News Letters

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Faith is not an affront to reason in assisted dying debate

Published 15/07/2014 | 02:30

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The limitations of reason and argument in sorting the great questions of life are clearly evident in dealing with the reality of death, brought into sharp relief in the current debate about assisted dying.

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What I find unhelpful is the withering scorn poured on those who believe in an afterlife. One tires of the persistent casual caricature of what believers actually believe, particularly about death and afterlife.

Faith is not an affront to reason; faith and reason occupy different worlds. Faith is unreasonable only when you are unwilling or unable to engage in conversation about your beliefs.

Believing is a kind of falling in love rather than assent to a set of propositions.

What is important for the dying person is to realise that their life was worthwhile. It is for this reason that we should not focus on what we will get in another life but what we have given in this life.

The poet William Wordsworth speaks of "that best portion of a good man's life, those little nameless unremembered acts of kindness and of love".

Moral life is not constituted by loyalty to some universal law but by living out my responsibility for the other person.

We all need assisted living prior to any consideration of assisted dying.

When dying, people tend to look back on their lives to identify what was most worthwhile and memorable.

The philosopher Aristotle saw time as the measure between events. If there are no significant humanly valuable experiences in your life, particularly that of loving and being loved, time contracts to nothing.

The dominant fear around death in Ireland has always been the expectation of God's judgment.

There remain some residual elements of this fear sustained by the notion of Hell. The writer CS Lewis suggested that the gates of Hell were locked on the inside, the occupants refusing to leave.

A loving God is best conceived of as the council for defence. The judgment of such a God must be more like a knowing smile – an act of healing – than the judgment of a court of law.

PHILIP O'NEILL

EDITH ROAD, OXFORD, OX1 4QB

How Babe Ruth got start in life

* Babe Ruth, an American, was born as George Herman Ruth in 1895 in Baltimore, Maryland. His was a poor family. Six of his eight siblings died in childhood, and his father died in a knife fight after his mother had passed away from tuberculosis not long before that. It was a certainty back then that a boy who had a background like George, either marginally better or worse, was going to end up in St Mary's industrial/ reformatory institution in the same city. But this place was different, not only for its time but its ethos in how it viewed children in a place run by Christian Brothers who are more famous today for abusing children than saving them. They would save George and give America and the world one of the greatest baseball players that had ever lived.

How they did it was through the kind of forward thinking that many authorities and parents are still trying to grasp the basics of even today. The order of the Xaverian Brothers, yet another strand of Christian Brothers, was different. Its ethos was simple: inadequacies of upbringing rather than deficencies of character were to blame for a child that grows into a bad man – and that any boy treated with encouragement and respect would grow into a model citizen.

It was not speculation, but based on their own tried and tested set of ideals rooted in a firm and strong morality. With a 95pc success rate it would have been hard to argue that they were not 100pc right. What also saved Babe Ruth was that it seemed these Brothers were obsessed with baseball like the rest of the United States.

BARRY CLIFFORD

OUGHTERARD, CO GALWAY

Israel must protect itself

* In consideration of the ongoing crisis in Gaza, the anti-Israel lobby in the whole world frequently attempts to portray the Jewish state as some sort of reactionary bully that disproportionately responds to every little old high-explosive rocket fired at its territory.

Such claims, however, rely on the supposition that Israel sets out to avenge itself on people and entities who attempt to and often do damage it. Such assumptions are unfairly made, and are even insulting, since revenge is something best left to Hamas terrorists and their pals, who for more than half a century have been getting back at Israel and the rest of the world for an alleged injustice 66 years ago with suicide bombings and kidnappings.

No, instead, Israel sets out to immobilise the Hamas war machine and prevent it from targeting it again: directing fire against underground supply tunnels from Egypt, ammunition depots, rocket-launching sites, and even known terrorists' homes. It's interesting to note that, in response to these precision attacks, Hamas has been encouraging (if not forcing) Palestinian civilians to sit between these sites and the Israeli military. Such heinous, criminal tactics as human shields are undeniably what lead to high casualty rates during these flare-ups.

In any case, every death in their war is a tragedy – more so when it's civilian – and there must be a better way to resolve the Palestinian question. However, so long as Hamas continues to preach its "Death to all Jews" brand of anti-Semitic hatred, and to call for the annihilation of Israel, it cannot be involved in the process. Neither, though, can Israel be expected to sit on its hands in expectation of some other way presenting itself, while rockets and mortars rain down on Beer Sheva in the south, to as far north as Jerusalem itself. It must and should protect itself.

KILLIAN FOLEY-WALSH

KILKENNY CITY

Stop clamouring to be like UK

* The year 1916 is one that many go back to when discussing the real push for Irish freedom, as it is called. Indeed, commemorations at a national level seem to go back as far as 1916 in rhetoric and that is it. This year a major impetus has been put into including Irishmen who fell or were injured during the war to end all wars. Any issue that may arise from the reasons they were lain in silence before are superseded by the fact that a new group of fallen have officially joined the fallen heroes of Ireland.

This raises questions about who else should we include. Should we mention a few Fenians, or Wolfe Tone or Robert Emmet ? Should we remember Gunner McGee and the fallen of the Year of the French?

Should we go off the reservation and move also beyond the military struggle in our commemorations?

The inclusion of the fallen who fell for Britain in the Great War is welcome but does it mean that all else is forgotten in the clamour to be so like our neighbours that it seems all rather overbearing.

DERMOT RYAN

ATTYMON, ATHENRY, CO GALWAY

What a sight at the World Cup!

* My drinking pals and myself were swelling beer, and watching the World Cup final in Rio on Sunday. We were the ultimate experts on the game, the proverbial hurlers on the ditch. We did not have a care in the world especially about the EU economy. We knew it was in the capable hands of the leaders of the EU countries.

But lo and behold whom did we see ensconsed in the middle of the VIP stand in the Maracana but the Chancellor of the German republic. What a shock!

And Angela Merkel, we thought you were working.

C CASEY

CASTLEBAR, CO MAYO

Irish Independent

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