Mediaeval superstition of the day

A man called Roy Jenkins, who calls himself  "Right Reverend", was given an uncontested platform on The Today Programme this morning to peddle his wicked superstitions.  He said that Kelly Taylor, the brave, terminally ill woman who is fighting for her right to die in dignity, should instead die a painful, lingering suffering death.  The reason he gave was that we do not have rights over our lives because we were created by God and that ending our own lives, or anyone else's, would defeat the purpose for which we were created.  He opined that Kelly Taylor's 'pupose' was to inspire us by her bravery and suffering.

My thoughts about this are:

  • it is astonishing that anyone in the 21st Century could subscribe to mediaeval superstitions which suggest that people are 'created' by somebody who has a 'purpose' for each of us; these views are both irrational and wicked;
  • we do have rights over our lives; if Mr Jenkins chooses not to exercise his that is fine by me, but he has no business preventing Ms Taylor from exercising hers;
  • the BBC, as a public service broadcaster, has no business giving this kind of cruel superstition air time in the middle of their flagship current affairs programme.  They would not invite astrologers, or flat-earthers, or paedophiles, to lecture us uninterrupted; so why should Methodists or Moslems be any different?

6 thoughts on “Mediaeval superstition of the day”

  1. As you probably know I disagree with your basic thesis here about "the right to die" etc.

    But Kelly Taylor is asking for something rather more than the right to die. She’s asking for someone to kill her. Some difference don’t you think?

  2. She is asking to be allowed to die in dignity.  (Actually, she is asking that a doctor be allowed to put her into a coma – which is currently lawful – and that her Living Will, which asks that she should not be resuccitated, then be allowed to come into operation.)

    She is not asking that a doctor be forced to kill her.  She is asking that a doctor who wants to help to her in this way be allowed to do so.

    . To impose this sort of mediaeval cruelty on somebody who does not wish to suffer is simply sadism.

  3. Hi O
    Whilst I am not sure I agree with Roy Jenkins, I must take you up on your use of terms like ‘superstitions’. You refer to belief in God as irrational, mad, loony, wicked etc, implying that not believing in God is evidence-based, rational, sane, modern etc. The best thing I have read on this recently is Prof Alastair McGrath’s excellent new ‘The Dawkins Delusion’. He demonstrates (from both a scientific and a philosophical standpoint) that belief and non-belief in God both require faith – it’s quite compelling and a good read too.

  4. Ruth

    I don’t think I have referred to belief in God as wicked; though I have referred to it as irrational – which it is, in that it is a belief for which there is no evidence and for which people make considerable sacrifices.  What I think is wicked is not belief in God per se, but the impositions that some people want to make on others because of their belief in God.

    I haven’t yet read McGrath’s book and will endeavour to do so; but I will take a lot of persuading that the existence or otherwise of God is anything but an empirical question on which the evidence all falls on one side. 

    Belief in God is just as much a superstition as belief that people born from April 21 to May 21 are persistent and determined with a tendency to greed; or that a black cat walking across your path brings you bad luck. Many people hold those beliefs, no doubt very sincerely; but they are superstitions. And many of the things people believe as a result of their religious beliefs – such as their views about sex or about diet – have no more basis in evidence, which is why I call them superstitions.


  5. I haven’t read McGrath’s book either, but equating "belief and non-belief in God" as both requiring ‘faith’ seems to me a bad start.  Dawkins makes it clear that in his mind, and I suggest in the minds of most rational people, the proposition "There is no God" is a hypothesis capable of being tested by empirical evidence or lack of it: it could in principle be demonstrated to be false, for example if a supernatural being were to intervene unmistakably in human affairs, identifying himself as God, and demonstrating an ability to change the natural order at will, with witnesses and other kinds of proof of genuineness such as to oblige an impartial observer to acknowledge that on the balance of probabilities, and in the light of the new evidence, the proposition turned out to be false.  However, until and unless some such empirical evidence of its falsity becomes available, a reasonable person is entitled to argue that in the absence of any evidence of any kind to the contrary, the proposition is likelier to be true than false.  It has exactly the same status as such propositions as: "Santa Claus does not come down chimneys on Christmas Eve", or "There is no species of pig that can fly":  that’s to say, in the absence of contrary evidence, and since they accord with universal experience, the overwhelming likelihood is that they are correct, and we are entitled to proceed on that assumption until evidence becomes available to contradict them.   The point of all this is that it quite clearly does not involve faith to act on the working assumption that there is no God, whereas to act on the opposite assumption (i.e. that there is a God) does require ‘faith’, since it’s irrational, being contrary to ordinary experience, lacking empirical evidence, and therefore much more unlikely than likely:  there’s no more logical justification for believing it, still less for altering one’s behaviour to accommodate the likelihood of it being true, than there is for believing any other inherently improbable proposition for which there’s no evidence.  As to the right to die, I can think of few more cruel, irrational, hypocritical and wicked propositions than that which apparently governs the ethical code of doctors, namely that they may not mercifully give a dying man or women who is suffering unbearable pain a lethal injection, but that they are permitted to ‘withdraw’ feeding (solids and liquids) provided that this is not supposed to be intended to kill the patient, only to discontinue "treatment" that no longer benefits the patient, even though they know that the patient’s death will be the inevitable consequence.  In other words, a doctor can’t give a person the peaceful death he or she longs for, but he (or she) can inflict a painful and lingering death by starvation and thirst, taking several days over it.  Arthur Hugh Clough thought he was being satirical when he wrote: "Thou shalt not kill, /  But needst not strive / Officiously to keep alive."  Euthanasia is a no-no, but dysthanasia is fine.  No doubt the "Reverend" (gruesomely inappropriate term in the circumstances) Roy Jenkins would approve of this horrific doctrine, since he seems to think that his God enjoys making his creatures suffer — indeed, actually created them for this very "purpose".  Now that’s a belief that really does require faith: a very generous helping of it. Yuk.Brian

  6. Bismillah-ar-rahman-ar-rahim!
    well i was reading by the view points of you people on the existance of "God", i got surprised. I just cannt figure out that if a simple machine cannot be made without anyone working on it and for it, how can the whole universe,the humen machine and the scientific laws that are working continuesly for the human benefit?I would agree with the comment,which is not merely a superistician but truth, of Mr. Roy that we are made for some purpose and should not put ourselves to death. Yes she is suffering alot but then her purpose is not yet completed so that she is alive.her purpose of getting all of us in these type of comment exchanges to clear our views!

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