One of the things that having Scott McKenna’s comments have done for me is to force me to focus more attention on assisted dying. Of course, this blog is about that, but it’s also about opposing the interference of the religions in the right-to-die, and sometimes my opposition to religion gets the lion’s share of attention. I don’t regret that, because I do believe not only that religion is one of the biggest obstacles to assisted dying, but that, in other respects, religion is a harmful influence on society, and we would be better off if the religions would take an appropriately marginal place in society, and stop trying to impose their priorities on the rest of us. But I also acknowledge that I have not done as much work on assisted dying as I should have done, so the last few days have taken up the slack a bit, and I have Scott McKenna to thank for it.
I think it is important to note that Scott has received complaints from “head office” about his speaking out in favour of assisted dying, as he mentions in a comment. So, his standing with those who support assisted dying has not been without some cost for him, but, as he says, “head office” isn’t the church. There are people who don’t hew to the party line, and they are part of the church too. Indeed, we know this is true, for, despite the fact that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops tried very hard in the recent election to convince their members to support Mitt Romney, a majority of them, going by exit polls, did not. So, some Christians are better than their “head office” with their more worldly concerns of power and influence, and it is only fair to point this out, since my temptation sometimes is to tar all Christians, indeed, all religious people, with the same brush, and it is good to remember that many religious people, while remaining, according to their lights, loyal to the best that they see in the message of their religion, do not support the more extreme stands of their leaders.
Of course, one problem with this is that, by remaining in the church, those who oppose the church’s policies give the kind of support, in terms of numbers, that gives weight to church leaders when they speak in public and insist on being taken seriously by politicians and others in charge of public policy. For the churches, remaining relevant, in the sense of maintaining a powerful lobby position with the powers that be, is very important, since once you are truly marginalised, and no one in civil authority is listening to you, the less likely it is that you will be able to help shape laws which reflect the moral preferences of your particular organisation. A lot of people right now are saying that the Church of England has fouled its own nest, and has lost credibility, because, after decades of effort, the bid to enable women to be consecrated bishops has failed. A lot of people will feel that the Church of England is no longer a place for respectable people, because persisting in its rather petulant opposition to women bishops, while allowing women priests, they are showing a kind of selective sexism for which there is no justification. Needless to say, the Roman Catholic Church is worse in this respect, because they won’t allow women to become deacons let alone bishops, and, what with the latest scandal in the form of allowing a woman in Ireland to die, instead of performing a therapeutic abortion (of a miscarrying foetus), the message of the Roman Catholic Church about the value of women has been made rather brutally clear. I’m amazed that people still belong. Hilary Mantel, a few weeks ago, said that the Roman Catholic Church is no longer fit for respectable people, and I’m inclined to agree. If the only way to force change in the church is to refuse to associate with it and its antediluvian beliefs, then disassociation should be the order of the day.