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Lloyd Douglas’s Views on Immortality

by Ronald R Johnson (

While at the First Congregational Church of Akron, Ohio, from 1921 to 1926, Lloyd Douglas shared the following thoughts about immortality:

I have told you that we can add length to our earthly days through altruistic service; that whatever may be the nature of our future life, we know enough about this life to be assured that men do not quickly die and leave no trace who, in the quest of the Christian ideal, have contributed something of their hope and faith and work to the generation in which they had lived.

I have taught you that belief in a life beyond this world is consistent with orderly thought on the present values and duties of our earthly day; that it is inconceivable God would so endow us with this eternal hope and disappoint us in the end with death.

Lloyd C Douglas, “Five Years of Akron,” in The Living Faith (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin/Riverside Press, 1955), pp. 91-92.

He did encourage his flock to hold the standard view of immortality (that they would live on in some spiritual form in the world beyond), but he also wanted them to live in such a way that they would be long remembered in this world. He wanted them to sow seeds in this world that would sprout and blossom long after they were gone. And it was this aspect of “immortality” that seemed to appeal to him more than the other.

(On a side note, I reached out to his daughters, Betty and Virginia, while they were still alive, back in the mid-1980s, and told them how much I appreciated their biography of their father. Virginia wrote me a wonderful note in reply, and she was especially thrilled at the realization that her father was still “so alive” in my thoughts. “What an immortality!” she exclaimed. And since I’m still writing about him on a daily basis decades later (in the 2020’s), and you’re reading it – and some of you have reached out to me to let me know that he’s still alive in your thoughts – I guess he knew what he was talking about.)

But as provocative as this view of immortality is, he still had more work to do on the concept. He didn’t know it, but he was one step away from the idea that would make him a household name: the concept of investing in other people’s lives and thereby empowering both parties. The interpersonal nature of Christian faith would soon become central to his thinking, and when it did, it would give deeper meaning to his views on immortality. But he wasn’t there yet. As I’ve said before, Douglas did his best thinking at the typewriter. He had a bit more writing to do before this idea would become fully conscious.

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