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Every four years, if not every day, the national dialogue turns to matters of life and death. Specifically, what and who defines life and death and how those definitions shape our personal lives, our culture and our government.

When it comes to matters of life and death it seems to me that pro-choice should be a conservative position. Conservatives, after all, claim to be for unrestricted choice in everything, emphatically demanding their right to choose what schools they can attend, what doctors they can visit, and what caliber heat they can pack. “Get the government off the people’s back,” Ronald Reagan said. Off their back, but apparently not out of their uterus or away from their feeding tube.

Life and death, conservatives believe, are matters that fall outside the dim comprehension of common folk but right in the wheelhouse of ostensibly limited government. There is no room in the conservative philosophy for individual choice or personal conscience when it comes to issues involving contraception, abortion, or the right to die on one’s own terms.

So why do conservatives, who increasingly tend toward Christian fundamentalism, so rigidly defend the fringes of life when the basic tenet of that faith is that life here on earth is merely a brief and sorrowful stop on the road to a great and glorious reward? If they really believe that, why do they whip up such a righteous fury about hanging on to life for unwanted fetuses and the terminally ill? It’s easy for the young and healthy to say life is precious and must be preserved regardless of circumstances, but would Terri Schiavo have agreed? Does “precious” trump “viable" or "sentient"? Who is entitled to make that call? You? Me? Your congressman? Republican voters? Whatever the reasoning, in matters of life and death, conservatives are decidedly anti-choice, and insist that the government, in the form of legislation, must be given the exclusive right to decide these matters – on conservative principles, of course -- for all of us. I don’t get it.

The sincerely faithful maintain the belief that in death there awaits us all something more precious, more noble and more sublime than we’ve known in life. One would reasonably think that among those people there would be a greater tolerance for the questions of life and death that divide us so much now on earth.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tolerance for the intolerant (0+ / 0-)

    To me, as an atheist, the positions held by conservatives who are Christian fundamentalists make perfectly good sense.  For them, life is not about choice. It’s about doing what God says.  If God says that abortion is murder, then this sin must be opposed.  If all sex must be confined within the institution of marriage, then giving young girls easy access to birth control encourages fornication and must be stopped.  Since God disapproves of homosexuality, that is a sin; and gay marriage is even worse, because it presumes to sanction that sin within the holy institution of marriage:  it’s like fornicating on holy ground.  And there can be no compromising on these matters, which are absolute, for God does not compromise.  If we put ourselves in the shoes of the Christian conservatives, can we really expect them to be tolerant of what God forbids?

    To those who are in the liberal protestant tradition, who are more secular in their thinking, or who are simply atheists, all this falls apart.  Morality is no longer absolute, but relative.  Human life no longer begins at some fixed point, but only differs in degree from mere organic matter.  Marriage is just an institution employed by society to regulate sexual activity and reproduction, and we can change it to suit our purposes whenever we want.  We can allow for sex outside marriage, because the reproductive consequences are no longer inevitable, and we can allow gays to marry, because we don’t see the harm.  But then, we don’t believe in God, or if we do, he’s just a cosmic blur, whose views on such matters is unknown.  And such a God would never send people to Hell.

    So let’s have a little empathy for Christian conservatives.  They fear the wrath of God and the fires of Hell.  We can’t expect them to be reasonable, tolerant, and flexible like us, when we don’t worry about such things.

    •  Yeah, but... (0+ / 0-)

      Each of those people had to decide what God "says", and what it actually means, before they could carry out God's supposed wishes.   Since religious texts have been written by flawed humans, edited, translated, re-translated and then interpreted by clergy, it's a cosmic Whisper Game.

      That's where it gets interesting.   Religion allows each person to be the final authority of what "God" says or wants.  It is the ultimate ego trip, where every person believes themselves to be the spokesperson for God, master of the universe and beyond.

      If I say something, you can ignore me at your leisure.  

      Supposedly, if I say that God said something, then if you ignore me, you run the risk of burning in Hell for eternity.   Christians will actually tell you that you are going to burn in hell for disagreeing with them.  

      So, if you believe in God, you can actually, in your own mind, BE God.  

    •  so what are your thoughts (0+ / 0-)

      on Euthanasia?i,like most disabled,am against it./

      •  Euthanasia (0+ / 0-)

        I would expect Christian fundamentalists to believe that euthanasia is murder, forbidden by God, and about which there can be no compromise.  For those who have a secular turn of mind, there will be a tendency to understand euthanasia in terms similar to that of abortion, to see the difference between a human being and mere organic tissue as one of degree.  In the case of abortion, for example, if the embryo is a human being, it is not much of one. So if killing it is murder, it is not much of a murder.  For people in a vegetative state, like Terri Schiavo, a similar conclusion may be reached:  if killing her was murder, it was not much of a murder.

        But that is not the only kind of euthanasia, putting an end to a life that differs in degree only slightly from death.  There is also euthanasia in which the person is very much alive, but is suffering terribly.  In this case, a different form of reasoning is likely to arise:  utilitarianism, the belief that morality is ultimately a question of the greatest good for the greatest number.  Without a God to absolutely command this and forbid that, it is only natural to ask, “What is best for mankind?”  Since life is not an unqualified good, death is sometimes preferable, thereby justifying this kind of euthanasia.

        Your reference to your disability, though, makes me wonder if you are asking about mandatory euthanasia, where the unfit are eliminated, to purify the race.  I believe that on this matter, religious and secular thought will coincide, and condemn it outright.  As for voluntary euthanasia, I just hope it’s legal when I get old enough to need it.

    •  There is a world of difference... (0+ / 0-)

      between those who live by their religious beliefs, and those who insist everyone else live by them, too. Those are the people for which I have no empathy.

      •  Empathy versus sympathy (0+ / 0-)

        By “empathy,” I mean the ability to understand how others think and feel by putting oneself in their position.  This is primarily a matter of knowledge.  It does not imply sympathy, which consists in a shared feeling, especially a feeling of pain or suffering, leading one to feel sorry for someone.  Sometimes people use the word “empathy” when they really mean “sympathy,” as you seem to in your final remark, but I did not intend such meaning.

        In other words, someone who is good at torturing people has to have a lot of empathy:  he must be able to imagine the excruciating pain of being on the rack, or else he would never suppose the rack to be useful for extracting a confession (“Boy, I’d hate to be in his shoes, because that must really hurt!” he says to himself”).  But he must have no sympathy for his victim, or else he would never be able to look upon his victim’s agonized face, nor listen to the screams.

        When I suggested having empathy for Christian fundamentalists, I meant that we should understand things from their perspective, that of believing in a vengeful God who punishes disobedience.  I did not mean to suggest that I feel sorry for them, because I have no reason to think they are suffering from their views.  With that in mind, I have empathy for those who try to impose their views on others, because they believe that doing so is in accordance with God’s will.  In other words, I understand why they do what they do.  But I do not feel sorry for them.  In fact, I am repulsed by such people, and have no desire to be around them.

        •  Empathy (0+ / 0-)

          While I understand where their personal beliefs are coming from, I confess I have neither sympathy nor empathy for those folks. The drive to force others to live by one's own standards or beliefs is strange to me. I'm not patting myself on the back; I just don't feel it. I live in accord my own beliefs, and while I might wish the rest of the world would share them, I don't get lathered up about forcing them upon others. Debating, encouraging, urging, blogging, sure. Perhaps religious fundamentalism comes with a brain pattern of its own. That would explain a number of things.

    •  The basic premise of this diary... (0+ / 0-)

      is that there is a yawning chasm of hypocrisy on the part of conervatives at the beginning and end of life. Fundamentalist Christianity is a major component of contemporary conservativism, but they are not one and the same. Given that conservatives are ostensibly opposed to government "interference" in their lives, how is it that they demand the government intervene at the most intimate moments of others'?
      But, as to the beliefs of Christian fundamentalists, one might wonder: if it is right to forbid abortion on the grounds that it takes a life which God has given, then how is it right to artificially prolong a life which God has called home? If it were God's wish that Terri Schiavo die, how do they justify intervening to oppose his plan?

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