It is here that the idea of the afterlife enters into the religious conception of death.
In the modern period, there has been some recasting of the tension between earthly life and the promise of salvation after death as the principal elements of immortality. Williams discusses the position of what he calls the Christian existentialist theologians, who have incorporated many elements of modern psychology and philosophy into their examination of fundamental problems facing mankind. The views of these theologians concentrate far more on the process of living and confronting the possibility of death rather than on the rules and regulations by which the consequences of mortal death can be overtaken by anticipation of eternal life. According to Paul Tillich, says Williams, who is a philosophical descendant of Soren Kierkegaard, whose meditations on death and anxiety framed the basis for much modern existential thought, "Man's existence in finitude is existence in 'ontological anxiety.' Death and guilt are, when profoundly understood, the twin symbols of man's two ultimate problems; his anxiety about the 'end' of his life and his anxiety about his spiritual isolation from God. . . . Tillich's theology . . . is a realistic account of how man feels when he has come to the very edge of despair, and can find no meaning in life unless there comes a healing disclosure from beyond himself."6 In this view, the modern Christian reaches out to the healing power represented by Jesus, but the Jesus of the modern Christian thinkers differs from the one of the early Christian thinkers inasmuch as for the moderns, there is a reach for meaning in the present life rather than a reach for guarantees about the quality of the afterlife.
Philosophers who are not specifically Christian have also examined the implications of attitudes toward death. Ernest Becker begins with the proposition that "the idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal lik...
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