Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Religion, a heap of nothingness

So this past evening I took part in a 3-way roundtable discussion centered on atheism and some craziness in the news.  In a round about way we hit on the problem of evil, euthanasia (death with dignity) and the "controversy" surrounding Brittany Maynard, the 29 year-old woman recently diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, the deadliest form of brain cancer and has chosen to die with dignity.

In our discussion I brought up a recent article penned by Joni Eareckson Tada, host of Joni and Friends and a quadriplegic since age 17 after a diving accident.
“But if I could park my wheelchair beside her, I would tell her how the love of Jesus has sustained me through my chronic pain, quadriplegia and cancer. I don’t want her to wake up on the other side of her tombstone only to face a dark, grim existence without life and joy; that is, without God,” says Tada, who is also a breast cancer survivor.

“There’s only one Person who has transformed the landscape of life-after-death, and that is Jesus, the One who conquered the grave, opening the path to life eternal. Three grams of phenobarbital in the veins will only provide a temporary reprieve. It is not the answer for the most important passage of her life.
What struck me in our conversation was fellow panelist Dave Foda's response, "that was pure selfishness."  The part I left off concerning Tada's "letter" was her final paragraph,
“The hours are ticking away; please, Brittany, open your heart to the only One who can do something about your pain and your death. Life is the most irreplaceable and fundamental condition of the human experience, and I implore you to take a long, hard look at the consequences of your decision, which is so fatal, and worst of all, so final.”
So in other other words, who gives a fuck about your pain and suffering, the anguish your family is going to endure just so long as "I" Joni save your immortal soul.  A point Heretic Woman aptly makes in our ensuing conversation while also referencing none other than Mother Theresa and her glorification of suffering.
Passive acceptance or even glorification of suffering can be adaptive when people have no choice. As the much loved Serenity Prayer says, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” This attitude of embracing the inevitable is built into not only Christianity but also other religions, especially Buddhism. But passive acceptance of avoidable suffering is another thing altogether, which is why the prayer continues, “. . . the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

By even her own words, Mother Teresa’s view of suffering made no distinction between avoidable and unavoidable suffering, and instead cultivated passive acceptance of both. As she  put it, “There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ's Passion. The world gains much from their suffering.”  Or consider this anecdote from her life:

One day I met a lady who was dying of cancer in a most terrible condition. And I told her, I say, "You know, this terrible pain is only the kiss of Jesus — a sign that you have come so close to Jesus on the cross that he can kiss you." And she joined her hands together and said, "Mother Teresa, please tell Jesus to stop kissing me.”
Although I did not realize it the time, both Dave and Heretic Woman brought up similar points that are also referenced in a second article concerning Maynard that I briefly highlight as a counter to Tada.
Thank you. Thank you for using the little time that you have remaining to bring attention to the “death with dignity” debate. I can only imagine the kind of physical, mental and emotional stress that you are currently experiencing. My imagination is not the same, nor could it be even close to the real thing. When I read about your story yesterday, my heart began to fill with an ocean of sadness. It began to swirl with emotions and thoughts as I tried to comprehend the depth and gravity of the situation that you currently find yourself in. It’s a natural reaction, to view another’s situation from your own perspective. Empathy is how we connect to one another; it’s our deepest form of love and understanding. In the vast depth of human emotion, it can be easy for anyone to lose their way. The strong emotional current can swell around us and we become lost in ourselves, lost from the initial response of love that we naturally feel for one another.

What I missed in my initial brief skimming of Nelson's "letter", posted over at Atheist Analysis, is that word highlighted in blue.That is what ticks me off in regards to Tada's crass response to Maynard's plight.  I just couldn't find the word at the time.

Here is another comparison Nelson makes that was also part of our conversation.
I do not understand why so many people feel it is humane to “put a dog down” but a human being doing this is wrong. Are people saying that a human has the moral right to make a choice as to when another animal’s life should end, but that same human does not have the right to make that decision about their own life? Then there are many people who are against your decision, because they feel that you are going against their god’s will. Their god gives you a brain tumor that is going to end your life many years before it would have otherwise, but they are mad at you. Am I missing something? Their god takes off years of your life, but you take off a couple days or weeks of tremendous suffering for both your family and yourself, and now they have a problem. Didn’t their god give you free will and wasn’t it aware that this would happen?
Yes I do ponder these things as I stated on-air.  I don't understand why some things bug me more than others.  Maybe it is as I stated that at one point in my life I held Tada up on a pedestal and as I get older those pedestals continue to crumble into a heap of nothingness just as religion has.  Individuals, like Tada in the end are no better than you or I.

Our conversation concering the above begins around the 48:00 minute mark,,,

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