Martin Adams,, CC0 Licensing
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A couple of weekends ago, I was up country for the funeral of my aunt. She had died from, predominantly, brain cancer, with other complications thrown in for good measure. Deaths like that are never pleasant, of course. What I mean by that is that they are long and protracted and involve losing much of who you are in a downward spiral of worsening health, until you are not conscious at all, and are having to be turned in your bed at home by carers or family members.

None of which is nice for anyone involved

Or, there aren’t really any redeeming factors when considering such a painful (emotionally and physically) death.

And this makes a church service all the more bizarre.

I would hope that I wasn’t the only congregant thinking this, though as a philosopher of religion, it was bound to happen. The eulogies and speeches and poems by family members were all lovely, set in a relatively quaint CofE village church. But what got me was the whole basis of the funeral service itself; we were there somehow praising and thanking the Lord for delivering brain cancer to my aunt. I struggle to find any sound theological basis for so doing. And yet, in some sense, it is there. It reminds me of the logic of the Westboro Baptist Church, harangued by liberals and, well, pretty much everyone, for their distasteful shenanigans (celebrating at funerals of fallen soldiers, standing around with placards denouncing all sorts, such as “God Hates Fags”). There is a fairly sound logic that states that, since God is all powerful and knowing, then any event is by his own will and, with him being perfect, we should celebrate such.

But, for me in the pews, I found it rather difficult to sit there and praise the very being who (assuming he exists) had developed the process of death, designed cancer, and effectively killed my aunt, involving seemingly unnecessary pain and suffering on the part of everyone involved. Woo Hoo! Thanks for that.

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...