There are good people on both sides of the Terri Schiavo tragedy, but chances are that if you affirm Judeo-Christian values, you have opposed pulling the feeding tubes from the severely brain damaged woman's body.
Why? Because if there is anything that Judeo-Christian values stand for, it is choosing life and rejecting death. As the Torah puts it, "I have put before you today life and death, and you shall choose life."
Even believing Jews and Christians are not fully aware of how much the rejection of death-oriented Egypt underlies the values and practices of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible held sacred by Judaism and Christianity.
Egyptian civilization was steeped in death. Its bible was the Book of the Dead, and its greatest monuments, its very symbols, the pyramids, were gigantic tombs. One of the Torah's first tasks was to destroy the connection between civilization (and, of course, religion) and death. That is the reason, I am convinced, for the absence of overt mention of the afterlife in the Old Testament -- it was greatly concerned with getting humanity preoccupied with life. With a few noble exceptions, preoccupation with the afterlife has led to denigration of life. The Islamic terrorists and the cultures that support them are only the most recent examples.
One of the greatest insights of Sigmund Freud, who, his atheism notwithstanding, was perhaps the greatest mind of the 20th century, was that human beings have a Death Instinct, a death wish that is as strong as the Life Instinct. He wrote this decades before Nazism and the Communist genocides of the 20th century proved his point.
Yet, he was only saying in psychoanalytical terminology what Moses had said in Deuteronomy thousands of years earlier.
The Torah began this transformation with its constant emphasis on rejecting everything Egypt stood for. The ban on eating or even owning bread during the seven days of Passover, the holiday commemorating the exodus from Egypt, the central Old Testament event after Creation, was primarily a symbolic rejection of Egypt. As noted in the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Egyptians essentially invented bread as we know it. "The Egyptians apparently discovered that allowing wheat doughs to ferment, thus forming gases, produced a light, expanded loaf, and they also developed baking ovens." (Fermented) bread symbolized Egypt as apple pie or hot dogs might represent America. Moreover, fermentation is likened to sin and death in both Jewish and Christian understandings of the Bible.
Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for Townhall.com and author of his newest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code.”