(I would be interested in the thoughts of others if possibe on this subject)
If I was a convinced atheist, or an agnostic that leaned heavily towards atheism I have no doubt that my attitude towards euthanasia would be different. The same ‘might’ be true for abortion, not sure about that however. There are atheist sites that are pro-life, who believe that the fetus does have a right to life. Of course a fetus has the potential of leading a full life; those dying are coming to their end. So for those who have no faith in any kind of transcendence their position is rational, reasonable even. The fly in the ointment I would imagine would be abuses; the slippery slope it is called, wherein the decision start the journey down a road, that could spiral out of control. People will often bring out the liberal laws for ‘mercy killing’ in the Scandinavia countries from both sides of the argument. One side will bring out the abuses the other will praise the mercy and compassion that they believe mercy killing is. Well that is until it moves into first degree murder….hence the slippery slope.
The heaviness, weariness and pain of life, is apparent to most people, especially as they age and begin to outlive many of their peers. Death is often difficult, bringing with it not only physical pain but also a great deal of anguish for the one nearing the end of his or her life. Again, if I was an atheist (or agnostic)…. I would most likely wish to be able to have the right to end my own life, to be allowed the right to go in peace into the eternal sleep of death. The suffering at the end of life takes away my dignity and to be taken care of by others, yet another indignity, that does not have to be borne. If my death is near, then why should I not end it? So yes I understand why many seek laws to be able to allow people to end their own lives.
However, not being an atheist, a Christian in fact does influence how I look upon euthanasia. It does not matter if my faith is misplaced (which I of course believe it is not), there is still a deep intuition that our lives lead to something else and if God does exist, then all that happens in our lives have meaning….that includes suffering. Though I can’t say I am happy about that…..who loves suffering. There is because of this a certain something to life that atheist need not consider, that is that our lives are a gift from God and we don’t have the right to end it. We do have the right to live out our faith and try to face death with faith and dignity. The luxury of suicide is not an option for me. So the divide between the two groups is understandable.
I know however in ‘real’ life, even those who are pro-live can be thrust into situations wherein they may act in opposition to their deeply stated beliefs…..they miss the mark and in fact I can see myself in this position. The greater the crises the grayer things seem to become, so there can be confusion and choices will be made that may later be regretted. Emotional states are difficult to deal with, especially when a loved one is in a great deal of pain, that can’t be dealt with.
End of life care needs to become more central today since we are all living longer and the actual death process, which is what old age is about anyway, can drag on for decades. For some, the last five or ten years of life can be dreadful if they are in nursing homes that are poorly run and are not given the attention that they need. If proper care could be given to those near death, pain management given more of a priority, then I feel the euthanasia question would resolve itself for most people, though there will always be cases that are truly tragic and heart rending.
If life is about something, if we are called to something more and by that I don’t mean pie in the sky, but that everything in our lives need to be worked through for a reason, perhaps a reason not often understood, then those who are against mercy killing can be understood. However, understanding goes both ways doesn’t it? I am in the care giving trade, a life I love and I feel that my job is actually a vocation. I would never take another life (well there may be a circumstance where I would be sorely tempted), but I would do everything possible to make their last days comfortable as possible and to surround them with companionship and love.
What I am trying to say is this: even though I may think that mercy killing is misguided compassion, it is compassion none-the-less. Also those who are believers also come from a place of compassion and faith. I hope that the two sides do not become enemies, but both sides need to make sure that abuses are kept at a minimum, for there will be abuses….you can count on that.
It is only a matter of time before more liberal laws become everyday reality for the whole of the United States….we have started down the slippery slope I believe and I think, sadly that we will have to see it to the end. Even so, truth as is seen through the eyes of faith needs to be proclaimed, even if it does not actually change cultural movements. People are changed one at a time. It is also important to remember that those on the opposing side are not evil monsters but speaking from a place they feel is right. I have friends who go to abortions clinics and stay the legal distance. They pray and if any girls come over they talk to them. Some decide to have their child, they are not pressured. From time to time these young girls and their husbands or boyfriends come by and show them their child. They don’t insult those getting abortions; they simply have a presence and pray. When Christians fail to show restraint and lose their sense of love and compassion then they lose ground. It is not about winning, it is about proclaiming, again with compassion and love.