Matters of life and death Revision

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Catholics' belief in life after death

Why Catholics believe:

  • Jesus rose from the dead - as recorded in the Gospel and New Testament - this proves there is life after death.
  • St Paul teaches that people will have a resurrection like that of Jesus.
  • The major creeds of the Church teach that Jesus rose from the dead thus there will be life after death.
  • The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches this, this contains the Magisterium which all Catholics should believe.
  • It gives their lives meaning and purpose.

How this affects their lives:

  • Many Catholics believe that only if they have lived a good Catholic life they will be allowed into heaven. So they try to follow the teachings of the Church so that they go to heaven when they die.
  • Living a good Catholic life means following the two greatest commandments- love of God and love of neighbour. So they will try to love God by praying and attending Mass every Sunday.
  • In the Parable of the sheep and the goats Jesus said Catholics should feed the hungry, clothe the naked, befriend strangers and wisit the sick and those in prison. Jesus taught in the Good Samaritan that loving your neighbour means helping anyone in need. These convince Catholics to work for charities such as CAFOD and SVP.
  • Catholics believe that Sin Prevents people from going to heaven, and those who die with unforgiven sins will go to purgatory to be purified. Therefore Catholics will try to avoid committing sins in their lives so that they will go to heaven.
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Non- religious reasons for belief

Near-death experiences -  This is when someone is clinically dead for a time and then comes back to life, and can remember what happened. The main features of these experiences are: feelings of peace; floating above the body; seeing a bright light; entering a heavenly place where they see dead relatives. If near-death experiences are true, there must be life after death.

Evidence for a spirit world - Many people think of gohsts and ouija boards as evidence for a spirit world, but the clearest evidence comes from mediums. A medium is a person who claims to be able to communicate between our material world and a spirit world where the spirits of the dead live. Most mediums claim that religious leaders like Jesus and Muhammad were in touch with the spirit world. They claim the spirit world gives people a second chance at life. Mediums contact people's dead relatives giving information they would not be able to without their contact being true. If mediums can contact the dead, there must be life after death.

The evidence of reincarnation - Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists believe in reincarnation and have collected much evidence for this happening. If reincarnation is true, then there is life after death.

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Some reasons for disbelief

Some people do not believe in God and believe this life is all there is. They do not believe in life after death because:

  • If there is no God, there is no spirit world for life after death to happen.
  • The different religions contradict eachother about life after death. Christianity, Islam and Judaism say it will be resurrection or immortality of the soul; Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism say it will be reincarnation. If life after death were true, they would all say the same thing.
  • Much of the evidence is based on holy books, but they contradict each other, and there is no way of deciding which holy books are true and which are false.
  • The evidence of the paranorma; ( near-death experiences, mediums, reincarnation) has all been challened by scientists.
  • Most beliefs about life after death think that the mind or soul can survive without the body, but science shows that the mind cannot live without the brain, so when the body dies, the mind must also die.
  • There is no place where life after death could take place; space journeys have shown heaven is not above the sky.
  • People who have been brought up by atheists will not believe in life after death.
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The nature of abortion

The law says that abortion is only allowed if two doctors agree:

  • the mother's life is at risk
  • the mother's physical or mental health is at risk
  • the child is very likely to be born severely handicapped
  • there would be a serious effect on other children in the family.

Abortions cannot be carried out after 24 weeks of pregnancy, unless the mothers life is at risk, or the foetus has severe handicaps. 

Abortion is a controversial issue because:

  • Many people believe that life begins at the moment of conception, therefore abortion is taking a human life.
  • Many people beliebe that life begins when the foetus is able to live outside the mother. Therefore abortion is not taking life.
  • Many non-religious people beliebe that a woman should have the right to do what she wants with her own body. They might argue that an unwanted foetus is no different from an unwanted tumour.
  • Many religious people belueve that the unborn chils's right to life is greater than the mother's rights.
  • Some people argue that the time limit should be reduced to 18 or 20 weeks because of medical advances.
  • There are also arguments about whether medical staff should have to carry out abortions.
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Different Christian attitudes to abortion

1. The Catholic Church teaches that all abortion is wrong whatever the circumstances ( apart from medical treatments for the mother which affect the life of the foetus). They believe this because:

  • Life belongs to God, so only God has the right to end a pregnancy.
  • Life begins at conception so abortion is taking life and this is banned in the ten commandments
  • They should follow the teaching of the Catechism that all abortion is murder.
  • Counselling, help and adoption are alternatives to abortion for women made pregnant as a result of **** so that good can come out of evil in a new life.

2. Other Christians ( mainly Liberal Protestants) disagree with abortion, but think it must be allowed in certain circumstances because they believe that:

  • Life does not begin at conception
  • Jesus' command to love your neighbout means it is the duty of Christians to remove suffering, whch abortion does.
  • The sanctity of life can be broken in such things as a just war, so why not in a just abortion ( e.g. when the mother's life is at risk)?
  • If doctors have developed tests for certain medical conditions in unborn babies, parents should be allowed abortions if such tests show their baby would be born with serious medical problems
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The nature of euthanasia

Euthanasia is normally thought of as providing a gentle and easy death to someone suffering rom a painful, deadly disease an who has little quality of life. This can be done by: assisted suicide, voluntary euthanasia, non-voluntary euthanasia.

British law ssays that all these methods of euthanasia are murder. However, the law now agrees that stopping artificial feeding or not giving treatment ( often called passive euthanasia), are not euthanasia and so are lawful.

Euthanasia is a controversial issue because( in a nutshell) 

  • medicine can keep people alive eith little quality of life
  • suicide is no longer a crime
  • we give euthanasia to suffering animals
  • the tole of doctors is to save life not kill
  • can you ever be sure that euthanasia is what someone wants?
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Why euthanasia is a controversial issue

1. Many people want euthanasia to remain illegal because:

  • There is always likely to be doubt as to whether it is what the person really wants.
  • There is also the problem as to whether the disease will end the life; a cure might be found for the disease.
  • It is the job of doctors to save lives, not end them, Would patients trust doctors who kill their patients?
  • People might change their mind, but then it would be too late.
  • Who wouuld check that it was only people who really wanted and needed euthanasia who died?

2. Many people want euthanasia to be made legal because:

  • Discoveries in medicine mean that people who would have died are being kept alive, often in agony, and should have the right to die.
  • Doctors have the right to swith off life-support machines if they think the patient has no chance of recovering, and allow people who have been in a coma for years to die. So euthanasia is already legal.
  • People have a right to commit suicide, so why not give them the right to ask doctors to assist their suicide if they are too weak to do it alone?
  • Just as doctors can now swith off life-support machines, so judges have said that doctors can stop treatment.
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Different Christian attitudes to euthanasia

1. Catholics ( and mainly Liberal Protestants) believe that all types of euthanasia are wrong but they believe that switching off life-support machines or not giving treatment is not euthanasia. They have this attitude because:

  • They believe in the sanctity of life. Life is created by God and so it is up to God, not humans, when people die.
  • They regard euthanasia as murder, which is forbidden in the Ten Commandments.
  • If doctors say someone is brain-dead, then they have already died so switching off the machine is accepting what God has already decided.
  • If you give painkillers to a dying person, and they kill the person, it is not murder because that was not your intention ( doctrine of double effect).

2. Some Christians believe any form of euthanasia is wrong, including switching off life-support machines etc. They have this attitude because:

  • They take the bible teachings literally and the BIble forbids suicide.
  • Euthanasia includes switching of life machines, giving large doses of painkillers etc because life is being ended by humans not God.
  • All forms of euthanasia are murder, which is banned by the Ten Commandments.
  • They believe that life is sacred and should only be taken by God. The Bible says that life and death decisions belong to God alone.
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Different Christian attitudes to euthanasia ( cont

3. A few Christians accept euthanasia in certain circumstances because:

  • Medical advances mean it is hard to know what God's wishes about someone's death are. God may want someone to die but doctors are keeping them alive.
  • The teachings of jesus on loving your neighbour can be used to justify assisting suicide, because it might be the most loving thing to do.
  • It is a basic human right to have control over your body and what people do to it. People have a right to refuse medical treatment, so why not a right to ask for euthanasia.
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The media and matters of life and death

Some people think that what religions say about matters of life and death should not be criticised by the media because:

  • They might stir up religious hatred.
  • They might be offensive to religious believers.

Other people think the media should be free to criticise religious attitudes because:

  • A free media is a key part of democracy
  • If religions want to be free to say what they want, then the media must be free to criticise religion.
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The causes of world poverty

Natural Disasters- Many LEDCs are situated in areas of the world where natural disastrs ( earthquakes, floods, droughts etc.) can destroy many thousands of homes and the farmland on which the people depend.

Debt - Most LEDCs have to borrow money from the banks of developed countries to survive and begin to develop. However, the amount of intrest they have to pay can actually make the countries poorer.

Wars - Many LEDCs have been badly affected by wars ( often caused by the effects of colonialism). Wars destroy crops, homes, schools, hospitals, and so on, causing even more poverty. They also force many people to leave their homes and become refugees in other safer countries. These neighbouring countries may have been developing, but the sudden arrival of refugees with no money or food can make the country poor again.

Unfair trade - World trade is controlled by the rich countries of the world who decide the prices paid for products from LEDCs. For example, the rich countries pay grants to their own farmers to grow crops, and put high taxes on imported crops from LEDCs so those products are more expensive.

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The causes of world poverty ( cont.)

HIV/AIDS - this disease is killin many people in LEDCs. The loss of so many earners and the growing numbers of orphans are causing many poor countries to become poorer.

Other factors- There are other causes of world poverty. Lack of education means that young people in LEDCs have few or no skills. Lack of clean, fresh water leads to disease, short ife expectancy and large families ( so some children will survive to look after their parents).

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How CAFOD is trying to end world poverty

Development programmes - CAFOD works with partner groups in LEDCs to promote development in such ways as:

  • opening clinics and training health workers
  • helping to give street children an education so that they can earn a living
  • helping to set up savings schemes and different farming projects so that subsistence farmers are not wiped out by natural disasters.

Disasters and emergencies - CAFOD has a disaster fund to deal with natural disasters and refugees. CAFOD has sent food, antibiotics and shelters to victims of the tsunami and supplied to war refugees in Bosnia, Kosovo and Rwanda.

Raising awareness- About five oer cent of CAFOD's budget is spent on educating people and churches of England and Wales about the need for development and how Catholics can help. It publishes a newspaper called Friday and many educational materials. Speaking out on behalf of poor communities to bring social justice. CAFOD was heavily involved in the Make Poverty History campaign of 2005, the largest ever world campaign to end poverty and is now involved in the Trade Justice Campaign to change rules of world trade so that poor countries can work themselves out of poverty.

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Why CAFOD is trying to end world poverty

  • According to the New Testament, riches must be used for the help of others, especially the poor.
  • Jesus told the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats where he said that feeding the hungry and clothing the naked is like feeding and clothing Jesus himself. Catholics want to help Jesus and so they help the poor anf suffering.
  • The parable also teaches that helping the poor is the way to heaven, and Catholics want to get to heaven.
  • In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught that Christians should share their time and money to help the poor.
  • The Catholic Church teaches that Christians have a duty to help the poor and suffering, as Pope Benedict showed un his first encyclical.
  • The Golden Rule for Christians is to treat other people in the way you would like to be treated, and everyone would want to be helped if they were starving.
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