it may differ. The case of George who learns about the terrible diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and is forced to prepare for the worst can be interpreted in the contexts of different religious teachings.

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As an analysis of the situation of the man who faces a difficult choice, it is possible to use the concepts of two worldwide faiths – Christianity and Buddhism. Both of these directions have distinctive features and have enough adherents order to take into account specific concepts and norms. The worldview of each religion is the key to understanding the human essence, and holding this or that position allows differently assessing both earthly existence and life after death.

Religions’ Worldview


By the canons of Christianity, the primary reality is the existence of the human on earth in the conditions of God’s laws and norms established by the church. As Davies (2017) notes, there is a “link between a sense of destiny and ‘religious belief’ in the context of the great religious traditions of the world,” which forms the view of existence (p. 7). From the position of religion, the human essence is perceived as the Creator’s effort to protect the word of God and to represent the ideas of the Highest on Earth.

According to Torrance (2016), if during life a person leads a blessed life and keeps religious commandments, after death, a purified soul enters heaven where eternal life and prosperity are bestowed. To know anything is an ability to accumulate the experience of generations and to interpret the knowledge gained about the power of the divine essence and religion.

As a rationale for why people are aware of the norms of morality and unacceptable behavior, Torrance (2016) argues that “by being freely put in the right with God we are thereby revealed to be in the wrong in ourselves” (p. 25). Therefore, people are allowed to study religious norms independently to prevent violations of spiritual orientation. In general, the significance of human history is to restore the spiritual freedom that people were deprived of when they were in the pre-Christian world.


In Buddhist philosophy, the primary reality appears in the image of Buddha, the chief spiritual master, and creator of this religious teaching who cares for the salvation of all living beings. According to Buddhism, the world, including nature and humanity, is interconnected with a functioning moral force (Cheng, 2017). From the position of this religion, the human being is the entity that is constantly in the process of cognition and searches for spiritual truths, which are revealed through the accumulation of experience. According to Cheng (2017), for the supporters of Buddhism, life is represented as the “vast process of becoming” “with an unceasing cycle of living and dying;” therefore, the ideas of constant revival are maintained (p. 68).

In Buddhism, knowledge is viewed as the outcome of calm, conscious, and natural detachment. In the case of observing the norms of life by the practice of meditation and immersion in oneself, an opportunity to see and understand is revealed. In this religion, there are no strict rules regarding what is right and wrong since the main purpose of this philosophy is to guide people to the true light and achieve spiritual balance. As Dessein (2016) remarks, human history is represented as a sequence of rebirth stages and the constant process of cognition. These approaches distinguish Buddhism from Christianity in many respects and form different ideas about the two religions.

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Case Ethical Analysis

From the point of view of Christianity, George’s disease can be interpreted as tests that God sends to him and his family to check the strength of their faith and patience. The cause of a serious illness is perhaps the sins that the man has committed during his lifetime, and now, he is forced to stand in the face of challenges and take the plausible fate adequately to live forever in the future. Regarding the position of Buddhism, George’s suffering can be considered the logical conclusion of one life path and the beginning of another one. Also, the disease may be interpreted as an incentive to comprehend new knowledge about the nature of human existence and the preparation for rebirth.

In the context of George’s case analysis, the ideas of Christianity may be applied to the value of his life as a person, regardless of the disease’s presence or absence. Moreover, when taking into account the illness, particular attention is drawn to the life of the man and everything that he has done throughout his life. From the standpoint of Buddhism, the disease does not have much influence on the perception of the value of George’s life. Personality is not the ultimate goal of this philosophy since the purpose of cognition is key. In this case, suffering is one of the stages that should be accepted and regarded as the natural movement of time.

Euthanasia as a means of voluntary passing away contradicts the Christian canons. Davies (2017) calls this measure a “rational suicide,” which is unacceptable in understanding the relationships between the human being and God. The right to take away the soul belongs to the Creator, and the man does not have reasons to make such a decision based on his personal beliefs and worries. The attitude towards euthanasia in Buddhism is also negative since taking away someone’s life voluntarily means significantly harming one’s karma. Therefore, from the point of view of both religions, there are no grounds for supporting such an act.

When finding excuses for George’s decision in the context of Christianity, the man is not ready to interrupt his life, but he is afraid and does not want to be a burden to his family. Thus, he is to face death with dignity and not to give up his faith. The position of Buddhism is similar because destiny is the essential aspect of human existence in this philosophy, and the purposeful violation of the world order and personal fate is not encouraged.

In general, George’s position is understandable from the point of view of human thinking. The desire to save oneself and loved ones from torment are courageous. Nevertheless, in case the man adheres to religious principles and is a believer, he should think about the consequences of such a decision since, as already mentioned, voluntary passing away is not encouraged. This case is ambiguous and complex, but the main choice is to certainly be based on George’s and his family members’ convictions because the right to euthanasia is legal.


The use of religious teachings when assessing George’s case allows conclusion concerning the acceptability of the man’s decision about euthanasia. It is one of the ways of analyzing the value of human life and the importance of decisions taken. Neither Christianity nor Buddhism encourages euthanasia since this measure is contrary to the basics of these teachings. George’s position is understandable, but the final opinion should be based on the personal conviction of the man and his family.


Cheng, F. K. (2017). Buddhist insights into life and death: Overcoming death anxiety. Athens Journal of Social Sciences, 4(1), 67-87.

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Davies, D. (2017). Death, ritual and belief: The rhetoric of funerary rites (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Dessein, B. (2016). Progress and free will: On the Buddhist concept of “time” and its possibilities for modernity. Asian Studies, 4(1), 11-33. Web.

Torrance, T. F. (2016). The Christian doctrine of God, one being three persons. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing.

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