Saturday, 4 June 2016

Religious Belief

I have friends staying with me this weekend, staying here in my apartment while they attend the Umbrella 2016 conference at a local church. Umbrella 2016 is a Christian conference focused on creating an inclusive society for people with disabilities or handicaps. Needless to say, my friends are committed Christians, and I respect their faith.

Last night, after a day of seminars, sessions, and entertainment, they arrived home where we started discussing Bill C-14, the bill on assisted dying. Somehow this conversation became conflated with a conversation on abortion. It seems to be happening these days, that one discussion draws out another for comparisons. It's interesting that both touchy topics are focused on controlling what other people do with their bodies and their lives. The only real difference is that with abortion there is a potential third person, there in that woman's womb.

Abortion is so touchy, because not only does it hit on the perceptions of the sanctity of human life, but it also poses the extremely difficult question as to "when life begins". Physician Assisted Dying at least has the benefit of being a relatively singular question, whether or not an individual should be in control of the timing of his or her death.

For me, I take what might be a very different view on all of this. While I am definitely not a nihilist, I do not believe that we are made by God for a special purpose. If that were true, then why did God make so many incredibly cruel and horrible people? Instead, I believe that we are all grains of sand in the giant desert of humanity, blown by the winds of time, each of us miniscule and particularly insignificant. This does not mean our life has no purpose; I believe we define our purpose in life, then go on to fulfill it. Some of us need to believe we were created for a purpose, and so must believe in a God who did that creation. I am not that person.

The birth or death of one person is inconsequential over the span of history. Very few people impact their own history. Some impact the history of a generation, some the history of centuries, and a rare few the history of millenia. But humans have been around for 200,000 years. Even the greatest of figures in our fairly recent written history have only impacted us for a couple thousand years; there's a lot more where  that came from, and a lot more where we are going. Somewhere in the realm of 100 billion people have lived and died in that time. There's been a lot of us and, barring catastrophe, there will be a lot more.

So to attempt to control the living and dying of one person, me, is rather silly. In the grand scheme of time and space, it matters not a whit. If you say "but it's wrong", I will ask why. If you say it is a sin, I will ask according to who. If you say God has a purpose for my life, I will suggest perhaps His purpose is for me to be a model for people who choose to end their life.

There have always been cultures rife with their attempts to control their own members. There have been, and still are, cultures where your access to health care depends on your skin colour. There have been, and still are, cultures where your freedom and independence depends on your gender. There have been, and still are, cultures where your very life depends on which version of God or gods you believe in. It seems to me that, for most cultures and religions, life matters very little and control matters a great deal.

In the end, we all will live until we die. Some may have religions which say there is life after death; one day you will know for sure. As for today, please make no rules or laws based on your beliefs which force me to contravene my own beliefs. I am alive and soon will die; the same is true for you. Please let's respect one another along the way. That is my religion.


  1. There should be a like button for this post Richard. You have a gift for using words eloquently to explain your position on these difficult issues.

  2. Full agreement on this one Rick.