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Unit 2. Matters of Life and Death

Revision Guide Mr McCay

March 2011

Unit 2: Matters of Life and Death Revision Guide In this unit you have to know the following: 1.

Why Christians believe in life after death and how beliefs about life after death affect their lives.


Non-religious reasons for believing in life after death (neardeath experiences, ghosts, mediums, evidence of reincarnation).


Why some people do not believe in life after death.


The nature of abortion, including current British legislation, and why abortion is a controversial issue.


Different Christian attitudes to abortion and the reasons for them.


The nature of euthanasia, including current British legislation, and why euthanasia is a controversial issue.


Christian attitudes to euthanasia and the reasons for them.


Arguments for and against the media being free to criticise what religions say about matters of life and death.


The causes of world poverty. How and why one Christian agency is trying to end world poverty.

10. How an issue arising from matters of life and death has been presented in one form of the media, for example in a television or radio programme, or in a film, or in the national press; including whether the treatment was fair to religious beliefs and religious people.

Mr McCay

March 2011

KEYWORDS Sanctity of life    Life is holy and belongs to God Resurrection

The belief that when you die, your body stays in the grave until the end of the world when it is raised

Immortality of the soul

The idea that the soul/mind does not die when your body dies, but lives on in a spiritual world


The study of unexplained things like ghosts and mediums who say they can contact dead spirits


The removal of a foetus from the womb before it can survive

Abortion on demand

Women having the right to an abortion if they want one with no questions asked


Ending your life yourself

Assisted suicide Providing a person with the means to commit suicide Euthanasia

Giving someone who is dying an easy and gentle death

Voluntary euthanasia   

The situation where someone dying in pain asks a doctor to end his/her life painlessly.

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)

Not striving to keep alive

The idea that you should not use medication simply to prolong the life of a dying person if the quality of that life is very poor.

Mr McCay

March 2011

All Christians believe that life is a gift from God because God created life. It is sacred (holy) as can be seen in God becoming human in Jesus. Only God can decide when life should be ended. Reasons for believing this: ·      God created life –Genesis 1 v 27 ·      God knows each one of us individually and created each one of us ·      God has a plan for every human life Psalm 139 v 13 -16 ·      It is wrong to kill – Sixth Commandment/ 1 Corinthians v 16/17

Why Christians believe in life after death Christians believe that this life is not all there is. They believe God will reward the good and punish the bad in some form of life after death. Although there are different views about what happens after death among Christians, all Christians believe in life after death because: " I.

The main Christian belief is that Jesus rose from the dead. All four Gospels record that Jesus was crucified and buried in a stone tomb. They also record that, on the Sunday morning, some of the women followers went to the tomb and found it empty. The Gospels then record different ‘Resurrection* appearances’ of Jesus. The rest of the New Testament is full of references to the resurrection of Jesus. Clearly, if Jesus rose from the dead, then there is life after death.


St Paul teaches (1 Corinthians 15) that people will have a resurrection like that of Jesus, and will have a spiritual resurrection body given to them by God.


Revelations states that, at the end of the world, the dead will be raised and brought before God for Judgement. Good Christians will enter heaven, everyone else will go to hell.


All the Christian Churches teach that there is life after death. Modern Protestant, Catholic and Traditional Churches may have some differences about what they think life after death will be like, but they all teach their followers that there will be life after death.

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March 2011

Many Christians believe that people are made up of a body (physical)


and a soul (mind or personality). They believe that the soul is nonmaterial and immortal (will never die). They believe that when the body dies the soul goes to heaven to live with God. VI.

Many Christians believe in life after death because it gives their lives meaning and purpose. They feel that for life to end at death does not make sense. A life after death, in which people will be judged on how they live this life with the good rewarded and the evil punished, makes sense of this life. If the purpose of live your life in such a way that you spend eternity in heaven, then that gives life meaning.


Some Christians believe in life after death because of the evidence of the paranormal (e.g. Ghosts).

How Christian beliefs about life after death affect the lives of Christians I.

Christians believe that what happens to them after they die will be determined by how they have lived this life. Many Christians believe that they will be judged by God and that only if they have lived a good Christian life will they be allowed into heaven.


This means that Christians will try to live a good Christian life following

" "

the teachings of the Bible and the Church so that they go to heaven and not hell when they die.


Living a good Christian life will mean following the teachings of Jesus who taught that the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love your neighbour as yourself. So Christians’ lives will be affected as they try to love God by praying and by worshipping God. Catholic Christians will try to attend Mass every Sunday, most other Christians will also try to worship in church once a week


Trying to love your neighbour as yourself is bound to affect a Christian’s life. In the parable of the Sheep and Goats (Matthew 25:31-46), Jesus said that only those who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, befriended strangers, visited the sick and those in prison, would be allowed into heaven. Those who ignored all these people’s needs would be sent to hell at the final judgement.

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March 2011


There is a similar teaching to the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) where Jesus taught that loving your neighbour means helping anyone in need. These teachings are bound to affect Christians’ lives and explain why Christian charities like Christian Aid and CAFOD are so involved in helping those in need.


Christians believe that sin can prevent people from going to heaven. Some Christians believe that those who die with unforgiven sins will go to hell. The Catholic Church teaches that those who die with unforgiven sins go to purgatory to be purified before they can reach heaven. Clearly these teaching show that Christians will try to avoid committing sins in their lived.

Non-religious reasons for believing in life after death (near-death experiences, ghosts, mediums, evidence of reincarnation). I.

There is plenty of evidence that the mind can affect the body, for example, Hindu gurus and yogis who lie on beds of nails etc., illnesses caused by mental problems (known as psychosomatic illness).

II. It seems that we must have a mind separate from our body because all the time we are bombarded by an enormous number of sense impressions and we have conflicting ideas (shall I do my homework or go out with my friends?). Something has to make sense of all the sensations and choose between the desires. This is what we call our mind and it is not material and so could survive the death of the body. III. There is evidence in all religions that this life is not all there is and that there is something after death. IV. Religious experience and all the reasons there are for believing in God make it likely that there is life after death. After all if God exists, then life after death is also likely to exist V.

Then there is the evidence of parapsychology — ghosts, contacts with the dead through mediums, séances, ouija boards, etc.

VI. There is also the evidence of post or near-death experiences. People who have died, or nearly died, in heart attacks, on the operating table, etc. who have been resuscitated. Approximately 70 per cent of these cases talk about becoming aware that they are out of their body, the presence Mr McCay

March 2011

of light urging them to go down a tunnel of light and then having some sort of vision either of dead relatives or of some divine presence. Evidence of these experiences have been provided in QED and Everyman TV programmes. Why some people do not believe in life after death. Most people assume that the mind will be able to survive death. Sometimes they call the mind the soul, sometimes they call it the self. But other people think it is not likely because: VII.

Death means the end of life, therefore to live after death is a logical contradiction.

VIII. The scientific evidence for the origins of humanity shows that our mind has developed from a material process as the brain grew more complicated, and so it will not be able to survive when the material brain is dead. IX.

The physical evidence is that when your body dies everything about you dies, for example when you give someone a lot of alcohol you affect both their mind and their body, so, if you give them enough alcohol to kill their body, you must kill their mind as well.


The medical condition of brain death implies that the mind can die before the body — a life support machine is perfect evidence that there can be no life after death.


We can only recognize each other because we have bodies. If there were life after death, how would we be able to recognise people without bodies?


The physical universe is a vast material place with no evidence of nonmaterial existence so where could life after death take place?

The nature of abortion, including current British legislation, and why abortion is a controversial issue. Abortion is only allowed in Great Britain if two doctors agree:     the mother’s life is at risk; •         the mother’s physical or mental health is at risk; Mr McCay

March 2011

•         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. Most abortions are now carried out on women less than 12 weeks pregnant and the number of abortions has gone down since 1991. People who argue about abortion often argue about when life begins: •         some say it begins as soon as an egg is fertilized; •         others say it begins when it receives a soul (after 15 days) •         others say life only begins when the foetus can survive outside the womb.

Different Christian attitudes to abortion and the reasons for them. Roman Catholics and many Evangelical Protestants believe abortion is always wrong because of Christian teachings on the sanctity of life. God has created life in the mother, and to prevent that life being born is murder and against God’s will. They believe that life begins at conception and, as God banned murder in the sixth commandment, all abortions should be banned. Other Protestants (for example some members of the Church of England) disagree with abortion, but think that in certain circumstances you have to choose the lesser of two evils and so abortion must be allowed. Although they would prefer there to be no abortion, they realise that there would be too much suffering if abortion were banned, and they feel that Christians should try to remove suffering. They have these views because they do not believe that life begins at conception, and they believe Jesus’ command to love your neighbour is the most important command.

The nature of euthanasia, including current British legislation, and why euthanasia is a controversial issue. Changes in medical skills and technology mean that euthanasia is now discussed more. Mr McCay

March 2011

Life-support machines, new medical technology to keep handicapped babies alive, better drugs to fight cancer, all mean that people are being kept alive by medicine, often in agony. The law says nothing can be done by doctors which could be thought of as euthanasia. However, recent decisions by the courts have allowed doctors to switch off life-support machines and stop feeding patients. Many people feel that changes in medical technology mean that the law also needs changing to allow euthanasia.

Christian attitudes to euthanasia and the reasons for them. Christian teachings on the sanctity of life mean that all Christians oppose the practice of euthanasia. The Bible says quite clearly that Christians must not murder (sixth commandment) and there are many statements in the Bible saying that life and death decisions belong to God alone. Many Church leaders have said that life is sacred and comes from God, therefore only God can decide when someone should die. Christians also believe that doctors are required to save lives not kill, and to allow them to kill people would be giving them double standards to follow. Most Christians (including Roman Catholics) accept that doctors should be allowed to give lots of painkilling drugs even if they know it is shortening the patient’s life. They also believe that expensive treatments need not be carried out to lengthen the lives of dying patients. Most Roman Catholics and some other Christians do not agree with switching off life-support machines, but many Christians believe this must be allowed when there are no signs of life.

The causes of world poverty. How and why one Christian agency is trying to end world poverty. From about 1950 to 1985, it was common to talk of poor countries as ‘Third World’ countries. This was because some thinkers divided the world into three: -First World: the West (USA, Western Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan and New Zealand.) -Second World: the communist countries (USSR, Eastern Europe, China). These were seen as poorer than the West, but richer than the rest of the world. -Third World: all the other countries, which were regarded as the poorest countries of the world. Mr McCay

March 2011

More recently it has been seen that world poverty is a more complex issue and, since the fall of communism, the classification of the worlds countries have changed. So the countries of the world may again be divided into three groups, but in a very different way: -More Economically Developed Countries (MEDC): rich countries like the USA and Western Europe; -Developing Countries: countries which are becoming richer like Brazil, Mexico, and Malaysia; -Less Economically Developed Countries (LEDC): countries which are still very poor and have people starving like Sudan, Malawi, and Rwanda. Wars: Many LEDCs have been badly affected by wars. In Africa, many civil wars (wars fought between people from the same country) have been caused by European empirebuilding during the 19th century; Several African races were joined into one country even though half a race was in another country. When these countries gained independence they were still artificial countries and one race was often badly treated by the ruling race resulting in civil war. Wars can also be between two countries e.g. Ethiopia and Somalia, Iran and Iraq. Natural Disasters: Many LEDCs are situated in areas of the world where natural disasters (earthquakes, floods, droughts etc.) are more frequent and more severe than anywhere else. An earthquake or a flood, for example, can destroy many thousands of homes and farmland on which inhabitants depend. If rain does not fall, crops will not grow unless people have the wealth to sink wells install pumps and organise an irrigation system. Debt: Most LEDCs have to borrow money from the banks of developed countries to survive and begin to develop. However, these banks charge interest, so that a less developed country can find itself paying more interest, so that a less developed country can find itself paying more in interest than they earn in foreign currency. In the early seventies Chile borrowed 3.9 billion dollars. By 1982, she had paid 12.8 billion dollars in interest, but still owed money. This extra 9 billion dollars could have been used to speed up Chile’s development; instead it went to countries that are already rich. Cash Crops: The only way many LEDCs can make enough money for their debts is to grow cash crops (crops grown for sale rather than consumption). Cotton, coffee, tea and tobacco are grown to sell to the developed world. Many people in LEDCs are starving even though the country produces food for export. Christians also believe that caring for and sharing with others is not only a religious duty, but a command of Jesus himself. Jesus said that only loving the people who love you was not difficult, but loving your enemies or a stranger is a completely different matter and commands a much higher respect.

Mr McCay

March 2011

Christian Aid is an agency of the churches in the UK and Ireland. They work wherever the need is greatest – irrespective of religion or race. Because they believe in strengthening people to find their own solutions to the problems they face, they support local organisations, which are best placed to understand local needs. They also give help on the ground through 16 overseas offices. They strive for a new world transformed by an end to poverty and campaign to change the rules that keep people poor. Short Term help - food, shelter and money in disasters such as earthquakes. Long Term help - build schools, homes, hospitals etc. Teach people skills to survive on their own.

Bible Quotes "You shall not kill." Exodus 20:13 (6th Commandment) "You created every part of me, you put me together in my Mother's womb" Psalm 139:13 “God created human beings, making them to be like Himself.” Genesis 1:27 "Love your neighbour as yourself" Mark 12:31

Mr McCay

March 2011

Matters of Life and Death Revision  

GCSE Revision