Stoicism, Faith, and Theodicy: Part 1, Our Reactive Relationship With Death
I want to share an observation about stoicism, Christianity, theodicy and suffering, spread out over three posts. This observation flows out of my recent thoughts about our existential relationship with death and how it has changed over the last few generations.
To wit: Death, the most obvious, reliable, inevitable, and predictable fact of our lives is increasingly experienced as something accidental, unexpected, and surprising. We used to joke that the only thing for certain in life is death and taxes. Today when people die we’re shocked.
Worse, we feel lied to and betrayed. Again, everyone, 100% of us, are going to die. And yet, whenever we do face death we feel that some sort of cosmic promise and agreement has been broken. Given the universal inevitability of death, how did we get to thinking that our situation might be otherwise?
I’m not trying to be insensitive. I’m just trying to highlight how something so predictable has become so surprising.
In short, we’re increasingly reactive to death, emotionally speaking, increasingly disturbed, triggered, off-footed, shocked, troubled, and unsettled by death. So much so that death has become one of the biggest causes of modern faith crises. Someone dies — and again, everyone dies — and we lose faith in God. This is a huge generational shift.
In times past, we turned to God for consolation when we experienced bereavement. Nowadays we become atheists.