Escape? Of course you can’t escape!

I was flicking through tv stations the other evening and happened on Martin Sheen looking earnest, so I paused to hear what he had to say – expecting pleasant murmurs about Obama or urbane skepticism about McCain, I suppose. But no – what I got was some irritating Catholic boilerplate about Washington state’s Initiative 1000, which allows doctors, under certain very limited careful circumstances, to give terminal patients drugs with which to end the misery. Martin Sheen’s against it. This makes me angry. It makes me angry because it shouldn’t be anyone else’s business. No one is offering to force assisted suicide on anyone. The point of the initiative is to make it available (with level upon level of safeguard) to people who need it. I don’t consider it moral for people to interfere with other people’s reasonable wishes in that way. I consider it intrusive, and presumptuous, and a horrible officious superstitious interference with desperate needs. It makes me angry. I do not look forward to needing such drugs myself and being unable to get them because the Catholic lobby has succeeded in persuading people that it is ‘against God’s will’ to cut short the period of terminal illness. I bitterly resent religious bullies telling everyone else what to do on the basis of a non-existent deity who gets to decide what diseases we get and how long we have to let them torture us. We have no reason to think that god exists, and we don’t think it exists, and we don’t think that if it did exist it would have the right to force us to suffer longer than we can put up with merely because our suffering is ‘God’s will,’ so we really really don’t want people who do believe it exists forcing its putative will on us. We want them to fuck off and mind their own business.

But they won’t, of course – they think everything is their business. Nobody is trying to tell them (or anyone else) to resort to assisted suicide, so why they feel so ready to tell other people not to is somewhat beyond me – but they are.

Opponents of a Washington State assisted-suicide ballot initiative say hastening the deaths of terminally ill patients is “playing God.” The initiative, which if approved would allow physicians to prescribe lethal doses of medication if requested by terminally ill patients, is against God’s will, faith-based groups say…Washington’s Roman Catholic Church has been the initiative’s most visible opponent…Rev. Paul Pluth, pastor of St. Anne Catholic Church in Seattle, said by taking a utilitarian view of life, the measure “cheapens life, demeans life and debases life’s worth to merely an equation with obvious utility and usefulness.”

That’s just obscurantist pious self-congratulatory verbiage. It doesn’t mean anything, it’s just a pretext for trying to force everyone to obey Catholic ‘teaching.’ Assisted suicide for the terminally ill no more cheapens or demeans life than gay marriage cheapens or demeans marriage. Catholics want to force unwilling people to suffer at the hands of a torturing god – and they think they are Better People for doing so. Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum, as Lucretius so wisely put it.

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