• 17
    April 6th, 2012 @ 2:21 pm by Kevin

    “Man is a worm and food for worms. This is the paradox: he is out of nature and hopelessly in it; he is dual, up in the stars and yet housed in a heart-pumping, breath-gasping body that once belonged to a fish and still carries the gill-marks to prove it. His body is a material fleshy casing that is alien to him in many ways—the strangest and most repugnant way being that it aches and bleeds and will decay and die. Man is literally split in two: he has an awareness of his own splendid uniqueness in that he sticks out of nature with a towering majesty, and yet he goes back into the ground a few feet in order to blindly and dumbly rot and disappear forever. It is a terrifying dilemma to be in and to have to live with. The lower animals are, of course, spared this painful contradiction, as they lack a symbolic identity and the self-consciousness that goes with it. They merely act and move reflexively as they are driven by their instincts. If they pause at all, it is only a physical pause; inside they are anonymous, and even their faces have no name. They live in a world without time, pulsating, as it were, in a state of dumb being. This is what has made it so simple to shoot down whole herds of buffalo or elephants. The animals don’t know that death is happening and continue grazing placidly while others drop alongside them. The knowledge of death is reflective and conceptual, and animals are spared it. They live and they disappear with the same thoughtlessness: a few minutes of fear, a few seconds of anguish, and it is over. But to live a whole lifetime with the fate of death haunting one’s dreams and even the most sun-filled days—that’s something else.” — Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death



leave a comment on this post (17 Comments)

  1. From what planet (or alternate reality) is this guy from?

    1. Humans do not have gills, and his body never belonged to a fish. This seems like one of those silly evolutionist claims I used to see like “whales have legs” or “some human babies are born with tails” (etc…)

    2. Most normal animals will react in response to the threat of death. However, not all animals care if an animal beside them happens to get killed. Some will even mourn the deaths of their friends and others will protect each other. Dolphins will even care for their sick and rescue injured humans.

    3. While we are dispelling myths, let’s not forget that Jesus was not killed on a Friday either. There are no three days and three nights between Friday evening and Sunday morning, and there would have been no opportunity for the women to see where he was buried, go out and buy burial spices, and then rest for [another] Sabbath.

    Concerning why it is so important to tell the truth all the time, even on little things (like not telling people that Jesus died on Friday) … has anyone here seen the movie “Zeitgeist?” The “Jesus was born on Christmas day” myth (no, he was not) was used as an attack on Christianity and it has deceived some people. Those little lies aren’t harmless: they come back and bite you, or can be used as stumbling blocks for others you may never meet.

      • Aside from your link leading to a “Page Not Found” … you do realize that asking what type of answer you are going to get from the New Advent (Catholic) site, don’t you? Good Friday is a Catholic doctrine, and they are going to give you the Catholic (not the biblical) answer.
        Since you were just saying that “truth” is something that in your view “one cannot do without…” … may I ask a couple questions?
        1. How many Sabbaths are there in the typical Jewish year of 360 days?
        2. What are the scriptures speaking of when they talk of a “preparation day?”
        3. Have you ever compared all the biblical passages that speak of “three days”, “the third day”, and “three days and nights?” Have you ever noticed that there are not “three days and nights” from Friday sunset to Sunday morning?
        4. Do you have any reason for declaring “Jesus died on Friday” other than simply repeating Catholic tradition?
        Truth and accuracy is important, especially for Christians in the biblical realm.

  2. Haha. Well, we can all see that Patrick got the point of this one;)

    There is a book called “Children playing with Satan’s testicles” about the evils of giving your child Easter eggs. Pretty hilarious.

    I think the point is that this guy says that there is something different between us and the animals. That, though we are higher, more privileged beings, seemingly in control of our lives, we still must exist with the fear of death. As in, no matter how safe you’ve made your life, you’re going to die. So, what while we lord over the animals, at some times we also envy them for their ignorance of how permanent death is.

    I think that the quote is for reflection on what it can be like without the Hope of Christ conquering death.

  3. My excuse to write this on Good Friday, is simply the occasion to affirm my faith in Jesus-christ.

    He admits that we are different from animals:”he [man] sticks out of nature with a towering majesty”, and that we have self-awareness, yet, death is no more different for us than it is for them. He says: “and yet he [man] goes back into the ground a few feet in order to blindly and dumbly rot and disappear forever”
    Becker came to the position that:” Psychological inquiry inevitably comes to a dead end beyond which belief systems must be invoked to satisfy the human psyche.” Among those belief systems is religion.
    If I understand a little of what he says, it is that our desire for immortality,( immortality a delusion), and being mortal like all the other animals (animals we are, first and foremost) contributes to the violence we know in society.
    “The clash between the overwhelming urge to continue living and the cognitive awareness of universal mortality makes us immobile, debilitated and anxious and violent.”

    The remedy…is simply deconstructing those illusions.

    Religions are fictional as they all promise something (immortality) on which they cannot deliver. However fiction is needed for our life to be bearable.
    “Future human well-being, and possibly even simple human survival, will depend on learning to substitute more creative manifestations of the individual and social defense mechanisms against the anxiety provoked by the religiously/culturally Dissimilar Other for the more destructive manifestations.”

    His view of the person being only an intelligent, self-aware animal, leads him the rest of the way. However that view is a questionable one, no matter how certain he seems to be.
    How doe he know that there is no ‘immortality’ for man, for animals and even for matter? How does he know that the end of everything is oblivion?
    How can he be satisfy with the goal of “creative illusions”?
    Because his view of what man is, is far for being acceptable for a great majority of us, his theory about the cause and the remedy of violence will be erroneous for this great majority.

    My reasonable and arguable opinion is that Jesus-Christ, who is the only man to conquer death, is the only way to conquer my DEATH ANXIETY.


    • You need to read a little more Becker, Benoit. He comes down strongly in favor of religion, particularly Christianity. He was just leery of the church b/c of its tendency to become rigid and destructive.

      • Obviously Donald L. Carveth disagrees with you. Quote:”Following Rank, Becker offers an existential psychoanalytic apology for religion as the least destructive form of the universal and necessary denial of death. Man needs his illusions we are told. His situation is so terrible that without them he must go mad. The despairing schizophrenic is in some ways more honest than we self-deceived and adjusted ones. In this view, the fundamental contradiction undermining the therapeutic project of psychoanalysis lies in the fact that the analysis of defences and illusions that is supposed to liberate us in reality exposes us to unbearable truths in the face of which defences and illusions are indispensable.

        • That’s an interpretation of Becker, Ben. Always better to get it straight from the horse’s mouth. For example, read Becker’s analysis of Kierkegaard, for whom he had great admiration as the “first psychoanalyst.” After affirming (with Rank) that man is a theological creature rather than merely biological, Becker says, “Therapeutic religion will never replace traditional religions with the messages of Judaism, most of Christianity and Buddhism, and the like. They have held that man is doomed to his present form, that he can’t really evolve any further, that anything he might achieve can only be achieved from within the real nightmare of his loneliness in creation and from the energies he now has. He has to adapt and wait. New birth will keep him going, give him constant renewal, say the Christians; and if he has perfect righteousness and faith, and enough of it spread widely enough among his fellows, then, say the Hebrews, God Himself will act. Men should wait while using their best intelligence and effort to secure their adaptation and survival. Ideally they would wait in a condition of openness toward miracle and mystery, in the lived truth of creation, which would make it easier both to survive and be redeemed because men would be less driven to undo themselves and would be more like the image that pleases their Creator: awe-filled creatures trying to live in harmony with the rest of creation.” (“The Denial of Death, p. 281)

          Another pertinent quote, “Today we know that people try so hard to win converts for their point of view because it is more than merely an outlook on life; it is an immortality formula.” (p. 255)

        • I should also add that you need to gain a better understanding of Becker’s use of the term “illusion.” He studiously avoids a discussion of the validity of various truth claims and instead seeks to help us understand the psychological function of our various belief systems. Once again, careful study of the source material will reveal this.

          • , “humanly constructed beliefs about the nature of reality that are shared by individuals in a group that function to mitigate the horror and blunt the dread caused by knowledge of the human condition, that we all die.”
            His bottom up approach does not bode well for a Christianity based on Revelation. So he loves some of the Christian theology where he sees the connections with the psychological wellness of man. If Christianity is true, it’s bound to make me a better person on all kind of level.
            And then for a non-theologian, he goes on to talk about the weakness of Christian theology.
            Sure he comes down on the side of religion, but for what reason? Is the word truth even part of his vocabulary? In my view one cannot do without it.

    • I should also add this: Becker argues that fear of death is the central problem of humanity. Curiously, the resurrection of Christ is the cornerstone of the Good News–the defeat of death. See a connection? I certainly do.

      • I am continuing to look at Becker’s writing, and so far I found nothing to change my mind. He is a psychiatrist looking for the best option to make life bearable. His preference for Christianity (his view of it), his speaking of God and transcendence does not take away from the fact that for him those things are cultural FICTION which help us to cope. I will in a few days gave more quotes to support this point.

        • Again, he’s primarily concerned with the function of religion. Rather than dismiss us like Freud, he sees it as vital to human existence. So he becomes an apologist for religion as an act of heroism. The enemy of my enemy is my friend even if we don’t agree on every point.

          • Christ said: love your enemies. Nothing new here.
            From an atheistic world view, he went back to his Jewish roots.
            I would have love to have an intimate peek in his mind.

        • Sorry, I meant “dismiss IT” like Freud.

      • Thanks for posting this passage from Becker. It filled me with a greater sense of what Christ came to deliver us from. So many conversations with those supporting eternal hell lead to the question, “well then why did Christ have to die?” It is incredible how we so easily pass right over our greatest, most intrinsic need: to be rescued from sin itself which leads to death and the fear of death! Are we thinking that a rescue from the present state of bondage, decay and disintegration we find ourselves isn’t a great enough rescue to merit being called “so great a salvation” and elicit worship to our Saviour and Redeemer? Personally it has intensely elevated my sense of worship.

        btw, as a Christian who believed I was saved from an eternal hell and “going to heaven” I believe I was actually more afraid to die than the world in general and thought excessively about it. Freedom from the fear of death is HUGE and I believe can only be fully remedied when the threat of ECT is removed entirely. No amount of “personal assurance” can shake off the doubt. Until God’s love for us is seen as 100% objective there will always be an underlying fear.


  4. I meant “I would have love to have had an…

You decide where Hellbound? Releases

Want to be among the first people to see Hellbound? Demand the movie in your city and help spread the word. The more requests we get from your city, the sooner we'll release there.

Demand The Movie

Links to external site