All over the Western world the present trend is to euthanasia, ‘assisted suicide’. The excuse for this is terminal illness and a halt to ‘futile’ suffering. This movement has been highlighted in recent days by the broadcast of the suicide of a British man on television. This in turn was preceded by much publicity recently given to various cases of ‘assisted suicides’, furthered by the so-called ‘Dignitas’ organisation, which is based in Switzerland.
The fact is that we are all ill, but never terminally, and we all endure suffering. The only inevitable thing in life is death. There are two attitudes to these above facts.
The first attitude says that we should give up on life in the face of inevitable suffering and inevitable death.
The second attitude says that we should make something positive out of inevitable suffering and death, accepting them not as futile but as useful.
The first attitude is humanist and sees humanity as a complex but terminal biochemical mixture of body and mind, imposed on us by random and meaningless series of chances in quadrillions. For humanists body and mind die and can then be disposed of in (very non-ecological) industrial crematoria, reminiscent of the Nazi death camps
The other attitude is spiritual, specifically Christian, which sees humanity as a complex biospiritual mixture of a body and mind and, above all, an immortal, eternal and meaningful soul. For true Christians the body should be respected and left to decay in nature, from which it came, while the soul and its faculties are taken to another dimension of being.
The first attitude sees no dignity in suffering and death, dignity is only in life ended with as little suffering as possible.
The second attitude says that facing up to suffering and death can actually produce the greatest dignity possible, that of repentance and so redemption of self and of others.
At present a battle has been joined by these two attitudes or world views.
The first world view is that which is logical for those who have lost faith in life after death and therefore have lost faith in life before death.
The second world view has faith that the human-being is immortal and eternal and indeed that life before death only has meaning in the light of life after death. This perspective alone transfigures and reshapes all our notions about life, suffering and death. Indeed, it says that, without this perspective, life, suffering and death have no dignity at all.
In this view what the world now calls ‘euthanasia’, meaning ‘good death’ is in fact ‘kakothanasia’, meaning ‘bad death’. The present propaganda put out in favour of euthanasia, ‘assisted suicide’, is that of the world’s faithless. The loss of faith that underlies the present fashion of suicide began fifty years ago. Then it was called ‘The Death of God’. We now clearly see that those who declared the death of God in their youth fifty years ago are now proclaiming the death of man in suicide. The belief in the suicidal death of man is the natural and logical result of the suicidal belief in the death of God.
There is another view of the world. It is life-affirming, because it affirms faith in Him Who said: ‘I am the resurrection and the life’. Without God, there is no humanity. This is the great lesson of the twentieth century - which the twenty-first century is yet to learn.
Here are the choices. Take your pick.
Archpriest Andrew Phillips
30 November/13 December