We are all subject to death but how we value our lives is largely dependant on what we believe life means to us, and what we choose to believe. How we live our lives may be a reflection of our beliefs. For example if we believe in an after-life, which is reflective of some form of spiritual ideal, then our choices and actions in life will be different to that of someone who does not believe in life after death. Socrates was a great philosopher of his time who stood adamant by his word and his teachings.
Socrates was not afraid of death as was evident when the courts declared that his life would be spared if he were to admit to false charges of blasphemy against him. A test, which ultimately led to his demise (Plato 1992). Socrates proclaimed that the body dies in the visible sense or the visible world. The soul, however, does not. He describes the soul as ‘the invisible, pure, immortal and divine. Socrates saw the body as ‘a cage’, simply a vessel to carry the soul throughout life, which eventually makes its way back to Hades, or heaven (Plato 2004).
The soul, as portrayed by Socrates, is described as a separate entity and heaven is a place, with it’s meaning as mysterious and ambiguous as the meaning of death. In general terms mortality is perceived by Socrates (and other religions) as merely a state of being. The mortal self goes through an earthly tangible journey on the passage to the immortal self in the next world. A concept or belief that will not be discussed in this paper as I seek to explore and rationalise the earthly aspects pertaining to our mortality. So what is it like to be alive?
Since we don’t know what it is like to be dead, although we know it is inevitable, we can only look at it from a living point of view, a mortal point of view. I’m sure I could write a better essay if it was possible to write about the experience of death in the after-life, if there is such a thing, but as limited as it may seem, we may start by asking ourselves what is it, about death, we are scared of. For this may provide the basis of understanding the meaning of our lives and also the value we might place on such an existence.
Besides not ever knowing what being dead would be like, we would then be prompted to evaluate the meaning behind our lives. Which leads me back to the question, what is it like to be alive? This would be different for everyone so I can only assume that there is a general consensus and understanding about the basic principles of life and death. The value we place on our own lives would vary for everyone. And if we were to break it down even further, it would depend on the quality of our individual lives in adaptation with the social, economic, political and religious forms of society.
Our experiences of the past and present, and our ambitions for the future contributes to who we are, and effectively forms our identity, both individually, and as a society. In a religious or spiritual context it is widely accepted that ‘life is sacred’ but this conception is predicated on an ideal that attaches itself to a mysterious, spiritual belief – ‘faith’ – a belief that is not based on proof or evidence (Macquarie Dictionary 3rd Ed. ).
Conversely, the Christian definition argues that ‘faith is the substance of things (i. e. atter) hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’ (King James Bible), referring to a force or energy similar to that of ‘Love’ which exists but of which it’s definition cannot be proven in the rational sense. So for the purpose of providing a rational explanation of the views of the church, pertaining to the value of life, I will respectfully put ‘faith’ to one side and draw attention to the biblical injunction, ‘The Ten Commandments’. ‘The Ten Commandment, or epilogue, are a list of religious and moral imperatives which, according to the bible, were written by God and given to Moses on Mount Sinai in the form of two stone tablets.
They feature prominently in Judaism, Christianity and Islam’ (http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Ten_Commandments). You shall not murder; you shall not steal; you shall not commit adultery; are but a few of the commandments, which suggests a ‘way of life’. A covenant, which is believed to uphold the integrity, peace and well being of all human lives. This virtue applies not only to its religious members but is sanctioned by international laws. The Right to Life
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) was adopted by the UN General Assembly and entered into force in 1976. The ICCPR was legally binding for those States (including Australia), which have become parties to it (www. hreoc. gov. au/word/human_rights/euthanasia. doc). ‘The text of Article 6 ICCPR relevantly states ‘every human being has the inherent ‘right to life’. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life (Zdenkowski 1996). ‘The right to life is the most significant of all human rights.
The existence and operation of other human rights are predicated on the effective guarantee of the right to life’ (ibid. ). It stands to reason that the value and quality of life would be worthless if there were no human rights, or if the law did not protect human lives. A civilized society could not possibly exist. ‘Nowadays, most industrial societies are considered to be liberal and pluralistic societies, which means we are tolerant of many different cultures including different religious and secular beliefs’ (Van Hooft ; Sharpe 2006).
Government constitutional laws and policies are designed to protect the well being and preservation of all human lives. Official rights are set in place to serve the interests of the people and societies as a whole. Most governments and religious groups militate against harm toward another human being in order to maintain a society of peace and order and create provisions for a safe and secure existence. As Socrates suggests, mortality, simply put, is a state in which a person travels through earthly life, which is predicated on the belief that a higher world exists.
The freedom of religion and belief extends to the right to manifest one’s religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching. The right to manifest a belief is subject only to limitations provided by law which are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others’ (http://www. hreoc. gov. au/human_rights/religion/index. html). ‘In our society we adhere to the principle of the distinction between church and state.
This means we do not make things illegal just because a religious group thinks it is wrong. We accept the divisions of social policy and the law based purely on reason irrespective of religious beliefs or moral convictions (Van Hooft & Sharpe 2006). Whether we maintain the faith that life, mortal life, is simply an existence on the journey from matter, the physical, to spirit, the metaphysical or whether we believe that life extends only through the legacy we leave behind in this world e. g. ur family, friends, and the memories of who we were and impact we had on other lives and the world, we can see that the value of our individual lives is determined subjectively as the type or quality or our lives is influenced largely by social, economic, and perhaps, spiritual conditions. It seems our mortality is not simply based on mere survival but is predicated on what we believe. Who we are or who we become, in a continued existence, depends on what we choose to believe and how we choose to live our lives.