Saturday, May 2, 2009

Atheism, the Cure for Inalienable Rights

A few months ago, I was kicking the euthanasia question around with a few of my fellow churchgoers at Theology at the Bottleworks. The issue of rights, specifically the right to legalized euthanasia became part of the topic. Underlying that question was the question, "what does God have to say about it?" was not directly discussed, but I could sense the strain that many of the attenders were under keeping it out of the discussion. Philosophically, the question of euthanasia comes down to the classic premise, 'If God does not exist, then all things are permissible.' In this case, if God does not exist, then euthanasia is permissible.

At face value, I agree, but does that give anyone the right to commit suicide, the right to euthanize someone else, or the right to legalization? If it is a question of rights, I don't think so. The consequence of the idea that God does not exist is that objective judgments (neither morals nor rights nor any claims to truth) do not exist.

My argument caches out like so:
1. If God does not exist, then objective moral rights do not exist.
2. The claim that anyone has an objective moral right to euthanasia is a claim to an objective reality that does not exist if God does not exist.
3. Therefore, a claim to an objective moral right to euthanasia does not exist.

Any atheist rallying to legalize euthanasia has two problems here. In terms of legalization, it's a non-starter. Atheism negates any objective right to anything (i.e. euthanasia), which means no one can make it incumbent upon other people to allow or approve of euthanasia. Second, the atheist is guilty of a philosophical incoherence at this point between atheism (to justify the non-objectivity of morals) and the claim to an objective moral right to euthanasia. If anyone wants the argument for legalized euthanasia to go forward, then the argument must reach beyond the limits of atheism for something else, and God only knows what that is. /smirk

One woman there, I think, captured the essense of the issue perfectly. She said in effect, if you want to end your own life, why do you need a law and a mechanism (vis-a-vis a lethal drug) to permit you to do that? Very simply, stop eating and drinking.

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