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28 January 2010

The Christian Ideal: Suffering


I'm simply overwhelmed to read Tony Judt's account of a single night stuck in the prison of his body, ravaged by ALS (a.k.a. Lou Gherig's disease). Here's how he describes his basic condition:

By my present stage of decline, I am thus effectively quadriplegic. With extraordinary effort I can move my right hand a little and can adduct my left arm some six inches across my chest. My legs, although they will lock when upright long enough to allow a nurse to transfer me from one chair to another, cannot bear my weight and only one of them has any autonomous movement left in it. Thus when legs or arms are set in a given position, there they remain until someone moves them for me. The same is true of my torso, with the result that backache from inertia and pressure is a chronic irritation. Having no use of my arms, I cannot scratch an itch, adjust my spectacles, remove food particles from my teeth, or anything else that--as a moment's reflection will confirm--we all do dozens of times a day. To say the least, I am utterly and completely dependent upon the kindness of strangers (and anyone else).
Please, go read the whole thing. While I don't know what Mr. Judt's own religious views are, I regard his life as a clear demonstration of the life-hating brutality of Christian doctrine. To wit:

  • Christianity regards suffering like that of Mr. Judt as not merely noble and elevated, but positively divine. It's not good to live fully, happily, robustly according to Christianity: it's good to suffer and die. That's what Jesus taught -- and then he lived and died by that ideal.

  • Christianity regards the body as a vile, despicable prison that leads a person's divine soul astray into the dark depths of sin. Mr. Judt is positively lucky, as his body really is a prison: he cannot indulge pleasures of the flesh, not even the seemingly minor ones like scratching his own itches.

  • Christianity regards Mr. Judt's life as God's property, not as his own. So Mr. Judt must be forbidden by law from ending his own life, if and when it becomes intolerable. If anyone attempts to help him end his life, that person should be imprisoned as a murderer. As a bonus, if Mr. Judt manages to end his own life somehow, the loving Christian God will consign him to the torments of hell for all eternity.

    Of course, many Christians do not live by such dark principles. They are kind, decent people, loathe to see anyone suffering from such a tragic condition. They might even support stem-cell research, and even assisted suicide. To that extent, their values are more American -- loving science, seeking happiness, and upholding individual rights -- than Christian.

    As Leonard Peikoff states in his essay Religion Versus America:
    It is time to tell people the unvarnished truth: to stand up for man's mind and this earth, and against any version of mysticism or religion. It is time to tell people: "You must choose between unreason and America. You cannot have both. Take your pick."

    If there is to be any chance for the future, this is the only chance there is.
    Amen, brother!

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