Abortion – the removal of a foetus from the womb before it can survive.
Assisted suicide – providing a seriously ill person with a means to commit suicide.
Euthanasia – an easy and gentle death.
Immortality of the Soul – the idea that the soul lives on after the death of the body.
Near-death experience – when someone about to die has an out-of–body experience
Non-voluntary euthanasia – ending someone’s life painlessly when they are not able to ask, but you have good reason for believing they would want you to do so (e.g. switching off a life-support machine).
Paranormal –unexplained things which are thought to have spiritual causes, for example, ghosts and mediums.
Quality of life- the idea that life must have some benefits for it to be worth living.
Re-incarnation- the belief that after death, souls are reborn into a new body.
Resurrection – the belief that after death the body stays in the grave until the end of the world when it is raised.
Sanctity of life- the belief that life is holy and belongs to God
Voluntary euthanasia – the situation where someone dying in pain asks a doctor to end his/her life painlessly.
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Christian beliefs about Life after Death: All Christians believe there is life after death. God will reward the good and punish the bad in some form of after life.
They believe in life after death because:
The Gospels tell us that Jesus’ body that rose from the dead and this proves that there is life after death.
St Paul teaches that people will have a resurrection like Jesus.
The Christian creeds teach that Jesus rose from the dead and there will be life after death.
All Christian churches teach that there will be life after death.
Many Christians believe that the soul will live on in heaven after the death of the body
Many Christians think that life after death gives life meaning and purpose.
The evidence of near-death experiences, ghosts etc.
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How Christian beliefs about life after death affect the lives of Christians
Christians try to live a good life on earth following the teachings of the Bible and going to Church so that they will get to heaven.
Living a good Christian life means loving God and your neighbour. Christian lives will be affected as they try to praise God everyday and worship him on a Sunday.
Christians try to follow the teachings of the parable of the Sheep and the Goats and the Good Samaritan by helping those in need (working for Christian Aid).
Christians try to avoid sinning as they believe that those who die with unforgiven sins will go to hell.
They believe life after death gives life meaning and purpose. This might be why Christians suffer less depression than atheists or agnostics.
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Muslim Teaching on Life after Death: Muslims believe in the resurrection of the body (when people die they stay in the grave until the end of the world, when God will raise everyone with resurrected bodies for the final judgement.). God will judge people on whether they’ve been good or bad Muslims; the good will go to heaven; the bad will go to hell.
They believe this because:
All these teachings are found in the Qur’an and as this is the word of God it must be true.
Belief in life after death is a major part of the six beliefs of Islam which all Muslims are expected to believe.
Life is a test from God that only makes sense if there’s life after death.
It is the teaching of Mohammed and must be true because he was a perfect example.
It gives life meaning and purpose. Life without an after life does not seem to make sense.
Ghosts, contacts with the dead through mediums, séances, Ouija boards etc all suggest that there is a spirit world where spirits of the dead live. Post or near-death experiences:
People who have died or nearly died in heart attacks, on the operating table, etc, and who have been resuscitated. About 70% of these cases talk about being aware that they are out of their body, then a presence urging them to go down a tunnel of light and then having some sort of vision of dead relatives or of divine presence. The evidence of reincarnation:
Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists believe in this and there are stories of people (Taranjit Singh) who say they have lived before and seem to be able to recall accurate details. If this is true then there must be life after death.
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The nature of abortion:
Abortion has been legal in Britain since 1967. It 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.
The key question about abortion is when does life begin?
Some people say that it begins at the moment of conception;
Some people say life begins when the foetus receives a soul;
Some say life only begins when the foetus can survive outside the womb (about 24 weeks)
Some non-religious people say a woman has a right to do what she wants with her body (pro-choice) and others say the foetus has a right to life (pro-life).
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Christian Teaching on Abortion:
There are two main attitudes:
Roman Catholics and some Evangelical Protestants believe that abortion is always wrong because of teachings on the sanctity of life:
Life begins at conception and as the 6th commandment bans murder so all abortions should be banned.
Only God has the right to take away life
God created the life in the mother and to prevent that life being born is murder and against God’s will.
Adoption is better than abortion and can bring joy to a family
Protestants (e.g. Church of England) disagree with abortion, but think that in certain circumstances abortion should be allowed because it is the lesser of two evils. (If abortion was banned it could cause too much suffering.) They believe this because:
Jesus told people to love their neighbour as themselves and abortion may be the most loving thing;
The sanctity of life can be broken in such things as war when people are killed, so some justification for abortion.
They do not believe life begins at conception
They think abortion should be allowed if the child would be born with serious medical defects.
The Qur’an says Muslims must never kill their children
They believe life begins at conception
Most Muslimsdisagree with abortion, but will allow it if the mother’s life is at risk. They believe this because of:
The death of an unborn child is a lesser evil than the death of the mother;
The Shari’ah (Muslim Law) says that the mother’s life must always take priority.
Some Muslims allow abortion up to 120 days of pregnancy (if the mother’s or baby’s health are at risk) because of:
A hadith and decisions of Muslim lawyers that 120 days (when the soul is given) is when the foetus becomes a child.
Up to 120 days, the effects of the future baby on the family can be taken into account
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The nature of euthanasia
At present, under British law all forms of euthanasia (assisted suicide, voluntary euthanasia and non-voluntary euthanasia) are illegal. However, stopping artificial feeding and not giving treatment are not seen as euthanasia and are lawful.
Why is it controversial?
Many people want it to stay illegal because; a cure might be found, there might be doubt as to whether it is what the person really wants, and what if someone agreed to it and then changed their mind, surely doctors should save lives and not end them.
Many think the euthanasia law should be changed because:
Everyone deserves some quality of life (there’s more to being alive than just not being dead).
Modern medicine can keep people alive but they have no quality of life, so they should have the right to die.
Doctors already make decisions about switching off life support machines and this might be seen as euthanasia. So other forms of euthanasia should be legal.
People can commit suicide so they should have the right to ask people to help them die. Euthanasia is legal in Holland
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Key Concepts for Euthanasia: The doctrine of double effect - the idea that it is not wrong to do something good even though you know it will lead to a second, negative effect.
For example, if I give someone in agony a large dose of painkillers to ease their pain, even though I know it will shorten their life, their death would not be my fault.
Striving to keep alive - the idea that doctors should do all they can to keep a dying patient alive.
Quality of life - often used as a reason for euthanasia. Someone who was paralysed and could only move their eyes would have little quality of life.
The loss of human dignity - people who have no control over their bodily functions and rely totally on carers are said to have lost their dignity.
The right-to-die - the idea that people have a right to decide when their life should end.
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Christian Teaching on Euthanasia: All Christians disagree with euthanasia, but there are slightly different attitudes.
Some Christians disagree with euthanasia completely because:
They believe in the sanctity of life;
The Bible says that you must not murder (6th commandment) and that life and death decisions belong to God;
Switching off life support machines and giving large doses of pain killers that shorten someone’s life can be seen as humans rather than God ending life and so is wrong.
They take Bible teachings literally and the Bible bans suicide.
Some other Christians believe that switching of life support machines, not giving treatment that could cause distress and giving dying people pain killers are not euthanasia. They believe that:(a) doctors should be allowed to give pain killing drugs even if they know it’s shortening a patient’s life as the intention is not to kill them, (b) switching off a life support machine when someone is brain dead is not wrong as God has already taken the life. (c) The Catechism allows not giving extraordinary treatment to keep someone alive.
A few Christians accept limited use of euthanasia. They accept that people should be able to choose how they want to be treated if they are terminally ill. They believe this because; modern medicine means we cannot be clear about what God’s wishes are about someone’s death, Jesus said love your neighbour and that could mean helping to relieve suffering.
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Muslim Teachings on Euthanasia:
Islam does not allow euthanasia because:
The Qur’an bans suicide and declares that no soul can die without God’s permission. Muslims would therefore say that assisted suicide is wrong.
Suicide is making yourself equal with God- the sin of shirk
Most Muslims see voluntary euthanasia as the same as assisted suicide.
Muhammad said that a Muslim soldier who committed suicide because he was dying a painful death on the battlefield would not be allowed into heaven.
Muslims believe life is a test from God and so if people use euthanasia, they are cheating in the test by trying to speed it up.
However, recently, Muslim lawyers have agreed to life support machines being switched off when there are no signs of life.
They might consider that God has already taken this life.
In the Qur’an it says:
‘O ye who believe… do not kill yourselves: for verily God hath been to you most merciful.’
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The media and matters of life and death
The media (radio, TV, films, newspapers, and internet) makes statements about matters of life and death such as abortion and euthanasia. Should the media be free to criticise what religions say about matters of life and death?
It can stir up religious hatred. This is banned by the Racial and Religious Hatred Act of 2007
It can cause offence e.g. when a Danish newspaper published cartoons of Mohammed there were riots.
Some religious believers think it is like blasphemy. If the media for example criticise what the Pope says about abortion they are condemning the Catholic Church.
Some religious people believe that religious statements are based on what God says and so are beyond human criticism.
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The media and matters of life and death
Arguments that religion should be free to criticise what the media says about matters of life and death
Freedom of expression is a basic human right which is needed for democracy to work.
If religious leaders use the media to make statements about matters of life and death, they must be prepared for the media to criticise those statements.
We live in a multi-faith society and so there must be freedom of religious belief and expression. The media must have the right to criticise and question what religions say.
Life and death issues are so important to everyone we want to know what is the right view. This could not be done if no-one was allowed to criticise religious views.
Some argue that societies need to be able to criticise ideas and policies in order to make progress. We need to discover what is false and put forward a more correct view. We can’t do this if religious attitudes cannot be criticised by the media.
PART B QUESTIONS - 4 MARKS Do you think suicide is always wrong? Give two reasons for your point of view.
Do you agree with abortion? Give two reasons for your point of view.
Do you agree with euthanasia? Give two reasons for your point of view.
Do you think Christians are right to believe in life after death? Give two reasons for your point of view.
Do you think Christians should agree with euthanasia? Give two reasons for your point of view.
Do you believe in life after death? Give two reasons for your point of view.
PART C QUESTIONS – 8 MARKS Explain why Christians believe in life after death.
Explain how Christian beliefs about life after death may affect a Christian’s life.
Choose one religion other than Christianity and explain how its beliefs about life after death affect the lives of its followers.
Explain why some people do not believe in life after death.
Explain why some Christians allow abortion, but some do not.
Choose one religion other than Christianity and explain why some of the followers of that religion allow abortion and some do not.
Part d questions – 6 marks ‘Everyone should be able to choose whether they want to die with dignity.’
i) Do you agree? Give reasons for your opinion.
ii) Give reasons why some people may disagree with you.
‘The paranormal proves that there is life after death.’
‘Life belongs to God and should only be taken by God.’
‘The media should not criticise religious attitudes to abortion.’
‘Euthanasia is always wrong.’
‘The media should not criticise religious attitudes to matters of life