The Conflict With Secularism In Its View of Death
Tom M. Roberts
To please no one will I prescribe a deadly drug, nor give advice which may cause his death. Nor will I give a woman a pessary to procure abortion. . . (excerpt from Hippocratic oath).
Just as I choose a ship to sail in or a house to live in, so I choose a death for my passage from life (Seneca, 4 B.C. - A. D. 65).
Not only is there conflict between truth and secularism regarding death, there is an ambivalence within secular circles regarding the proper esteem one is to have regarding his own death, that of his loved ones, and that of society at large. The Hippocratic Oath (though pledged to all the gods and goddesses of Hippocrates' day) seems to be at conflict with some philosophers of ancient Rome. This early confrontation between approaches to death is the precursor to a modern conflict of enormous proportions: pro-life or pro-euthanasia/abortion. In no arena of philosophical discussion is the difference between faith in God and secularism more pronounced than that of attitudes toward death. Many are struggling with this mysterious and often tragic passage from life to death and have no ethical foundation upon which to choose. Is suicide an alternative? Is abortion murder? Do we withhold life support from aging parents? These are significant questions. But where are the answers?
Does Secularism Hold the Answer?
"... Secularization is the process by which the world is de-divinized." "To call someone secular means that he is completely time-bound, totally a child of his age, a creature of history, with no vision of eternity. Unable to see anything in the perspective of eternity, he cannot believe that God exists or acts in human affairs. Moral standards, for example, tend to be merely those commonly accepted by the society in which he lives, and he believes that everything changes, so that there are no enduring or permanent values."
If one does not believe that he possesses an eternal spirit, how is it possible to make a rational decision about its disposition? Such is the position of the secularist/humanist. One might as well ask a horse or cow about eternity as to ask a secularist about the value of life.
"We find insufficient evidence for belief in the existence of a supernatural; it is either meaningless or irrelevant to the question of the survival and fulfillment of the human race. As non-theists, we begin with humans and not God, nature not deity."
Believing that man is but a "naked ape," secularism has spawned a host of aberrant behavioral problems. Since "there are no enduring or permanent values" in their view, life itself has no moral connection to death. Like the Epicurean philosopher of old (Acts 17), he advocates, "if it feels good, do it." Consequently, every facet of the American way of life is being contorted, as well as the American way of death. Education, entertainment, religion (limited to the social gospel), the home, politics, the courts, congress, the media and many individuals are being warped and fueled by an insatiable desire for materialism and self-gratification with a philosophical rationale. The "me, too" generation has come of age with a vengeance. From Madonna (the "Material Girl") to Phil Donahue (Mr. "Do Anything For A Rating"), America has embraced adultery, homosexuality, promiscuous sex, the drug culture, live-in "relationships," skin-heads, filthy speech (under guise of free speech), and pornographic "artistry" supported by tax dollars. While the popular vernacular expresses it as "let it all hang out," or "get in touch with yourself," this life style is the end result of secular Marxism, Darwinism and Freudism. From Friedrich Neitzsche to John Dewey, Betty Friedan to Roseanne Barr, Shirley MacLaine to Madelyn Murray O'Hair; from the National Endowment for the Arts to the National Education Association, from Hollywood to the National Organization for Women (NOW), all these and many more have one common denominator: secular-ism. Is it any wonder that Shirley MacLaine supposes that she has been re-incarnated dozens of time? Is anyone surprised that NOW is led by a lesbian? Can anyone so enamored of a hedonistic life-style (spiritual death) really propose serious consideration of physical death? However, let there be no doubt that for one to understand the secularist view of death, one must acknowledge the secularist view of life. While the Christian recognizes that the manner of life on earth will affect the destiny of existence hereafter ("For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live" [Rom. 8:13]), the opposite view does not. "The continuity of a human body is a matter of appearance and behavior, not of substance. The same thing applies to the mind. We think and feel and act, but there is not, in addition to thoughts and feelings and actions, a bare entity, the mind or the soul, which does or suffers these occurrences." One's view of life, therefore, will affect one's ... Its View of Death .. . view of death, as cause and effect.
Secularism and Death: Abortion and Euthanasia
While a lack of biblical faith (typical of secularism) does affect every second of human existence, it also adversely affects a view of and preparation for death. Not only does the deceptive philosophy keep one from a moral preparation for life after death, it actually hinders one from a humane consideration of death during life. Two examples are noteworthy: abortion and euthanasia.
"The Silent Scream" is an apt epitaph for :r fetus being cut apart in the womb. Not yet able to voice its pain, the unborn baby opens its mouth to grimace its anguish. Dry statistics of millions upon millions of abortions in America and around the world carry the message of innocent blood that cries out to God (Gen. 4:10). Used as a form of birth control, abortion has received the stamp of approval of the United States Supreme Court in the Roe v Wade decision (1973). The Women's Liberation Movement demands abortion as one method of freeing its advocates from the bondage of motherhood into the freedom of a secular career. While early decisions of the court allowed abortions in the first trimester of pregnancy, advocates are challenging for abortions in the last trimester (up to the actual moment of delivery!) even when viability (ability to survive outside the mother) is possible.
Let me raise a warning: a baby in the womb and a baby in the crib are neither viable in the true sense of the word. If we can become so hardened to death in the womb, what is to keep us from becoming hardened to death in the crib (in the case of diseased or retarded babies)? Hitler's Germany has shown us how far a "civilized" nation can go into madness. The madness of abortion is upon us. Secularism has America in its grip on a national level. "Pro-choice" (a misnomer, since it only allows one choice: abortion) is as American as the Clinton/Gore Administration, as Ann Richards in Texas, as the U. S. Supreme Court.
But we are not finished yet. At the other end of the spectrum of life there are other persons who are not viable: the aged, infirm and mentally impaired. It should not be surprising that a calloused and cold-hearted person that would not have natural feelings (Rom. 1:31) toward babes in the womb would also not have natural feelings toward the aged. Euthanasia is now becoming an accepted alter-native to nursing homes.
Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a Detroit pathologist with an inventive streak, has built a "Mercitron" killing machine (which is, in the finest American tradition, becoming "new and improved") so that patients can commit suicide. While some states in America are passing laws aimed at making "mercy killings" illegal, some nations (the Netherlands, for example) allow it. Again Hitler's Germany comes to mind. Malcolm Muggeridge, an opponent of euthanasia, commenting in "The Humane Holocaust," said, "It took more than three decades to transform a war crime into an act of mercy."
We have, in this country, an organization dedicated to "mercy killings" (within the law, of course), the National Hemlock Society. Dr. Kevorkian is committed to aiding suicides even if he breaks the law. 'The leader of the Hemlock Society, Derek Humphrey, has written an explicit "how-to" manual on suicide entitled, Final Exit. There are over 500,000 copies in print and it has made the New York Times best seller list. Not to be outdone, Dr. Kevorkian has written Prescription: MedicideThe Goodness of Planned Death.
A more pragmatic approach to suicide than one of "goodness" is that of the American wit, Dorothy Parker. She wrote:
Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful; Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.
Recognizing that there is a legitimate area of concern for those who are opposed to the extra-ordinary and mechanical continuation of body functions after death has occurred, there remains a distinction between preserving life and taking life. Euthanasia is the planned, premeditated taking of life, whether that of yourself or another.
The Bible Holds the Answer
Though secularists reject the Word of God out of hand, wise men seek its counsel. "The fool has said in his heart, `There is no God' (Ps. 14:1). Those who "give up the knowledge of God" think they are wise, but they are fools (Rom. 1:22).
A reverence for life is incompatible with the secularist agenda. But whether in the womb or on aged feet, life is a sacred gift from God and must not be treated with contempt nor discarded without compassion. God has said, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man" (Gen. 9:6). It is a short step from the denial of God to a maltreatment of those made in his image.
Our nation is deep into the practice of both abortion and euthanasia. It has embraced secularism and has denied the God of Heaven. Believing, as I do, that God judges nations in time and raises nations up and deposes them (Dan. 4:17), I tremble when I consider the sure judgment of a righteous God upon the blood that cries from the ground. There has never been a time when God has overlooked evil. I don't believe he will start now to do so. Let us pray that the gospel of Jesus Christ will have free course in our land once again and that people will come to repentance before we go beyond the reach of his patience and reap the bitter fruits of wickedness.
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 3, p. 5-7