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For atheists, death is the only point of life – that is Christianity’s great selling point

While we should, like Steve Jobs, live every day like it was our last, we should never allow our lives to be defined by this ‘one appalling fact’

By on Thursday, 13 October 2011

For atheists, death is the only point of life – that is Christianity’s great selling point

Death is in the air. To be more specific, it is on the air waves. I turned on the car radio last week to hear a recording of a speech that the late Steve Jobs, co-founder and chief executive of the Apple empire, had made in 2005 to the students of Stanford University. In its own way it was electrifying.

Jobs said that when he was 17 he had come across the saying, “If you live each day as though it were your last, some day you will most certainly be right.” Apparently it had made a deep impression on him, leading him to ask himself every day, “If today were the last day of my life would I wish to do what I am now doing?” He went on to tell the students, “Death is the destination we all share. No-one has ever escaped it….Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” A difficult colleague to work with, Jobs brought an urgency and intensity to his work that clearly contributed to his success.

I don’t know what his listeners made of it. Apparently Jobs had been influenced by Eastern religions; certainly there was a Buddhist element to his thought: the endless cycle of birth and death of which humans are just a part. And his admonition, “Don’t be trapped by dogma which is living with the results of other people’s thinking” lacked a Catholic understanding of the word “dogma”. The recording made me immediately think of the (probably apocryphal) story of a former headmaster of Ampleforth who, when asked by a parent what he was preparing the boys for, answered robustly, “Death.”

Then yesterday morning on Radio 4 there was more of the Grim Reaper: an interview with the novelist Julian Barnes, who is the favourite to win this year’s Man Booker Prize. Barnes wrote in his autobiographical book, Nothing to be Frightened Of, “For me, death is the one appalling fact which defines life; unless you are constantly aware of it, you cannot begin to understand what life is about.” Like Jobs, Barnes is very preoccupied with the subject, telling interviewer Rebecca Jones, “I don’t think we talk or think enough about death.” Describing death as “an eternity of non-existence” he concluded with a mordant half-laugh, “You are only here once.”

My Catholic ears were twitching. For Christians, death is not the point of life; it is “the life of the world to come” that we recite – often so unthinkingly – in the Creed at Mass. St Paul grasped this immediately, knowing that our faith is ‘vain’ without belief in the Resurrection. As it happened, I had a conversation about Jobs’ speech last weekend with my brother-in-law. As with his fellow-atheists, Jobs and Barnes, the finality and vastness of non-existence is troubling to him. I explained that Christians see it differently: this life is simply a preparation for the fullness of life that we hope to experience after death. He could see this might be a consoling thought, a happy illusion, but as he did not believe it he was not consoled.

I sometimes think we Christians don’t emphasise enough to our non-believing friends that the grave is not victorious and that death has no sting. We give assent to the dogma but we don’t live it in our daily lives with the heartfelt urgency that Jobs and Barnes give to thinking of death. If we did, we might possibly convert people like them, terrified of the dreariness of non-being but without hope of an alternative. After all, the atheist Edith Stein was deeply influenced by the example of a Christian friend whose husband had died in the Great War and who, despite her sorrow, was quietly convinced she would meet him again one day.

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron

    A collection of cells is not a person, it has the potential to become one. But then the unfertilised egg has the potential to become a person and women discard hundreds of them in their lifetime. 

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron

    Glad you mentioned HIV in South Africa. Perhaps it has something to do with the non-scientific health minister and president of that country who stopped the introduction of the relevant drugs. Or perhaps it was the statement of your latest leader that condoms caused HIV, thankfully he has retreated from that position.
    As for the UK, the STD rates are not of epidemic proportions. But the combined STD rates in Western Europe is only 30% of deeply religious South America and your conclusion is that secularism spreads diseases? Perhaps you would like to explain how this happens. 

  • Anonymous

    Wrong, conception starts when the egg is fertilized by the sperm, as any qualified biologist will tell you.  Thus this is the beginning of human life and personhood cannot be disassociated from that.  The full blue print for the development of the human being is already in place after conception takes place.  Who are we to draw an arbitrary cut off point at any stage of the development of human life and somehow deny the inherent humanity of the zygote/blastocyst/embryo as he/she develops then into a fetus and finally baby?

  • Anonymous

    So everything is about control whether it is one’s body in relation to the child in the womb, time of one’s death, global population etc.  All the methods favored by the pro-choice/euthanasia/population control lobbies, were very much associated with the Eugenics movement in the late 19thc/20thc.  The proponents of this warped ideology advocated abortion and contraception to prevent what they considered as inferior races and social groups from reproducing to maintain the purity of an idealized standard of race or social class.  The general trend for demographics across the developed and developing world is in a downwards direction with many nations now seeing average families fall beneath the replacement levels recommended for a stable national population in future years.  You seem to have a cold, dystopian, bleak view which sees the child in the womb and pro-life views as being harmful threat to your apocalyptic standpoint.

  • Oconnordamien

    “A collection of cells is not a person, it has the potential to become one.”
    That is correct and no one would refute it. You just ignored it.

    “…conception biologically starts when the egg is fertilized by the sperm, as any qualified biologist will tell you.”

    That is correct and no one would refute it. Or ignore it as that just defining conception.

    “Thus this is the beginning of human life rather more than your cold dismissal of a collection of cells as not a person. ”

    Now we are entering relativism. Is the fertilised egg much more of a human life than both the egg and sperm cells which were also alive had had their own unique “blue print for development”.  So simply put,  the “blue print ” was in place before conception. This kind of logic was dismissed before the famous Python “Every Sperm is Sacred” song. 

    “Who are we to draw an arbitrary cut off point at any stage of the development of human life and somehow deny the inherent humanity of the zygote/blastocyst/embryo as he/she develops then into a fetus and finally baby?”
    Well it seems to me as the mother’s body makes the choice, more often than not, that the fertilised egg will not grow to birthing, that denying the mother’s most valuable asset, her capability  to reason and predict future possible events, the ability to make the same choice is wrong. 

    In a simple example if a woman who is pregnant suffers from malnutrition the zygote/blastocyst/embryo will not come to term. So why is it so evil if the same woman who sees the drought and realises there is no hope for the baby to survive to make a choice her body may well do anyway.

    Of course giving women control of reproduction is the best choice, and yet again that is something which the body does naturally when circumstances do not suit having a pregnancy. In anorexics, one of the first systems to shut down is the reproductive, the body decides the environment is not right so it stops the possibility of pregnancy. One could easily say menopause is the same thing.

  • Oconnordamien

    Ah that old chestnut… Atheists are bleak nihilists… Why do they even get out of bed of a morning?
    Sure I don’t know why they don’t throw themselves on the train tracks.

    As to the slightly more factual of your comments. Eugenics? Like the forced sterilisation of women until the 60′s in the “good old christian USA”. Or during the mid 1940′s by the “christian parties in europe” also.

     You are correct, using “warped ideology ” to enforce your views on others is wrong. Just as well religions never did that, or are still doing it today.

    But in all honesty, what are you reading? Surely you cannot think that the world population is about to decline. All forecasts show within 50 years there will simply not be enough food if the increase carries on. As always relatively rich people are having fewer children but just look at a country like India.

  • Oconnordamien

    Here’s a little parable for you, please tell me what you think.

    Three men are walking down three streets and they see three destitute beggars in obvious need.

    The first man scans the area looking for prying eyes, he seems unseen. After a moment he gives gold to the beggar knowing that his Master ordered him to be charitable or be tortured. Better safe than sorry he thinks, I won’t risk torture.

    The second man casts his arms wide and bellows ” See how I have given gold!”. For his master has promised to repay any kindness of his a thousand-fold. He then walks on smacking his lips with the thoughts of his reward.

    The third man looks into the beggar’s eyes and thinks him needful. He gives the coin that he can then walks on.

    So… come on … which is the more “Good” man???

      

  • Anonymous

    Comparison is not raison at all. One can’t compare death from a Zen master’s view to what is death, according to Jesus. Jesus has conquered death, sin and bigotry. It’s just appalling to see Christians in 2011, who still can’t divorce from petty things such as death and gender. Jesus anchored His Church on a married man named Simon Peter, who had  never divorced his wife despite his devotion to Jesus and His Church. It’s about time that we follow Jesus’ teachings than men’s subjectivity. That’s why I greatly recommend this book “Sex, the greatest damned thing?” on Amazon.com or Lulu.com. We’ve lost sight on what matters the most to us as Catholics and Christians. What matters the most to us is living a Christ-like kinda of life, according to God’s plan and purpose , as written in Genesis 1:26-27: creation of man and woman in His Own Image. The same image that we can only retrieve in its perfection when we follow and live like Jesus. This entails total respect of God’s plan for us, and stop second guessing or playing God. We’re too eager to stereotype Jesus, according to our ego, than letting Jesus be the Lord  and Savior he is and supposed to be for us. I pray that all of us from the leadership of  this Church to all faithfuls around the world to seek first the Kingdom of God and his  righteousness in order to better comprehend and discern God’s revelation, according to his Holy Word, the Bible. Without any prescription from the Manufacturer will try to build up our cities and temples in vain, because they will never be the work of the Master Builder. But some useless and senseless copy cat, which may sound or rhyme great, without any meaning for the Soul. Remember it’s only about Soul Winning and Jesus as Lord and Savior.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t associate bleak nihilism with all atheists just with those of any stripe who want to apply reproductive control to head off what they see as a future global catastrophe despite recent trends showing an appreciable fall in the size of average families right across many nations of the world.  I take your point that the population has risen exponentially over the last century or so to about 6 billion at present and this trend may not bottom out until around 2050  But the general pattern that I have mentioned is still factually correct concerning the increasing drop in family sizes below replacement fertility levels.  Your examples of forced sterilization programs in the US and “christian europe”(an oblique reference I think to Scandinavia), were again instigated by pro-Eugenics activists who were more influenced by a scientific materialism than orthodox Christianity.
    There is quite a sizable number of experts within the discipline of World demographic studies who profoundly disagree with the Malthusian doomsday predictions of some concerning not enough resources to go around.  The agenda of the smug, rich West is to impose a program of reproductive control methods on developing countries which is rather reminiscent of the colonial, arrogant attitudes of the past.  Citizens of the targeted countries want fairer access to markets, better infrastructure and distribution of resources rather than  have condoms and contraceptive devices thrown at them by UN agencies with little understanding of their priorities.

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron

    Your opinion is that the beginning of human life starts at conception but it is only an opnion. The fact is that any particular cell containing a nucleus can form a human being. This has already been performed in animals and will no doubt be done with humans. Are you going to say they are not human?
    As it happens, my opinion is that a human forms when they show conciousness and cognition, 

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron

    Tom Holt takes that further, with the created gods grumbling about the type of god they have to be.

  • Anonymous

    Being atheist is one’s prerogative to choose. That’s the liberty given to mankind by God. However, that freedom doesn’t infrige on God’s divine laws of the universe. These laws are absolutely applicable to believer and non-believer. For instance, the law of gravity doesn’t discriminate against believer or non-believer. An atheist falling from the tip of the London Bridge would hurt as much as a believer. If a non-believer plants corn today, he can’t reap peanuts within six months. Those are divine laws I was referring to. Bear in mind, ignorance of the truth or willful refusal to acknoweldge such truth doesn’t deny the existence or reality of the truth.

  • Oconnordamien

    Secularism is not the Boogeyman under your bed. It is the idea that I won’t tell you what’s under there. You can believe it’s shoes or a big scary monster.. your choice. And indeed you can look and if you see a monster.. well that’s ok… He’s your monster but we won’t tell other people he’s under their beds too.

  • Anonymous

    Once the sperm is fused to the egg, life kicks in and the blue print is formed from the genetic material of the mother and father. I am not sure about the relevance of your point about the egg and sperm containing the “blueprint” at the pre-conception stage is?  My point concerns the fact that at the very moment that the sperm joins the ovum and then is attached to the uterine wall, life is in progress with an inherent genetic design for the future of the developing human being.
    It seems that a baby with a serious genetic condition or defect who does not fit everyone’s idea of perfection is regarded as fit material to be discarded e.g down syndrome babies, babies with holes in their hearts, babies with cleft lips.  Thus some medical clinics employ pre-implantation screening to check for any indicators of such abnormalities in the embryo and this is often the prelude to an abortion.  This has resonances of a certain regime which dominated one of the most  civilized countries in Europe during the middle of the last century.
    I recognize that the developing child when carried by the mother can encounter tragedy in the form of  environmental dangers like a premature miscarriage but this is not equivalent to the mother assenting willingly to the destruction of life in her womb for “social” or “possible danger to her mental health” reasons.  Too often the mother has not been given the benefit of alternative counselling which argues on behalf of the vulnerable baby in the womb and she is pressurized too often into making a hasty decision by clinicians or medical doctors to abort her child.  

  • Anonymous

    Well I have just stated the scientific facts as relayed by very reputable experts in the bio-ethics field-

    “Development of the embryo begins at Stage 1 when a sperm fertilizes an oocyte and together they form a zygote.”
    [England, Marjorie A. Life Before Birth. 2nd ed. England: Mosby-Wolfe, 1996, p.31]

    “Human development begins after the union of male and female gametes or germ cells during a process known as fertilization (conception).
    “Fertilization is a sequence of events that begins with the contact of a sperm (spermatozoon) with a secondary oocyte (ovum) and ends with the fusion of their pronuclei (the haploid nuclei of the sperm and ovum) and the mingling of their chromosomes to form a new cell. This fertilized ovum, known as a zygote, is a large diploid cell that is the beginning, or primordium, of a human being.”
    [Moore, Keith L. Essentials of Human Embryology. Toronto: B.C. Decker Inc, 1988, p.2]

    So there can be no doubt of the humanity of the life after the initial conception through fusion of both sperm and ovum.  You seem to assign the humanity to the fetus at a later stage of development but the Catholic Church realizes the sacredness of life in an unarbitrary way from it’s earliest beginning to natural death.

  • Oconnordamien

    Much fun as threads here always are my mind goes back to justice. And I’m waiting till the 21 st to do it in Arkham City. I’m not sure if I’m good enough to defend all of Gotham. But I will try. 

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron

    Your lack of mathematics is very concerning. The population grows regardless of the replacement birthrate of rich westerners. The mathematics are incontrovertible, birthrate means increasing population and resources are limited by solar output. Malthus was wrong in the time of his prediction because he didn’t know that increases in efficiency of farming would lead to dramatic increases in food production. The limit I refer to is absolute. About the only thing that can save us if the population growth continues is local fusion power. I also did not advocate imposing birth control on anybody, that is your invention. But I do advocate free use of all birth control. That is, give people the freedom of choice. I will always try to convince people to exhibit self-control but the consequences of either a lack of it or a successful campaign to persuade people to carry on breeding will be disastrous. I’m too old to experience much of what could happen but I don’t wish it on any of the younger generations.
    Notice I want people to have a choice, you want to tell them to obey some commands derived from your religion, and you accuse me of wanting to impose programs! [Must remember to get the super-strength irony meter tomorrow]

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron

    Your quotes describe conception, and hey, it coincides with what I learned 50 years ago. Even Moore agrees with my early learning. But perhaps he didn’t know the advances of cloning made or decided to ignore them because as I point out, the initialisation of an organism may not be at conception.
     Your last paragraph is purely an opinion of a religion, it has as much importance as my opinion. We cannot resolve this point because your definition and mine are incompatible. But you should think very carefully about the suggestion of cloning, because there you will have an organism that cannot be distinguished by any biological, physical or mental test from an uncloned individual. My definition includes such an organism as human, yours doesn’t. So how will you consider such a person? A non-person? A sub-human? An animal? 

  • ms Catholic state

    If you don’t believe in God….then you don’t have a fixed external moral code….but a subjective movable one that is easily compormised and corrupted. 

    Atheism has no definition (and doesn’t claim to have) of right or wrong.  It simply has other motivators ie personal gain and or power.

  • ms Catholic state

    At the Last Judgement….Jesus Christ will separate the ‘goats’ from the ‘sheep’ according to how they treated their fellow man.  For instance….did they feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick etc.  So that should satisfy you I guess.

  • ms Catholic state

    Well South Africa isn’t a Catholic country is it?!  If it were….it wouldn’t have an AIDS epidemic…which is spread by promiscuity and drug taking.  STD rate in the UK is alarmingly high…and continues to grow….and develop immunity to drugs.

    I want proof that South American STD rate is 30% higher than the UK.  Secularism and its promiscuous habits spread STD’s…..faithful Catholic behaviour doesn’t.  But of course….you don’t want to accept that. Wishful thinking at large. 

  • ms Catholic state

    Actually….a collection of cells may be a person….depending on what type of cells they are, isn’t it?!  If they are produced from the fusion of human male and female gametes…..then it is a person….not just a collection of cells.  I’m not even sure such a thing as a ‘collection of cells’ exists in nature.  They are all by definition some specific type of cell or other….!  Very unscientific I’m sure!

  • ms Catholic state

    Wrong again.  At conception…a person has all the DNA they need to be called a human being.  Don’t deny them their humanity….for your own base and selfish agenda!  And we are interested in objective facts…not in your opinion on other people’s humanity.

    Any particular cell placed in the womb will not develop into a human being….only a fertilised egg will ie a human being. 

  • Anonymous

    “So there can be no doubt of the humanity of the life after the initial conception through fusion of both sperm and ovum.  You seem to assign the humanity to the fetus at a later stage of development but the Catholic Church realizes the sacredness of life in an unarbitrary way from it’s earliest beginning to natural death.”

    The Church does not ‘realize’ sacredness, it assigns it. It is up to the Church to decide when it considers something to be sacred in its religion, and it is free to proclaim that a human zygote is sacred. But that is only a proclamation and has no moral weight. Acleron says, it is an opinion, but I would not give it even that level of authority.

    I prefer your use of ‘human’ to Acleron’s, but Acleron’s criterion has the weight of reason and so it is incumbent on all (of whatever religion or none) to respond with reason. Can you give a non-religious argument why a zygote can not be discarded, but a gamete can? (Note: It is not an argument to say that “life kicks in” at fusion unless you can define what you mean by ‘life’ in this context and explain why it should not be violated.)

  • ms Catholic state

    Is Tom Holt infallible or something then?! 

  • ms Catholic state

    Free will does exist….but with it goes taking responsibiltiy for our choices, actions and their consequences.  If we land in Hell therefore….it is totally our own fault.

  • ms Catholic state

    The much vaunted Greek democracy lasted all of 172 years!!

  • ms Catholic state

    Pre-Christian truth seekers who uncovered those eternal truths that are written onto the human hearts and into Creation itself…..are called pagan prophets.  But Christianity is unique,…..in that it is the coming into the World of God Himself as a Human Being.  Jesus Christ authenticated all that was true in what the pagan prophets said……and more than that of course.

  • maryp

    Francis, I too have heard the story of the Ampleforth headmaster. ‘ I think the occasion he made the remark was at a Headmasters’ Conference where the preceding speaker was extolling his school’s success in preparing pupils for life – ‘Posh Paul’ then followed by declaring that at Ampleforth students were prepared for death. Quite right too.

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron

    So atheists are purely for personal gain and power? Gosh, I never knew I was supposed to be rich and powerful. Joking apart, you are talking sheer nonsense. Answer the points I’ve made, show me that burning people at the stake because you disagreed with them would be considered as moral now. Show me the naked theft from and murder of the Knights Templar, supported by the catholic church, would be considered moral now. Show me how it was immoral to use condoms and now it’s not so bad. But whatever you do, give up telling us how atheists are corrupt, compromisable people with a lust for personal gain and power unless you have some evidence.

  • Anonymous

    My mathematics is spot on concerning the recent trends of falling birth rates across both the developed and developing world.  Why do you think that countries with in the EU have to make up for the current and projected shortfalls in their populations by having to increase quite dramatically immigration quotas although that is now causing a backlash from certain sectors of the indigenous populations. Couples in Italy, Germany and Spain have just 1.2 to 1.3 children each. The average fertility rate in Europe is 1.45. Both Russia and Japan are at 1.3.
    On average the global rate of population increases by a billion every 15 years and in 2011 it will hit around 7 billion.  It will peak in around 25-30 years time and then will start to fall back.  So the Earth’s eco-system will be able to readjust naturally as population numbers across the world start to shrink.  It will not need a vast program promoting contraceptive methods to achieve this.The real issue is the vast consumption of the earth’s resources by a relative few percentage of the world’s total population and the scandal of impoverishment, lack of fair access to global markets for their produce etc for 1-2 billion people.My religion does not force people to obey any commands, but merely proposes from a background of Faith and Reason, that birth control is a selfish defiance of the will of God.  Fertility is not a disease to be treated with birth control pills or chemicals.  Procreation is a vindication of the pro-life intentions of our Creator to secure the future of the next generation in a demographic sense

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron

    Look up a good science text on human reproduction. Then you will be able to identify what is science or not, at the moment, you seem to have some problems. So read the following slowly so you don’t miss anything.

    So you feel that a human being is formed at the very moment of fertilisation? OK, allow that fertilised egg to divide a few times and it forms a ball of cells. Is this still a human being? Now the cell division changes so that we have a collection of cells of two types in a hollow ball. Is this still a human being?  Now take one of these cells and remove it from our ball. Now, are the remaining cells a human being? Is the cell we took out a human being? You see, I say they both have the potential to be human beings, but what do you think?

  • Anonymous

    The Church does not assign a random phase to the development of life in the uterus or womb in terms of when one can rightfully call it human or not.  I am glad that you can understand my argument concerning the humanity of that life.  Of course the Church recognizes his or her sacredness although you as an atheist may have a contrary opinion.  Again it comes down to the context that you are approaching it from.  Life as a gift from God naturally has the stamp of sacredness on it which no-one should interfere with at any stage to injure or destroy.  
    The zygote and gamete are both phases of development of the nascent human in the womb.  Every human being that has ever lived has gone through those stages of development before they exited out from their mothers’ vaginas.  So both on a human and humane level, I would appeal to you to consider that simple but profound statement of fact before attempting to consider which stage of life is superior or more viable than the other.  I am sure you are glad that your mother did not have such a question to consider before you were born so you should extend that same right to existence to other vulnerable humans in the womb.

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron

    I can’t supply proof of UK vs South America and never claimed anything about it. Do you ever read anybody’s posts before your intemperate replies spill off your fingertips?

    Proof of my claim however http://www.avert.org/std-statistics.htm . So now we can expect to see proof of your claim that secularism spreads STDs. 

    South Africa’s state of secularity seemed strangely irrelevant to catholics advising the non-use of the only protection available in the early stages of the disease. I don’t think that action had a majority effect on the situation, but it sure made it worse and killed a more people. Good ethics you have there.

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron

    Yes, infallibly funny. You should read him, get a wider view point on all the gods available. 

  • Anonymous

    Cloning is the replication or copy of another individual human from his/her genetic material. In that regard I don’t get your point about how I would view the human clone as not being human.  Cloning is an example of insidious human experimentation and is a violation of the dignity of the original person that the DNA material was derived from.  In all major religions every human being has a soul and is worthy of respect even though modern methods of bringing humans to fruition e.g IVF have caused religious controversy.

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron

    ‘United Nations projections indicate that world population will nearly stabilize at just above 10 billion persons after 2200.’ http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

    Cherry picking your data gives erroneous results, try world population rates next. And remember, they are only predictions. 

    They also do not include reduction in resource mining from war and global warming.

    Unless something is done quickly, strategic resources such as rare earth metals will run out much sooner. The resource depletion is directly related to demand which is of course pretty linearly  related to population. 
    Your point about the ill-division of the resources is well made, but accept the consequences of the 5 billion getting access, resource will deplete even faster. Also accept the consequences of increased population by your persuasion because although you might place reliance in your invisible friend to save you, his regard in this respect is pretty piss poor.

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron

    The point is that there is no conception or fertilisation of the clone, so when did their humanity start?

    As for cloning, see below, according to you, your god clones people all the time.

  • Anonymous

    OK, your second paragraph is non-religious, but I have a hunch that you will be diametrically opposed to my response to it: My mother cannot have known about my particular (slight) disability. I would not wish it on anybody else, which is one of the reasons I have no children. (I do have the luxury of not needing to rely on children of my own to support me in old age – at least under the present system.) Hypothetically, if I was to accidentally make a woman pregnant, it would be entirely her choice what to do, but it would seem to me a kindness to terminate the pregnancy.

    Factoring in the quality of lives makes such a difference to moral judgements such as those concerning abortion, euthanasia, and population control. The difficulty of measuring quality of life compared to quantity of life does not mean that it should not be attempted, but it does make it difficult for me to argue objectively against anyone’s general views (including the views of other atheists) on such grounds.

    Elsewhere in this thread, you mention the predicted fall off in global population level. Does it not concern you that the fall off will be due to the widespread suffering of billions of people? (This suffering could be reduced by implementing population control methods now.) My guess is that you would also rather someone suffer a slow agonizing death than be put out of their misery.

    Wiktionary defines ‘humane’ as “Having regard for the health and well-being of another; compassionate”. On a humane level, I would appeal to you to give quality of life more weight.

  • Anonymous

    Not bad, in the circumstances – but that is irrelevant to whether Greek culture was the first culture to have democracy (whatever that may mean) in some form. The US is 230+ years old – that is irrelevant to whether it is the first sovereign state or the first state to adopt democracy. And a polity is automatically bad because it does not last longer than others. Pharaonic Egypt lasted about 2,700 years – this tells us nothing about whether rule by a Divine King is better than the sort of polity by which 13th-century Florence was ruled, or whether the 1,000-year Venetian Republic had a better polity, or whether a Paparchy (as at Rome for most of its history for the last 1400 or so years) is preferable. Maybe Republican Rome after  the expulsion of the kings is preferable; or some form of the monarchy in Britain, which now includes liberal multi-cultural multi-party democracy as well as two established Churches.

    That form of government X lasts only so long, does not by itself make it a bad form – for it may have ended for reasons unrelated to its limitations. Was the Spanish monarchy inferior because the US won the war of 1898 ? Does that prove that a federal republic of many states is superior to a Catholic monarchy 1300 years old ? If history had gone differently, & Hitler had neutralised the risk of an attack by the USSR, or been able to count on Soviet help in subduing Western Europe, would that have justified totalitarian tyranny as the ideal form of government ? Is the EU good because it is successful at domineering over nation states without needing to fire a single shot ? Hardly. If it lasts 10,000 years as it now is, it will have been successful, but it will be as odious as it is now.

  • Anonymous

    This implies that only Christians have been aware of conscience and duty – but such an idea won’t stand up to historical scutiny, if only people take the trouble to read pre-Christian Greek and Roman moral philosophy. The philosophers spent a lot of time debating The Good, and analysing one another’s ideas on the subject.

    If one does evil (however that may be defined), unhappiness in various forms often goes with doing evil – whether unhappiness consists in offending a god (as was sometimes thought to be the case) and being  punished by sickness, bereavement, the loss of one’s livestock or reputation or liberty, or by death or some other woe. The ancients knew all this. Epicurus’ preaching was liberating because he took away the fear of the gods – which is why Lucretius devoted six books to spreading the Epicurean gospel. It wasn’t difficult for non-Jews & non-Christians to find many flaws in the practice of religion and in the gods – many of the arguments against the Classical religions made by the Apologists were made by non-Christians, not all of them Jews. It does not follow at all that men like Cicero (who was keenly aware of the difficulties raised  by Roman religion) were unprincipled immoralists. For a lot of people, the “Meditations” of the Stoic Emperor Marcus Aurelius have been an equivalent of the “Imitation of Christ”. 

  • Anonymous

    The world’s population will probably get to around 8-9 billion before it starts to fall appreciably.  It will reach a plateau and then start to decline.  As you say predictions are not guaranteed with 100% accuracy which relates to the UN’s predictions for a population of 10 billions on planet earth by 2200 as much any other population projections.  All I’m saying is that the general trend across the world is for national populations to fall below replacement levels regarding levels which one can regard fertility rates as being stable.  As for your reference to my “invisible friend”, it may be a matter of Faith but more truer than you realize.

  • Anonymous

    I am very glad you were spared despite the slight disability that you referred to.  I wish this mercy was extended to all children no matter what disability they suffer from e.g down syndrome. It smacks of nazism to put children to death in the womb who suffer from conditions that prevents them from being classified as “perfect”.  The beauty about Christianity is that it respects the dignity of each human being made in the image of God.
    Population control reminds me too much of the Eugenics movement and colonial imperialism or the strong lording it over the weak.  As I have mentioned in my previous comments, the general trend across the world is the decline in demographics.  I do not wish for the suffering of any human being but an UN program of contraception is not the answer.  Observe the state-enforced policy in China and in some Indian states, 
    concerning a widespread application of abortion which wants to reduce the number of children that families can produce.  It seems to involve widespread discrimination against female babies and this is definitely causing deep suffering in families and it has already produced a noticeable imbalance in terms of population balance, in relation to  the ratio between men and women in those countries.

  • Anonymous

    Christianity is pro-life regarding all humanity from conception to natural death.  Humanity as I have previously described, starts from conception.  In the case of a cloned human, the replicated DNA is cultivated outside the normal reproductive process, but this does not mean that the human being that result s will not be respected by those who follow Christian principles.  The whole idea of cloning is repugnant though as it violates the dignity of the person from whom the DNA material is extracted from

  • ms Catholic state

    Burning people at the stake was a common punishment for both secular and religious courts.  As life was very harsh for even innocent people…..for those convicted of a crime…punishment was comensurably harsh.  I am not condoning it….but this was the reasoning behind it.

    Using condoms promotes promiscuity…..And does so without the resulting commitment and responsibility that having children would bring.  So condoms as with all contraceptives promotes not only promiscuity… but also an irresponsible and childish attitude in adults…..freeing us from our duty as mature beings. 

  • ms Catholic state

    Cloning often happens in nature…when an embryo divides into 2 after fertilisation.  When did conception take place?!  When the first embryo was conceived. 

  • ms Catholic state

    What is so difficult to understand?!  At fertilisation….a human being comes into being.  That one cell is a human being.  Then begins the process of growth and maturation in a higly specific complex process.  If one cell is removed….that cell will not develop into another human being….but the remaining cells ie the human being will continue to develop and grow to maturity.

  • ms Catholic state

    All evidence points to spread of AIDS by promiscuity ie having many different sexual partners…and drug abuse.  These are the methods by which AIDS is spread among the population.  Condoms increase promiscuity….by increasing the sense of security and protection of an individual…..thereby increasing the spread of AIDS overall.

    Read the work by Prof Andrew Green of Harvard on this.  His work supports the stance of the Catholic Church against condoms in the battle against AIDS.  The most effective method is traditional chastity before marriage and fidelity after it.

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron

    Good, so catholics use reason in determining their ethics, so they are not so external and absolute as most believe.

    Does the use of condoms promote promiscuity? I’d be impressed to see some evidence for this. Have you thought that people are promiscuous anyway, after all why is sex so enjoyable. Condoms could equally be said to save the destruction of lives be preventing unwanted children being born. They are certainly the most effective method of preventing HIV and surely should be recommended when they save lives.

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron

    Yes, they are absolutely bound to fall to either replacement or below replacement. That’s the simple logistic curve of growth with limiting resources. But on a crowded planet, competition for resources will become extreme. I’ve mentioned some already, but have you considered how much fresh water is available worldwide? That’s another resource under threat. All these threats are caused by population, nothing else. Your aim to stop any population control, even the completely free choice I advocate, is foolhardy and will cause misery and hardship.