Birth, Death, Infinity

Today’s Ottawa Citizen religious panel is asked, “What response can you offer to a non-religious person regarding end-of-life issues?”

Rabbi Reuven Bulka is first up and asks for clarification:

Any response of course is dependent on what is the question or the challenge. Regarding end-of-life, the most likely matter to come up is — why should a person in agony, in pain, not have the right to seek a permanent end to that pain?

Bulka includes both the religious and non-religious in his answer

Religious people are more likely to appreciate life as a gift from God, over which they exercise trusteeship. Life is theirs to nurture, but it is not theirs to terminate.

This argument will not resonate with a non-religious person. The challenge in this issue is arguably the most pressing social concern of our time. Frankly, I am not sure there is any argument that one can logically muster.

Kevin Smith, the only non-religious expert on the panel, tackles death, and end-of-life issues:

It must be terrifying for people who believe in an afterlife to contemplate death. Whether Hell or Heaven, or purgatory if it still officially exists. . . .

we the non-religious (I’ve been called worse), are the lucky ones. We’re fairly confident there is no eternal existence after this mortal one.

Smith goes on to send a message to the religious about the attitude of the non-religious:

We don’t appreciate proselytizers knocking on our door on a Sunday morning, and are insulted by those who preach not only how we can get into Heaven, but also that we must — or else.

For Smith,

Most maddening are attempts to infringe on our right to die with dignity. A god who doesn’t give a rat’s behind about saving a child shouldn’t dare to care how we decide to end our terminal and painful existence.

and concludes,

No thanks, ye of overreaching faith, while you obsess over post-life salvation that may never occur, we view this precious life is miraculous enough, providing sufficient meaning and purpose, not only for ourselves but also for those we love.

Although Kevin Smith doesn’t single out him out, John Counsell is the most deserving of the description, “ye of overreaching faith.”  Counsell’s question shows his ignorance about the non-religious, and the Gospel:

I would want to know why the person sees themself as “non-religious.” I see Christ as the most “non-religious,” religious figure in history. I remind people all the time that it was the most respected and admired religious leaders of the day that conspired to have him tortured to death.

The only answers to Counsell’s question are “Huh?” and “Please, educate yourself before you try to educate others.”

However, educating others is the religious person’s raison d’être.  Foremost among the “educators” are Catholic priests like Geoff Kerslake, who say,

I believe that the Catholic Church’s guiding principles regarding human life make sense, regardless of one’s religious tradition.

Kerslake believes the Catholic Church has all the answers whether the questions come from those of a different faith or from those who are not religious. That’s not belief it’s arrogance.

It is equally arrogant for Kerslake to to quote a passage from John Donne’s Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, and severall steps in my Sicknes,

any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.

which has other interpretations than the one Kerslake suggests.

The Ottawa Citizen continues to ask questions for which the religious-religious experts have no answers. As Rabbi  Bulka says,

Frankly, I am not sure there is any argument that one can logically muster.

The last word(s) come from a commenter:

As an atheist, I’d never ask for counsel from clergy regarding end-of-life or anything else so their response would never be required.
Both our dogs had better deaths than either of my wife’s parents…that the religious would demand I treat those I love worse than a dog is odious.

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