Wednesday, November 7, 2012, 11:33 AM
Massachusetts voters have held the culture of death at bay for at least a little while longer in the USA, depriving backers of assisted suicide with an Eastern Front from which to spread the poison. It’s a good result that I don’t think could be duplicated in Europe. Much can be learned:
1. Opposition to assisted suicide is diverse: Proponents usually push the false idea that opponents are primarily religiously oriented–particularly Catholic. And indeed, the Catholic Church is one important element of the coalition that is (still) preventing assisted suicide from spreading outside the Pacific Northwest. But that coalition also consists of:
- Disability rights activists who see themselves and the elderly–rightly–as the targets of the movement;
- Medical professional organizations are overwhelmingly opposed to legalizing assisted suicide.
- Egalitarian liberals, such as Robert P. Jones, believe that assisted suicide threatens equality.
- Pro-lifers offer a solid foundation of opposition from which to build a winning coalition.
- Advocates for the poor who understand that assisted suicide could easily become a form of medical cost containment;
Put it all together, and opponents to assisted suicide look like America, whereas leading proponents look more like the 1%.
2. People are not marching in the streets demanding legalized assisted suicide: Legalizing assisted suicide is not high on the people’s “to do list.” Indeed, I believe that if you asked 1000 people at large to list the top twenty issues about which they wanted government action, none would list legalizing assisted suicide. In truth, the agenda is the obsession of a very small, but well financed, group–most notably Compassion and Choices, that seeks to become the Planned Parenthood of death. To be fair, most people are not emotionally opposed either. Primarily, they don’t want to think about it.
3. Polls showing strong support are misleading: I have noticed a continuing pattern: The default setting for large majorities is to support assisted suicide as a general concept, particularly as most poll questions are usually worded something along the line of a false premise, e.g., “only for the terminally ill for whom nothing else can be done to alleviate suffering, with strong protective guidelines.” But when people are actually forced to ponder a real proposal, support for legalization falls like a crowbar thrown from a bridge. Sometimes, not sufficiently to be defeated, but last night support collapsed just enough in MA to allow victory for Hippocratic values.
4. Massachusetts is a Catholic State: MA is a very liberal state, but it also retains a strong Catholic identity. The vigorous opposition to Question 2 by Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley made enough of a difference to hold the line.
5. The Kennedy Name: Victoria Kennedy, Ted’s widow, wrote a powerful op/ed against Question 2, lending the late senator’s aura to the no effort and providing ”liberal” cover to opposing assisted suicide. In other words, left leaning types, who support the abortion license and abhor conservative moralism–but who still harbored doubts about assisted suicide–were given cover to vote no and not be considered theocrats by their friends.
Bottom line: Assisted suicide finds tough slogging because there remains sufficient traditional morality in the country–and the usual liberal coalition is fractured on this question–allowing those who bat from the left side of the plate to oppose a specific proposal, while still supporting the concept. So long as that status quo remains, assisted suicide’s march will be long and slow.
Look for the movement to push harder in courts now that they have lost an important election. But that’s a post for another day.
Cross-posted at Human Exceptionalism
Monday, August 13, 2012, 12:42 PM
I have twice written here about “freedom of worship’s” attack on “freedom of religion,” that is, the attempt to shrink free exercise into a mere right to worship. President Obama has pushed that theme once again in his speech at a White House dinner celebrating the end of Ramadan. From the speech:
Of all the freedoms we cherish as Americans, of all the rights that we hold sacred, foremost among them is freedom of religion, the right to worship as we choose.
No, Mr. President. It is much more than that.
Saturday, August 4, 2012, 2:04 AM
Many First Thoughts readers have heard that a business in Colorado obtained a preliminary injunction against Obamacare’s “Free Birth Control Rule,” based on the provisions of a federal law known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. But what most probably do not know–because it has not been reported–is that the Obama Administration argued that because the owners run their business through a corporate platform, they lose their rights to religious liberty under the RFRA.
This is another blatant attempt by the Obama Administration to reduce freedom of religion to a stunted “freedom of worship,”an effort against which I warned in a recent On the Square. I write about the case in the current Weekly Standard, and point out that the arguments made by the Obama Justice Department make this “A Religions Freedom Election.”
Friday, July 27, 2012, 6:30 PM
A federal judge in Colorado has enjoined the Obama Administration from forcing Catholic business owners to provide contraception coverage to their employees. The case was decided based on a federal statute known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and not the U.S. Constitution. And it only applies to the litigants. Still, it remains important because I think it shows us the way this issue will be resolved going forward. And since it will be possible to defeat Obamacare’s Free Birth Control Rule against religious objectors without requiring constitutional analysis, I think the controversy will not require adjudication by the Supreme Court. I offer some detailed analysis over at Secondhand Smoke.
Saturday, July 7, 2012, 1:05 PM
I ran across a story in the San Francisco Chronicle, in which scientists are studying the brains of Buddhist nuns and monks in order to see what “compassion” looks like. But Buddhism isn’t about compassion, properly understood. Buddhists seek to become detached from, that is non reactive to, the dualities of pleasure and pain, good and bad, etc., in order to escape suffering. In contrast, the root meaning of compassion is to “suffer with.” To experience compassion is to become profoundly reactive by taking another’s suffering into yourself in order ease the other’s load.
In this sense, Mother Teresa was compassionate and Buddha was not. More thoughts on this over at Secondhand Smoke.
Saturday, April 21, 2012, 2:57 PM
I did a small post on Secondhand Smoke that I thought might be of interest to First Thoughts readers. A Presbyterian pastor apparently considers transhumanism inevitable, and even, consistent with Christian views. I think “Christian transhumanism” is an oxymoron. Here is part of what I wrote:
But the incompatibility is most vividly seen in the two theologies’ contrasting beliefs about suffering: The overarching purpose of transhumanism, its very point, is to avoid suffering–all suffering–whatever the cost and effort that project requires. In contrast, Christians see suffering altogether differently, although there is much confusion in the secular world over this. In Christian theology, suffering can be redemptive. That is not to say that Christians revel in suffering or want others to suffer. To the contrary, it is a Christian obligation to alleviate and palliate the suffering of humanity whenever possible, that is, to take others’ suffering upon their own shoulders. But suffering can also be a trial to accept with humility and for which to give thanks because it can lead the sufferer and his/her caregivers directly into the unconditionally and eternally loving arms of God.
If you want to read more, here’s a link.
Friday, March 30, 2012, 1:48 PM
Former Senator Rick Santorum has an interesting piece at Real Clear Religion about the difficulties in being a faithful Catholic in politics. I don’t know about that. But he makes a statement that, based on history and current events, I think is patently false. From “It is Hard to be Catholic in Public Life:”
Our founders understood it was relatively easy to establish freedom in our Constitution, the harder task was to create a system that would maintain it against the corrosive force of time. The author Os Guinness describes how they accomplished this as the Golden Triangle of Freedom: “Freedom requires virtue, virtue requires faith and faith requires freedom and around again.”
Faith requires freedom. Why has America remained a deeply religious country averting the road to secularism traveled by many of our European brothers and sisters? Again Madison’s “true remedy,” the combination of “free exercise” and no religious state supported monopoly, has created a vibrant marketplace of religions. Our founders’ inspired brilliance created a paradigm that has given America the best chance of any civilization in the history of man to endure the test of time.
I certainly agree that about our founders’ “inspired brilliance and agree that the USA is a nurturing home for faith. But, faith certainly does not require freedom.
In fact, freedom can lead to a weak faith because it remains untested. Indeed, the strongest and most enduring faith is often forged in the hottest fires of oppression. Consider, for example, how the Church was persecuted by Rome. Those martyrs eaten alive in the arena were hardly free. But they sure had faith! And because of their sacrifices, the Church grew.
Faith has historically thrived in the face of tyranny and deadly persecution wielded against it. Look at how the Russian Orthodox Church survived what may have been the worst religious oppression in history during the Soviet era–only to emerge and rebound strongly from its grievous wounds. Look at the Buddhists in Tibet who today maintain their faith in the face of Chinese occupation and oppression. Good grief, look at the history of the Jews!
Consider the experience of the Romanian priest Fr. George Calciu, of blessed memory, whose biography I reviewed here at First Things. He was imprisoned and tortured for his faith almost to the point of death, worse, forced to torture other Christians–and yet his faith grew to the point that he exclaimed to one of his torturers on Pascha, “Christ is risen!” to have the cruel man stumble back with the almost involuntary reply, “Indeed, His is risen!” Fr, George’s great fear once he was released to freedom in the USA was that decedance also thrives in freedom, to the detriment and undermining of faith.
It is good to be free. It is right to be free. It is best to be free. But faith does not require it.
Saturday, March 17, 2012, 9:02 PM
The poor Copts of Egypt. They are under increasing persecution and now their patriarch has died. With Egypt becoming increasingly Islamic, his successor will have to be as shrewd as a serpent and gentle as a dove. Memory eternal.
Friday, December 9, 2011, 11:48 AM
Real Clear Politics linked an essay over at the Daily Caller by Mark Judge speculating that atheist Christopher Hitchens may be moving toward Christianity. Not only is there very little–none really–evidence for that, but I don’t think it is right to speculate about such matters when the subject is terminally ill and a non believer. Indeed, I think it is a disservice.
I express my views in some detail over at Secondhand Smoke. Here’s a sample:
It would be condescending to not praise or criticize Hitchens’ work just because he is seriously ill (and Judge does some of that, which is fine). But to claim that he may be close to becoming Christian not only shines a light on one’s own faith when discussing another, but moreover–and here I am sure Judge did not mean for it to be–I think it disrespects and even dehumanizes the ill person by talking about him as if he were not there–something that drove my hospice friend Bob to utter despair–and believe me, public people know what is written about them.
Am I saying that Christians should not care about Hitchens’ lack of faith? Of course not. But there are correct and incorrect ways of addressing the matter.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011, 10:47 AM
How can anyone be
burned at the stake beheaded for “casting a spell” in the 21st Century? But that is what has just happened in Saudi Arabia, as a “sorcerer” was executed. From the story:
According to the officer’s account Abdul Hamid agreed to carry out the curse in exchange for 6,000 Saudi Arabian riyals (approximately £1,000). He was beaten after his arrest and thought to have been forced to admit to acts of sorcery. In a secret trial, where he was not allowed legal representation, he was sentenced to death by the General Court in Medina in March 2007.
Well, at least he got a fair chance of defending himself. Did these killers think that if he could really cast spells, they would not have been turned into turnips? There should be a human rights outcry.
Saturday, October 1, 2011, 3:45 PM
I spoke at a conference this morning at which the famous author of Dead Man Walking, Sr. Helen Prejean was also speaking. I had a moment with her just before the start of proceedings and found she was unaware of the pending execution of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani in Iran for apostasy. She immediately dictated this plea, which appeared on my Twitter page @forcedexit:
“To Iranian people: Stop execution Youcef Nadarkhani. It demeans life of all to kill a man for his faith.”
Let us hope the Iranian Government listens.
Thursday, September 29, 2011, 4:08 PM
I hope this is a case of better late than never. White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, condemned Iran for its treatment of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who has been convicted of apostasy from Islam and is threatened with imminent execution”
“Pastor Nadarkhani has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for all people. That the Iranian authorities would try to force him to renounce that faith violates the religious values they claim to defend, crosses all bounds of decency, and breaches Iran’s own international obligations. We call upon the Iranian authorities to release Pastor Nadarkhani, and demonstrate a commitment to basic, universal human rights, including freedom of religion”
As Michael Ledeen likes to say, “Faster please.” How about strongly worded personal statements from President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton?
Here’s a link to the story:
Thursday, September 29, 2011, 10:49 AM
The brutal Iranian theocracy is still threatening to execute Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, apparently, after some buzz yesterday that the death sentence for apostasy from Islam might be overturned. The general silence of the West about this blatant human rights violation–the arrest and imprisonment alone should spark protest–is a blot on our support for universal human rights. The Speaker of the House issued a brief statement, but President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have remained silent, but for one statement back in July. One hopes they are working feverishly behind the scenes, but I am not confident. I just did a Google search and it was very dispiriting shallow pool, reflecting how deeply indifferent the media remain. Disgraceful.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011, 7:08 PM
This seems a huge story to me, but has been ignored by all but conservative media outlets. Apparently, an Iranian pastor may soon be executed for apostasy because he refuses to recant his Christian faith. Here’s the story from the Get Religion blog, by the eminently responsible Terry Mattingly. Here’s the press release from Christian Solidarity, which states in part:
Pastor Nadarkhani was tried and found guilty of apostasy (abandoning Islam) in September 2010 by the court of appeals in Rasht. The verdict was delivered verbally in court, while written confirmation of the death sentence was received nearly two months later. At the appeal in June 2011, the Supreme Court of Iran upheld Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani’s sentence, but asked the court in Rasht, which issued the initial sentence, to re-examine whether or not he had been a practicing Muslim adult prior to converting to Christianity. The written verdict of the Supreme Court’s decision included provision for annulment of the death sentence if Pastor Nadarkhani recanted his faith.
According to Nina Shea at The Corner, Pastor Nadarkhani has now refused for a third time to recant.
I have been in Paris and seen demonstrations against the death penalty for Mumia Abu Jamal, convicted of killing a police officer. Where is the outrage over a pending execution of a man who has committed no crime, but refuses to deny Christ? And, as Mattingly so cogently asks, where are the news media?
Wednesday, September 21, 2011, 12:57 PM
This should be a huge story, but isn’t. Belgian doctors have coupled euthanasia and organ harvesting–and write about it in respected medical journals. Moreover, the eligible for the euthanasia harvest are people with disabilities–such as MS–and even the mentally ill. Such actions give society a utilitarian stake in euthanasia, and the despairing a reason to think their deaths are worth more than their lives.
More details over at Secondhand Smoke in a post I call “Attack of the Euthanasia Organ Harvesters.”
Friday, September 9, 2011, 12:51 PM
This is Suicide Prevention Week, and tomorrow is Suicide Prevention Day. Who knew? Have you seen any publicity about this important work? I sure haven’t.
That begs a question: Why has suicide prevention become almost invisible? Part of the blame goes to the corrosive impact of the assisted suicide movement. But the suicide prevention community itself must shoulder part of the blame because it has remained generally silent about the issue. I provide details over at Secondhand Smoke.
Friday, July 15, 2011, 12:37 PM
David Brooks has a column in today’s NYT that offends on several levels. But I want to focus here on the prejudicial language he uses to describe people with quadriplegia. From his column:
Life is not just breathing and existing as a self-enclosed skin bag. It’s doing the activities with others you were put on earth to do.
How can anyone in good conscience and with love in their hearts for their fellow man call anyone a mere “self-enclosed bag of skin,” as if their lives were no more important than a purse? Awful. I hope he is merely thoughtless in his choice of words. But imagine the hurt of being a person with quadriplegia and reading those words. As my friend Bob Salamanca, who died of ALS, once despairingly said about such advocacy, “They are pushing me out of the bright lit avenues and into the dark alley [of death].” Moreover, we aren’t what we can do, but who we are.
Brooks segues from disparaging people living with serious disabilities and long term morbidity into the promotion of what could be called a moral duty to die for those whose care costs a lot of money. If anyone is interested in my take, I discuss in some detail over at Secondhand Smoke.
Monday, July 4, 2011, 1:03 PM
Mark Oppenheimer, the “Beliefs” columnist for the NYT, had a big cover story in yesterday’s magazine that approvingly discussess the views of sex columnist Dan Savage re the propriety of consensual adultery. Here is the link. For those interested in my views, over at Secondhand Smoke, I explain that such articles tear at social norms that help people resist the temptation to stray and promote hedonism.
Friday, June 3, 2011, 7:47 PM
Thursday, June 2, 2011, 4:43 PM
Many readers of First Thoughts may be aware that San Francisco voters will be voting in November to criminalize circumcision–no religions exemptions allowed. Beyond the questions of the propriety of putting such a personal family matter up for a vote, the author of the initiative runs an explicitly anti Semitic comic book site called Foreskin Man.
Why do I call it anti Semitic? The head villain is an evil rabbi named “Monster Mohel,” who is depicted in a classic anti Semitic visual manner, and described as being “excited” about performing circumcision–and more, which I won’t get into here.
I posted a few of the disturbing images and descriptions at Secondhand Smoke. Be warned. This is hateful and vile stuff that has no place in a free and tolerant society.
No, of course this doesn’t mean that most opponents of circumcision are anti Semitic. But I think it is important for both opponents and proponents of legally outlawing circumcision to see the values exhibited by one of the movement’s prime leaders.
Friday, May 20, 2011, 11:35 PM
I won’t argue the bad theology behind the prediction about tomorrow’s supposed Second Coming. But I would like to raise a bit of a subversive question: Isn’t the transhumanist “Singularity”–in which technology will advance at such an accelerated state it can’t be controlled, leading to human immortality–merely a materialist version of the Rapture? Or at least, aren’t the same impetuses at work?
- The Rapture is supposed to occur at a specific moment in time. Ditto, the Singularity.
- Belief in the Rapture generally rests on faith, which the author of Hebrews defines as ” the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” So is the Singularity, at least using that definition of faith.
- Believers in the Rapture accept religion. Believers in the Singularity accept the quasi religion of materialistic scientism.
- The Rapture gives many believers hope that death will be ultimately defeated. The same is true for believers in the Singularity.
- The Rapture is supposed to herald in a new age. So is the Singularity.
- The Rapture is supposed to eventually usher in a world of pure peace and harmony. So too, the Singularity. Indeed, a huge purpose behind transhumanism is to banish suffering and want from the experience of life.
- The Rapture is expected to restore Eden in which the lion will lay down with the lamb, e.g. an end to predation and strife throughout the natural world. Likewise, the Singularity, at least for some transhumanists, who believe that hyper technology will eventually allow animals to be “uplifted” into a state of moral agency, or even as I heard ubber transhumanist George Dvorsky say at a conference, putting their enhanced animal minds into computers.
- The Rapture is prophesied to result in Christians receiving “glorified” bodies that will be immortal. Prophets for the Singularity also promise such bodies. Indeed, Princeton biologist Lee Silver predicted in Remaking Eden that we would one day be transformed by technology into pure mental beings with unlimited capacities.
So all you transhumanists who believe in the Singularity and chuckle about Final Saturday, it seems to me that you live in a glass house and shouldn’t throw stones.
Monday, April 25, 2011, 11:39 PM
60 Minutes did a wonderful 30 minutes on the monks of Mt. Athos for Easter. It was respectful, beautifully filmed, and captures the spiritual power of Orthodoxy. Highly recommended. The entire show can be seen by hitting this link.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011, 7:58 PM
In case you missed it: Ecuador and Bolivia have granted (literally) “rights” to “nature,” that are co-equal with those of humans. And Bolivia has stated it will soon try to obtain a UN Treaty doing the same.
Don’t roll your eyes. There are some very powerful forces that seek to mutate environmental advocacy into a neo earth religion. Also, to make any major exploitation of natural resources a “crime against peace” co-equal to crimes against humanity, known as “ecocide,” also intended for UN consideration.
The increasing radicalism that is the horse pulling environmentalism’s cart would destroy human exceptionalism and, in the process, create mass poverty. Think about it. Viruses are part of nature. So are pond scum and flies. In any event, I opine over at Secondhand Smoke on the “rights of nature” for anyone interested. And here’s an article in the Weekly Standard I wrote last year about the ecocide threat. Forewarned is forearmed.
Friday, April 1, 2011, 11:53 AM
I eavesdropped and filmed a conversation between a bioethicist and a Hippocratic Oath-taking physician. Very revealing. Tune in over at Secondhand Smoke.
Thursday, March 31, 2011, 2:13 PM
Older Posts »
A television news report from Belgium is reporting that an elderly Belgian couple received joint euthanasia because they didn’t want to live without each other. Apparently, the community knew ahead of time, as they even planned their joint funeral. Details, analysis, and the embedded TV report over at Secondhand Smoke.