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Religion and Death

Session Chair: N.N. | Friday, August 28, 9-11 a.m. | Venue

Ilja Musulin

Death and Religion in Theory: A Critical Examination of the Rational Choice Theory of Religion

The paper will examine the importance the Rational Choice Theory attaches to longing for immortality in its theoretical model of religion. A review of the past criticism of the theory, an analysis of its concept of religion and its perception of death-related religious beliefs, and the author’s own critique will be presented. The paper will point out cultural and ideological elements in the RCT concept of religion that lead it to view beliefs in afterlife narrowly, excluding the actual religious diversity. The author will also try to demonstrate that this theory heavily relies on the notion that the greatest attraction of religion in general and the largest motivation behind religious faith is the fear-assuaging, comforting promise of afterlife, but that this basic theoretical tenet is adopted without due reference to empirical research on death anxiety and religion in the field of psychology, and is not fully supported by empirical evidence.

Laura Follesa

F.W.J. Schelling between philosophy and religion: the continuation of life after death

After the death of his wife (1809), F.W.J. Schelling composed a brief writing, Clara, about the continuation of individual life and personal relationships after death, which remained unpublished and uncompleted. The subtitle, Über den Zusammenhang der Natur mit der Geisterwelt, explains Schelling’s thesis about a special ‘bond’ between nature and spirit, as well as his involvement in Emanuel Swedenborg’s ideas about the “world of the spirits” and the possibility of sensual relationships after the physical death (e.g. Conjungial Love, 1768). Schelling presents the topic through a dialogue among several characters (a widow, a priest, a monk, a doctor), whose ideas often represent the different perspectives through which the author himself previously reflected on the problem. I will analyse these various positions, focusing on the author’s ideas on ‘philosophy of nature’, his ‘philosophy of identity’, and other viewpoints leading back to different philosophical, religious and theosophical traditions.

Emanuele Lacca

Buena muerte and postrimerías. How to explain in the XVIIth century the surviving of the individual soul after death

The concepts of buena muerte and postrimerías, developed by Spanish Jesuits in XVIth and XVIIth centuries, designate respectively the soul disposition that an individual needs to reconcile himself with God and the afterlife scenario that the individual will find at the end of his earthly life (death, judgement, hell, glory). One of the main aspects of this thesis deals with the continuity of soul existence between life and afterlife, and afterlife is completely determined by how earthly life has been lived. So, ‘die well’ becomes the most important prerogative for a dying person. The goal of my paper is to investigate theological and philosophical elements that originated this theory, especially in the works of Luis de la Puente, Roberto Bellarmino, Juan Eusebio Nieremberg and Juan de Loyola, in which the authors, with advices directed to a ‘good death’ and afterlife descriptions, help to believe in the reality of the ‘otherworld’.

Shunichi Miyajima

Thinking about Japanese spirituality in matters of Life and Death

The term “spiritual” can be taken to mean “religious”, that is something universal and comprehensive, rather than as relating to a specific or traditional religion. Indeed, in modern times, we tend more and more not to follow or rely on notions of life and death as approved by a particular religion, but rather we are influenced in our views by contemporary thinking, mass media and so on. Such apparent diversity and modernism, however, is unlikely to lead to an immediate or radical change in the general attitude to life and death. In particular, people will not suddenly alter key life practices and ceremonies such as weddings and funerals. In Japan, for example, while there is a growing trend towards more varied burial practices, such as adopting a Western style, the long-established, orthodox Japanese form of funeral still predominates. Further, spirituality in Japan is often considered to be rooted in a particular Japanese perception or consciousness, but such a limited outlook is dangerous in that it can lead to the worst kind of nationalism. Accordingly, without dismissing tradition and custom out of hand, we should encourage and welcome the growing diversity of views and practices in Japan and elsewhere, even with such major issues as matters of life or death.


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