R.E. 3.2 Matters of life and death

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  • Created by: Elizabeth
  • Created on: 06-05-13 17:27

Why Catholics believe in life after death

Why Catholics believe in life after death:

  • The main Christian belief is that Jesus rose from the dead as this is what is recorded in the Gospels 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 and that there will be life after death.
  • The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that there is life after death. The Catechism contains the teaching of the Magisterium, which all Catholics should believe.
  • Many Catholics believe in life after death as it gives their lives purpose and meaning.
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How beliefs in life after death affect the lives o

  • Many Catholics believe that only if they have lived a good Catholic life will they be allowed into heaven. So they will try to live a good Catholic life following the teachings of the Church so that they go to heaven when they die.
  • Living a good Catholic life meanings following the two greatest commandments - love of God and love of neighbour. So Catholics' lives will be affected as they try to love God by praying and attending Mass every Sunday.
  • In the Parable of the Sheep and Goats Jesus said Catholics should feed the hungry, clothe the naked, befriend strangers and visit those who are sick and those in prison. Jesus taught in the Good Samaritan that loving your neighbour means helping anyone in need. These teachings are bound to affect Catholics' lives and the explain why some Catholics work for charities such as CAFOD, SVP, etc.
  • 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 believing in life after

Near-death experiences:

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 the spiritual world:

Ghosts, Ouija boards and mediums. Mediums are people who claim to be able to communicate between our material world and a spirit world where the spirits of the dead live. 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.


Some religions believe in reincarnation and have evidence of this happening. If reincarnation is true, then there is life after death.

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Why some people do not believe in life after death

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 each other about life after death. If life after death were true, they would all say the same thing.
  • Much of the evidence is based on holy books which contradict each other, and there is no way of deciding which holy books are true and which ones are false.
  • The evidence of paranormal (NDEs, mediums and reincarnation) has been challenged by science.
  • Most beliefs about life after death think that the mind or soul can survive without the body, but science shows 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 one of the following:

  • 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 mother's life is at risk, or the foetus has severe handicaps.

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Why abortion is a controversial issue

  • Many people believe life begins at the moment of conception. Therefore abortion is taking a human life.
  • Many people believe that life begins when the foetus is able to live outside the mother. Therefore it is not taking life.
  • Many non-religious people believe 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 believe that an unborn child's right to life is greater than the mother's right to her own body.
  • Some people argue that the time limit should be reduced to 18 or 20 weeks because of medical advances.
  • There are arguments about whether medical staff should have to carry out abortions.
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Christian attitudes to abortion


What: All abortions are wrong whatever the circumstances (except medical treatments for the mother which affect the life of the foetus)

Why: Life belongs to God, so only God has the right to end a pregnancy. Life begins at conception so abortion is murder and against the Ten Commandments. The teaching of the Catechism is that abortion is murder. Counselling, help and adoption are all alternatives to abortion for women made pregnant as a result of **** so that good can come out of evil in a new life.

Liberal Protestants:

What: They disagree with abortions but think it must be allowed in certain circumstances.

Why: Life does not begin at conception. Jesus' command to love your neighbour means it is your duty of Christians to remove suffering, which abortion does. The sanctity of life can be broken in war so why not in a just abortion (e.g. the mother's life is at risk). Parents should be able to get abortions after tests which show their child will be born with serious medical problems..

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The nature of euthanasia

Euthanasia is providing a gentle and easy death to someone suffering from a painful, deadly disease and who has little quality of life. This can be done by assisted suicide, voluntary euthanasia, and non-voluntary euthanasia. British law says that all these methods of euthanasia are murder. However, it is legal to stop artificial feeding or denying treatment. These are often called passive euthanasia and are lawful.

Why it is controversial:

Remain illegal arguments: There will always be doubt as to whether it is what the person really wants. Uncertainty as to whether the disease is terminal or if a cure will be found. It is the job of doctors to save lives not to kill their patients - will lead to distrust. People could change their lives, but after death there is no going back.

Made legal arguments: Discoveries in science means people who would have died have been kept alive but are now in agony, and they should have the right to die. Life-support machines can be switched off, allowing coma patients to die, so euthanasia is legal already. People have a right to commit suicide so why aren't people allowed to ask a doctor to help if they are too weak to do it alone. Doctors are allowed to stop treatment and turn off life-support machines.

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Christian attitudes to euthanasia

Catholic (and many Liberal Protestants):

What: Active euthanasia is wrong. However passive euthanasia is allowed.

Why: They believe in the sanctity of life. They believe euthanasia is murder which is against the Ten Commandments. If doctors say someone is brain-dead, they have already died, and turning off a life-support machine is accepting God's will. If you give someone painkillers to remove their pain but it shortens their life it is not euthanasia because of the doctrine of double effect (intention was to stop pain not to kill).

Some Christians believe all euthanasia is wrong including passive euthanasia for several reasons. These are the Bible forbids suicide, passive euthanasia (refusing treatment, large doses of painkillers and switching off life-support machines) are still murder which is forbidden by the Ten Commandments. The Bible says that life and death decisions should be made by God alone.

A few Christians accept euthanasia in certain circumstances as medical advances mean it is hard to know God's will. Jesus' teachings on loving your neighbour can justify assisted suicide and euthanasia as it could be the most loving thing to do. You have a right to your own body so you should have a right to chose when to die.

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Media and matters of life and death

Arguments that media should not be free to criticise religions about matters of life and death:

  • It stirs up religious hatred which is banned in the Racial and Religious Hatred Act of 2007.
  • It is offensive to religions which can lead to riots etc.
  • Some religious believers believe that criticising what religious leaders say is close to the crime of blasphemy.
  • Some religious people feel that religious statements are based on what God says and so are beyond human criticism.

Arguments that media should be free to criticise religions about matters of life and death:

  • Freedom of speech is a basic human right and is needed for democracy to work.
  • If religious leaders use the media to make statements about matters of life and death (e.g. stem cell research) they must be prepared for the media to criticise these statements.
  • In a multi-faith society, there must be freedom of religious belief and expression, so media must be free to criticise religious beliefs.
  • Life and death issues are important issues to everyone and they all want to know what is the right view. This would be difficult if religions were allowed to put forward views that no one could criticise.
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Causes of world poverty

Natural disasters: Many LEDCs are situated is areas which natural disasters can destroy many thousands of homes and the farmland on which the people depend.

Dept: Most LEDCs have to borrow money from the banks of developed countries to survive and begin to develop. However, the interest has actually made them poorer.

Wars: Many LEDCs have been badly affected by wars often caused by the effects of colonialism. Wars destroy crops, homes, schools, hospitals etc causing more poverty. They also force many people to leave their homes and become refugees in safer countries. These neighbouring countries which might have been developing would become poor again with the arrival of refugees.

Unfair trade: World trade is controlled bu the rich countries to ensure that they get the most money from it. Products from LEDCs have taxes put on them.

HIV/AIDS: Kills many earners and leaves lots of orphans. This causes a country to become poorer.

Other factors: Lack of education. Lack of clean water (disease, short life expectancy). Large families to ensure some children survive to look after their parents in old age.

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How and why CAFOD is trying to remove world povert


Development programs: They open clinics and train health workers. They give an education to street children so they will be able to earn a living in the future. They set up saving schemes and farming projects so that not all food sources are wiped out in natural disasters.

Disasters and emergencies: They have a fund to help refugees and victims of natural disasters. They send food, antibiotics and shelters to people in disasters and emergencies.

Raising awareness: They educate people about the need for development and how people can help.

Speak out on behalf of the poor to bring social justice: Involved in campaigns including Make Poverty History (2005) to help end poverty and promote fair trade.

Why: The New Testament teaches that riches should be used to help others, especially the poor. Jesus told the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats which teaches us to love our neighbour. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us to share our time and money to help the poor. The Catholic Church teaches that Chrisitans have a duty to help the poor and suffering. The Golden Rule is to treat others as you would like to be treated.

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Panarama episode on Near-death experiences

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