Life & Death

Quick revise
  • Suffering happens as part of life – whether it is created by humans (e.g. from crimes) or naturally (e.g. from natural disasters)
  • Many people question whether God would have created a world that allowed this his people to suffer – especially if he loves us.
  • Others say that if God did directly intervene in the world to stop suffering then we would not be free to make our decisions in the future.
  • Suffering can be seen as a test in our faith. Others see suffering as a way to share in Jesus’ work of saving the world on the cross.

Hindu attitude to suffering

Hindus view suffering as a natural part of life.

  • Moksha is seen as release from suffering.
  • Karma is seen as the main cause of suffering.

Thus people cause their own suffering through their actions in previous lives.

Most Hindus consider it part of their dharma to try to alleviate the suffering of those around them.

Muslim stance on suffering

This video shows presenter Reverend Peter Owen-Jones visiting Tigray in Ethiopia to find out how religious believers respond to repeated famine. He recalls the famine of the 1980s and sees the beauty of the country. In the valley of Negash he visits the first Muslim settlement in Sub-Saharan Africa and joins in with a prayer meeting. He talks with people about the problem of suffering and whether their prayers are ever left unanswered. He gives a personal reflection on how his experiences have not matched his rather uneasy expectations.

Sanctity of Life
  • The belief in the Sanctity of Life is shared by all Christians and relates to every discussion about life and death.
  • God created humans in his image (Genesis 1:27).
  • Our bodies are temples (i.e. homes for God) which must be respected totally (1 Corinthians 3:16)


  • Christians think that we should not “play God” and decide when we die.
  • However they realise that the reasons why people commit suicide cannot be controlled.
  • They could be depressed or suffering from mental illnesses of one sort or other.
  • Christians support the work of the Samaritans and other organisations that provide counselling for those who need it in times of stress and anxiety.
The Created World

Christian stance on the created world

  • A key Christian belief is stewardship.
  • Christians believe that at creation God created the world and put us in charge of it to care for it for ourselves and for future generations.
  • Christians believe that the world is beautiful and reflects God’s goodness and we should try to keep it this way.
  • All Christians support moves to preserve the natural world.
  • They think that Christians should encourage MPs to make laws that protect the environment and that everyone should do their part in trying to preserve the earth.
  • Christians believe that God has allowed us to eat meat.
  • However, animals are not there to be treated cruelly.
  • Although animal suffering should be reduced, where it is a balance between human needs and animal needs, humans should be prioritised.

Hindu stance on the created world

  • “May men & oxen both plough in contentment… Auspicious furrow, we venerate you. We pray you, bless us and bring us abundant harvests” Rig Veda 4.57
  • The whole of the natural world is seen as scared as Brahman is within all creation. Therefore, Humans should respect & live in harmony with nature.
  • Forests are very important – it is here that Krishna spent much time.
  • Hindus also respect animals.
  • Most Hindus are vegetarian, the cow is considered sacred.

Life and Death in the Media

Media should NOT criticise religious beliefs on life after death because…

  • Might stir up religious hatred
  • Might be offensive to religious believers
  • Criticising what the Pope says could be seen as blasphemy
  • Religious attitude based on God’s teachings. God is beyond human criticism

Media SHOULD be allowed 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 should also have that right.
  • Life and death is such an important topic all people should be made aware of the arguments
  • Freedom of expression is essential for society to make progress (Karl Popper)

Key Words

  • Paranormal- unexplained things which are thought to have spiritual causes, e.g. ghosts and mediums
  • Heaven- a place of paradise where God rules
  • Hell-a place of horrors where Satan rules
  • Immortality of the soul- the idea that the soul lives on after the death of the body
  • Resurrection- the belief that, after death, the body stays in the grave until the end of the world when it is raised
  • Abortion- the removal of a foetus from the womb before it can survive
  • Assisted suicide- providing a seriously ill person with the means to commit suicide
  • Euthanasia- an easy and gentle death
  • Non-voluntary euthanasia- ending someone’s life painlessly when they are unable to ask, but you have good reason for thinking they would you want you to do so, e.g. switching of a life support machine
  • Voluntary euthanasia- when someone dying in pain asks a doctor to end his/her life personally
  • Sanctity of life- the belief that life is holy and belongs to God
  • Purgatory – a place Catholics believe you go to so as to work of sins before going to heaven
  • Quality of Life – the idea that life must have some benefits for it to be worth living
  • Reincarnationthe belief that after death souls are reborn in a new body
  • Near death Experience (NDE) – when someone about to die has an out of body experience


Question 1

“God cannot be a loving father because he allows people to suffer.” Do you agree?

Give reasons for your answer, showing that you have thought about different points of view.



  • Suffering seems to be a lack of love or a failure on God’s part – if he is omniscient how can he cope with knowing his people are suffering? If he is omnipotent why does he not stop it?
  • A human father would never want his children to be harmed – so surely God is the same.


  • Suffering is a part of life.
  • Some would say suffering happens because of Adam and Eve’s fall in the garden of Eden.


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