Honorable mention — Fatima Bartel: The finality of death despite religion

By Fatima Bartel

Fatima Bartel

Death is a very important part of life, yet the discussion of it is extremely stigmatized. It is unavoidable and happens to every living thing at one point or another, but it is still something people largely fear. Because of the general human fear of the unknown, the thought of death is sometimes chilling. No one knows what happens after we die, and so it is often left up for interpretation by the living. Many religions promote the “afterlife” as one of the interpretations.

Whether they be as concrete as Christianity’s heaven and hell or as ambiguous as Judaism’s immortality of the soul and resurrection of the dead, most prominent religions have some sort of ideology about what happens after death. Most Christian denominations, to use Christianity as an example, have some sort of heaven and hell system whereby the saints live in paradise and the sinners suffer for eternity. Based on multiple religious texts, hundreds of seemingly inconsequential acts are classified as sins, such as wearing assorted fabrics or eating seafood. In addition, some absolutely normal parts of life are also classified as sins, such as being gay or getting remarried. In a system where so many minuscule acts are considered sins, where is the line drawn? If all sins are equal, as some religious individuals believe, then what separates casual white liars from murderers and rapists?

For this reason, many people fear death because of the possibility of going to hell, and think of God always in the hopes of saving their souls. Instead of worrying about their current lives, they focus more on ensuring their afterlife. Concerning yourself with death and the afterlife is a waste of time. As people we have very limited time on Earth, sometimes even shorter than we may think. We only have one life to live and we have to make the best of it. Instead of dreaming about a post-death scenario of paradise, people should instead focus on making their own lives a paradise.

This is the world that matters because it is the only one we are certain about. From what humans know, once we die, we are gone from this world forever. No one knows what happens to our “souls” once we die, and there is the likely possibility that nothing happens at all and we just cease to exist with no afterlife whatsoever. Because of this, I strive to make my life as enjoyable as possible, not concerning myself with what comes afterward. By using just my moral compass, I can differentiate right from wrong and work to always be a better person, and at the end of my life, I’ll know that I lived a satisfying, good life, free from unnecessary worry.

Fatima, 18, graduated from High Tech High School in North Bergen, N.J. A straight-A student through high school, she earned membership in the National Hispanic Recognition Program. She will be attending Ramapo College in Mahwah, N.J., where she plans to major in business administration and management. After graduation she would like to start an international aid organization to help people and animals escape dangerous situations.