I am not one who makes religious arguments in the public square, nor do I think that our laws should be based on holy books or dogmatic faith precepts.
Still, I grow a bit weary of the supposed superiority of “secularist” beliefs and approaches to important issues of morality and law, particularly as so many “brights”–as some secularists humbly call themselves–seem so steeped in utilitarian anti-humanism and disregard for the value of human life.
I bring this up because the Guardian ran an essay symposium on the importance of secularism and the separation of faith and state. I had not heard of most of the writers, but two contributors leaped off the page because of their past support for crass culture of deathism.
The first is a BBC 4 presenter named Jenni Murray, who wrote in part:
Religion should be confined to church, chapel, mosque, synagogue and personal choice. No way should bishops or imams or rabbis have the power in parliament, unelected, to influence the way we heathens (or humanists) should live our lives. Assisted dying is a case in point.
I remember Murray very well. She once said she supported assisted suicide so that she wouldn’t have to care for her aging parents. From my blog:
BBC host Jenni Murray has created a suicide pact with friends in case she becomes incapacitated. But here is the real deal: She doesn’t want to be burdened with caring for her aging parents. From the publicity materials about a coming documentary in which Murray “rants” about the so-called right to die: “Jenni is angry that, having fought so hard to become liberated and independent, women are now being trapped into caring for dependent parents.”
Poor baby. But it is good that she is being candid. I have always suspected that often, when people say they “wouldn’t want to be a burden,” they are actually (or also) saying, “I don’t want to be burdened.”
Murray is a mere moral desert dust devil compared to Barroness Mary Warnock’s full blown Cat 5 tornado! Here’s part of what she wrote in the Guardian:
There are two areas, however, within which secularism seems to me of the greatest possible importance. The first is the law. The courts must have nothing to do with religious belief, and must ensure that whatever is contrary to the law is punishable, no matter what the religion of the offender. The other institution within which religion must have no privileges is parliament.
Fine. But what kind of policies does she support as an atheist and secularist?
Good grief, space does not permit a full recounting. So let’s just say, she has publicly supported the duty to die. From my, “The Duty to Die Advances:”
One of the United Kingdom’s leading bioethicists, Baroness Warnock, has also supported the duty to die. As reported by the UK’s Independent newspaper in 2008: She is quite happy with the notion of the ‘duty to die’ . . . A couple of months ago, in an interview with the Church of Scotland’s magazine Life and Work, she said: “If you’re demented, you’re wasting people’s lives—your family’s lives—and you’re wasting the resources of the National Health Service.”
She has also supported assisted suicide for the mentally ill, among many other very bad ideas.
When a religious person takes extreme views on public controversies–or devalues the lives of the vulnerable–it is often used to attack religious people in general, and their participation in the public square, in particular. By the same standards, these two exemplars of compassionate secularism should discredit that entire approach. Right?
Oh, I’m sorry: I forgot about the double standard! Never mind.