Let’s talk for a while about death. I guess most good folk hate to talk abut it but you have to admit it’s an intriguing subject as it lies there in wait for all of us and there is no getting away from it. Peter Pan thought it must be “a very great adventure.” The world’s reputedly oldest man has just died in America aged 114. What he said was very simple - “We are born to die.” For those of a religious bent death is the gateway to a life everlasting. To someone like me who does not believe in any form of afterlife it merely means an endless dreamless sleep, oblivion in fact. So what was it brought this subject to mind? Shock horror headlines in the newspaper – “Outcry over BBC2 Terry Pratchett euthanasia documentary – BBC films man taking his life. Screening the moment of a suicide victim’s (?) death - considering it was a voluntary act he could hardly be termed a victim but that’s journalise for you – is a first for terrestrial television.” Wrong. I remember seeing this on television some years ago, not taking place in Switzerland at the Dignitas clinic but in Amsterdam, the lethal injection being administered by a doctor in the subject’s home. The man was suffering from motor neurone disease, as was the current subject, and his end, with his wife by his side, was dignified and oh so peaceful. He just slipped silently away which reminds me of the Catholic prayer, God grant me a peaceful death.” The article continues to say the programme is condemned by campaigners, politicians, professionals and religious leaders. They accused the corporation of being unethical, of promoting assisted death and euthanasia and disregarding … here comes the big crunch… “the sanctity of life.” I don’t know who the campaigners and the professionals in this instance are, (professional what? Accountants maybe? Dentists? Veterinary surgeons?) But it stands to reason that the religious would be appalled by this, what can one call it? Act of sacrilege? So what is it exactly, this sanctity of life they continually blether about? Where to start? Let’s start with the Roman Catholic Church. Contraception is a sin because it denies the start of a new life. So let’s presume pregnancy takes place. Apart from the miscarriages and millions of abortions, it is estimated that there are 7000 still births worldwide every day. That’s 2.6million a year. Not much sanctity of life there. Until the advancement of modern medicine that all but eradicated childhood illness, infant mortality was universal and a child in Victorian times for example was lucky to get beyond its first year. Not much sanctity there either. There are still any number of children in various parts of the world dying from malnutrition and diseases that haven’t been controlled, or being caught up in the riots, tribal and civil wars and massacres that seem to be forever erupting in various parts of Africa. Not much sanctity of life there either. In the Middle East, the Far East, South America, there are terrorists prepared to die by suicide or to take as many innocent people with them as they can. Northern Ireland seems to have quietened down a little as has Spain but the danger of violence erupting is always there. Similarly the ongoing hatred of Sunnis for Shias and vice versa does not say much for the sanctity of life but what is new there? Religious wars and horrifying persecution in the name of God have been going on for centuries and the world is riddled with gangsters to whom the term would be absolutely meaningless. Let us not forget worldwide wars, Auschwitz, the Gulags, Pol Pot, and more recently euphemistically called ethnic cleansing. It would seem half the history of the world is a horror story with mankind’s total disregard for the so-called sanctity of life not only of his own but of too many other species.
But what has God to say about it?
At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead." (Exodus 12:29) The Lord said to Moses, "Take vengeance on the Midianites... After that, you will be gathered to your people. So twelve thousand men armed for battle, a thousand from each tribe, were supplied from the clans of Israel. They fought against Midian, as the LORD commanded Moses, and killed every man. They burned all the towns where the Midianites had settled, as well as all their camps. They took all the plunder and spoils, including the people and animals. Moses, Eleazar the priest and all the leaders of the community went to meet them outside the camp and Moses was angry with the officers of the army--the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds--who returned from the battle."Have you allowed all the women to live?" he asked them. “Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man."
On God’s instructions wanton wholesale, barbaric slaughter and cold blooded murder of helpless captives - the boys and non virgin women massacred.
Ezekiel 9: 4-6 And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem....let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women...."
And there is more of the same and more and more. So much for the sanctity of life.