Since the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, science has offered a panacea for man’s problems. From the vaccine to the internal combustion engine to the computer chip, man has discovered that whatever his need happens to be – whether it is transportation, communication, or that all-important commodity, health – he can invent a solution and put it on the market.
The Enlightenment worldview affected more than Western culture’s view of science and technology. It also affected our view of God – first, by denying His supernatural intervention in the world, and second, by rendering His moral revelation unnecessary.
As a result, human needs and desires replaced transcendent truth as man’s measure of morality. For instance, France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, adopted in 1789 in the wake of the bloody French Revolution, declares that law and government derive their authority from the “general will” of the people. In other words, man’s inalienable rights do not come from his Creator, and neither do his moral duties to other men.
The end result of this worldview is the radical individualism of the Romantic era that followed the Enlightenment. The only thing that matters is whether the individual finds fulfillment in his circumstances. If his circumstances don’t meet his needs and desires, he has the right to change them.
The twentieth century saw the effects of this thinking in social issues like no-fault divorce and abortion on demand. In the twenty-first century, another issue arose, making its way onto two state ballots this November: assisted suicide. As MARRI intern Maria Reig Teetor points out, modern medicine has empowered us to eliminate many causes of death, so legalizing the choice to end one’s life medically is ironic.
More than ironic, it is an illustration of the decline of Western culture:
The key to this discussion is to acknowledge that when we eliminate religion from a culture, when we deny moral values and human dignity, we’re left with our own self-preservation as our only ethical guiding light.
When justice and human dignity are no longer a priority, we go to every length we can to prevent suffering and to create comfort. As with numerous other areas of life, like education, sexuality, marriage, friendship, and leisure, our culture teaches us that it’s all about our personal satisfaction. When there is no ultimate respect for human dignity, it’s natural for men to elevate health to their highest goal in life.
Health, comfort, protection from suffering, personal satisfaction…these are now rights that outweigh the protection of life itself. Using “right-to-die” language places assisted suicide on the same level as the “right to kill” implicit in most abortion legislation. Maria Reig Teetor follows this line of reasoning:
What if a person has the power to decide for someone else that his or her life is filled with pain or distress, as Terri Schiavo’s husband did in Florida in 2005? Or to decide that someone else’s life is causing him or her to suffer, so he or she has the right to eliminate that suffering by eliminating the other person? (This is an argument used to support abortion, when an unborn baby causes financial or personal inconvenience to the mother.) Has our society drifted so far from ethical moorings that we would legalize murder on demand?
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Modern medicine cannot solve the question of legalized murder. Neither can a worldview that ignores moral revelation. Without the enlightenment of God’s Word (Ps. 119:104-105), our culture will continue its unassisted slide toward suicide.
LifeNews Note: Sharon Barrett writes for the Family Research Council