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One of the most despised practices of Christian preachers is that of scaring people with stories of death and hell. Yet it is probably one of the most productive things that ever happened to me in my experiences of the churches.

There is an almost universal conspiracy to avoid any thought of death. How silly. We're all going to die one day, so why not think about it, and prepare for it now?

We can prepare for the deaths of our loved ones by showing them more love right now. Give your flowers before the funeral, when they will do the most good. It's such a simple concept, and yet one that so many overlook.

And we can prepare for our own deaths as well. Some might choose to grab all the selfish pleasure they can before meeting their doom; however, thinking about death inspires most people to do some good before D-day. Even atheists would like to have people think well of them after they are gone.

The Bible tells us to "take up your cross daily". (Luke 9:23) It sounds morbid, but it's just another way of saying "Live each day as though it were your last."

I personally don't believe people will be tortured eternally in hell. I can't see that it is taught in the Bible, and it seems to contradict passages about everyone ultimately serving God. (Philippians 2:9-11) But the argument is purely academic; whether death means the end of all consciousness or everlasting excruciating pain, the over-riding truth is that it means the end of life as we now know it. The important thing is to use the time we do have as wisely as possible.

Some of the opposition to hellfire and brimstone sermons may come from people who are running from the reality of death. But there is also genuine opposition to the use of fear as a gimmick to frighten people into a specific religion. Certainly when you get closer to those who boast loudly of being prepared for death, you find them stubbornly resistant to the slightest thought about whether or not their own formulas for salvation are foolproof.

Where, for example, did Jesus' followers ever tell people that a little prayer would get them into heaven? It becomes apparent that simplistic salvation rituals are just another way of avoiding serious thought about the reality of death.

You would not buy a fire insurance policy without reading it to see whether it really protects you. Yet these people accept the most incredible promises of eternal salvation without ever checking to see if the formula is valid. Why? Because all they really want to do is to stop thinking about death. Phoney or not, the contract excuses them from thinking.

They are marching toward the cliff with their eyes closed, and the closer they get, the harder they try to blot out the truth.

Isn't it time you gave some serious thought to death... so you can start living life to the fullest?

(See also The Cure for Cancer.)

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