The bishops have no right to restrict our right to die…This week’s debate on Lord Joffe’s bill on assisted dying for the terminally ill turned into a remarkable battle between the forces of the enlightenment and a barely disguised medievalism. Who rules here? God or man? How loud the voice of religion sounded in this, the world’s most secular nation. So much religious thinking still permeates every aspect of public life as, somehow or other, the religious occupy disproportionate positions of power wherever you look – from prime minister and half the cabinet to the head of the BBC.
That’s one reason pious cant about ‘ceremonial theism’ won’t fly. It’s never safe to assume that ceremonial theism actually is ceremonial – it can always go from ceremonial to deadly earnest in the blink of an eye when somebody wants to force other people to stay alive when they don’t want to or to bear children when they don’t want to. Ceremonial theism, ceremonial fascism – not safe toys.
The tone of the Lords debate was set in a joint letter from leaders of the nine major faiths, beginning: “We the undersigned, hold all human life to be sacred.” It was thunderingly reiterated alongside the Bishop of Oxford’s refrain – we are not autonomous beings. Extraordinary how many religious speakers repeated this odd mantra.
Extraordinary, except that that’s the whole point, isn’t it. We are not autonomous beings; we are subject to the will of bishops. Because all human life is ‘sacred’.
Atheists did mention God. What was the creator’s view of the sanctity of human life in the tsunami and the ruins of Kashmir or New Orleans? Lord Gilmore mocked the Archbishop of Canterbury’s saccharine view that everyone was wanted and that every life was valued to the very end; he (Lord Gilmore, that is) would hit anyone who said that while leaving him suffering in agony on his deathbed.
Same here. I certainly hope I have a cosh handy for the purpose, and the strength to swing it good and hard. [makes mental note to self: keep cosh handy for deathbed] Why do people think it’s fine for their putative God to wipe out people in wholesale lots but it’s not all right for us to make a quick exit? Where is the sense in that? Why are we supposed (and expected) to have such reverence for the cruel sadistic bastard that we have to stick around for purposeless pain on his account? Why don’t they make themselves sick, saying things like that? I would really like to know.
The religious view distorts all reality to squeeze into its own dogma. It was shocking to hear a number of (religious) doctors claiming every death could be eased and painless these days…The Bishop of Oxford harrumphed in the Lords at this week’s Guardian leader that said the bishops “should be listened to with respect – and then ignored”. But he didn’t explain why we are obliged to listen to them at all within parliament. It is, says the National Secular Society, the only legislature in the west with ex officio religious lawmakers…
Ironic, isn’t it.