Wake up early on Sunday and catch “”Choice In Dying,” Eric MacDonald on Atheists Talk #117″

Choosing one’s own death should be the right of every living person facing the process of a long, debilitating, painful terminal illness. Not everyone finds “dignity in suffering,” and yet religions insist that the value of “life above all else” trumps individual choice. Eric MacDonald and his wife faced the decision in her choice to end her life. The government of Canada and the authorities of the Anglican Church, of which MacDonald was a priest, threw up legal roadblocks and threats if Elizabeth were to choose to terminate her own life in Canada.

Since his experience, Eric decided that the doubts he had been carrying about his religion could never be resolved considering the weight of the cruelty in not allowing Elizabeth to choose how she was to end her life. He has since become an outspoken atheist, defending the “New Atheists” against charges of shallow philosophy and a light understand of theology. He writes about his interpretations of Church authority and atheism at his blog.

or listen to the podcast later. Details here.

Comments

  1. #1 khan
    May 28, 2011

    I do not want to live too long.

    I want the option of peaceful death on my own terms and not on the terms of some religitard.

  2. #2 rturpin
    May 28, 2011

    I fully sympathize with those who decide that they have suffered enough of a terminal illness. Or from the medical treatment for it. What puzzles me, though, is how many who acknowledge the rationality of suicide in such circumstance sanction only a medical form of it, done in some institutional setting.

    Bah. Don’t you think it’s the doctors and nurses and institutions as much as anything that some of those facing that dire decline want to escape? Those are the last things I would want in my final days.

    Yet if a terminal patient slits their wrists at home in their own bathtub, or takes one last swim out into the ocean, or imbibes in their favorite scotch, followed by a lethal dose of something more, or makes a final hobble into the field with their pistol, that gets frowned upon by the same folks who insist that we should approve a medical form of the same.

    Yes, of course, it’s important to choose a method that doesn’t fail, leaving one’s situation worse. And that doesn’t shock loved ones or too inconvenience third parties. Those are flimsy argument that the only righteous suicide is that done in medical setting. I would never want that, unless Parkinson’s or other debilitation removes every other option. While I have foot or hand that still somewhat does what I want, I would choose someplace else for my final moments. Anyplace else.

    So yes, discuss choice in dying. Just don’t limit that discussion to a choice between two kinds of medical treatment. And stop treating all suicides outside a medical setting as something qualitatively different from those within it. That setting isn’t what identifies reasonableness.

  3. #3 Charles Sullivan
    May 29, 2011

    I know, this is too long, but Eric will like it. It’s Jeremy Bentham on religion. The language is a bit old-fashioned, but it explains why compassion and Christianity don’t quite meet, which is one of Eric’s themes. Allow me, for Eric’s sake.

    XL. The dictates of religion are, under the infinite diversity of religions, so extremely variable, that it is difficult to know what general account to give of them, or in what rank to place the motive they belong to. Upon the mention of religion, people’s first thoughts turn naturally to the religion they themselves profess. This is a great source of miscalculation, and has a tendency to place this sort of motive in a higher rank than it deserves. The dictates of religion would coincide, in all cases, with those of utility, were the Being, who is the object of religion, universally supposed to be as benevolent as he is supposed to be wise and powerful; and were the notions entertained of his benevolence, at the same time, as correct as those which are entertained of his wisdom and his power. Unhappily, however, neither of these is the case. He is universally supposed to be all-powerful: for by the Deity, what else does any man mean than the Being, whatever he be, by whom every thing is done? And as to knowledge, by the same rule that he should know one thing he should know another. These notions seem to be as correct, for all material purposes, as they are universal. But among the votaries of religion (of which number the multifarious fraternity of Christians is but a small part) there seem to be but few (I will not say how few) who are real believers in his benevolence. They call him benevolent in words, but they do not mean that he is so in reality. They do not mean, that he is benevolent as man is conceived to be benevolent: they do not mean that he is benevolent in the only sense in which benevolence has a meaning. For if they did, they would recognize that the dictates of religion could be neither more nor less than the dictates of utility: not a tittle different: not a tittle less or more. But the case is, that on a thousand occasions they turn their backs on the principle of utility. They go astray after the strange principles its antagonists: sometimes it is the principle of asceticism: sometimes the principle of sympathy and antipathy. *27 Accordingly, the idea they bear in their minds, on such occasions, is but too often the idea of malevolence; to which idea, stripping it of its own proper name, they bestow the specious appellation of the social motive. *28 The dictates of religion, in short, are no other than the dictates of that principle which has been already mentioned under the name of the theological principle. *29 These, as has been observed, are just as it may happen, according to the biases of the person in question, copies of the dictates of one or other of the three original principles: sometimes, indeed, of the dictates of utility: but frequently of those of asceticism, or those of sympathy and antipathy. In this respect they are only on a par with the dictates of the love of reputation: in another they are below it. The dictates of religion are in all places intermixed more or less with dictates unconformable to those of utility, deduced from tests, well or ill interpreted, of the writings held for sacred by each sect: unconformable, by imposing practices sometimes inconvenient to a man’s self, sometimes pernicious to the rest of the community. The sufferings of uncalled martyrs, the calamities of holy wars and religious persecutions, the mischiefs of intolerant laws, (objects which can here only be glanced at, not detailed) are so many additional mischiefs over and above the number of those which were ever brought into the world by the love of reputation. On the other hand, it is manifest, that with respect to the power of operating in secret, the dictates of religion have the same advantage over those of the love of reputation, and the desire of amity, as is possessed by the dictates of benevolence.

  4. #4 Jeff Sherry
    May 29, 2011

    I’ll have to listen to the podcast later, but I do enjoy Eric’s articles.

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