Should You Fear the Dead?
NOT everyone views the dead as the ones who are in need of help. Even more widespread is the belief that the living are the ones who need help—to safeguard them from the dead. At night, cemeteries are often avoided. Strangely, even relatives and friends who were loved while living, after death may come to be viewed as a source of dread and terror.
Among the Indians inhabiting the hills of Central Chiapas, Mexico, red pepper is burned on the day of the burial. This is done in the hope that the unpleasant smoke will drive the soul of the deceased out of the house.
In some parts of Europe, people quickly open all doors and windows as soon as a death occurs. This is done with a view to “liberating” the soul. So that no spell might be cast on anyone, a member of the family places the dead man’s hands over his heart and closes the man’s eyes with coins.
When a Buddhist of Mongolia dies in a tent, his body is not taken out through the regular opening. Another opening may be made in the tent and, when the body is removed, this opening is closed. Or a masking of straw may be placed in front of the regular door. After the body is carried out, the masking of straw is burned. The purpose of such action is to prevent the spirit of the dead man from coming back into the dwelling and harming the living.
In many parts of Africa, when sickness strikes a family, when a child dies, when a business fails or any other kind of misfortune occurs, a man will quickly consult a juju priest. Usually the priest tells him that a dead family member has been offended. The oracle is consulted and sacrifices are prescribed. The priest charges much money for this and also gets the meat of whatever animal is offered in sacrifice.
Should humans be in such fear of the dead, even going to considerable expense to protect themselves?
The Bible says of the dead: “Their love and their hate and their jealousy have already perished, and they have no portion anymore to time indefinite in anything that has to be done under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 9:6) So there is no harm that can come to you from the dead. And no one can disprove this Bible statement.
True, people may attribute certain manifestations to the spirits of the dead. They may claim that they gained relief from sickness, economic reverses and the like after the spirits of the dead were pacified. But might there not be another source for such trouble and apparent relief from adversity?
Is it not strange that people are unaware of having offended a dead relative until their consulting a juju priest or someone occupying a comparable position? And why should it be that the “spirit” of a dead father, mother, son or daughter would threaten the happiness and welfare of those who, in the past, were deeply loved? What would cause the “spirit” of a dead man to be vengeful when that was not a trait of the man when alive? Since what is attributed to the deceased is often so contrary to that one’s personality when alive, would this not lend strong support to the conclusion that the “spirits” of the dead are not involved? Most assuredly. The Bible is indeed right when it says that the dead have ‘no portion in anything that is to be done under the sun.’
Consider also the damaging effect that fear of the dead has on the living. Many have been brought into slavery to juju priests or other religious leaders who claim that the fortunes or misfortunes of a man or woman are largely controlled by the “spirits” of the dead. These men have set themselves up as the ones who can rectify matters with the offended dead. Believing their claims, many people have spent much money on costly ceremonies, money that they might otherwise have used for needed things of life. Even though some maintain that they definitely have been helped through such ceremonies, has their experience produced within them real joy in having had the privilege of doing something to heal a breach with a dead loved one? Rather, do they not act much like a person from whom something has been extorted?
Then, too, think of the deceptive methods that are frequently employed—burning red pepper, taking the deceased through another tent opening and the like—to prevent the “spirit” of the dead from returning and disturbing the living. Would you want to be deceived in this way during your lifetime? Is it reasonable for a person to try to deceive dead persons whom he would never have wanted to deceive while they were alive?
The very practice of resorting to deception can also have an unwholesome effect on a person. Once a person approves of deceiving the dead whom he views as continuing in conscious existence, will he not weaken his conscience to the point of attempting to deceive the living when that appears to be advantageous?
The One who identifies himself in the Bible as the true God could never approve of the practices that have come about because of people’s fear of the dead. Why not? Because those practices, in addition to being based on a false idea, are completely out of harmony with His personality, ways and dealings. “God is not a man that he should tell lies.” (Numbers 23:19) He does not approve of deception resorted to for selfish gain. The Bible says: “A man of . . . deception Jehovah detests.”—Psalm 5:6.
Since the Bible reveals that the dead are unconscious, why should you fear them? (Psalm 146:4) They can neither help you nor harm you. You now know from the Bible that the “soul” dies and that the “spirit” has no conscious existence apart from the body. Whatever manifestations have given rise to fear of the dead must therefore be from another source. Since in some cases persons claim to gain some improvement in their problems as a result of engaging in acts of appeasement for the dead, this source would have to be one that is willing to bring such temporary relief, but for a wrong motive. What is its aim? To keep people in bondage and blinded to the way to a life free from fear and dread.
It is important to identify this source.
[Picture on page 71]
Fear of the dead moves many to consult juju priests